Quest to solve the mysteries of human life
Wonders Of Life BBC2
"WHAT," ponders professor Brian Cox, "is the difference between the living and the dead?" I'm no scientist but I'd say not much in the case of Bruce Forsyth.
"What is life?" added the smilesome academic. "What is it that animates living things? What is the difference between a piece of rock carved into a gravestone and me?" The answer: You don't need an A-level refresher course to understand a piece of rock carved into a gravestone.
To be fair, Cox is trying, in terms most of us can understand, to explain the origins of life.
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"The question 'what is life?'," he said, "is surely one of the grandest." Right up there with 'can you pass the ketchup?' and 'who's that at the door?'.
"How is it this magnificent complexity that we call life could have assembled itself on a planet that itself formed from nothing more than a collapsing cloud of gas and dust?" It's a question rarely used as an ice-breaker at a swingers' party.
Where some believe life to have been created by a higher being, Cox sees it in more black and white terms. "Living things can be explained by the laws of physics," he says, "the very same laws that explain the falling of the rain."
Despite this, physicians are still baffled by the existence of John McCririck.
Cox accepts though, that some things that don't quite appear to add up. For instance, while dead stuff decomposes, "how can it be that a living organism avoids decay?" Clearly he hasn't clapped eyes on Princess Anne for a while.
To get his ideas across, Cox tries to incorporate familiar objects. At one stage, for example, he tried to explain changes in energy by showing thermal images of a chicken. "The chicken," he said, "is radiating disorder out into the wider universe." I've no idea what he meant but, if that's their game, I don't feel quite so bad about eating them.
Later Cox performed a neat trick where he isolated his DNA with washing-up liquid, salt, and vodka. "In that cloudy innocuous looking solid," he revealed, "are the instructions to build a human." For Loose Women presenters, double the vodka.
"We're connected," he stated, "to every single thing that has ever lived." Surely not the dung beetle.
"Life," he concluded, "is not a thing, it's a collection of chemical processes." So there you have it. Our precious existence. Nought more than de-scaling the kettle.