Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Night of 400 Billion Stars

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You can't really start reviewing something your magazine was involved in (it was brilliant, of course), but just a quick note to say what a great night we had last night at the Bloomsbury Theatre for Night of 400 Billion Stars (And Maybe Some String Theory), our latest science, music and comedy extravaganza. Compere Robin Ince was on top form as always (with lack of sleep and an intake of strong Somerset cider over the weekend at Glastonbury only adding to his incredulity at the world's stupidity - Natasha Kaplinsky's love of expensive honey, anyone?), and we were treated to some great (loosely science-based) stand-up from Chris Addison, Lucy Porter, Josie Long, Christina Martin and Peter Buckley-Hill, some science/comedy from Helen Keen and AL Kennedy, science from Marcus Chown and Simon Singh, and music from Martin White's horn ensemble, Gavin Osborn and Darren Hayman.

There was far too much to mention here, but I thought I'd recount a couple of things that tied in with my own current mini-obsession with all things Apollo/NASA. AL Kennedy, in a wonderful set that combined stand-up with proper science readings, read from a essay by Penn Jillette in which he describes the awe he experienced when he went to Cape Canaveral to watch a space shuttle launch. It seems that the essay isn't online, as it's from a Penn & Teller book called How to Play in Traffic, but I did find an extract in this blog post:
“It’s 3.7 miles away, and your looking at this flame and the flame is far away and it’s brighter than watching an arc welder from across a room[….] The fluffy smoke clouds of the angels of exploration spill out of your field of vision. They spill out of your peripheral vision.

“You don’t exactly hear it at first, it almost knocks you over. It’s the loudest most wonderful sound you’ve ever heard. […] You can’t really hear it. It’s too loud to hear. It’s wonderful deep and low. It’s the bottom.

“This is a real explosion and it’s controlled and it’s doing nothing but good and it makes your unbuttoned shirt flap around your arms. It’s beyond sound, it’s wind. It’s a man-made hurricane.”
It made me really want to go and see a shuttle launch. The other NASA related thing I learned last night came via Darren Hayman's song about Alan Bean, the fourth man on the moon. He became an artist after he came back from the Apollo 12 mission, and much of his work consists of paintings of the moon. He's the only artist to have been to the moon. I've included a painting above called "Mother Earth", which I found in this gallery of his work. Do go and take a look.

Another highlight of the night for us was seeing our shiny new God Trumps cards make their public debut. We handed out a few cards to members of the audience, and Robin Ince played a quick game with them from the stage. His Agnostic card (Weapon of Choice: Undecided) proved impotent in the face of the formidible Satanist card. Don't forget, you can make sure you get your hands on a pack by subscribing to New Humanist. It's the only you can get them – part one is free with our July/Aug issue, and part two with the Sept/Oct issue.

Finally, we will be organising another series of Godless Christmas shows in collaboration with Robin Ince this December. The dates aren't confirmed yet, but keep checking back here for news on how to get your tickets.

Thanks again to all the performers and everyone who came last night. We look forward to more when we steal Christmas again later in the year.


Psychodiva said...

I managed to deliberately time a holiday to Florida with a Shuttle launch a few years back- took the kids, sat out on top of the car at around 5am just outside the Cape - both my kids tell me they have never forgotten that moment of feeling the ground shaking and seeing that bright flame pushing up into the sky and then space- wonderful! well worth it and something I shall never forget.

Cubik's Rube said...

Hurrah! I had a great time, and my free copy of the New Humanist has finally persuaded me to get around to subscribing properly. Looking forward to news about Christmas shows in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

It was a brilliant night, thanks to all, can't wait for the Christmas shows.

Chris said...

I was there too. Had a great time.

There were so many interesting things mentioned that made me think "oh, I'd like to know more about that", too much to remember. This is a long shot but I don't suppose that a recording was made of the show, was there?
Could there ever be a download? I wouldn't mind if it was low-quality.