FLORENTYNA SYPEREK tells us what to expect as artist and scientist meet to discuss childhood idols and childlike wonder at Heroes: Oliver Jeffers meets Brian Cox this Friday

Who hasn’t looked up at the starry sky and felt a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity? The feeling that perhaps we are not alone. Or a thought about how lucky we are to live in this beautiful, unexplored universe. Considering the two speakers involved, the talk Heroes: Oliver Jeffers meets Professor Brian Cox organised by The School of Life is bound to help us rediscover why retaining the ability for childlike wonder is crucial. The Heroes series brings together various public figures with their heroes. It is a theme we can all relate to; after all, everyone has a childhood hero. Do you remember the person who sparked your interest in history or made you want to become a doctor? 

This time the hero in question is Professor Brian Cox, who himself has repeatedly admitted that as a young boy he was inspired by Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos to pursue a science career. Professor Cox is a well-known physicist, BBC science presenter and co-author of a number of popular science books. In the past he has been referred to light-heartedly as a ‘rock star scientist’, a tribute to his popularity as a science presenter, as well as his former life as a keyboard player of the nineties band D:Ream. His efforts to promote science have been widely recognised by the public and through numerous awards, including an OBE in 2010. Indeed, his work on documentaries like Wonders of… series has sparked the interest of young people and audiences with no previous scientific knowledge. This is due to Cox’s distinctive, charmingly enthusiastic narrative, which manages to convey complicated concepts and scientific phenomenon using simple language that can be understood by the general public. When asked what superpower he would like to have in a 2014 interview for the Guardian, Cox chose the ability “to make everyone think rationally”. Yet, it is clear in his work that an analytical way of thinking can exist in harmony with a childlike curiosity and the capacity to be amazed by the world around us.

This is exactly what Oliver Jeffers intends to do in his upcoming book entitled Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth. Written for his son, it promises to be delightful guide to everyday life and our planet. Jeffers is a successful artist from Northern Ireland, who has created multiple figurative paintings, but is best known for his children’s picture books, which have been translated into over 30 languages and include a couple of New York Times bestsellers. Despite being an artist and children’s writer, Jeffers has clearly been influenced by science. His debut picture book How to Catch a Star was centred around a character fascinated by the night sky so much, that he wishes to capture one of the stars. While all of Jeffers’ picture books deal with otherworldly or supernatural themes and include illustrations in Jeffers’ quirky style, the theme of the night sky and space returns on several occasions. Who knows, perhaps Jeffers himself will be considered a hero by some children, having introduced them to the most wonderful aspects of our universe early on.

This talk is bound to be a fascinating one, as artist meets scientist. However, with amazement and scientific understanding comes responsibility. While both try to show the magic in our world, captivating the minds of the young and old alike, they are also concerned with the impact that has on how we live our lives on this Earth. Considering the vastness of the universe, we are but a drop in the ocean. Nonetheless, we do not need to be influential politicians or brilliant scientists for our actions to have enormous consequences not only on those around us, but the entire planet. And we need people like Cox and Jeffers to help us understand that.

Heroes: Oliver Jeffers meets Brian Cox will take place this Friday 24th November at Logan Hall. Click here for tickets, and use the discount code PHYSICSFICTION50 for 50% off the original price.

Featured image courtesy of The School of Life.