Martin Rees, fully Sir Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow

Martin
Rees, fully Sir Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow
1942

British Cosmologist, Astrophysicist and Author, Fellow of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge

Author Quotes

Scientists surely have a special responsibility. It is their ideas that form the basis of new technology. They should not be indifferent to the fruits of their ideas. They should forgo experiments that are risky or unethical.

Society will evolve so that the number of people who are disaffected is diminished. I think scientists themselves can?t make these decisions alone, but they have an obligation to engage in dialogue with the wider public to make people aware of what the opportunities are, what the risks are, and how best to achieve the benefits and reduce the risks.

Some claim that computers will, by 2050, achieve human capabilities. Of course, in some respects they already have.

Some global hazards are insidious. They stem from pressure on energy supplies, food, water and other natural resources. And they will be aggravated as the population rises to a projected nine billion by mid-century, and by the effects of climate change. An 'ecological shock' could irreversibly degrade our environment.

Some innovations just don?t attract enough economic or social demand: just as supersonic flight and manned space flight stagnated after the 1970s, today (in 2002) the potentialities of broadband (G3) technology are being taken up rather slowly because few people want to surf the Internet or watch movies from their mobile phones.

Some of the 'aha' insights that scientists strive for may have to await the emergence of post-human intellects.

Some things, like the orbits of the planets, can be calculated far into the future. But that's atypical. In most contexts, there is a limit. Even the most fine-grained computation can only forecast British weather a few days ahead. There are limits to what can ever be learned about the future, however powerful computers become.

It?s becoming clear that in a sense the cosmos provides the only laboratory where sufficiently extreme conditions are ever achieved to test new ideas on particle physics. The energies in the Big Bang were far higher than we can ever achieve on Earth. So by looking at evidence for the Big Bang, and by studying things like neutron stars, we are in effect learning something about fundamental physics.

Over most of history, threats have come from nature - disease, earthquakes, floods, and so forth. But the worst now come from us. We've entered a geological era called the anthropocene. This started, perhaps, with the invention of thermonuclear weapons.

It's better to read first rate science fiction than second rate science?it's a lot more fun, and no more likely to be wrong.

Perhaps future space probes will be plastered in commercial logos, just as Formula One cars are now. Perhaps Robot Wars in space will be a lucrative spectator sport. If humans venture back to the moon, and even beyond, they may carry commercial insignia rather than national flags.

It's important that everyone realizes how much scientists still don't know.

Post-human intelligence will develop hyper-computers with the processing power to simulate living things - even entire worlds. Perhaps advanced beings could use hyper-computers to surpass the best 'special effects' in movies or computer games so vastly that they could simulate a world, fully, as complex as the one we perceive ourselves to be in.

It's often better to read first-rate science fiction than second-rate science - it's far more stimulating, and perhaps no more likely to be wrong.

Science is a part of culture. Indeed, it is the only truly global culture because protons and proteins are the same all over the world, and it's the one culture we can all share.

I've got no religious beliefs at all.

Science is the one culture that's truly global - protons, proteins and Pythagoras's Theorem are the same from China to Peru. It should transcend all barriers of nationality. It should straddle all faiths, too.

Manned spaceflight has lost its glamour - understandably so, because it hardly seems inspiring, 40 years after Apollo, for astronauts merely to circle the Earth in the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

Science isn't just for scientists - it's not just a training for careers.

Manufacturing doesn't just mean building cars and metal-bashing; it includes making pharmaceuticals and hi-tech electronics. A crucial part of the process is the research and development that allows better and greener products to come to market. Britain has traditionally had a strong science and engineering base.

Maybe the search for life shouldn't restrict attention to planets like Earth. Science fiction writers have other ideas: balloon-like creatures floating in the dense atmospheres of planets such as Jupiter, swarms of intelligent insects, nano-scale robots and more.

Most educated people are aware that we are the outcome of nearly 4 billion years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are still some how the culmination of that, our sun however is less than half way through its life span, it will not be humans who watch that suns demise six billion years from now, any creatures that then do exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoeba.

Most practicing scientists focus on 'bite-sized' problems that are timely and tractable. The occupational risk is then to lose sight of the big picture.

Most theorists suspect that space has an intricate structure - that it is 'grainy' - but that this structure is on a much finer scale than any known subatomic particle. The structure could be of an exotic kind: extra dimensions, over and above the three that we are used to (up and down, backward and forward, left and right).

New kinds of targeted drugs can have stronger effects on human character than traditional drugs have done. There?s even a possibility of changing human beings over a few generations genetically. And people talk about electronic implants in our brains so we can improve some aspects of mental capacity. All these things are at the moment science fiction but may not be 50 years from now. So that lends an extra uncertainty to all our predictions.

Author Picture
First Name
Martin
Last Name
Rees, fully Sir Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow
Birth Date
1942
Bio

British Cosmologist, Astrophysicist and Author, Fellow of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge