CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Come on Nasa nerds! Show me a picture of aliens drinking a pint
Super Telescope: Mission to the Edge of the Universe
Our great life in Yorkshire
The wildest egos on the planet all want to be rocket scientists. And it’s not just billionaire bigwigs like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Nasa is full of people excited about the idea of launching metal rockets into the sky. They stepped forward on Super Telescope: Mission To The Edge Of The Universe (BBC2), gasping and grinning with smug excitement.
They didn’t send anything to the “edge of the universe,” of course. None of them, if challenged, would be even able to say truthfully what that means or where the edge is or what lies beyond.
What they actually did was put a telescope in orbit beyond the moon to look at the most distant stars.
Nasa is full of people excited about the idea of launching metal rockets into the sky. They stepped forward on Super Telescope: Mission To The Edge Of The Universe (BBC2), gasping and grinning with smug excitement
This has been done before – the new kit is just an upgrade. Nasa’s boastful nerds don’t like to admit it, so they have to announce that this telescope can show us the beginnings of time.
It obviously won’t: it’ll only produce photos of blobs and speckles, and the rest of us who aren’t interstellar astronomers have to pretend we understand (or care) when they say that this light 13.7 billion years old.
One particularly exaggerated scientist claimed the James Webb Telescope (JWT) will be able to study life on other planets and detect not just water, but plants and debris from other life forms.
That conjures up a picture of satellite imagery showing aliens creating clouds of smog with their flying cars and drinking radioactive lager in alien pubs.
This is of course ridiculous nonsense. What’s particularly frustrating about these BBC2 space documentaries is that nobody ever questions the wild boasts and self-importance fantasies of these techie fanatics.
There is no balance. Are they so allergic to criticism that they can’t ask themselves simple questions like: is it really worth £8 billion to take pictures of previously invisible galaxies when they just look like blurry pixels?
They didn’t send anything to the “edge of the universe,” of course. None of them, if challenged, would be even able to say truthfully what that means or where the edge is or what lies beyond. What they actually did was put a telescope in orbit beyond the moon to look at the most distant stars
If none of their statements are questioned, we listen to increasingly pompous babble for an hour. Apparently, the JWT is like “the Hubble telescope on steroids,” and its launch was as complex as the Apollo missions that put humans on the moon.
All of this was illustrated with computer graphics of exploding stars and spinning galaxies, which I believe borrowed from Prof. Brian Cox’s past extravaganzas.
There were a few stop-motion sequences of engineers unrolling giant foil covers – about as interesting as watching the Wimbledon roof creak open. The first images beamed back showed, you won’t be surprised to hear, blurry blobs and speckles. That’s £8 billion well spent and no mistake.
However, if you really want to spend some extravagant money, visit the Turkish Baths in Harrogate. Telly vet Peter Wright visited Our Great Yorkshire Life (C5) with his wife Lin and was thrilled to learn that these sumptuous Moorish steam rooms were once reserved for the super-rich.
A ticket to the baths when they opened in the 1890s was equivalent to half a week’s wages for a laborer. Peter, who is semi-retired, couldn’t stop giggling at the thought that he was on a “hot date” with his wife. “Tell you what,” he said as he came out, “that was surprisingly intoxicating.”
While still dating, Peter and Lin visited the gardens of Harlow Carr and then treated themselves to scones at Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms. If this whole format was thought up to make them have a nice day, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Wage slave of the night: Shop assistant Amber (Lucia Keskin) has been hiding from customers in Sneakerhead (Dave). “They keep asking me things, and it’s never a question I have anything to say on, like climate change, for example. It’s, ‘Where are the socks?’ Working life is tough.