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Science Britannica

Wed Oct 2, 9-10pm, BBC2

Episode three
In the final episode of Brian Cox’s homage to heroes of British science, he answers an important question faced by scientists around the world face. Scientific research costs billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, so if there isn’t an immediate goal that’ll benefit society and generate profits, is it worth doing?

Cox argues why both applied and ‘blue sky’ science (research for curiosity’s sake) are important and, just in case you don’t believe him, has some intriguing examples of vital discoveries in history. The accidental find of the colour mauve, for instance, or John Tyndall’s revelation that disease and decay can be transported through air. Cox also talks to industry experts and performs some experiments himself.

Plus, his delivery is so charming that, by the end of the hour, you’ll be hard pressed to dispute that scientists should be funded to experiment freely, because, as Cox enthuses, ‘the acquisition of knowledge is priceless’.