1. Science is about asking interesting questions...
The key point is to make sure that people understand that science is something they can do. You definitely don't have to be some kind of genius. What you need to do, 1)primarily, is be interested. I was always interested in 2)astronomy, and loads of kids are; it's just interesting.
You just have to notice these things: the 3)aurora borealis, what's that? How old is the universe? Is there 4)alien life out there somewhere? Those things are obviously interesting questions. No kid would think that “are there aliens?” is not an interesting question.
2. ...and finding out how to answer them.
What's 5)vital to know is that you can have that as a job, if you want. So you can be one of the many people around the world who are building and designing spacecraft to go to Mars to look for life. I always knew this as a kid, that you had to do 6)physics, and I enjoyed it because I knew where it was going, as well as the process of doing it.
3. Science is all around you.
Because of the kind of science I do—astronomy, 7)particle physics, 8)cosmology and those things—I tend to come at it from the big questions. But the other approach is to say that your iPod works because of 9)quantum 10)mechanics. It's also worth saying, “How does my phone work?” because, in order to do that, you need to know about the structure of 11)atoms. That came from research into the way that atoms glow.
4. We are all particle physicists.
The Internet was invented at CERN注1 in order to do particle physics. If you ask what is the major 12)contribution of particle physics to the world, it's probably the web, and therefore Facebook, Google, Amazon. All that money, all those things, came from Tim Berners-Lee注2 13)messing around at CERN.
One of the key things about doing big science is that, because it's difficult, you end up inventing things to do it, which then become useful. The medical imaging technology—those scanners that have 14)revolutionised medicine—came from particle physics. They were invented to see particles and explore the 15)subatomic world. Suddenly you find out it's good for medical 16)diagnosis. You can list a million different examples of that.
5. The solar system is full of amazing things.
The 17)sheer scale of the Sun, the fact that you could put a million Earths inside it, and it burns 600 million tons of 18)hydrogen every second. Six hundred million TONS of fuel a second! The SCALE of it!
And also, the 19)diversity of worlds out there. There are hundreds of them, all these little moons, and none of them are boring. They're all different, and interesting. So you've really got hundreds of places to go and explore and find things.
6. Doctor Who注3 is not a 20)documentary, but it's not dumb either.
I am completely un-21)pedantic about science fiction. I like science fiction. I think it's about ideas, and I have no 22)issue at all with it. It's not a documentary. Doctor Who is NOT a documentary and it never will be a documentary. And it shouldn't be. You watch Horizon注4 for that, or Wonders of the Solar System.
Science fiction comes from the same source as scientific thought, which is the desire to explore, think and dream about the universe and what's out there.
7. You don't have to understand everything.
What I thought was good about Wonders was there was enough stuff in there for most people to say, “Well I didn't quite get all of that, but I enjoyed it.” And that's actually what you should aim for in a science documentary. I'm certainly opposed to the school of thought that thinks that viewers should be able to understand everything. A lot of people said to me that they watched it a few times, thinking, “Oh that's interesting, I didn't get that, I'll watch the repeat.”
8. In ten years' time, you could probably get married in space.
You'll be able to fly on 23)commercial flights, weightless flights into space.
In ten years you'll be able to do that, and I suspect people will be able to get married on them. Around the Earth, not on the moon or anything like that, but in space.
9. We can do anything we 24)set our minds to.
The planets are within our 25)grasp. We could certainly go to Mars. From a scientific 26)perspective, we want to go to them. We want to send something there to look at them. And I don't mind if I sit on Earth. In many ways it's better. It takes you a long time to fly to Mars, but someone should go. The Solar System isn't that far away. Even for humans, it's only far away because we can't be bothered going. It's not a technical issue. And even the nearest star, I think if we felt like it, we could start thinking about how to get there.
My grandfather was born before the Wright brothers注5 and he saw us land on the moon. So we went from not-being-able-to-fly to landing on the moon in 60 years. So if we feel like it, we can do it.