The Infinite Monkey

Physics professors having comedic breakdowns trying to say a name, anxious producers, engineers of the tiny and general mirth.

That pretty much describes my Monday at the recording of the Infinite Monkey Cage.

Aside from the usual hosts of Brian Cox and Robin Ince (who it was generally agreed wasn’t angry enough… but was still very funny) we were joined by engineer and materials scientist Mark Miodownik, and the engineer Eleanor Stride. The third guest was an excellent bonus, in the form of the screen writer, director and comedian Andy Hamilton.

A moment of anxiety was enjoyed by all when I realised my blasé attitude – having been once before – meant that the queue I didn’t think was forming was indeed forming, but just round the corner …

Aaaanyway we got in, bought booze, tried to think of amusing answers to the question: If you could change the size of anything, not part of yourself, in the universe what would you change?

Exhibit A: Clearly this is not “fun” size…

I said something about fun-size Mars bars “fun =/= small (for food)”. Other answers included the plank constant, tomato sauce packets and bookshelves. A few notable references to sexually characteristic aspects of people’s partners anatomy were made. Magnitude or direction of the change was not always specified…

The actual recording was about an hour, and while some of it was scripted (I had a lovely view of the producers script who sat in front of us). Generally funny, though seemed a little too dominated by Mark Miodownik for my liking, not that he wasn’t interesting and eloquent, he was, but it didn’t seem to give too much room for the others to get in.

It was, at times, a little awkward with the producer trying to catch everyone’s attention to either move on to the next part, or the like. She sat at the very edge of here seat, leaning forward, occasionally waving a little to get their attention. Her apparent anxiety was easily transferred. Both Alex and myself found ourselves feeling we should try and wave at the panel and point at her too.

We didn’t.

Another point was that, at times, it looked as though the questions they were giving Eleanor Stride weren’t quite… right.

Eleanor had some really interesting stuff to say, and she said it well, but they didn’t seem to be able to draw it out of her quite how they wanted. Some of the stuff she’s been working on is excellent and really interesting; using coated micro-bubbles containing drugs that you can track around the body, then burst when you want, using ultrasound to deliver drugs to specific areas.

That kind of drug delivery is something I’d have loved to speak to her about afterwards to find out where they are with it and what exactly the advantages would be over other methods (drugs, delivery and development being in my background). Personally, I have reservations and I’m not quite convinced of it’s usefulness. However, a comedy science radio programme doesn’t really give much scope to go over everything in too much detail, eh?

The science aside, it was pretty much funny throughout. Robin Ince made a sports joke, and immediately followed it up by saying “Ahh, yes. Wrong crowd…” Which, if I was representative, was fair…

(I am completely indifferent to most sports (Rugby=exception), and, feel that, say, if I just pick something out of the air, like the Olympics, is little more than a politicians vanity project, where the £11bn could probably be spent far better for the people of the UK… ok, rant over…)

Brian Cox had to have Mark Miodownik surname spelt out phonetically on the script, and still failed to say it about five times, with comedic support from Robin Ince not helping. I think he had a fit of the giggles. Which is pretty infectious to most people. Well, I laughed. could have been something to do with a professor of physics stumbling over something as small as a name. We’re all human. 😉

It’ll be interesting to see how they edit it down to the 30 min show when it’s aired (next week I think).


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