Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A Night of 400 Billion Stars

Couple of things.

First of all, An Atheist Guide to Christmas is available for pre-order.

I’ve written a contribution, as have many other, better, and more well-known people like Richard Herring, Charlie Brooker, Richard Dawkins and Ben Goldacre.

And secondly, last night I performed at a Night of 400 Billion Stars at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London.

It was a really fun gig in aid of the Rationalist Association, the organisation which publishes New Humanist.

They were giving out free issues as the audience left, and were encouraging people to subscribe by telling them they’d get a free pack of my God Trumps.

Robin Ince played a few rounds of God Trumps with the audience between acts to promote them, which I watched from backstage. Very surreal!

Anyway, if you couldn’t make it down, here’s a transcript of my set. Remember, it’s how I tell them:

(I had considered opening with “Is this still a physics night or has it been commuted to a Michael Jackson special” but thought better of it)

Hello! Do you like my tights?

(In honour of the theme of the night I wore sparkly silver tights)

I wore them because they looked like the kind of tights people might wear in outer space, or the future.

So anyway, yes, comedy, comedy about physics...

Ok, I’ve got one;

What do you get when you cross observed frequency and actual frequency?

...and the speed of sound, the velocity of the observer and the velocity of the source?

The apparent (observed) frequency of an object in motion.

Yeah. Physics jokes. Hard to write.

Although if you’re familiar with the principles of the Doppler Effect you’ll probably be chuckling away to yourself, because you’ll know I should have added that if the distance between the source and observer is decreasing, then you’ll need to adjust your equation, forward slash, joke.

Just a bit of fun.

Just a bit of fun. With physics. Of a Monday. Hmm.

I actually Googled physics jokes before the gig – to see what one would look like – and found a website which uses physics jokes to teach physics.

What they do is they have the joke, like this:

Question: What did one quantum physicist say when he wanted to fight the other quantum physicist?

Answer: Let me atom

Right, and then underneath it says ‘click here for an explanation’ – as well you might.

You click through and it says “atom should be read here as ‘at him’ as in ‘let me at him’” – just explaining the pun there – and then it goes on to explain what an atom is.

Hilarious and educational.

There was also “What was the name of the famous electricity detective?” “Sherlock Ohms”

Ohms. Ohms. You know, like an Ohm.

You then click through, there’s a laborious explanation of the pun and you learn what an Ohm is.

Not a method of teaching you see often. I wonder why.

So you all like physics yeah? All of you? Wow there’s loads of you. That’s...wow. You all like it?...

I hate physics.

It's rubbish.

I realise this might sound odd coming from someone standing on stage at an event which is ostensibly a celebration thereof but, we’re in a credit crunch. A gig’s a gig.

So, yes, I hate physics and my reasons are threefold, as all good reasoning systems should be.

Firstly, before physics came along, everything was really good.

The Universe was Earth centric which was lovely. Made me feel really important. And God was up there in His Heavens, which I think was the clouds or outer space or something.

But thanks to physics we now know that the Earth goes round the Sun and that there’s nothing up there except condensation and vast nothingness.

Thanks for that!

You happy?

Although I’m not convinced about Heaven not being real. Because Nicky Campbell, and he’s off Watchdog so he should know, said that Heaven is real on last week’s Big Questions.

And better than that, animals join us in Heaven.

I suppose you’ll want to spoil that with your physics now won’t you?

He had a vicar on the panel who took animal prayer groups. Yes really. And she confirmed that animals do go to Heaven. Then Nicky asked “what’s the species cut off point? Do wasps get in?” And she said “Yes. Wasps do get in. Although I don’t claim to understand the logistics of it”

That’s good. She’s reserving judgment there. Not just saying any old thing.

Secondly, I don’t like physics because the Bible clearly states that the Earth is flat, fixed and at the centre of the Universe. And other such things that have since been disproved by science such as women being made out of left over ribs.

And it’s very embarrassing for religious leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope. No wonder the Pope always looks so stressed. He has to defend his, increasingly spurious corner, against all your ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ with a book wherein a man has an argument with a donkey. A talking donkey. Where if a woman intercepts in a fight situation and grabs testicles she should get her hands chopped off. And where God pops down – you know, like he used to – and advises people on how to bake bread.

It’s in Ezekiel; “Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes...bake it over a fire using human dung”

At which point the Israelites go “oh no way, yuck!” But in biblical speak of course.

And then God says “All right” – I love that! The idea of God saying “all right (calm down)” – “All right, you may use cow dung instead of human dung”

God there, popping down to tell people how best to cook bread and with what kind of excrement.

This is the same God who didn’t ‘pop down’ when there was a holocaust going on. Weird.

And my third and final reason for not liking physics is Mr Potts, my GCSE physics teacher. But I won’t go into that here. You really had to be there.

The one thing I do like about physics is the possibility of time travel. And I was reading in the Metro recently, yes, the Metro. They are a good newspaper. I was reading that time travel is possible!

“Scientists have discovered that time travel is possible, but, quantum theory does not allow for paradoxical situations, what this means in lay terms is that you would not be able to go back and change your future”.

A shame.

Then the journalist felt it necessary to add:

“This theory makes a nonsense of the adventures of Michael J Fox in the Back to the Future movies"

Do you see? Do you see what your physics has done? It’s made Michael J Fox look a right twat.

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