Where do I start with a post about Friday night's Space Shambles event? It's difficult to know because the night itself was such a glorious mess of laughter, science and song that there wasn't any discernible start or end. Just a constant stream of bonkers and brilliant stuff.
Hosted by Infinite Monkey Cager Robin Ince and guitar-wielding spacewalker Chris Hadfield, we saw Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart (who flew a real Lunar Module) play the retro video game Lunar Lander (he did quite well), UK science comedy troupe Spoken Nerd calculate Pi with a pie and comedian Stewart Lee robustly declare he "hates nothing more than space people" before shooting down the entire premise of space travel in one fantastic monologue. (Little known fact: Lee has flown to space in his bin and it's not that hard. Also, don't ask him how to go to the loo in space.)
These skits were interspersed with a great selection of scientists, whose six-minute lectures gave powerful pulsar-like blasts of knowledge into the audience.
Space scientist Monica Grady dazzled with her talk on Rosetta (leaving me with the ear worm "Rubber Ducky, you're my friend'), physicist Lucie Green showed a tiny piece of Skylab to us, physicist and oceanographer Helen Czerski was joined on stage by Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a Hawaiian native who spoke about canoes, navigation and the stars, Jim Al-Khalil somehow summed up the history and future of the universe in six minutes, and a round table answering questions from the audience ensued with the Sky at Night's Chris Lintott, planetary scientist Suzie Imber and Hadfield, who revealed that space smells of witches.
That's right. Witches. Or at least the smell they leave behind when they disappear in a puff of smoke. Which makes far more sense. Right? (Well, it's a lot more fun than Brian Cox's postulation on the smell of space during his arena tour!)
We were treated to music from Grace Petrie (one of the many goosebump-inducing moments of the night when she sang her Golden Record Song), Public Service Broadcasting, She Makes War and onstage band Steve Pretty and the Origin of Species. (Who started the show with a laser harp. Brilliant.) Chris Hadfield also got out his trusty guitar and sang a bit of Bowie, later joined by Sheila Atim, who finished the song with a powerful vocal punch.
And with actor, writer and comedian Reece Shearsmith's beautiful rendition of Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot and a delightful, final poem penned and performed by Robin Ince, the night couldn't have thrown a better paraphernalia of science and intrigue out into the Albert Hall, all overlooked by a mesmerising spacesuit-wearing puppet called Sam.
Space Shambles was a night of gentle chaos and science. Because, after all, science isn't ordered, it's chaotic.
Which all seems quite fitting given that a few hours before Space Shambles began its tour de force of science, one of the world's greatest scientist's, Stephen Hawking, was interred in Westminster Abbey. Hadfield paid a touching tribute to Hawking, along with Apollo astronauts Alan Bean and John Young.
Before his death, Hawking requested a single equation should be inscribed on his grave. This equation demonstrates that black holes aren’t entirely black after all, and instead emit a glow that became known as Hawking radiation.
Even Hawking was surprised by his own work. Speaking about this equation, Hawking said: "At first, I thought this must be a mistake in my calculation. But what persuaded me that it was real, was that the emission was exactly what was required to identify the area of the horizon with the entropy of a black hole."
Entropy is an odd beast to describe (I had a bash with some Lego, here) - it's often regarded as a measure of disorder, and sometimes a measure of information.
Well, Space Shambles was a night of disorder and information in equal value. I certainly wouldn't have changed it for the world.
Science doesn't only belong in stuffy lecture halls or cordoned off in a lab. It belongs in the Albert Hall surrounded by musicians, comedians and a 5,000-strong audience.
We all need a little more science and chaos in our lives.
Well played, Space Shambles.
Enjoy the journey, Professor Hawking.
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
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