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Professor Brian Cox’s epic new series follows the history of the universe from the very first star

In the beginning of his epic new five-part BBC series Universe, Professor Brian Cox makes a thought-provoking observation. “From one perspective, we are just grains of sand adrift in an infinite and indifferent world,” he says.

“To another, we are one of the universe’s most wonderful creations, collections of atoms that can marvel at the universe and try to explore it.” Or to sum it up, it’s mind-boggling that we exist at all.

“The more I learn, the more amazed I am that we are here,” says Professor Cox.

How that happened, and the background against which it happened, is one of the stories underlying the series, which takes us on a journey through the probes and telescopes exploring the outer reaches of the universe – and some amazing CGI. journey that reveals how the universe was formed and how it will be destroyed.

Professor Brian Cox (pictured) returns to the screens to explore the universe in a new five-part BBC series

Professor Brian Cox (pictured) returns to the screens to explore the universe in a new five-part BBC series

From the dawning of the Milky Way and the chaos that results when two galaxies collide to the possibility of extraterrestrial life and black holes, it’s a mesmerizing look at a region so vast that even contemplating it is overwhelming, as Professor Cox wrote the first. is to acknowledge.

“I’m doing live shows right now and starting to say half-jokingly, ‘What does it mean to live a finite, fragile life in an infinite, eternal universe?’ he says.

“This series is a very long answer to that short question.”

Of course Brian is the perfect person to handle it. Long established as the television face of physics, his down-to-earth yet lyrical approach to this complex subject has made him one of the BBC’s most bankable stars, in addition to the boyish appearance he still retains at age 53.

And you can tell by the ratings: his last epic series, The Planets, drew more than three million viewers per episode.

No doubt many of them will tune in to this as well, because in the same way that Sir David Attenborough opens up the wonders of the world to us, Brian is the one who encourages us to look further afield.

And what a further. The first installment of Universe takes us a mind-boggling 13.8 billion years back to something called the cosmic web, whose interlocking filaments of dark matter paved the way for the creation of the first star.

“It’s a journey from the first star to the last star,” says Professor Cox. “Remarkably, we know that timescale, and it’s 10 trillion years.” The idea that at some point the lights will go out is startling.

Professor Brian has been interested in astronomy since he read Cosmos at age 12, followed by physics in Manchester.  Pictured: The Milky Way over Stonehenge

Professor Brian has been interested in astronomy since he read Cosmos at age 12, followed by physics in Manchester.  Pictured: The Milky Way over Stonehenge

Professor Brian has been interested in astronomy since he read Cosmos at age 12, followed by physics in Manchester. Pictured: The Milky Way over Stonehenge

“The first episode is pretty brutal in that sense, because it doesn’t shy away from that,” he says.

His ability to summarize complex problems into something we can all grasp comes with an enthusiasm that has not left him since he read Cosmos, a popular science book by astronomer Carl Sagan, at age 12. “Carl always said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience because it gives us a perspective,” he says now.

A self-confessed geeky teen, Brian was beset on his path to academia by a brief foray into pop when he played keyboards with D:Ream, whose hit song Things Can Only Get Better was used as the soundtrack to Tony Blair’s rise to power. However, at the age of 23 he enrolled to study physics in Manchester, and the university has been his home ever since.

As a postdoctoral researcher, he cracked data on particle accelerators that were the precursors to the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN research center in Geneva. While there, he caught the attention of TV executives after being deployed as a talking head.

Brian revealed that the series was filmed in the UK, with the entire Black Hole episode (pictured) set in Yorkshire

Brian revealed that the series was filmed in the UK, with the entire Black Hole episode (pictured) set in Yorkshire

Brian revealed that the series was filmed in the UK, with the entire Black Hole episode (pictured) set in Yorkshire

“They thought, ‘He’s been on Top Of The Pops, he’ll be fine with the camera,’ he recalls. He also met his wife, TV producer and fellow science enthusiast Gia Milinovich, at CERN. The couple, who have a 12-year-old son, married 18 years ago.

Brian didn’t have to travel far from home to shoot his new series as it was shot in the UK. “The galaxies delivery was done on Skye, which gave the idea of ​​galaxies as islands,” Brian says.

“And this isn’t a commentary on the location at all, but we filmed the entire black hole episode in Yorkshire.”

But let’s face it, what most people really want to know when it comes to space is if anyone else is there. It’s a question that comes up in one of the episodes, and unfortunately, according to Professor Cox, the answer is no — or at least no intelligent life.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I found liquid under the surface on Mars or on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, but almost every biologist I speak to says, ‘Yes, there may be life, but it will only be slime. ‘

Brian said the series celebrates our civilization while facing the fact that “we may be a remarkably valuable naturally occurring phenomenon.” Pictured: Hubble Space Telescope

However, he admits that he could be wrong. ‘We can discover traces of a civilization tomorrow,’ he smiles.

‘I would love it. No one would be less surprised than me if a flying saucer came along, because it would solve a major problem called the Fermi Paradox, which asks why there are no aliens.

“It’s a huge paradox that the Milky Way is so big, and so much time has passed, that you’d think there would be other civilizations.”

Meanwhile, it seems as if life on Earth is real. “I think that forces us to face the fact that we can be a remarkably valuable naturally occurring phenomenon,” he says.

“If for some reason our civilization doesn’t last, and it could be an external event, but it could come from nuclear war, then it’s possible that pressing that button will forever eliminate meaning in a galaxy . But being forced to face reality leads to a celebration for me. Ultimately, this series celebrates our civilization.’

Universe, Wednesday, 9pm, BBC2.

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