Brian Cox: Naked chimp

By Phil Plait | November 7, 2010 10:43 am

I love social networking on the internet. All the usual reasons apply here, but I also get an added bonus: I find a lot of interesting stories I can write about when I surf places like Fark, reddit, and so on.

I also read the site BuzzFeed to get my daily nerd-meme info. At the bottom of the page they have a list of five interesting stories becoming popular. Today, I was a bit surprised to see this one:


[Click to emprimatenate.]

Uhhhh, what?

For those who don’t know, that’s Professor Brian Cox, an English physicist and TV science documentary host… and also a friend of mine. Over the years I’ve seen Brian in a varied number of states, and while he does look all too human, I can’t think of any time I’ve been with him that would qualify him as a "naked chimp". I’ve heard he shares 98% of his DNA with chimpanzees, though. Oh, and there’s a rumor he got so agitated after giving a TED talk he had to be shot with a tranquilizer dart. That one does have the ring of truth to it.

nakedchimpAnyway, when you click the link, it takes you to an article that actually is about a naked chimpanzee (it has alopecia). The primate in question is shown on the right. Hmmm. Quadraped, bilateral symmetry, nerve and sensory center located up high in a protected bony structure… yup. It’s Brian.

For those of you wondering what’s going on, the explanation is actually pretty simple. A lot of these social network sites allow you to enter a link and a comment for others to see, and the software automatically searches that link for an appropriate photo to add. So, for example, when someone posts one of my blog entries to reddit, the link will include a little thumbnail image of, maybe, the comet nucleus picture I was describing. It saves the submitter time and effort, and is pretty nifty.

This must have happened at BuzzFeed. The software examined the naked chimp story page, and on the sidebar was a link to a video interview with Brian about the Large Hadron Collider. It grabbed the picture, and there you go. Here’s the actual sidebar bit:


Of course, shortly after this picture was taken Brian sat down and started picking insects out of the photographer’s hair. I think that’s in the video. They’ll probably have edited it out by the time you look at it, though.


Comments (16)

  1. Douglas Troy


    You have to admit, if you took Brian’s helmet off, the resemblance is striking.

    OH, I’m sorry, that wasn’t very nice; to the chimp.

    Ok, ok, I’ll stop. Brian if you’re reading this, you rock, I’m really sorry for taking such easy shots at you. I’ve shared your TED talks with tons of people, and had I known you were a vegetarian, I would have mailed you some grass clippings from my lawn.

    Is he mooning us? I’m fairly certain he’s mooning us.

    Leaving now. :p

  2. I still think he looks quite a bit like a grown-up version of Adric from Doctor Who, which is ironic since the actor who played Adric does not look like Brian Cox.

  3. We don’t hear enough about how chimp-like humans are.

  4. Chief

    Weird and strange. One of my regular daily sites, has an article on the chimp.

  5. John Paradox

    Aha! You see, Brian’s work with the LHC is like a chimp flinging poo at another chimp’s poo, trying to find “the god particle”, only the poo is protons.


  6. Another Eric

    Wow, look at the muscle on the chimp, he’s definitely been to the gym!!

  7. Gary Ansorge

    He just looks so good because chimps don’t have subcutaneous fat. I’D look that good too,,,w/o these extra 40 lbs,,,

    On the other hand, I can swim.

    Gary 7

  8. ellie

    Brian seems like a good-humored guy, I bet he got a great laugh out of this.

    I know I did!

  9. Messier Tidy Upper

    LOL! Classic. 😀

    @6. Another Eric :

    Wow, look at the muscle on the chimp, he’s definitely been to the gym!!

    The jungle gym? 😉

  10. Messier Tidy Upper

    Well according to zoologist and author Desmond Morris we’re all naked apes :

    and according to this catchy Youtube clip :

    “.. it turns out we’re all in a herd like skinny lil’ cows who use tools and words!”
    (1 minute, 50 sec mark.) 😉

    Personally, I’ve never seen why some folks have any issue with people being related to other animals.


    “We all spring from monkeys, some of us just didn’t spring far enough!”
    – unknown source (?), joke insult.

  11. MNP

    Hey check it out. Rapid response to Climate Change denialists is being created.,0,545056.story

    Since Phil is out and about in the media as much as he is, I would think he would see the sense of this immediately…

  12. To me, being a Professor, at least in the UK, implies that one teaches at university. But unless I am misinformed, Brian Cox doesn’t teach. Or, at least not regularly, and his title of Professor doesn’t imply any teaching obligation.

    Since it appears that he would be good at teaching, isn’t it a shame that he gets the title without the obligation? Not to mention that real professors probably think it is rather unjust.

    Correct me if I am wrong, of course.

    Getting back to Carl Sagan, even after he was famous, he still taught, he still taught undergraduates and he was editor of Icarus.

  13. Gary Ansorge

    10 Philip Helbig

    From Wikipedia;
    “Professors are qualified experts who may do the following:

    manage the teaching, research and publications in the department they head (in countries where a professor is head of a department),
    conduct lectures and seminars in their field of study (i.e., they “profess”), such as the basic fields of mathematics, science, humanities, social sciences, education, literature, music or the applied fields of engineering, design, medicine, law, or business;
    perform advanced research in their fields.
    provide pro bono community service, including consulting functions (such as advising government and nonprofit organizations);
    teach campus-based or online courses with the help of instructional technology;
    train young or new academics (graduate students);
    carry out administrative or managerial functions, usually at a high level (e.g. deans, heads of department, librarians, etc.).
    The balance of these six fields of professorial tasks depends heavily on the institution, place (country), and time. For example, professors at highly research-oriented universities in the U.S., and Canada, and, as a general rule, in European universities, are promoted primarily on the basis of their research achievements as well as their success in raising money from sources outside the university.”

    The key word here is “may” do such and such.

    It just depends where they’re working. Einstein was a professor (with a BS degree) but I don’t recall that he taught much. Maybe a seminar or two.

    Gary 7

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    Just imagine having Albert Einstein as your professor and being taught by him! 😉

    Wonder what he was like as a teacher?

  15. First, Einstein had in addition to (the equivalent of) a bachelor’s degrees not only a doctoral degree but also the “Habilitation” (essentially another degree following the doctorate which is or at least was a requirement for becoming a professor in Germany (and some other countries)). Yes, it’s true he didn’t teach much. I can understand making an exception for him, but for Brian Cox? As for Wikipedia, this is very general. Are there any other UK professors who don’t teach and who never did teach in their career as professor?

    The general agreement is that Einstein was not a good teacher. He was the first to admit this, just as Asimov was the first to admit he was both the worst researcher and the best teacher at BU. AFAIK no-one was awarded a degree for work done under Einstein’s supervision. He did have many collaborators, though, even though he did a lot of his important work more or less alone.

  16. Vance

    Brian Cox is adorable. I’d pay real money to see all of his surface molecules.


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