ScienceSkepticism

When my favourite things collide

Chris Morris at CERNI don’t think that the genius of Chris Morris has penetrated the USA, which is a shame as he is one of the greatest comedy and satire brains of all time. Even in the UK, he’s somewhat counter-culture, and his satire shows such as Brass Eye and The Day Today were fairly obscure by TV standards. Oh, except for the Brass Eye special on paedophila, which attracted 2000 complaints (and 3000 calls of support, huzzah). A satire on the media and public hysteria (and witch hunts) following the Sarah Payne murder (think Megan but over the ocean), it was some of the most important TV ever made.

Brit DJ Neil Fox, believing he was taking part in a real documentary, happily read his autocue for the viewers: “paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me. Now that is scientific fact – there’s no real evidence for it – but it is scientific fact”. Making Morris’ point nicely, I think.

What has this to do with anything? Well, alongside Alan Moore, Richard Feynman and Donny Hathaway, Chris Morris is one of very few people I consider “my hero”. So I was jolly amused and delighted to read this Guardian piece by him today on his visit to the Large Hadron Collidor at CERN. His writing style is fascinating (almost Hemingwayish) and his take on the physics is charming.

“You think a vacuum is empty space. Quantum theory says yes – but it is also full of spontaneous eruptions of energy. This virtual energy comes from nowhere. It does and doesn’t exist. You can use the bit that does, so long as you pay it back. This beats sub-prime. A physicist called Polkinghorne says the quantum vacuum is the nearest analogy to God in the physical world. Then again, the physicist who is brainwashing me in the CMS says quantum theory is “probably bollocks”.”

PS: The ‘Astroblogger‘ mentioned in Chris’ article is none other than my buddy the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait. Jealous, me?

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11 Comments

  1. Right on with the appreciation for Chris Morris. I discovered his there there recently too, and it’s great to find out one of your favorite people (entertainment wise) is also apparently awesome in real life. I’m in the USA and he seems very obscure here. In fact (sort of a sad fact) I met my last boyfriend because of Chris Morris – he was the only other person on Livejournal in Seattle that listed him as an interest, and we met from there (wow, I feel like such a geek, well I am so ok!). He also happened to be a skeptic (well still is). Anyway, yeah it’s awesome to find a mention of Morris on Skepchick too! Did you notice he did the CERN Podcast too? Well if not, you (and anyone else) should check that out – it’s a great Podcast besides and it’s hosted by Dr. Brian Cox (one of the world’s most attractive physicists, but I suppose that’s besides the point) :)

  2. I’ve never heard of Chris Morris, but will definitely look him up now.

    Quantum theory IS God to me. I don’t understand any of it, but it’s been written about in books so it must be true. And I know that the written word is true because it was written by scientists. And scientists cannot be incorrect because they have had the research published.

    Yay for circular logic! But seriously, if anyone knows of a “Quantum theory for brainless monkeys” website or book, please direct me to it. Or direct it towards me.

  3. Marjasieni, there are probably websites that explain quantum theory better than the books I’ve read, but here are a few comments.

    Least investment: “Beyond Star Trek,” by Lawrence Krauss. Fun, easy to read, and hits the basics. But Krauss doesn’t attempt to explain quantum theory very deeply in this book.

    Medium: “Relativity Simply Explained,” by Martin Gardner. When you start trying to wrap your mind around some of the concepts, you’ll realize the title is a lie. And relativity isn’t the same as quantum theory. Still, a good attempt by a good writer to explain advanced physics.

    Most investment (and best, in my opinion): “The God Particle,” by Leon Lederman. This one is longer than the other two, but so clearly written that at one point I felt like I could build a particle accelerator if I had the money. Lederman has a good sense of humor and Sagan-esque ability to present complex topics in understandable ways.

    Tkingdoll, Alan Moore should be at least something of a hero to almost anyone who writes anything. I think he could make a loan application awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, and emotionally uplifting (or emotionally crushing, if he chose).
    A “Watchmen” movie has been filmed and is supposed to be released in 2009. Of course, Alan has nothing to do with it, but I’m hoping for something good anyway. I enjoyed “V for Vendetta” without comparing it too much to the original.

  4. Thank you sooooo much for linking to Chris’ article and to Sid for mentioning CERNPodcast! Sid, the Guardian asked if they could link to the podcast we did, so it’s not, like, *bad* or anything!

    And Underpants Man is *not* Brian. It’s a dear friend of mine and Brian’s… :)

  5. Dread Polack, yep. That’s who it is. He’s one of the top ten people I’ve met in my life. He’s v funny. So, you can imagine what a weekend with Brian, Phil, Chris and ‘UPG’ must have been like. One of the most fun weekends EVER!

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