How Brian Cox Work Changed the World

 

 

Introduction

            Different people make varied contributions to various disciplines in life and in this way, influence events, policies, and people around them differently. Some do it through their success in sports for example, while others do it through their work. Professor Brian Cox is one such person who has changed the world for the better through his work. A physicist by profession, Professor Cox was born in Oldham, UK in 1968. His inspiration to become a physicist started as early as when he was 12. As a teenager, Cox was a member of various music bands, including Dare and D: Ream. He joined the University of Manchester for his undergraduate degree in physics and went on to earn a Master’s degree and Doctorate from the same institution.  

How Brian Cox has changed the World

            Professor Cox has been an influential figure in changing the widely held public perception that physics is a difficult subject, and that only boffins and nerds can thrive in it (BBC 2016). One way in which Professor Cox has helped to change this perception is through the use of popular culture and especially the media, to promote physics. Brian Cox's 'Wonders of...' series that airs on BBC2 has attracted millions of viewers not just in Britain, but also globally (BBC 2016). The TV series has consistently attacked 3-4 million viewers and is ranked amongst the most watched programmes on BBC2 (The University of Manchester 2017). He has also co-authored several science books, including The Quantum Universe and Why does E=mc2? His books have sold more than 1.3 million copies.         

            In 2012, GC Magazine ranked Professor Cox the 11th most influential man in Britain. It is not a wonder then that his lectures, publications, and television programmes on physics have influenced young people in the A level who go on to enroll for physics majors. For example, there has been a 20% increase in the number of A-level students taking physics. The UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services) reported a 52% rise in the number of applications received from students wishing to study physics courses, in comparison with the figures received in 2008 (Paton 2013). This influence has since been dubbed The 'Brian Cox Effect' (The University of Manchester 2017).

            Professor Cox's success as a physicist has also been instrumental in his success as a media personality. Towards this end, Cox has used his popularity to influence the uptake of science subjects, especially among high school and college students.  His programmes both on radio and television are a real inspiration to aspiring scientists. For example, the 'Stargazing Live' annual broadcast inspires children and other members of the public to stargaze at home (Cookson 2016). This helps to elicit their interest in astronomy. More importantly, the broadcast delineates the astronomy research being carried out at various institutions of higher learning such as the Jodrell Bank Observatory and The University of Manchester.

Professor Cox has also authored several scientific publications that have influenced the teaching and application of physics. His research areas include the ATLAS experiment and the particle accelerator project, LHC (Large Hadron Colldier), at the Swintzeland-based CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research). His work on this project won him a Royal Society Research Fellowship in 2005.  Cox's power of persuasion, coupled with scientific understanding and knowledge has enabled him to influence the media, especially the BBC into airing the programmes that he makes and presents (The University of Manchester 2017). He further relies on this same persuasive power to influence young people to study maths and physics. 

Professor Cox further makes full use of his position as a public figure to make public speeches regarding various science policy issues. Lately, he has been quite vocal about the proposed budget cuts across various sectors of the economy. He is of the view that the government should spare budget cuts to science based on the argument that investing in the results of science in enhanced economic growth and productivity in other sectors of the economy over a comparatively short duration of time (Cookson 2016).  Cox has also been advocating for increased funding by the Government and the European Union (EU) into space exploration on grounds that such missions offer considerable returns, not to mention that they are cost-effective (Quine 2015).

His paper 'Manifest causality in quantum field theory' which was developed from an article that he co-authored on the same topic, hinges on the issue of 'quantum weirdness' namely that a change in one part of the universe will have an effect on the other parts of the universe (Dickinson et al. 2014). While the results of this paper are yet to have a real impact on the field of physics, there is no doubt that it will influence our outlook on the universe. 

He has also published scientific papers in the areas of quantum chromodynamics and new methods to recognise hadronically decaying W, a novel idea that has since evolved into an independent area of study namely, the 'boosted particle' studies, and has found use in LHC (Large Hadron Collider) experiments.  Additionally, Professor Cox was a lead scientist in the “FP420” project at CERN, in which he justified the installation of low-angle proton detectors at the facility (The University of Manchester 2017).  The LHC experiments at CERN have also been instrumental in the rejuvenation of physics. Professor Cox's has had a hand in this rejuvenation through his knowledge and understanding of physics.   

 

Conclusion

Professor Brian Cox has been an influential figure in the field of physics. He has used his popularity as a public figure to influence policies on funding research in a science subject, not to mention that he has been pivotal in demystifying the perception that physics is a complex subject and that only nerds can do it. His research paper, publications, and books in the field of physics have further helped to put a case for the importance of physics in the economy, while his radio and television programmes are popular with both the young and old and have helped to highlight the research into such areas as astronomy being conducted at the universities. He has also influenced student enrolment for physics courses at the university.

 

  

References

BBC (2016). Science careers not only for boffins, says Prof Brian Cox. [Online].

Cookson, C (2016). Rockstar professor Brian Cox sees the future in science. [Online].

Dickinson, R, Forshaw, J, Millington P. et al. J. (2014),’ Manifest causality in quantum field theory with sources and detectors’, High Energ. Phys., vol. 49, pp. 1-25.  

Quine, O (2015). Professor Brian Cox: The Government must put more funding into space exploration. [Online].

Paton, G (2013). 'Brian Cox effect' leads to surge in demand for physics. [Online].

The University of Manchester (2017). ‘The Brian Cox effect’ rejuvenates physics in Britain. [Online].

 

 

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