One of the most earth-shattering things that David Rees has learned about flipping a coin: It's not random. "It's a physical process," he says. "And if you can reduce the number of variables involved, you can control the outcome." Yes, it is possible to learn how to flip a coin, and Rees can show you how to do it.
The new National Geographic show Going Deep with David Rees seeks to explain such seemingly mundane topics to allow anyone to become experts in everyday tasks. Tonight there are two new episodes: "How to Dig a Hole" and "How to Flip a Coin," where Rees will be engaging in, yes, digging holes and flipping coins.
When digging holes, one does not want a party hole to turn into a deadly murder hole. Rees visits a golf course superintendent to learn how
After achieving internet notoriety as a clip-art cartoonist (you might remember his series "Get Your War On"), Rees wrote the book How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants, spending years investigating the lost art of pencil sharpening. His research culminated in the opening of an artisanal pencil sharpening service, where you can have a perfectly sharpened pencil delivered to your door along with the shavings, provided as evidence of this important task performed correctly.
The completely earnest pencil sharpening exploration was extrapolated into the concept of the show, says Rees. "We take something simple and ubiquitous that people do every day without giving it a second thought, and see what's beneath the surface."
Even though Rees's delivery might come off as satirical, he assures me that the information in the show is all 100% serious: "It's an honest-to-goodness how-to show." Episodes conclude with techniques and tips that viewers can try at home, which are heavily researched, fact-checked, and tested by a group of experts. It's like Martha Stewart meets Mr. Wizard's World. But for learning how to tie a shoe.
To tie shoes, one needs to know the best shoelaces. Synthetic? Natural fibers? Rees taps a survivalist to test them
Whether or not you agree that Going Deep is more This Old House than Daily Show, you can't dismiss Rees's rigor when researching a subject. To learn how to properly shake a hand, Rees not only met with hand models and etiquette experts, but visited the lab of an anatomist who specializes in arms and hands, and showed him cadavers to illustrate the way various ligaments and muscles work together in the hand-shaking action.
In fact, working with National Geographic allows him access to some of the best science experts in each field: Last week, Rees visited a USGS storage facility for ancient ice cores to learn how to make perfect ice. The process of making ice at home is something which he sees as an example of the what the show should explore: It's a way science has made life better but is largely misunderstood by the general public. "Ice cubes are a thing that now you have at the touch of a button at your house, but up until recently you could only harvest ice—you could not make ice," he says. "The ice in my freezer has always been gross and unsatisfying to me, so I wanted to know: What made these milky odd shapes that water down my scotch?"
How does one make crystal-clear ice? Rees visits a lake for the answer
While some of skills acquired, like perfect-ice-making, veer on the edge of being ostensibly useful, other topics are more giddily entertaining. A future episode on how to climb a tree gives Rees the skills to finally ascend a magnolia in his parents' backyard which they never allowed him to climb.
But of all the new knowledge he amassed for the show, which task has Rees become most proficient in? "I'm really good at tying my shoes now," he says. "I learned a technique that is three times faster than the standard tying technique, and I don't need to double-knot."
Going Deep airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Tonight you'll learn how to flip that coin correctly, followed by a second episode (holes) at 10:30. [Going Deep with David Rees]