Engineers, scientists and other supposed great-thinkers don’t often make for interesting copy. Centrifuges, remote sensors, pressure valves and biopsies don’t bring smiles to most people’s faces, unless of course, you’re my mom, who never met a biopsy she couldn’t fret over, going back to Marcus Welby, M.D. To those who don’t understand, like or appreciate scientific thought, even MacGyver is mundane and hopelessly highbrow.
Like all things these days, however, anything is fodder for new media hijinks and in recent years, folks like Bill Nye the Science Guy have brought hair-brain science to the masses in creative ways that get people thinking, if only to reminisce about times long ago spent blowing up their neighbor’s mailbox or bird-house. As the dawn of man has morphed into the dawn of YouTube, we can all agree, explosions are always cool to watch. Lectures on thermodynamics are not.
Enter stage left the magnificent pair of stop-motion Brits, Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit, front and center in a new DVD release of their complete six-part BBC1 TV series, Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention. This nifty series pairs the eternally bumbling but kind-hearted inventor Wallace, along with his trusted companion, always-in-the-nick-of-time dog Gromit, and a series of live action vignettes on engineers, scientists and designers whose contraptions are truly extraordinary. Part Mythbusters, part National Geographic, the pairing is clever, with our animated duo introducing and wrapping in and around the live action segments.
One particularly fascinating piece highlighted the work of Kinetic sculptor and artist Theo Jansen and his “strandbeests,” giant wind-powered creatures 40 feet in length, made exclusively of pvc tubing, that march along Dutch beaches like mechanical caterpillars. The contraptions are part mouse-trap, part genius – watching his most recent creation is mesmerizing.
The compilation, available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, also includes a rather nifty special extra feature – six segments demonstrating how to make your own contraptions at home. The mini-segments break down in great detail how to build an air rock, a wind-powered sprinkler and four other ingenious little projects sure to keep you out of trouble and annoy your pets and neighbors.
All in all, a rather ingenious series that puts a bit of whimsy and “cool” into the world of science, contraptions and the mankind’s need to tinker.