oh my god, how much do i love this programme. im sure you have already seen it, but incase youve been living on the dark side of mercury for the last few months what im talking about is the latest science based documentary series showing on bbc2 - wonders of the solar system.
in weekly one hour slots you can learn more about the universe in which we live than you probably did throughout your entire gcse double science course at school in a manner which doesnt make you want to sleep your way through the maths bits. ive learnt everything from the source of the violent electrical storms that can be seen in jupiters atmosphere to that saturns moon titan is the first planetary body that has been found to have pools of liquids collecting on its surface (methane as it is around -180°C) has an atmosphere around 5 times as dense as our own which leads to it having a methanalogical, rather than hydrological, cycle - with liquid methane raindrops that can easily be a centimeter in diameter floating like snow down to the ground through its thick atmospheric gases.
my friend luke got so excited by the orbital relationships of our solar system that it made him make a little music toy in flash which hes already had over 200k hits on and has had maths and physics teachers alike contacting him for permission to use in classes.
ok, im a geek and so anything physics based is like a huge bar of dairy milk to me, but this programme inparticular has seemed to really capture so many peoples imaginations and i can only really credit that to three aspects.
1. some of the most incredible imagery/photography of our planets that i have seen to date (that havent been part of doctor who)
2. music (original scoring by sheridan tongue) that might aswell be an hours worth of the arcade fire for the amount it makes your eyes well up with joy. imagine a compilation of all those moments from films when the lead characters finally meet in the airport, running towards each other, or the camera rolls over the lands of narnia with majestic mountains and valleys.
3. professor brian "anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat" cox. his ability to explain thermodynamics with a passion and natural tone is just wonderful.
last nights was "the thin blue line" all about the different atmospheres and climates of the varying planets in our solar system. mr cox even got a ride in a lightning jet fighter - now decommissioned, but still one of the most amazing pieces of engineering ive ever seen, capable of near verticle climbs off takeoff. soon he was in the outer reaches of the atmosphere at around 60,000ft. jealous as i was of this, i think he was still pipped, only very slightly, by james may when he unbelievably got a ride up to 70,000ft in a u2 spy plane courtesy of the american air force, for his programme on the moon.
such things make me ache with joy/amazement/jealousy. if anyone has a spare u2 and wants to take me out for a spin, id give you my kidneys in return.
anyway, if you like science made super fun id highly recommend watching the richard feynman bbc archive footage that is on the TED website at the moment. theres another person that just loves talking about what he understands (better than most) but being able to do so in such a accessible way, or the wonderful cosmic onion one of the royal institutes christmas science lectures from 1993.