Brian Cox: 'You don't have to be Mozart to be a professional musician or Einstein to be a scientist, otherwise we wouldn't have any'
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 February 2019
In preparing for another stratospheric live stage show, the good professor explains why he has no regrets
'Some people get the impression that science is only for weird boffin-type people. It's very important to get the message across that scientists have chosen a career in finding out about nature, and that's it. You don't have to be a freak. You don't have to be Mozart to be a professional musician or Einstein to be a scientist, otherwise we wouldn't have any.'
Wise words as ever from Professor Brian Cox, the man who has been tipped by some to carry the torch for the natural world once David Attenborough finally quits trotting the globe. For now, the ex-D:Ream keyboard man is putting all that future national treasure status onto the backburner and preparing for another blockbuster live stage tour, simply entitled Professor Brian Cox Live 2019.
'I've always thought that a lot of people are really interested in these ideas,' notes Cox. 'If it's available they'll come and enjoy being challenged. I meet people who are always interested in something that astronomy or fundamental physics and biology have to say: they're interested in whether aliens are out there or how the universe began or how it's going to end or if it's expanding.'
Making complicated ideas accessible to a mass audience has been Cox's thing ever since he put the music world behind him and stepped fully into the realm of particle physics and astronomy. TV shows such as Stargazing Live and Wonders of the Solar System have been lapped up by the living-room masses, and similar numbers have witnessed his live work.
This time around, he's upped the ante and utilised some extraordinary kit to spread his word. 'All my shows up to this point have been organic, growing from previous things I've said. This is the first time I've tried to craft something from scratch. I've been lucky because the first people I asked to do graphics were Double Negative, the company who worked on Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. They thought this would be a really fascinating and different thing for them to do. The resolution that we're using on these screens is bigger than IMAX.'
Cox is as comfortable on stage in front of thousands of people as he is when faced by a TV camera, but he is clearly fine with that previous life in a chart-topping band being well behind him. 'At the age of 17 and 18, I just wanted to be a pop star, so there wasn't a great deal of art involved in my pursuit of that. I don't think I had it in me to create great things. I couldn't write an Abbey Road and that's what I would have wanted to do. I'm definitely better at science than I am at music.'
As a leader in his field, Cox is always looking to future generations and helping along the next set of Professor Brians. He teaches first year in Relativity at the University of Manchester and despite everything that's going on in the world (Brexit, anti-science populist leaders in the US, Brazil and across Europe), he remains cheerfully optimistic about what lies ahead. 'Most of my colleagues agree that there's an improvement in the level of students coming through. We have nothing to worry about in terms of the ability and commitment of young people. If anything, they're maybe a bit too serious. I understand why that is; they're paying a lot of their education from their own money, so it certainly does seem to focus them. But I remind them that it's about having fun as well. Being 18 to 21 or 22 is a really important part of your life.'
Professor Brian Cox Live 2019, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Tue 19 Feb.