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Brainiac: Science Abuse

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Brainiac: Science Abuse

Brainiac: Science Abuse


Directed by Peter Eyre
Presented by Richard Hammond (2003–6)
Vic Reeves (2007–8)
Starring Jon Tickle
Charlotte Hudson (2004–7)
Thaila Zucchi (2008)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 6
No. of episodes 58 (inc. 7 specials)
Executive producer(s) Stewart Morris
Producer(s) Richard Greenwood
Running time 60 minutes (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) Granada Productions
Distributor ITV Studios
Original channel Sky One
Picture format 16:9
Original run 13 November 2003 (2003-11-13) – 30 March 2008 (2008-03-30)
Related shows Brainiac: History Abuse
Brainiac's Test Tube Baby
External links

Brainiac: Science Abuse (often shortened to simply Brainiac or Brainiacs) is a British entertainment documentary show that aired on Sky One from 13 November 2003 to 30 March 2008. During each episode of the show, numerous experiments are carried out to verify whether common conceptions are true (such as whether it is possible to run across a pool of custard) or simply to create impressive explosions. The show centres on the three core branches of science for the key stages in British education: chemistry, physics and to a lesser extent, biology. The experimenters on the show are referred to as "Brainiacs", and each episode usually finishes with the destruction of a caravan.

The original presenters were Richard Hammond and Jon Tickle, then joined in the second series by Charlotte Hudson. Hammond left after the fourth, and was replaced by Vic Reeves and Hudson left after the fifth, and was replaced by Thaila Zucchi.

In July 2008, after the sixth series had finished, Sky announced they had cancelled the show due to the sixth series' low ratings.[1]


Brainiac recording on location

Series 1 (2003)

Series 1 featured a wide variety of experiments including testing to see whether a mobile phone would ignite petrol vapours, walking on custard and testing the effects of electric shocks on various Brainiacs.

Series 2 (2004)

Series 2 saw the start of "Brainiac Snooker", in which World Snooker professional Quinten Hann would pot the last six balls on a table into pockets connected to fuses which, upon potting a ball causing a caravan rigged with a different explosive to explode.

The second series also introduced Charlotte Hudson as a third, but minor, host, and saw the introduction of what then became long term character "Professor Myang-Li", played by Rachel Grant.

Series 3 (2005)

Series 3 featured Brainiac Golf (similar to Brainiac Snooker, but exploding caravans filled with different substances that exploded with coloured flames depending on the chemicals used), Lad v. Lass, Thermite, "Does being electrocuted affect your ability at work?" (human statue, flair bartending, darts player), "Things the instruction manuals don't warn you about", 47 Second Science, Diana Ross and her Chain Reaction, and testing which things break and which things bounce after a ten foot drop.

Dr. John P. Kilcoyne, Associate Dean of the University of Sunderland had a regular slot where he mixed various chemicals to see whether they "fizz" or "bang".

Series 4 (2006)

Series 4 introduced Brainiac

It also introduced a new feature called "Brainiac for a Day", where contestants could bring an item of their choice to blow up. It was set out as a game show with the hosts Dolly Girl (Lisa Marie Bourke) (previously "Jane" in the "Lad v. Lass" segment) and Dolly Boy (Stefan D'Bart).

Series 5 (2007)

Series 5 retained "Brainiac For A Day", "Things What My Body Does", and contains new segments like "Brainiac V Beast", Dr Kilcoyne with "Fizzle or Flash" and Prof. Myang Li (Rachel Grant) with steel balls, attempting to "shatter or shunt" various objects. In addition, Vic Reeves appeared as the Russian scientist Uri Abusikov, along with his assistant Ursula, attempting to destroy things with liquid nitrogen.

In this series, Vic Reeves took over as host from Richard Hammond, who had quit the show. Hammond's growing commitments to Top Gear and his contract with the BBC meant that he was finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil his role as presenter of Brainiac. Hammond was also reportedly losing interest in doing Brainiac. Vic Reeves was brought in as replacement host shortly after the end of the fourth series and before Richard Hammond's near fatal crash. The original production team left the programme at the same time as Hammond.

With Vic now presenting, he introduced the "alternative humour" brand that Vic was famous for in the 1990s with his comedy partner, Bob Mortimer.

Series 6 (2008)

Series 6 saw the return of Vic Reeves as host and Jon Tickle as co-host. Thaila Zucchi replaced Hudson as the third co-host and made her debut on the series in two items: "How Hard is Your Thing?" in which she tests the hardness of different objects using thermite and a ton of bricks dropped from a crane, and "Shocking Acts" in which she finds out whether variety acts can still perform while receiving electric shocks. Other new segments included "Gas Bang Wallop" featuring a character called Barry Bernard who destroys things with gas, "Chemistry Deathmatch" in which regular characters Dr Bunhead and Professor John Kilcoyne go head-to-head to produce the best experiments, "Custard Dreams" which follows the adventures of a Brainiac who discovers he can walk on custard, and "Stars in Their Caravans" which sees a variety of UK celebrities trapped in caravans, in a mock game show which results in large explosions


Brainiac Live!

