Thursday, 17 March 2011

Wonders of the Smugverse

Recently I watched a BBC documentary entitled Wonders of the Universe. I hardly ever watch television. I made a special effort on this occasion because the programme was subtitled 'Destiny' and a title like that is almost fated to catch my attention. Turned out that the documentary was hosted by the physicist Brian Cox.

The programme irritated me slightly. No, actually it irritated me a lot. For one thing, Brian Cox looks like a guy I used to know, a former publisher by the name of Darren Floyd. Here's a photo of Mr Floyd. I bet you thought it was a photo of Brian Cox, didn't you? See what I mean... Anyway, Darren Floyd was one of the most incompetent publishers I've ever dealt with (and I've dealt with more than a few). One of his many faults was utter and consistent failure to pay his writers; if they insisted on receiving at least some money he would cite "low sales" of their books as the reason for non-payment, making up figures from the top of his head. I want to say that Darren Floyd was (and is) an individual with no talent whatsoever, but that would be stretching the truth. He is, in fact, very good at being a rubber-faced chump.

And Brian Cox is his spitting image (spit as thick and sticky as the sap of the rubber tree)... And although Brian Cox has brains (unlike Darren Floyd) he has the same pneumatic smugness about him. Having said that, there's a lot of smugness at large (and at small) in the world, so I had no intention of going out of my way to pick on Brian Cox... But then I saw
this entry on the Scary Duck blog ("Not Scary, Not a Duck") and some floodgates deep inside me opened... Yes, Professor Brian Cox does know who would win a fight between a baboon and a badger. Because he's a genius. And here's a short list I drew up of other things Brian Cox is (or can do):

* Brian Cox is an aardvark in gibbon's clothing.
* Brian Cox can sword-swallow chainsaws.
* Brian Cox is the pussy's jimjams.
* Brian Cox is the pot calling the hookah smoky.
* Brian Cox likes a lot of chocolate on his club.
* Brian Cox digs the funk and plants mandrakes.
* Brian Cox lives in a prehistoric trombone.

How can anyone deny the truth of those statements? Eh?

Because the problem with Wonders of the Universe isn't merely that it's a bit boring. It also attempts to be a bit manipulative. Yes, our universe might well end in a bleak heat death. Any chance of mentioning the existence of other universes too, Brian Cox? I know the multiverse is only a hypothesis, but so are black dwarves... Trying to bleak us out according to the rules of some hidden agenda, are we? Get us shopping to relieve the bleakness, is that it? Prop up the consumer economy, is that what you're up to, Professor Youthful-Face-but-Slightly-Greying-Fringe? I love science. Science is my god. But please, if you're a scientist, be a little less smug. The 'truths' of science do change over time: often they get completely overhauled. Talking as if everything in science is as utterly crystal clear as symbolic logic is asking for trouble, in my view. The 'truths' of science are ideas, often amazing ideas but still just ideas.

In the programmed subtitled 'Destiny', Brian Cox acted as if entropy only ever increases. How did we get here then, pal? And when the universe is just a soup of photons and everything's at maximum entropy... then the only way left is for some localised decreases of entropy, surely? And then maybe time's arrow will reverse... Brian Cox is a cosmologist but either hasn't read Boltzmann or (I suspect this is more likely) is withholding information for some hidden purpose: either because he has been told to be a patronising half-truth giver (maybe that was written into his contract?) or else for political reasons (bleak out the proles). Like I said before, he likes a lot of chocolate on his club.

Contrast him with another cosmologist, with the wonderful
Carl Sagan. Now he never acted like he had a political agenda or was attempting to prop up the diseased consumer-economy model of corrupt Western Society. Sagan was the real thing. Sagan was Oannes. Sagan came and gave us good stuff. Sagan had gills. Sagan was the man. Sagan laughed at chocolate clubs. Lord Protector of the U-men. Sagan and I'll say Gantu. Let's grow erbs in his onour. What kinds of erbs? Baysil. Baysil, yes. And parsec-ly. And thyme's arrow too. And when we've grown them, let's take them to Scarborough Fair and give them to Artery Garfunkle and Appalling Simon.

1 comment:

  1. I too was bored shitless by "Wonders of the Universe" (but I'm prepared to give Darren Floyd the benefit of doubt).