Sunday, 3 April 2011
Nothing on TV
Last night I watched Nothing. That is to say, I caught up with part two of the excellent Jim Al-Khalili's BBC4 two-parter, Everything And Nothing, which divides neatly into Part 1: Everything, and Part2: Nothing. I love Al-Khalili's knack of taking huge and bewildering concepts and giving me the pleasing - and fleeting - illusion that I've understood them. For a while there, as his exploration of whether Nothing could truly exist, and if so what it would be, led us further into the strange outer realms of quantum mechanics and the role of matter and antimatter in bringing universes into being, I thought I'd understood what he was getting at. But in the end had I understood Nothing, or had I understood nothing? More likely the latter, but the whole thing was a joy to watch - Al-Khalali has all of boy scientist Brian Cox's gift for explication and simplification with none of the distracting and frankly annoying baggage. And, in the course of the programme, he passed on a really quite startling fact - that the great physicist (and very strange man) Paul Dirac and the great comic actor (and rather strange man) Cary Grant, then Archibald Leach, attended the same primary school in Bristol. If only they'd invited them both to a school reunion - imagine the conversation... Actually there wouldn't have been any, as Dirac would have regarded it as unnecessary and therefore maintained one of his famous silences, while his mighty mind dreamt up some beautiful equation.