The amazing Wonders of the Universe started on BBC2 last week and marked the return to Sunday night TV of the “thinking girl’s crumpet” (not my words, but I agree), Professor Brian Cox. If I had known what a sexy particle physicist he was going to turn out to be (and before you disagree, People have said so too), I might have paid more attention to him when, in his previous life as a keyboard player for the band D:Ream, I saw him on stage at the Point Depot in Dublin circa 1996. At the time, I was twelve and they were Take That’s support act.
Wonders is one of my favorite shows at the moment, not just because it makes science look cool and things like thermodynamics easy to understand*, but because Professor Cox in genuinely in awe of this amazing universe we live in (as we all should be), and it comes across in every word. This awe is awesomely parodied (see what I did there?) in the video below which, if you’ve never seen Wonders, is pretty much what it’s like, only with more science and less swearing:
But this is my favorite Professor Cox video: an outtake from last year’s Wonders of the Solar System in which he reacts to the question of whether or not we “really” went to the moon. In the clip he’s on his way to Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico where ever since Apollo 11, scientists have been studying lunar orbital activity by shooting laser pulses at retroreflectors (mirrors, basically) that NASA astronauts left on the moon. It’s called Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) and is something the conspiracy theorists love to conveniently forget.
Wonders of the Universe is on BBC2 Sunday night at 9pm, and even if you’ve no interest in science whatsoever, the beautiful images and locations – and the beautiful professor – are reason enough to watch. This week’s episode is called Stardust, and seeks to understand where we all came from, and from what. Maybe one of my all time favorite quotes – “We are star stuff” from Dr. Carl Sagan – will make it in there, because we are, after all, made of the same stuff as the stars are.
Don’t you just love that idea?
*If we can make requests for Prof Cox to explain complex ideas using things like sandcastles and bonfires and pebbles and stuff, could he please do string theory? It hurts my brain. Thanks.