Thursday, 12 May 2011


Last night, Jenny and I went to the Cambridge Corn Exchange to see Uncaged Monkeys, which is a quasi-scientific performance by Robin Ince, Simon Singh, Brian Cox and Ben Goldberg, along with a few extra guests, who are not announced in advance, as far as I know.  The show's been going around since the beginning of the year, and I really wasn't sure what to expect.

I've never seen Robin Ince before, and found him quite funny.  Simon Singh spent his slot talking about the 'alternative medicine' scene and how essentially they take your money but sell you water, along with various obvious parallels.  (It was a long show, and I've forgotten most of the details, which is not good, but no surprise.)

Then came Steve Jones, not on the expected list, who was really entertaining and talked, amongst other things, about the fact that the £10 note is all Darwin, evolution, Galapagos, etc, but includes a humming bird.  There are no hummingbirds on Galapagos.  Oops!  Although Steve quoted some text about the hummingbird, which I assume came from the Royal Mint's website, I notice that, although the bird is still pictured, the text associated with it is now more generic, and hence, accurate.  Maybe someone from the Mint saw the show!

Brian Cox talked about the LHC, as you'd expect  - "We build these things next to an airport, so you can get a sense of the scale of them - that small straight line there is Geneva airport!" - as well as cosmology, particle physics, the results of Gravity Probe-B and so on.  All good stuff. BTW all the press seem to be saying that Gravity Probe-B proved Einstein's General Theory of Relativity right, missing the crucial word "again" off the end of the sentence!  It's been proven right several times over the years, and this is just another aspect.  As Brian said, it's a good job this experiment worked, as GPS is crucially dependant on the the theory it was actually testing!

By now we were already half an hour late in a long show, so we had an interval, then resumed for first, a mercifully brief Q&A session, a genetics person I'd never heard of and sadly, who's performance has fallen out of my head, a girl singing some funny, geeky songs and finally Ben Goldacre.    Ben talked a lot about how testing of drugs is quite often skewed in such a way as to favour the company performing the test,  by testing against a placebo instead of the most effective other drugs on the market, by simply not publishing small-scale tests that don't show the results you want, and so on.

Ben does himself no favours by hopping around the stage like a demented hamster.  Is he hyperactive as a result of imbibing sweet drinks with high concentrations of e-numbers?  I don't know, but I was glad when he stopped as it was most distracting.

Anyhow, I recommend you go if you can.  It's an evening of Science and Wonder and although it's expensive and long, it's definitely worth it!

Oh yes, the Oxymoronburger.  We ate at Jamie's Italian restaurant just over the road, before the show and I had a burger.  The last burger I had was in a MacDonalds in High Wycomb in about 2000, and it was so ghastly, I swore I'd never eat another one.  This one was just delicious, and I'd cheerfully repeat the experience!  Sadly, they forgot to drizzle the Posh Chips with the promised Truffle Oil, but the nice waitress left those off the final bill, which I didn't actually ask her to do.

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