Friday 22 March 2019

How did we get from the Big Bang to crisis in Ukraine?

Morning Ireland had exemplary coverage of the crisis in Ukraine.
Morning Ireland had exemplary coverage of the crisis in Ukraine.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

The word "wonderful" is used frequently in this business: wonderful movie, wonderful goal, wonderful memory, whatever. But You Are Here (Newstalk, Sunday, 11pm) was literally wonderful, in that it was filled with wonder.

This was nothing less than the greatest story ever told: how everything came to be. People, plants, Earth, Milky Way, the infinite universe entire. Matter, light, radiation, dark energy, suns innumerable, galaxies uncountable – the unending, sublime swirl of reality. From the Big Bang, to the mysterious kindling of life, and on through evolution, to you and me.

If that ain't enough to fill anyone with wonder, then check your pulse, I think you're already dead.

And You Are Here – which shares its name with a, yes, wonderful book by Christopher Potter on similar themes – told this amazing story in a rather clever way. Scientist and producer Shaun O'Boyle took a 1.37km stroll through Dublin, from Docklands to city centre, chatting to various experts.

This distance represented 13.7 billion years since the universe willed itself into existence. So, say, just a few millimetres encompassed the creation of all the energy that has ever existed. And humanity – those with an anthropocentric view of the cosmos should look away now – gets a bare few yards at the end.

The programme concluded with footage of Yuri Gagarin, first man in space. The crackling audio was spine-tingling, as insignificant mankind valiantly attempted to scrawl our name across the galaxies. But the whole thing, really, was fabulous.

Wonder: you could hear it in the makers' voices and feel it in your bones, in the DNA and RNA deep within.

I never get tired of these huge, "where did it all come from?" explorations, and neither should anyone else: it's the ultimate question, the only question really.

As someone once said, even were the universe nothing but a small orange, that thrilling unsolvable mystery would remain: where did it come from?

Crashing back down to Earth, brief kudos to Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) for their exemplary coverage of the Ukraine crisis. Rolling news shows are sometimes painful when they're obsessing over every detail of some petty political nonsense. But for a genuinely major emergency like this, Radio 1 can't be beaten.


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