Thursday, 31 January 2013

Well Then.....Umm.....And Life

"Well then....umm....and life" struck me as a particularly accurate title, considering that my previous post was just over a year ago. I was, quite honestly, struck by the novelty of being able to rant and rave about this and that, but eventually got a little bit defeated by the worry that I was ranting a little bit more than would be interesting to a lot of people. Kind of like cry wolf, but where the crying is replaced with unfocused yet largely enthusiastic digs at the Government.

However, the bug has bitten me again and I feel that if I don't write something now I'll likely let this whole thing wander off into the ether. So then, a topic is required. Something positive, perhaps. Inspiring, even. Well then.......umm.....


Just recently, a familiar, mop-topped particle physicist appeared once again over the airwaves to grace us with sweeping vistas of jaw-dropping beauty and a relentless peppering of facts that leave most open-mouthed and quietly shaking their head in astonished revelation. I am, of course, referring to that bastion of science, Professor Brian Cox and his new series 'Wonders of Life'.

Now let's clear something up from the outset, here; I am a huge fan of Professor Cox. I place myself firmly between "would worship him if I believed in deities" and actually wanting to be him - indeed I am actually listening to the soundtrack of 'Wonders of the Solar System' right now. My girlfriend insists this is down to some latent homosexual tendencies I have brewing within me (Brian, call me, XOXOXOX), but it's simply more accurate to say I am a huge fan of what he's done in the name of science for a country that is woefully deficient in supporting its scientific base.

"Oh, we're not that bad, surely..?", I hear you scoff. Well here's an example. The University of Manchester, a stalwart of scientific research if ever there was one, quite recently developed a wonderful little material called Graphene. Barely one atom thick, it is stronger than steel at similar scales and is far, far more conductive than copper. It promises nothing less that the complete revolution of our electronic, medical and industrial sectors. Even more recently, the statistics were released for the number of forthcoming patent applications for this almost limitless technology. China, behemoth that it is, has 2000+ applications. Samsung has over 400 in progress, securing a future amongst the best in mobile technologies.....

The UK has 42.

Let's think about that a minute. The country that developed the technology, that is more aware of it than any other country on Earth, has managed only 42 new patent applications on such a revolutionary technology. This is down to the shameful funding allocated to the research sector, the woeful state of our economic and growth potentials......we're basically in a bit of a mess. But there's something that can be done about that.

Brian Cox himself has said that economies in the Western World are largely dependent on their ability to consistently fund an active and flourishing research, education and scientific community. It's the pillar of the work-force, skilled job creation, technology progression and viability to prospective companies. Yet even the recent doubling of the scientific budget by Westminster does little to scratch the surface of what's needed, of what other countries are prepared to invest. This is where people like Professor Cox and the BBC come in.

By putting science front and centre, with a presenter who is obviously as blown away by the material as you are, who can put complex ideas into bite-sized chunks, you're essentially making a down payment on future scientific potential in this country. In my humble opinion, which admittedly gets less humble the more people disagree with me, Brian Cox and his shows should be shown to every school child in the UK. Investors should be strapped to a chair and made to absorb it. In a very real sense, it's by inspiring wonder and the habit of asking questions and seeking answers that we will reinforce and embolden a generation to improve on our shabby state of affairs.

Brian is not alone either. Huge credit is owed to the likes of Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Dara Ó Briain, Professor Stephen Hawking, BBC Horizon and a whole host of boffins working under harsh conditions to advance science for all of us. However, it's in getting this work to the public eye, in such a way as to engender wonder and curiosity in the populace, that scientific prospects for progress will increase in this country.

So, love him or hate him, it'll be people like Brian that have the best chance of securing a better future for everyone in the UK. Certainly not that utter tit-factory in Government.

......And I almost made it through without ranting too...

Just a small human in a big Universe,

Ger Morris

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