Brian Cox is back in town, with a different show to his last visit. He was here about 18 months ago with his Scientific Phenomena show. This time he was focussing specifically on space and the universe. We sacrificed a night at pub quiz to go and see him.
For a quick dinner beforehand, we decided on Bin 44. Mindful of our previous mishap when dining out before a show at the TSB, we booked a table and rocked up at 6:15. This caused a bit of kerfuffle as they were fully booked, and someone had walked in and just sat down at a table, without waiting to be seated, so the staff had to evict them from our table. Bin 44 is more pub grub than fine dining, so we had a burger and pizza. The pizza was enormous so Nicola could only finish half of it (the burger was pretty substantial too) so maybe we’ll just share one next time we go there.
Then it was across the road, and taking our place up on a side gallery in the TSB Arena. Brian came on to huge applause, thanked us for coming out on a cold, windy Wellington night, and said how delighted he was that on such a night 2,500 people are prepared to come out and listen to someone talk about science-y stuff. He then launched into a quick explanation of relativity, time and events, drew some charts, and explained how time can be different for different people. It was quite science-y. From this, he moved into a discussion about black holes and what they look like. To illustrate this he drew on his experience with the people who made the black hole model used in the film Interstellar, and how it was based on real, actual science, not just fancy special effects (although they used some of those as well). He then showed us the famous picture taken a couple of months ago of a black hole, and demonstrated that it looked pretty much as predicted by the model used in the film.
|Black hole from Interstellar|
|Black hole from reality|
Not only that, but that the basis of the model was Einstein’s theory of relativity, showing how this 100-year-old theory was still the basis for astrophysics today. We had a picture of the universe from 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and why it looked like it did, all the way through the formation of planets and the conditions necessary for life to form. He went through some recent discoveries and theories about planets within our solar system that might support life, and once again mentioned the ice fountains of Enceladus.
This all sound like heavy going. How about some light relief? Of course, his old mucker and co-presenter of Infinite Monkey Cage, Robin Ince, was there alongside him, to provide some comedy and break up the evening a bit. Also to give Brian a rest, as he spoke non-stop for nearly an hour in the first half. Robin amused us with some talk of dressing like a scientist, and how he is mistaken for Brian’s dad (they’re the same age). He also had several requests for his cardigan supplier.
As at the previous talk we went to, he opened up the second half to questions from the audience, and also digressed into philosophy. Once again an enjoyable evening.