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"Is looking at a woman's breasts for thirty minutes the equivalent of a thirty-minute workout?"
Richard Hammond, Brainiac Science Abuse

Brainiac: Science Abuse is a British TV series, originally presented by Richard Hammond and now by Vic Reeves, assisted by Jon Tickle (a former Big Brother housemate) and an army of nameless "Brainiacs", used as human guinea-pigs. The series ran from 2003 to 2008.

Ostensibly a "we make science fun" programme, it generally displays about as much scientific rigor as a dried kumquat, preferring instead to come up with a series of excuses for showing cool stuff, usually with a little bit of scientific explanation of why the stuff is cool in that way.

It took the part of MythBusters where stuff went boom and ran with it. There is generally no attempt made at producing scaleable, repeatable experiments to actually determine a result — it's more along the lines of "Wahey, if you do this you can make it go bang! This works because there's a sudden release of energy."

Just occasionally, something genuinely interesting slips through, though, and one Brainiac skit was shown on QI - they filled a swimming pool with custard (a non-newtonian fluid) and had Jon Tickle run up and down on it, to the childlike glee of Hammond.

Original presenter Richard Hammond is a well-known car nut and presenter of Top Gear, and as such has something of a dislike of the caravans that clog Britain's roads every bank holiday. The show therefore made something of a specialty of destroying caravans in the most explosive way possible.

Beginning from the fifth season, he quit the show, with Vic Reeves taking over. The new host brought around some minor changes (for one, deliberately acting as a guy who has no clue whatsoever, unlike Hammond), but the premise didn't change.

Items include:

  • Running on custard.
    • And testing various other methods of moving
  • Can you smell fear?
    • A vertiginous Brainiac is given a terrifying ride in a cherry picker, while another runs laps to get hot and sweaty and a third relaxes as a control. A female brainiac correctly identifies the frightened Brainiac by smell.
  • Thermite - can it actually burn through anything?
    • Pretty much, apparently...
      • Actually, they once tested it with a tank (well, just a piece) and it couldn't burn through it.
        • Given that the stuff melts right through iron, that must have been some tank...
  • Do you weigh 1/4 lb more after eating a quarterpounder?
    • Not quite.
      • Their explanation (whatever it's worth) was that the testing Brainiac was "so hungry" that merely ingesting the burger used some energy, resulting in a net weight gain of less than 0.25 pounds.
  • What happens when you attach carbon dioxide fire extinguishers to various wheeled devices and try to race them?
    • Much hilarity. The shopping trolley goes round in circles, the skateboard departs without its rider and the wheelchair is best. Best not to ask about the rollerskates.
  • Swimming in syrup. Jon Tickle thought he'd go faster because the viscosity of the syrup would generate more force, while Richard thought the greater resistance caused by same would slow Jon up. Richard turned out to be right-he even gleefully noted that Jon, in his exhaustion, had started cutting across the middle of the pool and still couldn't beat his time from the water-filled pool.
  • Brainiac VS Beast: the perhaps most abused Brainiac competes against (other) animals in various fields. Usually ends up losing and going feral.
  • Stuff NASA never tried. Hilarious "experiments" with rockets.
  • Things but vveerryy ssslllooooowww: a segment in which the Brainiacs do random stuff, but in slow-motion.

Tropes used in Brainiac: Science Abuse include: