‘Uncaged Monkeys’ at the Hammersmith Apollo on December 13th had the added excitement of the announcement that the Higgs Boson particle has been ‘glimpsed’ (meaning they’re not 100% sure that it’s there) at the large hadron collider. On stage, the evening was hosted by Robin Ince, who was joined by Adam Rutherford, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh, Alan Moore, Josie Long, Brian Cox and Tim Minchin. Simon Singh’s demonstration of the Enigma encryption machine was fascinating in a number of ways; he explained the encryption method by taking apart a real machine, but also ended his slot by giving us the political reason why the code-cracking team at Bletchley Park remained uncelebrated for so many years; it allowed the British government to pass on the machines they’d seized to other countries, saying that the Germans had complete faith in them, but without revealing that they’d cracked the code and would be able to decipher any message sent using them!
Josie Long read out fake entries from Darwin’s letters and added some irreverence to the evening, as it was pretty clear that she didn’t worship science or any scientists! Ben Goldacre gave a very energetic and intense presentation about the bad practice of hiding negative drug trial data by the pharmaceutical industry. For his views on this and other bad science practices, I recommend a visit to his blog or buying The Guardian, where his articles are published. Adam Rutherford played his video tribute to 30 years of NASA space shuttle launches. A few people did leave the auditorium at this point because of the music volume, but the majority stayed and watched, entranced. There was also a rather brilliant light/juggling display, but unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the act, so please let me know if you can help.
Brian Cox tried to explain the equation that introduced the concept of the Higgs Boson particle, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience who got a bit lost. After Robin and Brian’s slightly failed, but funny skype link-up to Professor Jon Butterworth at Cern, Alan Moore appeared to tell us about various theories in physics. Unfortunately, given that a fair few of the audience probably were physicists, some of the jokes didn’t work perfectly. However, the night ended on a high when Tim Minchin dashed over from recording the Jonathan Ross show and entertained us with a couple of songs. He was joined by Brian Cox at the piano for the second piece, which is when many of the scientists in the audience probably felt a bit inadequate because it’s very unfair that Brian Cox gets to be a Professor of physics, have a successful TV show and be an ex-pop star who can reel out his piano playing when the situation demands! I, for one, was extremely jealous, but enjoyed it none the less.
With the excitement of the Higgs Boson and the huge number of acts, it was a very long show in the end, but it managed to keep the momentum going. All in all, a great evening of science, comedy and entertainment.