Brave New World
You know what it’s like. You hang around for ever waiting for the opportunity to work with one of your idols, then two come along at the same time. So, this was my chance to work with a natural history super hero and a superstar science guru – Sir David Attenborough and Professor Stephen Hawking. Well, they were in the same programmes as me, and there’s a bit in one script where my name and David’s are on the same page – which is pretty cool. But, sadly, I never got to meet either of them. Not that it bothered them too much, I am sure.
I fronted a film about laboratory-produced artificial meat – you had better get used to it as it doesn’t seem likely there’s enough land on Earth to accommodate and feed the livestock we will need to support our exploding human population if we in the developed world carry on being so carnivorous. A third of the planet’s land mass is already taken over to this end.
I also legged it over to Panama and then on to the Island of Coiba and its National Park. My journey there was to explore the unbelievable properties of what I can only describe as ‘marine snot’. It’s Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. So far it has already provided scientists with a couple of anti-cancer chemicals. It’s a really exciting project.
But, the most extraordinary film trip was to the Rolex Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I was trained by some very clever animal-computer interface boffins to drive a brain-controlled wheelchair. It was very new technology at the time and I was the first journalist they had ever attempted to teach . That felt pretty special.
Wearing a special skull cap – with 16 highly sensitive electrodes attached to pick up minute electrical signals from my brain – amazingly, after less than a day’s training, I was able to turn right by just thinking about clenching my right fist, but without moving a muscle. The computer and my brain didn’t gel so well when it came to turning left, so I spent a lot of time going round in circles which was both embarrassing for me and dangerous for pedestrians. It was really mentally draining. Just blinking can blow the computer’s mind, so you have to stay incredibly focussed.
Channel 4, Prime Time
4 x 60’ docs