The Science of Doctor Who Brian Cox Matt Smith

ScienceFiction.com did a series called “Doctor Who in Real Life”, and it was predicted that Dr. Brian Cox was actually The Doctor. Now, this fact may not be true, but the BBC America’s airing of ‘The Science of Doctor Who‘ makes it a far more tangible possibility than this writer was prepared for.

In the program, Dr. Brian Cox tries to explain the physics of ‘Doctor Who’, which is no small feat. After all, much of ‘Doctor Who’ is based on very complicated scientific principles… and made up. Still, it was an hour well spent in order to feel the real poetry of science and understand just how we interact with the universe.

The presentation was split into three sections,  1. “We are all time travelers in our own small way…”, 2.”Where are the aliens?”, and 3. “Are the doors to the past firmly closed?” and peppered with adorable little shorts of the Doctor kidnapping Dr. Cox to properly explain how time travel works.

The Science of Doctor Who Brian Cox

In the first section, he explains how moving through space, and having a future as we do is its own kind of time travel. He also explains how movement in space can alter the speed in which time moves using a famous Einstein experiment. It was, despite it’s low budget for the experiment, pretty awesome, and is the first time anyone has ever actually been able to explain the concept to me.

The second section deals with the paradox of alien life, and how we can start to determine if there is alien life out there despite the fact our technology is such that we can’t go gallivanting around the universe like the Doctor. Not going to spoil it, but it was also pretty awesome, and it involved Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones’) lighting things on fire.

The Science of Doctor Who
It is safe to assume they are calling Lord Voldemort.

The last section revolved around whether or not is is possible to travel to the past. Sorry for you time travel fans, but from what we know, it looks we can’t… unless we have an Eye of Harmony powering our TARDIS, which is to say, a black hole. This is because the only way to travel to the past is to travel faster than the speed of light –which is impossible– but black holes are able to bend light in different directions, thus making it possible.

Only problem? Well, how exactly does one harness a black hole?

The conclusion of the program was to try and prove that ‘Doctor Who’ could work in reality, and Dr. Cox focused on folding time and space… and then said that no one at this time actually knows if that’s possible or not.

Bummer.

In short, the hour long presentation was chock full of science-y goodness, and for the less science inclined, it was peppered with film shorts of the eleventh Doctor making fun of Dr. Cox and his lack of a tie, and making a general running commentary on some of the sillier elements of the program. Like what does an assistant do? His answer is, “Oh, ya know, getting captured. Dying occasionally. The benefits are obviously the travel.”

The Science of Doctor Who
Dr. Cox walks away after the adventure we all wish we could have.

There is, of course, one minor plot hole in the shorts surrounding Dr. Cox and the Doctor. If the Doctor is trying to teach Dr. Brian Cox the correct science so he can inspire a little girl to come up with amazing ideas (the point of the Doctor’s kidnapping of Dr. Cox is to make sure he’s right and will be inspirational), then Dr. Cox is lying about not knowing if folding space is possible.

Frankly, if the plot of the shorts are to be believed, he should have been able to tell us how to harness a black hole for time travel! Tsk! Tsk!

Still, despite that glaring error, ‘The Science of Doctor Who’ is a must see for any Whovian, science aficionado, or just your ordinary time traveling fan/time traveler.