A Brian Cox show is much like I imagine one of those Victorian science exhibits in the 1880s that you read about. You know the ones where scientific breakthroughs were coming thick and fast and so a show demonstrating electricity or discussing a theory attracted huge crowds.
Cox’s show is basically him talking with a screen behind him, and he talks of the latest theories and thoughts in his usual engaging and erudite fashion. The thing that really makes it special is that his enthusiasm for science, and for just thinking, shine through everything that he does. He’s genuinely excited by the scientific process and the understanding that it leads to. Even if the content of his shows was not so intriguing I’d be taking my children along just for them to see someone so in love with what they do.
The the other similarity with those Victorian shows is that Cox is a scientific polymath – he knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. Throw a question at him and he’s got a smooth and deep answer. In an age of tight specialisation the fact that Cox can talk with authority about the origins of the universe and then move on to looking at the latest theory on jumps in human evolution is wonderful to behold.
Cox covered a lot of material and was ably assisted in moving through it by Adam Spencer. I don’t know what they do in other countries where Professor Cox appears, but it’s hard to imagine someone else who can assist Cox in neatly segueing through the material like Spencer does.
Professor Cox is also a tried and true entertainer. He knows when to throw in a one liner, or when enough has been said. That would be my only criticism of the show: Towards the end the entertainer seemed to overwhelm the scientist as he moved out of pure physics into looking at humanity’s place in the universe. Cox described how his latest television series mutated into a “love letter to the human race” and his ending was a bit too much rock-star love song for my taste.
That said, I’d have paid to see Cox showing his visit to a Soyuz landing; for his amazing description of Einstein’s theories; for his explanation of the difference between science and religion – “You don’t find many religions that put forward their view of the World. And then say it’s all wrong.”; or for his off-the-cuff answer about what’s outside our Universe. Put all that, and more, into a thoroughly entertaining couple of hours and you have a great show.
Professor Cox may, or may not, be making sense of the cosmos; but he’s certainly cracked the secret of a great science show.
As a total aside, does anyone else see that poster of Professor Cox and think of the No One Thinks Big of You anti-speeding advertisements?