600 People – A Third Angel Presentation at Live Art Bistro

How on earth does one begin a review of a talk on astrophysics? By leaving the earth behind, of course, and looking at the stars and planets.

I knew that the evening would be good when I stopped at the admission desk and said, ‘I believe that you have a press ticket for 600 People.’ The chap replied by saying, ’Sorry, sir, we only have a ticket for one!’ Magic.

The lecture/presentation by Alexander Kelly at Live Art Bistro was not only informative, answering questions I didn’t even know I wanted to ask, but also very entertaining. The idea was to challenge how we understand our place in the world as human beings. If that sounds a bit of an ambitious goal to achieve in just over an hour, then you are right, but Alexander Kelly handled it with ease and not a small amount of humour.

The show was put together after Alexander met Dr Simon Goodwin at Sheffield University and the two struck up a friendship. Dr Goodwin was the astrophysics expert and his enthusiasm for the subject and the way he explained things soon rubbed off on Alexander, who began to research for himself. His first project was to follow the progress of Voyager 1 which was launched from Cape Canaveral, not only to explore our solar system but also to try to find some intelligent life form beyond. On board was a cache of items from the earth, including artefacts, photographs and a disc of common sounds and greetings in several languages along with instructions on how to play it. This means that even if Voyager 1 defies the billions-to-one odds of coming across life on another planet, it has to be life capable of processing the information on board. To add further pressure to the venture, it has to find this life form before 2035 when the on-board batteries of Voyager 1 run out completely.

Fermi’s Paradox was explained, which basically states that if there are other planets supporting intelligent and technologically advanced life forms, why have they not visited us? Alexander put forward the counter-arguments to this, ending the section by saying that there are only two possibilities: firstly, that there is a planet with intelligent life similar to that on earth but they just haven’t contacted us yet, and secondly, that there isn’t. Either way, putting it like that is mind-blowing.

I don’t propose to go through the whole lecture; my notes aren’t comprehensive enough anyway, but I must explain where the title 600 People comes from. Since the discovery of DNA, it has been possible to trace the whole of mankind alive today to a core population of about 600 people from the Rift Valley in Africa 150,000 years ago. It transpires that there were six pockets of human beings alive throughout the world at that time, and whilst homo sapiens were not the strongest, fastest, most intelligent or largest in number, they conquered the others because they possessed imagination and so could formulate strategies and organise themselves.

One thing that I will take away from the evening is Alexander’s take on global warming and the way we perceive it. Global warming will take place regardless of what steps we take as that is the natural cycle of the earth.  The best we can hope for is to slow it down a bit. He said that life will continue even if the earth heats to a temperature at which humans cannot survive, as there are organisms which thrive on heat and their limits of handling it have not yet been tested. He said that when we say that we are trying to save the planet, what we really mean is that we are trying to save the human race.  The planet will go on quite happily no matter what happens to it.

All of this may sound a bit deep and depressing but it was delivered in such a way as to provide for a very entertaining evening, and I would urge you to go see this production should you ever have the chance. Your best opportunity is when Alexander Kelly takes it to Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax at 2.30pm on 1st December.

Although it is a one-man show, there are several people behind it; the director, Rachael Walton, Daniel Fletcher, print design and show visuals and Nathaniel Warnes, animation. The executive producer was Hilary Foster, admin and production assistant Sarah Webb along with Liz Johnson and Ellie Whittaker, production support.

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