[JAC note: Many thanks to Matthew for finding this. The video is stunning, and you should indeed watch it on the big screen. Even if you don't like space-y stuff, you'll find it inspiring, if for no other reason than it shows the stupendous feats of a highly evolved primate. It also shows the power of science, which underlies all of this. We're the only species capable of getting some of our members to walk around in the frozen vacuum of space. Truly it is science and not religion that has brought us closer to the heavens.]
by Matthew Cobb
The Infinite Monkey Cage is a BBC Radio 4 science/comedy programme hosted by comedian Robin Ince and my colleague, Professor Brian Cox. Cox is well known in the UK for his TV work, and is an excellent science communicator. The radio programme is very good – the latest episode was on the origins of life and also featured Nature journalist Adam Rutherford, Professor Nick Lane of UCL and singer-songwriter Tim Minchin. Well worth a listen! You can hear an earlier episode, which includes me on the Peppered Moth and on genetic determinism here.
Ince and Cox also have a live stage version of the show, called Uncaged Monkeys, in which other sciencey folk get up on stage. The current tour includes The Guardian’s Ben Goldacre talking about Big Pharma and data sharing, Simon Singh discussing codes (and showing an Enigma machine in live action!), Helen Arney playing her ukelele and singing her science-based songs, and Tim Minchin duetting with Brian Cox. There’s also a question and answer session in which members of the audience ask questions of the participants. At the opening gig of the current tour – in Manchester on Tuesday – Robin Ince kindly invited me to join them, and I had to answer questions like do I think neutrinos go faster than light (no) or would I go to Mars (yes).
According to Twitter, it would appear that for many people the highlight of the show was Adam Rutherford’s very personal video commemoration of the Space Shuttle missions, which he made for Nature in conjunction with NASA, and which includes footage from every shuttle flight – the video was released within hours of the final Shuttle touchdown. The video was projected on a big screen, and was very moving.
Adam introduced the video by reminding that in 1966, Bob Dylan played in Manchester and was subject to probably the most famous heckle in history – one John Cordwell shouted ‘Judas’! Dylan replied in two ways. First he said – in typical Dylanesque fashion – ‘I don’t believe you, you’re a liar’ (Adam did a very passable imitation); then he turned his back and said to The Band ‘Play it f*%king loud!’. This was also Adam’s recommendation to the sound people at the show, and it is my recommendation to you.
Put it on full screen and turn the volume control up to 11. The music is by 65daysofstatic.