A few weeks ago I got an e-mail asking me if I wanted to go and see Professor Brian Cox give a lecture at the Royal Institution. I checked my diary, worked out I could do it and said yes.
Didn’t give it another thought until I got to the historic venue and people started to arrive. Lots of people.
I gave a lecture at the Royal Institution last year, it was about electric cars and the technology inside them. It was fun, some people came along, quite a few in fact, but not quite as many as came to see Prof. Cox.
After about ten minutes of saying hello to people I hadn’t expected to see, I realised that one, about half the audience had been on Carpool, and two, I followed them all on Twitter.
We sat down in the beautiful lecture theatre and then watched Prof. Cox give a televised lecture about sub atomic physics, or particle physics, or the physics of really really small teeny weeny things, or all of the former.
I was utterly transfixed all the way through. Okay, he may have stood on one too many active volcanoes with a helicopter flying around him explaining how dense Jupiter is, but he communicates with such joy and passion it is utterly engrossing.
As he explained about the wave frequency of a nuclei, I was almost 90% with him. I had to read ‘The Wave Watchers Companion’ 3 times this year as part of my struggle to be a judge for the Royal Society Winton Science Book of 2011 award. ‘The Wave Watchers Companion’ won the competition by the way, it’s a lovely book and I highly recommend it, I can state from personal experience that you don’t need to be a boffin to understand it.
However, much of Prof. Cox’s lecture went so far over my head I wasn’t even affected, but he has the skill and awareness to reach down from, let’s face it, some fairly awe inspiring heights of knowledge to explain things on a day to day level even a dunderhead like me can just grasp.
The audience was made up of a lot of faces you will have seen on telly in the UK, however all those faces have a genuine interest in science, scepticism and a desire for a greater understanding of our world, universe and the cosmos. I think it’s genuinely safe to say that no one was there because they wanted to ‘be seen at the right party,’ even I have been to a couple of events like that and all you want to do when you arrive is leave as fast as possible.
This event was very different, we all retired to a posh bar afterwards (the Royal Institution isn’t in a very scummy part of London) and I had a Vodka and something and talked about brains and electrons and …. Well, I can’t quite remember because of the vodka. God, I’m a lightweight.
Anyway, it was a wonderful experience and I felt very privileged to attend, the lecture goes out on BBC2 at 9 pm on ‘something like December 20th’ (a quote from someone at the BBC) and among many other things you can see Prof. Cox set fire to James May’s hands, don’t miss it.