Scientists shouldn’t look like this. They should have wild hair like Einstein or wild eyes like Patrick Moore, not amble into the room looking as if they’ve just come off stage at Glastonbury. But this is Professor Brian Cox, known as the ‘rock-star scientist’ and described by People magazine as the World’s Sexiest Quantum Physicist, a title that makes him sigh. ‘They were doing an A to Z of desirable people and needed to put someone in the Q category. Who else could it be?’
Cox prefers to call himself a particle physicist, which is apparently all about ‘trying to understand what everything is made of and how everything sticks together’. But suddenly he’s also become the nation’s favourite scientist, able to make television viewers swoon – or at least watch in rapt attention – as he explains the wonders of the universe. Lots of women say the professor makes their particles accelerate – and quite a few men do, too.
‘Yeah. Well. There you go. I take that as a compliment. Gia says she thought I was gay when we first met, and therefore she could have a non-threatening night out with me.’
He’s talking about his wife Gia Milinovich, the American producer he met ten years ago. They got off to a bad start. ‘She saw me on television with the sound turned down and thought, “Oh no, they’ve hired another mindless pretty idiot from a pop band.”’
That was a fair guess. Cox had only recently stopped playing keyboards with D:Ream, whose No 1 single Things Can Only Get Better had put him on Top Of The Pops. Gia was a serious-minded woman working on science shows for an internet television channel. She took a look at his pop-star clothes, Stone Roses haircut and wide smile, and groaned. ‘Then she saw that my email address was from CERN (the research centre in Switzerland and home to the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator). She is a geek herself, so she was like, “Oh, wow. Maybe you’re not mindless after all.”’
FROM THE MAIL ON SUNDAY’S LIVE MAGAZINE