Last Night's TV: How Science Changed Our World/BBC1
Being Ronnie Corbett/BBC2
Christmas with Gordon/Channel 4

As claims to fame go, it's not a bad one: Wilhelmina, pet rabbit of Professor Robert Winston, was one of the first living beings to be photographed by MRA scan. Winston had been down the pub with some friends who had, he explained, rushed in bearing news of a machine they'd built. An old TV, a few bits of wire, and there you have it: one of the first MRA scanners in the history of the universe. Understandably, they wanted to try it out right away. And so off they went to collect Winston and his rabbit.

The good news was that it worked. Unfortunately, Wilhelmina's owner didn't realise the significance. "I didn't have the sense to see that this was going to be quite revolutionary," he said last night in How Science Changed Our World, holding up the blurry, barely discernable picture of his rabbit. But then, who would have? These days, the scanners take rather better pictures. In one intriguing experiment, Winston was able to guess a person's physical description based on a scan of his brain. He had asked the volunteer to think of tennis every time he or she wanted to communicate "yes", before throwing a series of questions at them along the lines of "Are you over six-feet tall?" and "Do you have a beard?" Every time the answer was yes, the movement part of the brain would light up. Before long, Winston and his team had a pretty accurate idea of who they were dealing with: shortish, male, facial hair included.

The MRA scan is, argued Winston last night, one of the top 10 inventions of the past 50 years. Also on the list: the electric torch (or laser technology), the contraceptive pill, the microchip, genome theory, stem-cell research, IVF and the world wide web. Viewers can vote for their favourite on the BBC's website, though Winston already had his – research on the Big Bang – and I think I've got mine, too. Obviously, the internet's pretty important and all, and we'd be nowhere without the microchip, but for sheer amazement value, I'd have to go for biomechanics. Not only does this – as we saw last night – enable the limbless to walk with astonishing deftness, but it can be deployed to tinker with our brains, too. Dianne Higher, for instance, had depression for much of her life, attempting suicide three times. Thanks to biomechanics, surgeons have been able to cut open her brain, wake her up, poke an electrode around eight centimetres inside, and make her happy again. She looked bedazzled. As well she might.

I met Ronnie Corbett once. It was during my time as a gossip columnist on this paper. I spotted him at a party and, somewhat starstruck, decided to approach and introduce myself. He was all right, I suppose, though not terribly polite. He didn't, he sniffed, read The Independent. More of a Telegraph man (must be the jokes). Anyway, he's 80 now, and BBC2 has devoted a few hours of scheduling to the occasion. First up was a rerun of The Two Ronnies Christmas Special from 1984, and then Being Ronnie Corbett, a fawning programme of dedications. We got Matt Lucas and David Walliams, Catherine Tate and Michael Palin, Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon, Stephen Merchant, and Bill Bailey. Even Bruce Forsyth put in an appearance. They all heaped praise on him, and deservedly so. After all, it wasn't them he was rude to at a party, was it? And he's jolly funny, or used to be, back in the day. Repeated clips of The Frost Report and The Two Ronnies were testimony to that. His more recent stuff, less so. That Extras sketch is great, of course – "a bit of whiz, you know? To blow away the cobwebs" – but, really, Ronnie, Little Britain? "I was just grateful to be included," was his explanation. And, to be honest, I believe him. This is a man whose raison d'être has been making people laugh; of course, he wants to keep up with the times. Why else would he agree to cuddle a half-naked Lucas in the least funny show on television?

Gosh, Gordon Ramsay's excited for Christmas. He always has a sort of frenetic energy about him anyway, and last night he was positively Tiggerish, hopping on the spot in his plush family kitchen, tossing fillets of salmon in his hands, talking away at the rate of knots. He's not the sort of chef you imagine giving instruction in Christmas food – he's too restauranty, at his best in Kitchen Nightmares or whatever competitive thing he's got on at the moment. The home-making is better left to Jamie or Nigella or Hugh or whoever; indeed, last night's opening sequence, which showed Ramsay smashing a Christmas bauble by throwing a knife at it, only seemed to hammer this home.

Still, the food was nice. Or nice-looking. We got the "best winter soup ever" – roast pumpkin, served with mushrooms and shavings of parmesan – and a honey-glazed ham. We got beef wellington with a chestnut stuffing and a salmon niçoise and panna cotta with a berry glaze and chocolate sprinkles. And we got Ramsay's daughters, rather awkwardly worked in, complete with forced parental jokes about the dangers of meeting boys. How old are they? They look about seven. Come on, Gordon, you've got a bit more time there.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/aliceazania

Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss