Apparently this National Geographic/BBC co-production has been previously shown on the National Geographic channel. If it was, I managed to miss it, but I won’t be making the same mistake now it’s being shown on BBC Two on Sundays. It’s something like a slightly bonkers modern version of the James Burke Connections series that I recall from when I was quite young, with the key difference being the presnter.
Richard (Hamster) Hammond should need no introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway – he’s the small, funny one from Top Gear, the popular motoring-themed comedy show. He’s done some other TV work, most of which tends to involve blowing things up, so he’s just what you want for this kind of show.
The idea is to start with some marvel of modern engineering, and look at the earlier developments that helped it come about. The “connections” may be a little contrived, but it’s all good fun, and despite the silliness, some good solid actual facts are presented.
Last night’s first episode was about the Airbus A380, biggest airliner ever, etc. And Richard showed how its wing design avoids nasty vortices at the tips by borrowing an idea from birds, how layers of very thin aluminium and glass fibre are much stronger than a single sheet of aluminium, and how the idea of composite materials started with Genghis Khan’s need for powerful bows that could be fired from horseback. And then there was how to inflate the huge evacuation slides within the regulation six seconds. This involved playing with rockets, which was also fun.
All in all, it was a nice mix of informative and entertaining television – I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
 And indeed the much more recent versions he did on some channel or other
 I stand by that definition. If it was a proper motoring show, I wouldn’t find it even slightly entertaining. As it is, it’s one of the craziest, funniest things on…
 My favourite being the “investigation” into whether Guy Fawkes could have succeeded in the Gunpowder Plot. This involved building a replica of the 17th century House of Lords, a load of gunpowder and a very big bang…
 This involved using a “chicken gun” to fire (quite thoroughly dead and plucked) chickens at sheets of metal. Quite messy
 Was this the first use of composite materials? Dunno, but it gave the Hamster some archery practice…