Space shuttle video

[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.


  1. Duncan
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Saw this last night in Manchester. The video was a highlight in what was a very enjoyable evening. I also found Simon Singh’s explanation of how an Enigma machine worked fascinating.

    • Curt Cameron
      Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Simon wrote an excellent book a few years ago about cryptography: The Code Book. He traces the history of cryptography from ancient letter-substitution ciphers, through ideas for future systems including quantum crypto. He spends quite a bit of time on the Enigma, and the work of the Polish mathematician who found a key weakness was just fascinating. Simon explains it in a way that both makes the book a fun read, but gets into enough detail that you can actually understand it. In fact, there’s enough detail that he includes examples of cipher text at the back for you to solve using what you’ve learned, and there was a prize for whoever solved them all. I made it through the Vigenère cipher puzzle, which I remember doing on an airplane.

      I highly recommend it. Just in time for an addition to your Christmahanakwanzikaa list.

  2. Dominic
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    OK Jerry, how many comic yet serious science radio programmes have you been o?! 🙂
    Nick Lane’s book is worth a look by the way.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      “been on” I meant. More haste less speed. Brian Cox is well on his way to National Treasure status in the UK.

      • TJR
        Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        He was also the original Hannibal Lecter.

        Though that may have been a different Brian Cox.

        • Matthew Cobb
          Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

          Our Cox has better teeth

          • TJR
            Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

            I suppose I should have realised when I noticed that he had got 20 years younger and stopped being Scottish. Should have applied Occam’s razor right there.

  3. Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I would highly recommend the NASA series “When We Left the Earth”. The naration can be a bit annoying, but the images are just WOW!

  4. Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    dang, Monkey Cage in Manchester and I miss it again!

    • Matthew Cobb
      Posted December 8, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Again and again, I’m afraid. There were two shows…

  5. Doug
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    I love the segment between STS 8 and 9 with the row of three astronauts giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls. Look Look…we’re going to spaaacccccccce!

    Buzz Lightyear drifting by the camera was pretty funny too.

    Thanks for posting

  6. G
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Too bad we just threw it all away… to be replaced with suspect promises from internet moguls touting inferior equipment.

  7. Allienne Goddard
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to watch that video without crying, for me at least. I admire and envy every one of those people so much. I hope the memory of each of them will last as long as humanity does.

  8. John
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Awesome. I’m going to the show in London on the 14th and really looking forward to it.

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