Did you know that you can build, at home with everyday items, a balloon capable of carrying eight people – just as two East German families did to escape to the west in 1979?
Or that white noise is a more effective alert than the constant beeping that drives everybody mad – when they notice it?
And that it’s actually not easy to make home replacements for those irritatingly expensive printer ink cartridges?
Well, you will when you watch Netflix’s latest offering, White Rabbit Project, a wonderful mix of science, building stuff, history, excellent recreations and entertainment from Beyond Productions, the Australian producers of MythBusters.
White Rabbit Project is Netflix’s first Australian commission, and the first time the company has commissioned a factual entertainment series.
The name comes from Alice In Wonderland and refers to the team following an idea or a concept down an imaginary rabbit hole, leading to strange and interesting places.
It stars the three former builders from the much-loved MythBusters — Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara.
The premise of the show is simple and fun. Every episode considers a different topic, chooses six ideas to explore and then rates them using three criteria before choosing a winner.
I sampled two of the 10 episodes that are all online – Tech We Love to Hate and Jailbreak.
And don’t worry, I’ll be watching the rest soon because this series is a perfect binge-watch.
Jailbreak went from the sublime to the ridiculous. The show opens with a Ma Baker lookalike busting into a high-security jail with a truck to rescue her son – a recreation of an actual event.
We head to Grasse, France for a recreation of a spectacular Bastille Day maison d’arret breakout of a prisoner (in his underwear) by helicopter. The jailbreak basically succeeds because French law says prison guards can’t fire unless they are fired upon first.
We go behind the scenes of the biggest mass breakout from a prisoner of war camp in World War II France and see how, in 2015, Mexican drug gangs manage to dig their way into Mexico’s Altiplano maximum security prison to release drug baron Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, who went on the run for six months.
But the big-ticket item in this episode is the recreation of a successful escape by two families from East Germany in 1979 – using a balloon they built from readily available materials, including a motorbike, rope, wood and bits of fabric bought in small lots from shops around East Germany.
Tory and his team were assisted by one of the original German builders, Gunter Wetzel.
The Tech We Love to Hate episode made me laugh out loud as the team offered innovative solutions to malfunctioning printers, the increasing numbers of drones buzzing in their faces, red traffic lights causing road rage and, most pertinently, talking technology taking over our lives.
Just last week I was with a friend discussing plans for March when her iPhone chipped in of its own accord, reminding her that she already had a busy March!
And we all have had experiences with ridiculous map directions and ill-informed Siri guesses when we request information.
White Rabbit Project is smart television. Funny, engaging and really well made.
I’m off to watch one about weird WWII weapons. Or maybe the one about creating superhero attributes in real people. Actually I’ll watch all 10 of them because they are all online now.