Latitude Review: The Infinite Monkey Cage featuring Brian Cox, Robin Ince and Al Murray
13:34 14 July 2012
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Science might just be as ‘cool’ as it has ever been.
Theories and breakthroughs are increasingly being talked about on a national and international scale, and not just in certain circles.
Science has caught the imagination of the mainstream and one man helping to drive that is Professor Brian Cox.
The former pop star is now a pin-up physicist, and that is a rare creature indeed.
And his popularity was shown clearly this morning at Latitude Festival as crowds flooded to the comedy arena to see him as part of the BBC Radio 4 show The Infinite Monkey Cage.
The first shows on stages do not normally attract large crowds at festivals but there were many standing as they craned their necks for a good view of the man, while many more were sitting enjoying watching on the big screens next to the stage.
The professor was joined by his fellow presenter Robin Ince as they recorded a special version of their award winning mix of science and comedy show.
They were pitting art against science, with comedian Al Murray and writer Sarah Passcoe batting for comedy, with cosmologist Andrew Potzen and Professor Jon Butterworth backing science.
No-one attending imagined that there would be a definite answer as to which was better. The artists would back art, the scientists would back science and then they’d agree that they should live happily ever after.
But the result was not what everyone was there for, it was the journey they were interested in. They wanted laughs and they wanted interesting debate, essentially they wanted to be entertained – in what was a piece of art.
The battle lines were drawn as housewives’ favourite Brian Cox called science “art that works”, while Sarah Passcoe highlighted the glory of subjectivity rather than just right or wrong.
There were laughs and boos as they debated the merits of fiction and the beauty of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as Brian and Robin tried to make them keep on subject.
Al Murray deliberately played up to the crowd to get reactions, the scientists just about managed to avoid to fall into the trap of appearing smug, while in my mind Sarah Passcoe won the battle with reasoned debate, interesting points, and even a few lines from the Fresh Prince of Bell Air theme tune.
We did indeed get the answer we were expecting, as they are not really two competing topics. They serve different purposes and can continue to do so, helping each other along the way.