Archive for March 9th, 2011

March 9, 2011

Dr. Brian Cox – The Wonders of the Universe.

I had the pleasure of watching  Destiny the first episode of BBC 2’s  excellent series Wonders of the Universe  featuring the brilliant and affable Physicist and erstwhile rock star Dr. Brian Cox.  While it is certainly impressive that he is a CERN scientist , Dr. Cox has a remarkable way of relating complex scientific theory and making it immediately understandable to the average person – assuming, of course, that I am an average person.

In the first episode he jets around the world using  amazing locations to explain such things as change over time using a glacier in Patagonia and  a desert in Namibia to explain entropy. A measure of his excellence at getting the point across is that he managed to explain entropy in four minutes using nothing but a pile of sand and a child’s plastic bucket  as captured by my mobile phone off the TV.

Now, admittedly it was a cursory explanation and thus might not meet with the approval of the cognoscenti but at least it explains the basics.

The scorn that is heaped on those who try to simplify complex concepts in order for laypeople to understand them always puzzles me. It is like condemning a tech person for explaining the basics of how a computer operates to his/her mother but not teaching her how to strip it down and rebuild the thing. It is the same criticism that the late and wonderful Carl Sagan got from some quarters for his groundbreaking series Cosmos in the early ’80s.

All I know is that I learned a bit more about our wonderful universe by watching the first episode and plan to learn a lot more over the remaining three episodes; Stardust; Falling; Messengers. If you are in the UK you can catch it on TV or on iPlayer – those living in the rest of the world (like me) will have use a proxy program like Identity Cloaker to catch it on iPlayer.

In the meantime let’s pay homage to the great footsteps that Dr. Brian Cox is now filling so gracefully and brilliantly.

A clip from the opening of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

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March 9, 2011

To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before.

That was just plain cool.

“William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek television series, provided a special message to the crew of space shuttle Discovery during the Flight Day 12 wakeup call.

As Alexander Courage’s theme song played underneath, Shatner replaced the original television introduction with, “Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before.”

The “Theme from Star Trek” received the second most votes in a public contest from a Top 40 list for NASA’s Song Contest. The top two songs with the most votes from that list earned a slot on the list to wake Discovery’s crew during its final mission. The total number of votes cast during the four-month contest for STS-133 was 2,463,774. Of that, Star Trek received 671,134 votes (27.2 percent). Shatner recorded the new, special introduction for Discovery’s final voyage — its 39th flight and 13th to the International Space Station.”

Via Towleroad