The World of Tomorrow: Why Dr Suzie Imber’s grace under pressure is about social mobility as well as rocket science

Featured image: Charlie’s Art (aged five and a half)


I loved Do You Have What It Takes To Be and Astronaut: I’m not a child, not a scientist but what was great in the BBC 4 Series that meant I watched every programme of the six on iplayer.

The fantastic work of BBC’s Helen Thomas’s team that the message of science is always a collaboration thrilled me. An insightful camera , a camera that allowed the messages of science to get through was a revelation.


I felt that the winner, Suzie Imber, had really thought about life here on earth as if it was out there in space, and she was challenging it to come and tell her something more.

That when she was working she was also thinking about the tools that she could use from her work to further her (and our) understanding of earth, the world we live in, she used the maths and physics of that work to map possible new mountains here, she found them and climbed them and we listened to her talking about that.

By the end of the series our understanding of  ‘what she was about’ meant that she was able to connect, succeed, exceed. It meant that you realised that Dr Imber had really done her homework and the other participants, like us, were willing her to ask more questions, collaborate, succeed.

Suzie went to the very successful Berkhamstead Independent Boarding and Day School where they believe in encouraging independence of spirit and action. Take a look at the school magazine (called Ink,  I was delighted to realise that some of the topics the students debate here are debated by my grandson at his multi-cultural and multi-social state school).

The same questions of existence, danger, risk and resource renewal appeared in this book I won for school verse speaking back in 1970 are asked everywhere in society, all the time. Like many young people growing up now in a world that is far too segmented and exclusive, I wanted to choose a future with different possibilities for everyone (not just me!)


What I saw on the programme was the things the camera wanted us to follow: how the questions of science can be communicated practically to more people, more of the time. The person with the most language, experience and creativity in science was Dr Imber.

That’s a different thing to thinking about really who decides what the criteria for space is because being in space is like being in life: we all have the right to be here/there it’s just that we have a particular way of organising things just now and the knowledge and information is locked up, historically, socially, culturally and economically. Space can be inclusionary too.

The way the camera’s used creates what we call normal, what we see and don’t see: in one of Abigail Gonda’s fantastic Writer’s Room Podcasts, writer Dennis Kelly (Utopia, Pinnochio and DNA). Dennis talks about writing and what’s on the screen and his comment that only 10% of human experience, feeling and emotion ever makes it into programmes, films, theatre made me realise that we need to be growing a culture that reflects a bigger heart, mind and soul: it’s who we are.


The exciting thing for me about these kinds of programmes is that they link in to our wider aspirations for social justice, the world of tomorrow is full of promise.


Above Mamba Bamba Cyrus Kabiru, BBC Executive Producer Scientartist Helen Thomas Astronaut Chris Hadfield playing Ground Control like Bowie 2012 Finalist Kerry Bennett RAF Pilot and mum, American astronaut (who is this?), Tim Gregory, meteorite expert and PHD at Bristol University. Space Expert Libby Jackson who helped select the winner of the programme. The art work of musician Janelle Morae from Nerdreactor on Florence Okoye’s blog Black To The Future

Afrofuturism got it right: time is a fluid thing and belongs to all of us.