I am horrified by how little I know. Sometimes, I don’t think about it. I go through life making answers up to questions I am asked and not being concerned that my mind is more gap than knowledge. Then, there are moments where all goes into slow motion and I feel physically struck by the knowledge that I have almost no knowledge. I look at all the books that surround me, that I trip over in low light, that make the floorboards buckle, and I am aware that, even the ones that I have read, have only been slightly retained.
I am quizzed about events in novels, and seem to have little recall. I watch University Challenge and wonder if I suffered a brain injury that I know nothing about. I watch The Chase and see Paul Sinha as the lawnmower man.
When I see people quoting Seneca, or explaining neutrinos, or talking enthusiastically about the birth of Dadaism, I look on them with envy. A little belligerent homunculus within me tries to persuade me that they are winging it, that no one really knows that much, they are conning people and they don’t even know it. Then, to make matters worse, I turn a corner and see someone mending a thing, and I remember that I am, on most occasions, unable to mend things. I can prod them, or use my pliers to pull at some bits hanging out, but it is likely to end with, “it’s no good, it’s stuck, we’ll have to call someone who owns the right tool. No, honestly, it is not a lack of ingenuity, we just need to hire a handy person who has the gadget in their box.”
I am interested in most things, and understand almost none of them. I am scatty.
I was thinking about this after watching Helen Czerski spin some eggs, she was doing this to explain how satellites stay in orbit. I think it is time for the Sky at Night/Great British Bake Off hybrid. “Now you are about to make a Mississippi Mud Pie, but first, Lucie Green is going to use some double cream and cocoa powder to explain the aurora borealis.”
Meanwhile, Mark Miodownik is using some Cheesy Footballs to explain Graphene.
Maybe science just needs to look more delicious for it to remain in the mind, too much of it is presumed to be poisonous.
I have just been filming some more interviews for Cosmic Genome and, like Monkey Cage, I find there is a time when a “meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow” song comes into my head. I follow all they say, to a point.
Then, some scurrilous, sabotaging clump of neurons, the ones that evolved to get you lost in a forest or gored my a mammoth, point at an unrelated image in your head, a faint memory of Leo Mckern or photo of a forgotten brand of biscuit, and by the time you are hearing the words again, all your comprehension has unravelled.
I have now swallowed my pride, which was shaped like a prickly lozenge, and I will say, “I am very sorry, I briefly imagined Leo McKern, could you just rewind a bit and tell me about those weakly interacting particles again?”
Usually, they don’t mind.
My annoyance at my ignorance and forgetfulness has now trapped me in something akin to an inescapable youtube labyrinth, though on this occasion I have trapped myself in my Cosmic Genome app, I have been surprised by how much I have forgotten considering I was there at the time and asking the questions. So far I have watched max Tegmark on the underlying mathematics of the universe (damn, his book is exciting, confusing and disconcerting), Chris Hadfield on the first time he stepped out into space, and Brian Cox telling me that thermodynamics puts the dampeners on the possibility of an afterlife.
Apparently, according to Trent, the wise, insomniac producer, there is 15 more hours to go. And just how many of those bloody hours will I retain.
Maybe the universe should have been simpler to understand, but then, if it was, nothinbg complex enough to want to understand it would have cropped up….bloody Catch 22 (which reminds me, I must read that too)
Here are most of the 115 people who have so far been on Cosmic Genome – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPTrVcniJ5A
The app is here http://cosmicgenome.com
and I am on tour across UK, Ireland and in Oslo, and then next year in USA and Australia.
Here are the rest of the Autumn dates – from Croydon to Newcastle via Leicester and Belfast http://www.robinince.com