Professor Brian Cox has very little time for doubting Thomas’s when it comes to the official account of the historical Apollo Moon Landings.  So little in fact, that the BBC’s ‘rockstar scientist’ has come up for a new name for them… ‘moonnobbers’.

He chose the occasion of the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to call out any ‘moon skeptics’ on twitter and was quickly backed up by no lesser man than the second to set foot on another terrestrial body, Buzz Aldrin.

It’s by no means the first time that the likeable physicist has expressed his impatience with moon landing conspiracy theorists. Take this little outburst, on the way to film a piece about one of Apollo 11’s great scientific legacies.


Now perhaps Professor Cox can just be a bit of a nob end himself on occasion but the behavioral psychologist in me suspects there may be another explanation for the uncharacteristically defensive outburst and I recently got the opportunity to test out my theory.

Unlike many of us, Cox is just about old enough to actually remember the last time man walked on the moon and I think it’s fair to say that those television images must have left quite an impression.  His website is called Apollo’s Children and his son’s middle name is Eagle so I suspect that by now he may have more than a microscopic sized emotional investment in how history ultimately remembers those events.

To a degree I can respect the fact that a generally polite but passionate man of science might come across like an uncompromising religious zelot when gently ribbed about such a deeply dug dogma.  Even so, I find it more than a little disheartening that the natural successor to BBC’s science programming isn’t prepared to cut any of Apollo’s more doubting children a little bit of slack.

After all, we grew up to witness 2001 come and go without so much as another manned flight out of near earth orbit, never mind the wonders that Kubrick and Clarke’s 1968 celluloid dream had promised. Meanwhile Apollo’s grandchildren were born into a world where this once proud nation invades countries on the pretext of imaginary stockpiles of penicillin WMD’s.

Besides, as you can see in the next video, when Cox reaches his destination he’s able to deliver a much more constructive and cerebral, retort to those dastardly moonnobbers.  So given the weight of evidence on his side, you’d think that he could be more patient with any prospective physics pupils with minds more malleable or simple than his own.


In the clip, Cox uses the lunar reflector Apollo 11 left behind to calculate the precise distance between the earth and the moon.  He also shows his audience something else interesting.  He shows us that if you keep receiving better and better data over a period of 40 years then you might eventually reach a point where you begin to question something as well established as Newtons law of gravity.

“If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.” Dr Carl Sagan

Time and data can dramatically change perspectives.  It’s less than a year since a Conservative Prime Minister described claims of a Home Office paedophile cover-up as a ‘conspiracy theory’ and yet recently we have learnt that at least 5 separate police forces are even investigating one of his No 10 predecessors.

Time and data very often show that not all persistent politically significant ‘counter’ theories can be so easily ridiculed.  Indeed the many various scientific disciplines that have evolved since the dark ages can often help to support extremely controversial and troubling hypothesis.

For example, if you apply the unfeeling and nonjudgemental laws of physics or probability to the most significant event that did actually occur in 2001, then you may very well find yourself having to concede that the ‘official narrative’ collapses quicker than a 47 story steel frame building confronted by a few internal fires.

My theory is that esteemed members of the scientific community, particularly those second jobbing on the telly, really, really hate discussing conspiracy theories.  Understandably so, given that it might just lead them down a road that could end in public ridicule and career suicide.

I have a lot of respect for Professor Cox, especially after he recently had the cajones to put his head above the parapet and help start a conversation which fairly quickly debunked the great sexist nobel laureate hoax.

So when he invented the #moonobbers hashtag and started a twitter conversation about Apollo conspiracies, I jumped at the opportunity to pick his brain about some other famous ‘conspiracy theories’ and also test out my own theory about the modesty of rockstar scientists…

Day after day, theory after theory and question after question, no answers were forthcoming…

Professor Cox had nothing to say about theses various curiosities, at least not to a potential moonnobber like me…

and certainly not in the very public arena of social media…

In fairness he’s obviously a very busy man, with over 1.5 million twitter followers and after all, time is money…

Even so I do think it’s important to sometimes ask the difficult questions…

But thinking that I might have strayed a little too far off topic, I even ventured a few questions about the Apollo missions that have always bugged me…

The only man of science to respond to any of my questions turned out to be the type of Doctor that has to take a Hippocratic oath and he had a fair point to make about people spending too much time working out the hourly radiation dosage in the van allen belts…

Which is a fair point, so I finished off with a few more down to earth physics questions before leaving the rockstar physicist to the comfort of his own special, sadly suddenly silent, slightly safely smug universe…


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