Monday, 15 March 2010

Watching the Rings

I've just watched the second episode of Wonders of the Solar System on BBC2 and I must say I'm hooked. Brian Cox, who presents the programme, has a real ability to communicate his passion for his subject. He very cleverly takes phenomena on earth as his starting point: in tonight's episode, using tornadoes to explain the way the solar systm began as a nebula and ice floes in the Arctic and the sands of the Sahara to explain the structure of Saturn's rings. The boyish delight he obviously found in seeing the rings through a telescope got me, after the programme, lugging my telescope out of the corner of the living-room and into the garden. It's been a generally clear night here and, sure enough, Saturn is still there, a bright point of light just below Leo's back paws. It doesn't matter how many times you point a telescope at it, the thrill of seeing the rings sticking out either side of the planet never seems to wear off. (When he first saw it Galileo, as Brian Cox pointed out, described the planet as having ears). Sadly, I couldn't make out it's moon, Titan, tonight - but then you can't have everything.

A great way to end the weekend. I'm playing double bass in a production The Pirates of Penzance this week. We had our first rehearsal yesterday. I've not played the bass part since 1970-something and I've been singing the songs in the bath on and off ever since. I kept getting feelings of deja vu - first, in the 12-bars rest in the overture, when I suddenly remembered it's all too easy to lose your place! And I couldn't resist singing along:

Here's your crowbar,
And your centre bit;
Your life preserver -
You may want to hit.

Your silent matches,
Your dark lantern seize,
Take your file
And your skeletonic keys.

There's plenty more where that came from. Great stuff, I think.


Totalfeckineejit said...

I've gotta get me a telescope.I always look to the skies with the naked eye, but these days I can't even see my watch, let alone the stars.Good luck with the pirates.Har!

Titus said...

Oh, so annoyed that I missed this series (if I miss the first I don't watch the rest) and now I feel even worse. Don't iplayer me, not working at present. I'm currently loving the chemistry one on BBC4 (I think).

P.S. Don't visit my blog. Whatever you do, don't visit my blog.

Poet in Residence said...

perhaps you'd consider a pocket watch with luminous hands, but also remember (before rushing out for that telscope) that Patrick Moore invariably recommended a pair of humble binoculars for amateur Sky at Night stargazing in answer to viewers queries. Stargazing on TV is almost better than the realthing unless you live, like Dominic, in the dimly lit moorland. It's all kind of addictive too.

Niamh B said...

Why are Pirates cool?

Because they aaaargh

Why couldn't the pirates find their headache tablets?

Because the Parrots eat em all

I haven't seen the penanze one, but I enjoy the never ever sick at sea song - good luck with it!

BarbaraS said...

Me too, Dominic. Makes me want to drag out the telescope my husband bought me after a holiday in Kerry, where the clouds stayed away for a whole two weeks, and at night you could really see the Milky Way.

BarbaraS said...

I meant to add, it is a great series :)

Dominic Rivron said...

TFE & PiR: I've got an Skywatcher Explorer 130, which Patrick Moore reckoned was the smallest reflector worth having. But yes, binoculars are fantastic. The naked eye's not bad either: there's so much to see.

Titus: I did visit. I will be commenting in due course :)

Niamh: Thanks for the jokes. Pirates of Penzance is great if you like that kind of thing. There's loads of it on Youtube.

Poetikat said...

Brian Cox, eh? He was quite ubiquitous for a while there. It seemed he was in every thriller/horror going as the villain or the doomed.

It's great when a presenter can draw out that childlike enthusiasm. Wish I had a telescope now. More so, I wish I had BBC2.


Get Off My Lawn! said...

I think there;s a good argument here for a Space Pirates of Penzance! I would totally watch that.

Dominic Rivron said...

Barbara: Go for it!

Poetikat: I think you're thinking of the bloke in Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword. This Professor Brian Cox is a particle physicist who works at CERN. He did used to be keyboard player in D:Ream though. Bit of an all rounder. :)

GOML: Pirates of Penzance in Space? A great idea. One of the great things about Youtube is that if something can be done, someone, somewhere, has done it. Enjoy:

The more I think about it, the more I think it should be done!

the watercats said...

I've missed this so far... but I love that fella. I watched the athiests christmas celebrations lately and he did a talk on why the universe is so brilliant.. Wouldn't you just have loved that guy as a teacher at school!

the watercats said...

ooohh.. and ... double bass....????... hhhmmmm... you thinking of coming to Ireland any time soon :-D

白色情人節 said...

thx u very much, i learn a lot

tony said...

I,ve missed the Brian Cox series so far, but 'will make a point of checking the next one.
We have been lucky with several clear nights.

Rachel Fenton said...

We've got no telly and no bbc but we do got lots a stars! Aaargh! Shiver me timbers, and you may lay to that. (Treasure Island in lieu of POP quotes!) And you may lay to that!

Poet in Residence said...

There's a story called 'The True Path' on that Zen link you sent me. It's the right one. It'll help.
Thanks and best wishes,