Radio 4

Professor Brian Cox

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I’ve always liked Professor Brian Cox, but last week my admiration soared to astronomical proportions.

In the interests of balance I’ve chosen this picture to make him look a bit stupid.

He was being interviewed on Front Row to promote his sell out lecture tour about Science. The blurb for the programme says “…he talks about turning science into an art form.”

This isn’t what he did. He spoke in his understated, wise way about how Science has never been any different to Art. Samira Ahmed, the presenter, was both charmed and bewildered by this. I imagine, rather rudely, that in her mind Science is an endeavour, much like accounting or trainspotting, where data is king.

Professor Brian Cox pointed out that Science is an interpretation of that data.

“Science is an emotional response to nature. You see something you find  beautiful. You want to understand and explore it.”

Such is Professor Brian Cox’s charismatic confidence that Samira was carried along by his passion and was reduced, much like Stephen Fry was on QI, to doe eyed admiration. This is not something Samira is normally guilty of. She is quite used to interviewing silver screen icons and she’s usually the epitome of detached professionalism. In this interview she audibly gasps.

This is not why my esteem has been raised.

Whether the professor stayed in the studio because they couldn’t wrest him from Samira’s embrace or because she wanted his calm views on the succeeding items will probably never be known. But remain in the studio he did.

The next item was about the UK charts and at the end he was asked his opinion and he gave such a thoughtful answer that it elevated the whole discussion to another level with just a few well-chosen sentences.

Was this the reason I’ve canonised him? No.

The next item was about a new play called My Country: A Work in Progress. This degenerated into the Radio 4 equivalent of a bar room brawl. Lloyd Evans and Susannah Clapp started it, but Samira was happy to jump in brandishing her broken ashtray.

Professor Brian Cox sat with his head in his hands, until Samira asked him what was wrong. Like a petulant bully, Lloyd joked that he was in tears.

“I’m philosophically opposed to a trajectory that fragments the world. And the perspective that astronomy and cosmology and science give us, is that we live on an extremely fragile, rare and valuable planet… so anything that divides rather than unifies, I think, is problematic.”

This was unscripted and pure hearted. He didn’t try and force his view on anyone, unlike Lloyd who finished with a snide: “I think the EU is against the universe.” His genuine love for the natural world and all that’s in it, from the most distance quasar to the most disgruntled theatre critic, is all encompassing and inspiring.

We should listen to what he’s got to say about more things.