The universe is full of questions.
Why are we here, who are we, how we came to be – inquiries that tiptoe the lines between science, astronomy and philosophy.
In the attempt to grasp at least some of these answers, Professor Brian Cox has surpassed his own record for most tickets sold for a science tour for the third time.
His Universal - Adventures in Space and Time tour sold 230,873 tickets between 31 January and 16 October 2019, and secured him a spot in the Guinness World Records 2023 book.
Professor Brian Cox has broken the same record twice with his tours throughout the UK in 2017 and 2016.
"It's a pleasure to celebrate the ongoing success of Brian’s mind-expanding tour," said Craig Glenday, Editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records.
We met Professor Brian Cox at the Royal Opera House, in the heart of London, for his Horizons – A 21st Century Space Odyssey tour.
There, we had the chance to hand him his official Guinness World Records certificate and have a chat about the records of our universe – the very, very small things; the very, very big things; and the amazing, out-of-this-world things.
"It is wonderful that so many people want to spend an evening contemplating our place in the Universe. I’m very proud on behalf of the entire team involved in putting on my tours that we can extend this record." - Brian Cox
Professor Brian Cox and Guinness World Records: The very, very amazing universe
What are the biggest, smallest, most impressive elements in space?
The remit of Guinness World Records is not just limited to our world, however there are a multitude of incredible records broken much further afield in the Universe that are still to be discovered and monitored.
What if, instead of a Guinness World Records, there was a Guinness Universe Records with infinite knowledge of the galaxy?
First of all, several candidates would compete for jaw-dropping records, like the title for the most massive black hole, or the fastest thing in the universe!
If the record for the official nearest supermassive black hole goes to Sagitarius A* (a supermassive black hole that resides in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, roughly 27,000 light years away) and is officially recognized by Guinness World Records, the record for the most massive black hole would have several competitors.
As for the fastest thing in the universe record title... "it would be a photon of light entering your eye," Cox explains.
"It's the universal speed limit, the speed of light. That's the speed of massless objects."
But, then, what is the record for an object with a mass?
The fastest matter in the universe title dates back to 2005, and it still belongs to blobs of superheated plasma ejected from black holes in the cores of extremely active galaxies known as blazars.
These blobs have been observed moving at 99.99% of the speed of light.
From the oldest and most distant galaxy (33.4 billion light-years away from Earth) to the record for most accurate age of universe, thanks to past theories and cutting-edge technology (like the record-breaking James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, located in Hawaii, officially the largest submillimetre telescope in the world) we can indeed count the records in the universe.
As for the records we still have to discover...
"I don't answer the questions, because if I knew the answers I'd charge a lot more for tickets! But I hope the audience will go away thinking about those big questions as they look at the stars and the sky." - Brian Cox
Who we are? How did we come to be?
Is the concept of time, past and future an utterly human construct, failing to carve its place into the logic of the bigger universe?
As with his record-breaking tour Universal - Adventures in Space and Time, Cox’s ongoing 2022 tour Horizons: A 21st Century Space Odyssey aims to convey just how big, how daunting, how incredible the universe is.
Once again joined on stage by co-host and comedian Robin Ince, the show questions what we are, how we came to be, and where we can go.
However, the hosts encourage the audience to keep their feet well-planted on earth: the only place in the wide, wide universe that might be suited for our survival.
Therefore, we should never forget to value and uplift the planet we - sometimes presumptuously - call 'ours'.
Record-breaking science tours
Professor Brian Cox's tours have smashed the record for most tickets sold for a science tour three times.
From the record-breaking 75,193 tickets sold in 2016 to the 158,589 achieved in 2017, to end with the 230,873 tickets for the tour of 2019, this odyssey across space and time keeps attracting a new audience.
Brian Cox's records prove time and again that a narrative of the mysteries of the universe, presented in a digestible, thought-provoking way continues to engage audiences over time.
"We are living though difficult times, and I think that means that many people are looking for a little escapism, but also a wider perspective," said Professor Brian Cox.
"I say early on in the show that cosmology raises profound philosophical and emotional questions about the value of our civilisation, and I think the challenges to our world view forced upon us by the study of black holes, the origin of life and the new spectacular images from telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope deliver escapism, wonder, and also a little food for thought!"
"As the world around us seems to get increasingly complex and confusing, it's reassuring to know that Brian’s on hand to put us in our place. We really do live in a wonderful, complex and beautiful universe, and I can think of no better a person to guide us through it." - Craig Glenday
Therefore, it's really no surprise at all that Brian Cox's tour keeps smashing records when it questions our far future, our past and how valuable - or insignificant - we are as humans.
What a feeling it is to walk out of a theatre on a Thursday night and raise your eyes to the sky, humbled by the magnificence and vastness of the universe.
With its new edition, Guinness World Records 2023 is ready to get beamed into a galaxy of records.
Find your copy online and in the stores (in all galaxies and multiverses) from September 15.