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The Brian Cox & Robin Ince Sort of Chat Show Episode 2


The Brian Cox and Robin Ince Sort of Chat Show continues…

When we last left them, Robin had decided it was unscientific to suggest there was definitely no life after death.

Robin – You know, we don’t know, do we, we’ve got to be reasonable, we can’t say there’s definitely no life after death?

Brian – Yes, we can.


R – How can we say there’s definitely not? That’s a very unscientific thing to say. I mean, I might think its highly unlikely… 


R – You know, Derek Acorah, he had a car accident the other day.

B – Who’s that?

R – He’s a TV psychic; he had a car accident because he was distracted by…he thought there was a ghost in his head.

B – I thought that was a cheesy starter on an Indian menu.

R – No, he’s Derek Acorah, I mean he’s… 


B – I’ll have two Derek Acorahs and a poppadom!

R – The Indian menu bit is the only bit that’s inaccurate.

B – I like chutney on me Derek Acorah.

R – Oh no, that’s a really horrible image now, that’s…


B – Is it? I don’t do Acorahs.

R – Yeah, have you ever seen Derek Acorah?

B – No.

R – Yeah, you don’t really keep up with TV psychic mediums do you?

B – I bounce off the rim of popular culture!

R – It’s interesting the areas of knowledge you just don’t seem to bother with, you know? You missed Jonathan Cainer when he played the Latitude Festival.

B – Who’s he?

R – The astrologer.

B – Oh. 

R – I think…didn’t he turn up on the show once? Didn’t we once have… 

B – I thought they stopped in 1680.

R – No, no, no, they thought that, that was only for the Leo astrologers. 

B -Oh.

R – Aries astrologers keep on going. So, yeah, so the end of the world, right, so we’re saying life is, you reckon definitely, is finite?

B – I think what’s finite?

R – Individual personality existence is definitely finite?

B  – Well it’s not that I think it, it is.

R – Why?

B – Why?

R – Yeah.

B – Thermodynamics.

R- Right, so you definitely think thermodynamics…

B – You can’t process information without energy input.

R – Right.

B – You don’t input much energy into your brain when you’re dead.

R – Right.


B – Actually you don’t input any.

R – Right. 

B – So it doesn’t process information, it can’t process information if there’s no energy going in. That’s the end of it, there’s got to be a gradient of some kind.

R – But how do we know that there’s not something, like some essence of you that, you know, after you’re buried and it goes…

B – Because… 

R – …into a tree and one day in a couple of centuries…

B – Because…

R – …look at that oak tree, it looks like its pointing at something, and hasn’t it got lovely leaves, and someone goes, that’s the Brian Cox oak tree, he’s now like a manitou, like a kind of wood demon, pointing at the sky with lovely foliage.

B – Wood demon?

R – Yeah, that’s what a manitou is.  I’m not suggesting there are wood demons but, again, I think one’s got to be agnostic about wood demons, it’s a scientific approach.

B – Your brain is made of three fundamental subatomic particles, up quarks, down quarks and electrons, that’s it.  We know how they couple to other particles, we know which forces act on them, in particular the electron has been measured to high precision and that’s really all that matters because the energy scales in your brain are not such that you can access nuclear binding energies so you don’t really look at the quarks; so you see the nuclei and the electrons going around them, your brain is essentially chemistry.  So, really, we’re only dealing with one force which is electromagnetism, which is the most precisely understood force of the four forces of nature that we know of.

And so we know how electrons couple, we know how electrons behave, we know very precisely how they interact with the world.  So if you’re proposing, if you’re suggesting that there’s some other  kind of influence out there, some inner spiritual realm or something like that, it would have to couple to electrons in order to have some influence on your brain.  And we measure the way the electrons behave very precisely and we don’t see any evidence of that. Therefore, I think we can rule it out, move on.

R – We still haven’t got to the kind of point where consciousness is still a bit of a kind of, you know… 

B – It’s emergent.

R – Well, I mean you say that, you always say, whenever you’re not certain all you ever say is, probably an emergent property, cheap.