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Professor Brian Cox, Arena Birmingham - review

By Leon Burakowski | Birmingham | Birmingham entertainment | Published:

If you want to experience the potency of celebrity status consider this. Eight thousand people paid upwards of £40 each to attend a two hour physics lecture on a Saturday night in Birmingham.

Professor Brian Cox

That could have bought a nice curry and several cocktails in a lively night out on Broad Street, but they preferred an illustrated introduction to cosmology.

The key factor is that this lecture, or rather two talks separated by an interval, were being delivered by Professor Brian Cox, the charismatic presenter of several popular science TV shows and author of best-selling books on the wonders of the universe.

The 51-year-old Oldham-born academic is a professor at the University of Manchester but also a former member of pop group D:Ream.

With his boyish good looks, fashionable clothes and confident manner, interspersed with a little self-mocking humour, Cox is a friendly guide on a trip across the universe and into the mind-boggling realm of the space-time continuum, including the big bang, light cones and super massive black holes.

Even with the help of dramatic music and huge video screen displays of impressive images, many taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, it takes skill to hold an audience while explaining challenging concepts.

However, Cox is a great communicator and probably the best in the field of physics and astronomy since his own hero Carl Sagan inspired a generation - including the young Brian - in the 1970s and early 80s.

When the physics got a little too dense, comedian Robin Ince was on hand to puncture the seriousness with his layman's view, gently mocking Cox's rock star image, describing him as "the Fonz of Physics".

The good-natured banter between the two has become a fixture of the pair's popular BBC Radio 4 show and podcast The Infinite Monkey Cage.

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It was the professor's second tour date in Birmingham and the final night of his UK tour, pulling a crowd that showed the public's thirst for knowledge is undiminished.

The show/lecture took a philosophical turn at the end with Cox and Ince making a plea for us all to live in the moment and respect the planet. It's the only one we've got.

He also explained that despite there probably being some 20 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, the circumstances for them producing life, or anything more substancial than pond slime, are incredibly small.

So, despite the vastness of an amazing universe, our planet could be the most significant of all.

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