See The Universe Like Never Before With Rockstar Scientist Brian Cox
In a world of Kardashians and Jenners, it seems unlikely that a particle physicist would become a global TV sensation—and yet that’s exactly what’s happened to Brian Cox. For more than 10 years, Cox has been a fixture on screens around the world, making stories such as the formation of the sun and nuclear fusion interesting and accessible to people of all ages.
Now, Cox is bringing these stories of space to the stage with a new touring show titled Universal: Adventures In Space & Time, which covers everything from black holes to the likelihood of alien life to the future of humankind. The immersive show has proved a hit, selling out stadiums in the UK, Ireland and US and setting Guinness World Records for selling the most tickets for a science tour and for the largest science show ever performed.
As he prepares for his Hong Kong show on June 5—his first show in Asia—Cox shares five insights into space travel.
1/5 Humankind will not survive without space exploration
“If we want to continue to expand as a species, we have to expand upwards,” says Cox. “We cannot continue to sit on the surface of a planet that’s already under strain.”
“Jeff Bezos has a lovely line: he says the one thing we’ve discovered about going into space is that the Earth is the best planet. So how do we protect it? His idea is to zone the Earth as residential, which is a very good idea. His ambition is not to have heavy industry on the planet, but to have it off the planet.”
“Go to the asteroid belt—there is so much power and resources a few hundred miles above our heads. There are already asteroid mining companies—we already have the technology to do it.”
2/5 Man will set foot on Mars within the next “two decades”
Cox believes an expedition to Mars is now well within our power. “SpaceX want to go to Mars within a decade,” he says. “It’s possible that you could, if you had the investment. I think we know how to do it. But I think it’s likely to be more like two decades until mankind is on Mars. But you never know—it’s been remarkable how fast SpaceX and Blue Origin are advancing.”
3/5 Satellites are crucial for monitoring climate change
“Satellites are used for everything from communications to satellite navigation, but, perhaps most importantly, they’re used for climate monitoring. The reason we know what the climate’s doing, the reason we know about deforestation, the reason we know about changes in land use patterns is because we have satellites in space that are looking back at our planet.”
4/5 Space travel is crucial to the economy
Some commentators complain about the amount of money pumped into space exploration—the fact that governments are rumoured to spend more on space travel than exploring the oceans is a fact that’s often bandied around. But Cox believes space travel pays back every dollar of this investment—and then some.
“The Apollo programme, for example, was obviously quite a large expenditure,” says Cox. “But the most the most authoritative study of this spending, which was done by Chase McKinney Metrics, shows that there was a 14:1 return on [that investment] by 1980.”
“And that’s not surprising because if you think about what actually happened, you think about Apollo, the average age at Nasa at the time was under 30, so you had hundreds if not thousands of engineers under 30 working on the most challenging problem you could possibly work on. And they didn’t disappear—they went out into the economy afterwards. When you’re flying on Boeing or Airbus planes, a lot of that technology comes from investment in aerospace.”
5/5 China is investing heavily in space exploration
American companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin may be grabbing the headlines, but the Chinese government is investing heavily in aerospace technology, too. “China has a space programme that has advanced extremely rapidly and is doing very well and is very successful, so I don’t think anyone should underestimate in China,” says Cox.
“China is doing a lot and has a lot of resources and is expanding its university system and has a great history of intellectual capital.”
Tickets for Universal: Adventures in Space & Time can be booked at Hong Kong Ticketing
See also: Yuri And Julia Milner: Breakthrough Prize Founders On Philanthropy, Science And The Search For Alien Life