23 May 2001
For immediate release
Who says the life of a scientist isn't glamorous? Dr Jonathan Hare, research fellow at the University of Sussex, is a case in point. He is currently on our TV screens demonstrating the plausibility of cinema stunts in a series called 'Hollywood Science'.
And in July he is being whisked off to the Caribbean for a second round of 'Rough Science', an Open University/BBC2 collaboration in which a bunch of physicists, chemists and botanists are taken to a remote island and given tasks to test their survival skills.
"Of course, I hate the idea of spending three weeks in the sun," jokes Dr Hare. "Every time I think about it, it brings me out in a rash. I'll just have to grin and bear it."
'Hollywood Science' (also an OU/BBC2 collaboration), wasn't actually as glamorous as it sounds. The six-part series largely involved Dr Hare recreating movie stunts on a small scale in a back garden with actor Robert Llewellyn.
Using a toy bus and a catapult, they demonstrated that Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves would never have survived the bus jump in the action movie Speed. And with the aid of an Action Man, they also proved that Bruce Willis would have died in Die Hard if he really had tied a fire hose round his waist and then jumped 50 ft.
Other film scenes subjected to scientific scrutiny included Pierce Brosnan rowing across an acid lake in Dante's Peak, Paul Newman consuming 50 boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke and Jackie Chan bending his prison cell bars with a urine-soaked shirt in Shanghai Noon.
The series, which is transmitted after midnight on Fridays, is currently getting audiences of around 200,000. "Apparently, it's popular with the after-pub crowds," says Dr Hare, who also appeared live on Channel Four's 'The Big Breakfast' demonstrating some of the stunts. "The producers think it'll become cult viewing."
Dr Hare's next assignment, 'Rough Science II', follows on from the first series made in 1999 when he was sent with four other scientists to the Mediterranean island of Capraia. With rudimentary equipment, he made a radio out of an old saucepan, a seawater battery with pencils and a record player powered by pulleys.
The new destination is a 'mystery island' off South America. "I don't yet know what sort of challenges we'll be set," he adds, "although I'd like to make a few suggestions - perhaps we could make a solar furnace with foil or mirrors to harness the sun's energy and create power."
Notes for editors
For further information, please contact Alison Field or Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678209, Fax 01273 877456, email A.Field@sussex.ac.uk or P.J.Simmons@sussex.ac.uk.