After three years and, incredibly, 78 episodes, with guests including five Nobel Prize winners and some of the most famous and illustrious names in science, as well as picking up a VLV award earlier this year for best radio programme, the Life Scientific returns for a new run. And I kick off with some Mancunian ex-pop star type bloke who likes gazing up at the sky.
On arrival at reception at the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in London a few weeks ago to record the interview, Brian Cox was due to be collected by our production coordinator, Maria, and taken up to the radio studio on the 6th floor. But before the front desk could call her to announce his arrival, Brian called me on my mobile to ask for someone to come and collect him quickly. Now, Brian knows his way around NBH very well of course, but he wasn’t sure which studio we were recording in. And the reality of life for an A-list celebrity is that he can’t stand still for very long – not because of his well publicised yet genuine energetic enthusiasm for the workings of nature, but for the simple reason that wherever he is, unless he keeps on the move, crowds gather around him demanding autographs, selfies, and answers to questions about the nature of reality. Anyway, Maria went down to quickly rescue him from the crowd quickly gathering around him.
This is the world that this professor of physics and science communicator and enthuser now inhabits. In fact, some might find it strange that I have not had Brian as a guest on the Life Scientific before now, given his prominence as one of the highest profile scientists in the UK today. Well, it was partly for that very reason: that he was just too big, that we’ve waited so long. And that doesn’t mean that by finally inviting him onto the programme we now think that his light is waning, but rather that The Life Scientific is, after three incredibly successful years, now mature, relaxed and self-confident enough in its format that it does not have to be straightjacketed into only inviting on the more traditional academic scientist.
Anyway, I was keen for the real Brian Cox to come across in the interview. I mean, yes, his ‘misspent’ youth as a member of rock band (I tease him in the interview by calling his group, Dare, a ‘boy band’) ticks the celebrity box more readily than your common-or-garden high profile academic professor, but the fact is that Coxy is a highly competent physicist and a remarkably inspirational and passionate advocate for science in general – in fact, he’s the perfect guest for the programme.
So, as a taster, I have collected here a few snippets from the programme which airs on 23 September on BBC Radio 4. I hope you enjoy them and then go on to listen to the programme, either when it airs or as a download, where it will be permanently available.
Clip 1: Apparently Brian left the band Dare to pursue his love of physics after he got into a fight with the rest of the band and they split up.
Clip 2: Quantum mechanics in under a minute
Clip 3: Why many universes idea is simpler than just one.
Clip 4: Why science matters