In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it.— Martin Rees
The most romantic Martin Rees quotes that are little-known but priceless
In future, children won't perceive the stars as mere twinkling points of light: they'll learn that each is a 'Sun', orbited by planets fully as interesting as those in our Solar system.
All the atoms we are made of are forged from hydrogen in stars that died and exploded before our solar system formed. So if you are romantic, you can say we are literally stardust. If you are less romantic, you can say we're the nuclear waste from fuel that makes stars shine.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
It will not be humans who watch the sun's demise, six billion years from now.
Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.
Devastation could arise insidiously, rather than suddenly, through unsustainable pressure on energy supplies, food, water and other natural resources. Indeed, these pressures are the prime 'threats without enemies' that confront us.
Let me say that I don't see any conflict between science and religion.
I go to church as many other scientists do. I share with most religious people a sense of mystery and wonder at the universe and I want to participate in religious ritual and practices because they're something that all humans can share.
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.
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.
I recall a lecture by John Glenn, the first American to go into orbit.
When asked what went through his mind while he was crouched in the rocket nose-cone, awaiting blast-off, he replied, "I was thinking that the rocket has 20,000 components, and each was made by the lowest bidder."
There may be organic life out there, or maybe machines created by long-dead civilizations, but any signals, even if they are difficult to decode, would tell us that the concepts of logic and physics are not limited to the hardware in human skulls, and will transform our view of the universe.
We need to broaden our sympathies both in space and time - and perceive ourselves as part of a long heritage, and stewards for an immense future.
I hope that by 2050 the entire solar system will have been explored and mapped by flotillas of tiny robotic craft.
It used to be controversial whether smoking caused lung cancer, it used to be controversial whether HIV caused AIDS. Now, there are a few mavericks who deny those things. In the case of climate change, I think the debate is going the same way in that there is a strong consensus that it is a serious matter.
Cosmology does, I think, affect the way that we perceive humanity's role in nature. One thing we've learnt from astronomy is that the future lying ahead is more prolonged than the past. Even our sun is less than halfway through its life.
The 'clean energy' challenge deserves a commitment akin to the Manhattan project or the Apollo moon landing.
Crucial to science education is hands-on involvement: showing, not just telling;
real experiments and field trips and not just "virtual reality".
Campaigning against religion can be socially counter-productive.
If teachers take the uncompromising line that God and Darwinism are irreconcilable, many young people raised in a faith-based culture will stick with their religion and be lost to science.
I think all countries need to aim to cut the CO2 emissions per person, taking account of externalities like imports and exports.
I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms that we can't conceive. And there could, of course, be forms of intelligence beyond human capacity-beyond as much as we are beyond a chimpanzee.
If we ever establish contact with intelligent aliens living on a planet around a distant star ... They would be made of similar atoms to us. They could trace their origins back to the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, and they would share with us the universe's future. However, the surest common culture would be mathematics.
We should all oppose - as Darwin did - views manifestly in conflict with the evidence, such as creationism... But we shouldn't set up this debate as 'religion v science'; instead we should strive for peaceful coexistence with at least the less dogmatic strands of mainstream religions, which number many excellent scientists among their adherents.
Scientists habitually moan that the public doesn't understand them.
But they complain too much: public ignorance isn't peculiar to science. It's sad if some citizens can't tell a proton from a protein. But it's equally sad if they're ignorant of their nation's history, can't speak a second language, or can't find Venezuela or Syria on a map.
God invented space so that not everything had to happen in Princeton.
To ensure continuing prosperity in the global economy, nothing is more important than the development and application of knowledge and skills.
An insect is more complex than a star..and is a far greater challenge to understand.
I would support peaceful co-existence between religion and science because they concern different domains. Anyone who takes theology seriously knows that it's not a matter of using it to explain things that scientists are mystified by.
In this century, not only has science changed the world faster than ever, but in new and different ways. Targeted drugs, genetic modification, artificial intelligence, perhaps even implants into our brains - may change human beings themselves.
Charles Darwin [is my personal favorite Fellow of the Royal Society].
I suppose as a physical scientist I ought to have chosen Newton. He would have won hands down in an IQ test, but if you ask who was the most attractive personality then Darwin is the one you'd wish to meet. Newton was solitary and reclusive, even vain and vindictive in his later years when he was president of the society.
The important point there is that when people talk about a mean temperature rise of say two, three or four degrees that's a sort of global average which really is a signature of large scale change in climatic patterns.
Indeed, our everyday world presents intellectual challenges just as daunting as those of the cosmos and the quantum, and that is where 99 per cent of scientists focus their efforts. Even the smallest insect, with its intricate structure, is far more complex than either an atom or a star.
I'm not a specialist in the science but I have followed it fairly closely and it seems to me that there is among the experts a clear consensus that potential climate change is something to worry about.
Science isn't just for scientists - it's not just a training for careers.
I'm a technological optimist in that I do believe that technology will provide solutions that will allow the world in 2050 to support 9 billion people at an acceptable standard of living. But I'm a political pessimist in that I am concerned about whether the science will be appropriately applied.
I think a few hundred years from now we'll start having the 'posthuman' era of different species.
One of the computer models for a four degree temperature rise would give rise to a 10 degree temperature rise in Africa. And bear in mind also that in the depth of an ice age the mean temperature drop compared to the present was five degrees.
To most people in the UK, indeed throughout Western Europe, space exploration is primarily perceived as 'what NASA does'. This perception is - in many respects - a valid one. Superpower rivalry during the Cold War ramped up US and Soviet space efforts to a scale that Western Europe had no motive to match.
Experiments that crash atoms together could start a chain reaction that erodes everything on Earth.
The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is measured.
It's uncontroversial. It's going up. We know that has a tendency to warm the atmosphere and we should be worried about that.
In the case of climate change, the threat is long-term and diffuse and requires broad international action for the benefit of people decades in the future. And in politics, the urgent always trumps the important, and that is what makes it a very difficult and challenging issue.
All space projects push the frontiers of technology and are drivers of innovation.
The U.S., France, Germany and Canada have all responded to the financial crisis by boosting rather than cutting their science funding. The U.K. has not.
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 somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.
The politics is far harder than the science.
And even if we accept the science we have a big issue of how to deal with it.
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.
During the 20th century, we came to understand that the essence of all substances - their colour, texture, hardness and so forth - is set by their structure, on scales far smaller even than a microscope can see. Everything on Earth is made of atoms, which are, especially in living things, combined together in intricate molecular assemblages.
I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can't conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can't understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains They could be staring us in the face and we just Don't recognise them. The problem is that we-re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology.
Some claim that computers will, by 2050, achieve human capabilities.
Of course, in some respects they already have.
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.