Heat Exhaustion…

Well, that was a hugely tiring day indeed. I’ve just returned from a full day of shooting for an episode of the the leffeHistory Channel’s The Universe, and all I can do is collapse on the sofa for a long while.

I’ve grabbed the essentials (a nice cold Leffe, some tasty corn chips, a cup of tea – I made it before I got the Leffe idea – , some books I’m reading, etc) to have within easy reach so that I need not get up for a while. I simply don’t want to.

It was tiring mostly because it was so terribly hot for most of it. The first half of the shoot was in the Malibu State Park. We filmed under some trees for a few hours, from 10:00am, with the heat steadily rising seemingly without end. That part was fine, but then we filmed a demonstration (my idea, so my fault ultimately) which needed the flat firm ground of the tarmac of the parking lot, and to get the light balance right, of course there were reflectors placed on either side of me to train even more sun onto me from the sides. So I was being cooked for a while as I pretended to be unperturbed and unhurried in my demonstrations (of a type II supernova – I’ll leave you to guess what that involves!).

An hour late (and now beyond 95 degrees F outside), we stopped off for a quick lunch before dashing back to the highway to return to the Burbank recycling center to film some more work (yes, we’re redoing some of the filming we did a couple of weeks ago). I was in a daze from the heat and the immediate after-lunch wooziness that occurs at the best of times, but managed to hold it together and get there ok. There again, it was hot, stuffy, and with the delightful smell and dust of the recycling center at full volume while we filmed. Happily, that part did not take too long (maybe a couple of hours for me to say essentially three paragraphs of stuff from three different vantage points – if you watch the show when it airs you’ll see what we’re trying to illustrate with that location -) and then I was able to say goodbye to all and head off home. Exhausted.

And so here I am. Collapsed on the sofa. Time to recuperate, have a slow night while doing it (although the idea of going out to a movie in a nice air-conditioned splendid Arclight theatre is attractive, while the short journey there isn’t), and then get back to physics tomorrow.


Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Heat Exhaustion…

  1. Suz Gildert says:

    That Leffe looks really tasty 🙂 Do you know when the program will be broadcast? It sounds very interesting.

  2. Jeff says:

    Hi Clifford, your demonstrating the type II supernova reminded me of a demo I did when I was teaching an intro to astronomy course at Brown a couple of years ago. The physics demo guys there had this imploding drum demo that they couldn’t figure out what to do with so I had an idea that I could use it to illustrate how a supernova works – specifically how an implosion (of the core/drum) could trigger a shockwave. With about 300 students in the room we had a pretty packed classroom and we had the drum prepped and ready to go (with a hidden camera directed toward the students). Pretty much as soon as everyone was seated, the drum imploded with a huge bang and the entire class recoiled. On viewing the footage, you can just about discern a shockwave (well…it was more a wave of shock) propagate through the class as the drum imploded. Way cool!

  3. Clifford says:

    Hello Suz Gildert,

    It *is* tasty!

    It is season 4 of the series that I’ve been shooting for (a number of episodes). The show is sort of back by popular demand (so inexplicably they put me in some episodes again 😉 …!) I do not know when it starts, but I imagine the late Summer of early Fall? Currently they are re-running some from earlier seasons, many of which are very good, so check the History Channel’s schedule, which is online.



  4. Clifford says:

    Jeff – Brilliant idea!!


  5. Bob says:

    I’m very happy to hear “The Universe” is coming back and that you’ll be featured again. It’s a great series-I actually saw the “Light Speed” episode last night with you on the bicycle. I’m using some of the episodes (including that one) as part of a virtual field trip through the universe for my class this year. Can’t wait for the new season!

  6. Clifford says:

    Bob:- Thanks! I am so pleased to hear that this sort of work is interesting and useful, and to hear that it is used in the classroom is very good news.

    One note: (and I know you probably already know this, but worth mentioning, for others…) For classroom use especially, be sure to supplement and back up with other sources as well though. Use the show (actually, any TV documentary) as a lead-in or gateway to learning more about exciting topics, but not necessarily the last word on things… Remember that the scientists who contribute to these shows don’t always have as much control over the final product as might be desirable, and even with the best intentions filmmakers’ compromises sometimes introduce inaccuracies, poorly chosen emphases, etc. See some of my earlier posts on this in the above list.

    That said, overall I think the series is very good indeed, and better than many such in the genre (it is an excellent team of filmmakers who works on them) and am happy to learn that it is popular and coming back for a new season. It is a pleasure to play a small role in all this.



  7. Nige Cook says:

    Apart from the principle of implosion bombs, there’s also the critical mass effect where the supernova results when the white dwarf mass (increasing as matter falls in from a companion star) exceeds 1.4 solar masses, at which point the electrons can’t support the pressure any more and the whole star collapses due to gravity. So type IIa always release similar energy, behaving as standard candles for determining the redshift-versus-distance relationship at extremely great distances where ordinary galaxies are just too dim to be seen.

    I just love the irony that the universe has so many massive explosions going off, and that these are so vital for cosmology, when you’d think the universe should be peaceful and (if explosions are deemed human horrors) “natural”. Media groupthink of course usually ignores the routine violence of nature, and chooses to pretend it’s all peaceful apart from this planet. I’m glad you were able to discuss supernovas in The Universe.

    ‘… a supernova is equal in violence to about a million million million million hydrogen bombs all going off at the same time.’ – Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), The Nature of the Universe, Pelican Books, London, 1963, p. 75.

  8. Clifford says:


    Thanks. Although your little impromptu tutorial mistakes type IIa for Type Ia. It is the latter that are used as standard candles in the cosmological context you describe.

    I think that, just as in another context you like to bring it up in, this whole “groupthink” business is somewhat illusory. There are many programs in the general media on how violent the universe is. The entire premise of this episode, for example, is to discuss instances of such violence, and in this and other episodes, I’ve spoken about just how marvellous and vital that violence is, in order to create conditions for things like life as we know it.



  9. Nige Cook says:

    Hi Clifford,

    Thank you for the correction on Ia versus IIa. I watch some science on TV, but not all of it, so there may be a reason why I’m being fed stuff which I find both biased and frankly boring. Maybe I should look for science on the History Channel! I hope to see your program!

  10. Pingback: Tales From The Industry XXIX - Dune at Asymptotia

  11. Pingback: The Universe: Season 4 at Asymptotia

  12. Pingback: The Universe: Cool Cars, Hot Sand, and Fast Balls at Asymptotia