The Week In Radio: Now they're really taking a liberty

There was a point, some time in mid-morning on Big Bang Day (Radio 4, Wednesday), when I started to feel that about the only thing that could justify this much coverage would be if the Large Hadron Collider really did generate a black hole that swallowed the Earth and snuffed out human existence for all eternity. Under those circumstances, they could even put up a good case for postponing The Archers.

Don't mistake me: I'm all for putting science and more science on the radio, but having this much crammed down my throat at once made me feel like a goose on the foie gras production line. Actually, what bothered me was not so much the physics as the assumption that we couldn't possibly be interested in the physics without the intervention of Andrew Marr – that, and a programme in which Dr Brian Cox, physicist and ex-pop musician, interviewed celebrities with an interest in cosmology.

If celebrities want to take an interest in the big universe, that's their prerogative. I'll even accept that there's an argument for putting them on the radio to lend the topic an air of glamour (but Alan Alda? Radio 4? This is not glamour as they understood it in Hollywood's golden age). What I won't accept is that there's any excuse for giving the programme the title Physics Rocks.

If you wanted to understand the point of the LHC, though, the best place to go was Simon Singh's series Five Particles, broadcast Monday to Friday afternoons, in which he took us through the mysteries of the electron, the quark, the anti-particle, the neutrino and, finally, the whatever-it-is that comes next – Higgs boson, if we're lucky. This was the only programme that made me feel my brain was being thoroughly engaged, as opposed to massaged with relaxing metaphors and soothing words about how nobody really understands it all anyway. The episode on antiparticles was the best: I have a vivid memory of hearing Doctor Who warn that if matter and antimatter ever meet they will annihilate one another in an explosion of terrifying power, and ever since, I have been deeply wary of antimatter. Singh played the relevant excerpt and explained that the Doctor was absolutely right. And they all said I was paranoid.

Usually, the only place on Radio 4 where you can hear highly energetic particles hurtling into one another is The Moral Maze; but Monday had an excellent pair of debates. In the evening, Evan Davis – who is using his post on the Today programme as a base to establish himself as king of Radio 4 – chaired The Credit Crunch Mess: What Next?, which gained an extra charge from the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The main lesson I took from this was that economists are less hysterical about the state of the economy than journalists are, which is consoling if you assume that economists know what they are talking about.

Earlier in the day, Justin Webb presided over America, Empire of Liberty, a debate that acted as a curtain-raiser for David Reynolds's 90-part history of the United States. Two striking things here: the first was how swiftly the conversation turned to race and slavery, and how it couldn't afterwards be dragged away from the subject; and the second was the strength of the conviction, even for black Americans, that the United States offers greater freedom and greater opportunity than any other society in history. It's worth being reminded of that now and then.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
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
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
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

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

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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?