Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NGC Debuts Mad Scientists

New Series Mad Scientists Premieres Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 10 p.m. ET/PT
on the National Geographic Channel

 Before Thomas Edison (seen above) was dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park” and recognized as one of the greatest inventors of all time, do you think his neighbors just shook their heads while he was tinkering in his workshop and called him the wacky, offbeat guy next door?  Yet did they secretly want to peek inside his whizbang, apparatus-filled space to see what was clanking and smoking?  Well, wouldn’t you?

Starting Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 10 pm ET/PT, travel across America with professional builder, master-of-all-trades and host John Bowler as he goes into gadget-filled garages and junk-strewn backyards to meet the amateur inventors, weekend scientists and eccentric engineers next door in National Geographic Channel’s (NGC) new half-hour, 12-part series Mad Scientists.  They are the brainiacs with a penchant for outrageous “toys” — like a jet-powered minivan, a fire-breathing wheelchair, a water-powered rocket belt or a giant telephone pole seesaw.  We’ll check out their prized gizmos and challenge them to improve their greatest inventions.

With a diverse background ranging from design and demolition to electrical and plumbing systems and custom carpentry, Bowler is accustomed to rigging up “thingamajigs” of all scales.  Now he travels from the suburbs to the swamps to meet our country’s modern Mad Scientists.  Whether it’s an electrician in San Bernardino who builds jet engines from scratch; a robotics whiz in New England who makes mechanical servants out of trash cans, coolers and handi-vacs; or a backwoods genius who builds gyroplanes and lives in the Florida bayou swamp with his cat and peacock — each has a novel story.

Bowler checks out their cool, one-of-a-kind creations (“This is awesome!”) and then challenges them to brainstorm, design and fabricate an upgraded version of their innovation.  Using scrap-yard treasures, spare parts in the garage and quite possibly duct tape, the duo get their “MacGyver” on.  Working side by side over 48 hours, they test the components and offer viewers insight into the underlying science of the oddball contraptions.  After they race to finish, the creation is revealed and tested before a local audience.  Is it crazy enough to work? Who knows, but they’re “crazy” enough to try!

Premiere Episodes Include:

Mad Scientists: Ultimate Rock Crawler
Wednesday, September 28 at 10 pm ET/PT
In the sandy, rocky Tierra Del Sol California hills, Bowler gets a ride in Cameron Carlson’s one-of-a-kind rock-crawling machine: the Chain Link 4x4.  Built to move like a lizard, it can do unbelievable things with wheels that have their own independent suspension and chain drive.  Carlson’s design imitates nature, so now, the duo has an idea to build a “tail” for the beast and stand it up like a kangaroo with an ingenious mount for a fifth wheel.  The next day, they take the new contraption out to a quarry where Carlson tries to run the truck backwards in a wheelie.

Mad Scientists: The 26-Foot Lawn Dart
Wednesday, September 28 at 10:30 pm ET/PT
In Detroit, John has teamed up with “Speedcult,” a group of Detroit fabricators with a taste for metal, speed and rock n’ roll. Together, they combine a homemade fire throwing roller coaster with a modified wheelchair that launches riders at dizzying speeds using compressed air. Within 48 hours, “The Lawn Dart” 24-foot backyard thrill ride that launches riders down 180 feet of monorail track emerges. Like everything Speedcult comes up with, “The Lawn Dart” turns out to be loud, scary and totally raucous.

Mad Scientists: The Moon Jumper
Wednesday,  October 5 at 10 pm ET/PT
In Reno, Nev., Bowler works with the Needham brothers, a pair of wildly adventurous scientists who have built a one-man “Moon Jumper” — a 40-foot-long counterweighted teeter-totter that spins atop a two-story-high telephone pole in the desert like a merry-go-round and allows for a 90 degree jump straight up.  Sound crazy?  It is.  The new challenge is to create a portable version of this contraption for two people that allows for a 180 degree jump in the opposite direction.  Their design calls for two bicycles on the ground to turn a center axle that helps it spin.  With helmets on, they give the new and improved Moon Jumper a test!

Mad Scientists: Turbo-Charged Leaf Blower
Wednesday,  October 5 at 10:30 pm ET/PT
Chris Krug is a South Carolina jet engine builder who has transformed his minivan into a drag-racing super-machine.  Bowler challenges Krug to build the ultimate multipurpose lawn tool out of one of his homemade turbojets.  The new creation is designed to blow leaves and mulch, and is retrofitted with an afterburner to melt ice, a water hose to spray the garden and a cooler.  But the build does not go according to plan.  Krug fries the turbojet and, in the process, sets his driveway on fire.  In a mad rush, they substitute another jet engine for the fried one.

Mad Scientists: Swamp Flyer
Wednesday, October 12 at 10:00 pm ET/PT
George Jacobs is a self-described “Swamp Critter” the locals call Gyro Jake. This aerodynamics genius lives in the Everglades’ swamp with his cat and peacock and builds one-of-a-kind Gyroplanes from scratch. Now, John challenges Jake to put his aerodynamic expertise to work in the water.  Together, they set out to build a floating gyro that can maneuver through the water the way a flying gyro maneuvers through the air.  But the weather turns against them, and so do the laws of hydrodynamics.

Mad Scientists: Water Cannons on Wheels
Wednesday, October 12 at 10:30 pm ET/PT
Phoenix-based Lance Greathouse builds the coolest wheelchairs ever — ones that go off-roading, shoot pellets like a machine gun or have fire cannons attached.  His brother was confined to a wheelchair before he died, so Greathouse dedicates himself to building regular and jacked-up wheelchairs for other people.  He and Bowler brainstorm a new water chariot wheelchair and then work to retrofit the chairs with water tanks.  Hours before the public reveal, one wheelchair fails, and the men must retrofit another at the last minute.  Once on the course, they set up for an old-fashioned jousting match with a watery end.

John Bowler is a professional builder and master-of-all-trades with the experience to tackle even the oddest custom jobs — like repairing a roof to hold a 300-pound gargoyle and building a tree house with a trapdoor.  His broad expertise includes the intricacies of design, electrical, heating, cooling and plumbing systems combined with the artistry of custom cabinetry and furniture.  His self-owned company website,, describes some of the subtleties of his carpentry projects.  Of his role with Mad Scientists, he says, “I’ve done enough diverse things to give me an abundance of weird information to draw from.”  His eclectic background includes projects in writing and illustration and jobs as a personal trainer, art gallery assistant, truck driver, security guard, model, bouncer, drummer, window painter and, very rarely, an actor.

Mad Scientists is produced by Silent Crow Arts for the National Geographic Channel.  Matt Bennett is executive producer; Paul Fargione is producer.  For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Allan Butler; senior vice president of production and development is Michael Cascio.

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