Brighton Science Festival



What’s the craziest fairground ride you could imagine? Multiply that by ten and double it; you’re riding it right now and have been for 14 billion years. It’s called the Universe. See those stars in the sky? A thousand of them explode every second*. Luckily the Universe is very big and they are very far away. But it makes you think.

You started you trip through those stars when you were very small. In fact, you were an atom. This was before your parents were born; before any humans or animals; before the Earth, the planets, the stars; before even space or time. Fourteen billion years ago the Universe was made of a trillion gazillion atoms of hydrogen. You were one of them. What made you so special? Find out below.

*Don’t believe that statistic? It’s just one of many strange-but-true facts in this strange-but-true tale.

For more info on Richard Robinson go to HIS PAGE


“Absolutely superb. Fantastic. Kept everyone entertained. Learned a lot.”

“Needed more time; could have listened for ever!”

“Brilliant. I laughed and learned!”




Chapter one – You,the Big Bang and other catastrophes     

The Big Bang creates enough hydrogen atoms to make a universe. You are one of those atoms. Hello Hydrogen!

Through your rocky ride you will change your name, first to Helium, then Carbon, … and eventually to You, reading this right now.

Gravity gathers you and gazillions of other atoms together into a star, which explodes, catapulting you off on a chaotic ride through more stars and explosions, until you find yourself on a lump which is too small to become a star, circling a star that’s too small to explode. From now on that lump is home – Earth.     


Chapter two – Life      

Early Earth is almost molten. You are next to a volcano, two miles under water. This is the perfect place to make life, because it’s crazy and chaotic. And so is the thing you become: DNA.

You become the first cell; the mother of all cells on the planet – animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and everything. Scientists call you the Last Universal Common Ancestor – LUCA   


Chapter three – Evolution      

You are constantly breaking and re-building your DNA (that’s life), but you are pretty chaotic in the way you rebuild, so your copies tend to be different. That’s evolution.

You evolve the power of movement: you are Flagellate.


Chapter four – Cooperation     

You and your family of flagellates team up with a sheet of cells and together you become the next big thing: simple multicellular life – a zooid. The sheet rolls into a tube; your flagella become oars on the outside and villi on the inside. You are now an eating machine. Your new name is Worm.


Chapter five – Crazy experiments     

This is a break from the story: the tale of the Portuguese man’o’war: a missing link between single-celled creatures and the complex life forms we see today.


Chapter six – Competition    

Another explosion: the Cambrian Explosion – an explosion of life. You evolve to become Fish. Everyone else evolves a great need to eat you. As you try to escape them you stare wistfully at the empty land at the edge of the ocean, and wonder…


Chapter seven – Life on land    

Evolving into a land animal is perhaps the most monumental task, but soon you are Tetrapod. In no time you are once more on the menu, this time a dinosaur menu. More evolution turns you into Mammal, so you can be awake during the cold nights, while the dinosaurs are asleep.


Chapter eight – How to make a human      

Your clever mammalian brain is your secret weapon. Teaming up with other mammals, you combine brains to be come a super-organism – a herd or tribe.  Soon you are Human, ready for adventures.


Chapter nine – All around the World    

In just 90,000 years you spread from a corner of Africa to everywhere, coping with all the different climates and conditions by a mixture of evolution and invention.

Then you invent farming – another ‘explosion’, this time a foodie explosion of your own making – and the rest is history, up to the present day.


Chapter ten – Remains of the past      

Your history is written all through you, from the monkey tail at the bottom of your spine, to the flagellum which every cell still retains. Here you will find an answer for all your oddities – yawning, goose bumps, cancer, viruses, ear waggling, sleep falling, hiccups, white skin, dark skin, ‘Asian’ eyes, etc.


Chapter eleven – E-volution, We-volution, Me-volution    

To understand you and society, remember there are three kinds of evolution:

The Evolution we have mainly followed: the DNA-modification kind, but also:

We-evolution – how WE have evolved customs, languages, beliefs and fashions (aka ‘social evolution’).

Me-volution – the way you modify your behaviour day by day, and even minute by minute.