The Science Behind 'Impossible' Videos: New Show Demystifies Online Acts

levitating car
A car is levitated by fire hoses in an episode of the Science Channel show "Outrageous Acts of Science." (Image credit: Screenshot. Live Science / Science Channel)

NEW YORK — From levitating a car with water from fire hoses to sprinkling salt on a dead frog's legs to make them twitch, the Science Channel show "Outrageous Acts of Science" explains the science behind YouTube videos that would make your jaw drop.

Here at Live Science's offices, I chatted with the show's host, Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist at the Florida Institute of Technology, on April 2 about what makes this wacky show both fun and educational.

"People upload videos on YouTube and they do crazy things, and what they don't realize, probably, is that they're brilliant scientists and they're doing brilliant examples of science," Oluseyi told me. [See Live Science Interview with Hakeem Oluseyi]

In the show, a group of physicists, chemists, biologists and others break down the science in YouTube videos. One episode, called "human guinea pigs," features people doing experiments on themselves. Other episodes feature people building crazy contraptions, or trying to break records.

Most of the videos are real, but Oluseyi can tell if they have been doctored. "If something violates the laws of physics, then clearly, it's not real," he said.

The scientists on the show don't just describe the science in the videos — they also react to it as viewers.

For example, one video featured a person sprinkling salt on a dead frog's legs, and the legs started kicking. The scientific explanation is that the sodium ions trigger electrical signals that cause the leg muscles to contract. But Oluseyi, who grew up in New Orleans and Mississippi where frog legs are a delicacy, said the first thing he thought was, "Dee-licious!"

New episodes of "Outrageous Acts of Science" will appear Saturdays in April at 10 p.m. ET on the Science Channel.

As Oluseyi said, "The videos are outrageous, and we bring the science."

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.