According to the laws of physics, if a bullet is shot at point-blank range under water, theoretically it should stop just metres away from hitting its target.
Putting his faith in science, self-proclaimed guinea pig Todd Sampson decided to test this theory — complete with an AK-47 rifle positioned just 3m away — for his latest TV venture, ABC’s six-part series Life on the Line.
The idea is to demonstrate the power of resistance in that the bullet will stop short at 1.8m, having lost 1000 times more energy as it moves through water.
While it sounded plausible on paper, Sampson admits there was one thing he didn’t factor into the equation — human error.
“This didn’t make the cut but the main issue that we faced was the double packing of the bullets,” the advertising executive-turned-TV- presenter says.
“With the bullets, which were made on a factory line in China, there’s a chance that one bullet becomes a dud and they double pack the next bullet which means your calculations will all be wrong.
“So when I was standing there in that pool … there was a moment where I thought ‘Have I gone too far here’. So I held my breath and trusted the science and engineering.”
Filmed in just one take with no stunt doubles (with the exception of Bob the test dummy) this tense scenario is just one of six potentially fatal experiments that Sampson undertakes for Life on the Line.
Other death-defying exploits include dousing himself with water before passing through the searing 800C heat of a blazing fire, bungee jumping with two interwoven phone books that intersect his cord and scaling a 13-storey building using only vacuum cleaners as suction pads.
“The goal of the show really is to explore the natural laws that are around us, like gravity and buoyancy and resistance, all the things that affect everything we do like standing upright, driving a car,” he explains.
“So we wanted to do it in a way that is entertaining and impactful, we want people to be engaged in what we’re doing rather than be a didactic science lesson.
“So we chose all of these things that bring to light a natural law. The conclusion though, is the physics is 100 per cent sound but the challenge and the risk is often in the engineering. And that took a lot of trust.”
But given the extremity of these so-called science experiments does that make Sampson an adrenaline junkie?
“No I don’t call myself an adrenaline junkie,” he says.
“If anything I’m an explorer, I like to explore the limits and I like to see what I can do and I like to see what’s possible and in this case, some of the limits of science, right to the very edge of it.
“But I’m not running around trying to do adventure sports, that’s not me.”
“I don’t call myself an adrenaline junkie…I like to see what’s possible and in this case, some of the limits of science, right to the very edge of it.”
Having been left with physical and mental scars from his science-seeking exploits on last year’s Ten series Body Hack — he claims to have developed a form of PTSD from his experience with the French Foreign Legion, which he had finished filming just two days before he was on set for Life on the Line — Sampson laughs that he has had little sympathy from his family.
“Really, I get no special treatment at all, they are just punishing me when they watch these shows,” he says.
“When my wife Neomie saw the MMA fight for Body Hack, her response was ‘I could have done better than you’.
“My eight-year-old, Jet, said ‘Dad why are you always looking so nervous, it’s not that bad’.
“I think some people think my family are sitting at home and they’re so worried, and they are a little bit, but generally they don’t know the details.
“I’ve had an agreement with Neomie that I don’t tell her the details, and generally they watch the show like everyone else does.”
While he claims to have a high tolerance to pain, Sampson says he has developed some key coping strategies to guide him through each experience.
“I think the thing that I definitely have learned over the years from Redesign My Brain to Body Hack is the techniques and tools to help manage fear and pain and anxiety,” he says.
“I still have all of those, I still get scared … but my way of coping in the moment is to kind of make light of things and constantly try to relax myself.”
Life on the Line airs on Tuesday at 8pm on ABC.