Nik Wallenda’s next stunt: “Danger by Design” for Science


I shouldn’t say the word “accident,” but it isn’t one that Nik Wallenda chose last Friday to attempt his tightrope walk across Niagara Falls. Seventh-generation descendent of the famous Flying Wallenda family, Nik’s timing couldn’t have been more auspicious, given that he and his family premiere a new series for Science tonight, June 18, at 9pm ET/PT. Danger by Design takes viewers inside the world of the Wallendas and the business they’ve chosen, dissecting the incredibly meticulous preparations Nik and his family undergo in advance of each of his death-defying stunts.

“People ask me all the time — ‘Why do you do this? Why risk your life?’” Nik says of the work showcased in Danger by Design. “My family has been doing this for seven generations. I was born doing it; it’s really all I know. It’s in my blood, it’s who I am and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Tonight, two episodes premiere back to back. The premiere episode of Danger by Design has Nik in the Bahamas attempting to break two world records by traversing a wire anchored between two towers at the Atlantis resort. The pressure, risk and the heat prove to be too much for one member of Nik’s family, who ends up rushed to the hospital. At that point, Nik has to decide whether to be at the hospital to support his kin or to do what he set out to do, fully knowing his focus is being distracted by the needs of his family.

Whatever the case, you know that Nik has survived at least the first few Danger by Design episodes (otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to take on last week’s Niagara Falls challenge), though tonight’s follow-up episode will have you wondering how. First, Nik and his wife Erendira work with their engineering team on an astonishing sway pole act in their hometown of Sarasota, Fla. But it’s the motorcycle-on-the-wire act that’s bound to get people’s palms sweating, as they plan a trip across a wire with Nik riding up top while his wife executes a trapeze act below. As part of the act, their team has to re-engineer the bike to enable it to do a full 360-degree revolution with both husband and wife aboard.

Future episodes will see Nik and his family taking on the wheel of death, the exploding box, the Ferris wheel walk, the helicopter hang and more. If you can stand it, check out the thrill of science and the science of the thrill in all six episodes of Danger by Design.

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Photo: Discovery Channel

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