Brainiac Live! is the name of the live stage tour of Brainiac, touring nationally from March 2008. The official description of the show is "Brainiac Joe escapes from Brainiac HQ and with your help delves fearlessly into the mysteries of science. It's a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. So book your tickets now and do all of those things on stage that you're too scared to do at home!"[2]

Since 2010, Brainiac Live has also been touring as a show around the UK, visiting holiday camps, such as Butlins, has performed in the UAE and has been a headlining show for the UK's Big Bang Event

Forged results

At least one faked result has surfaced: the alkali metal experiments.[3] The experiment aimed to illustrate periodic trends in the alkali metal series. It showed the violent reactions of metallic sodium and potassium with water, in which the hydrogen produced subsequent explosions, and intended to demonstrate the even greater reactivity of rubidium and caesium by dropping them into a water-filled bathtub. However, the reaction was not particularly spectacular, and the crew substituted explosives for the alkali metals. This is clearly visible in the footage, in which an "explosives" sign can be seen on the premises, and an exploding cloud of hydrogen gas, which one would expect in an alkali metal reaction with water, was not visible.[4]

The Brainiac staff have admitted that the explosions had been faked.[3][5] According to Tom Pringle, Brainiac's "Dr Bunhead", very little occurred in the real reaction of caesium and water, as the large volume of water over it drowned out the thermal shock wave that should have shattered the bathtub. The crew decided to set up a bomb in the tub and use that footage to generate the explosion.[3]

Similar experiments with caesium or rubidium have been repeated; these include Popular Science columnist Theodore Gray's experiments,[6] the "Viewer Special Threequel" episode of MythBusters, and an attempt made as part of the Periodic Table of Videos series created by several faculty members at the University of Nottingham.[7] In no case were the rubidium and caesium reactions nearly as violent or explosive as depicted on Brainiac.

However, a much earlier and more successful attempt was shown on British TV in the 1970s as part of the Open University programmes. Here, rubidium splatters around as soon as it hits the water's surface (with some parts sinking and creating more violent bangs). Caesium, on the other hand, does create an explosion and destroys the apparatus, mainly due to the fact that the metal sinks well into the water and creates a large "cone" of hydrogen gas before it ignites and explodes. This video is available online at The Open University.[8]


Brainiac: Science Abuse plays music in every episode, including hits by Britney Spears, C & C Music Factory, and Elton John. Some are themes of various recurring segments such as "There's No One Quite like Grandma" sung by the St Winifred's School Choir for the Granny Brainiac segments in Series 3. The "I Like Hard Things" segment normally features heavy rock music such as Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit. The segment "I Can Do Science, Me" uses the track "I Am A Scientist" by the Dandy Warhols.

The Title music and many of the incidental tracks used in the show were composed by Grant Buckerfield.[9]


Original series

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 13 November 2003 18 December 2003 6
2 2 September 2004 25 November 2004 13
3 25 August 2005 13 October 2005 8
4 16 July 2006 10 September 2006 9
5 8 May 2007 24 July 2007 12
6 13 January 2008 22 March 2008 10


Date Entitle
24 December 2003 The Best of Series 1
21 December 2004 The Best of Series 2
3 November 2005 The Best of Series 3
20 December 2005 Brainiac Christmas Cracker
24 September 2006 The Best of Series 4
1 January 2008 The Best of Series 5
30 March 2008 The Best of Series 6

International broadcasts

Brainiac: Science Abuse has been broadcast in a number of channels outside the UK.

In the U.S., it first began airing on G4 on 29 August 2005 as part of the Midnight Spank programming block; and is also shown on VIVA in Germany, JIMtv in Belgium, Veronica in the Netherlands, Skai TV in Greece, Channel 8 in Israel, True Visions in Thailand, GO! in Australia (also known as Brainiacs), TV2 in New Zealand, Cuatro in Spain (only parts of it because they did their own Brainiac programme), Nelonen in Finland, in Singapore on MediaCorp TV's okto and in the Philippines on Jack TV. It has also been broadcast on Discovery Channel or one of its sister channels (such as The Science Channel) in a number of other countries. Furthermore, MBC Action started airing it on 13 October 2008 and in the Middle East.


  1. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (28 July 2008). "Sky Calls Time On Brainiac". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c  
  4. ^ "Alkali Metals". Brainiac: Science Abuse. Season 2. Episode 1. 2 September 2004. On Google Video.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Gray, Theodore. "Alkali Metal Bangs" and videos. Accessed 23 November 2008.
  7. ^ Caesium. The Periodic Table of Videos.
  8. ^
  9. ^, J. Grant Buckerfield's website

External links

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