Our Final Hour
Posted May 27, 2003 thepeoplesvoice.org
Published by basicbooks.com
(Basic Books, 0-465-06862-6)
$25.00 US / $39.00 CAN
A scientist known for
unraveling the complexities of the universe, Sir Martin Rees now warns that
mankind is potentially the maker of his own demise - and the demise of the
cosmos. With clarity and precision, Rees maps out the ways technology could
destroy our species and thereby foreclose the potential of a living universe
whose evolution has just begun.
Rees forecasts that the odds are no better than 50-50 that humankind will
survive to the end of the 21st century. Science is advancing at an
accelerating rate, but with a dark side: are increasingly interconnected
world is vulnerable to new risks, “bio” or “cyber,” terror or error.
The dangers from 21st century technology could be graver and more
intractable than the threat of nuclear devastation that we faced for
decades. And human-induced pressures on the global environment may engender
higher risks than the age-old hazards of earthquakes, eruptions, and
Rees explores the startling scenarios that science and technology have made
possible or even all likely. We could be wiped out by lethal engineered air
borne viruses, or by rogue nano-machines that replicate catastrophically.
Experiments that crashed together atomic nuclei could start a chain reaction
that erodes all atoms of Earth, or could even tear the fabric of space
itself. Bioterror or bioerror could kill a million people within 20 years.
But as Reese so eloquently reveals, it would be nearly impossible to reduce
these risks without encroaching on cherished personal freedoms and the
pursuit of scientific knowledge.
At the heart
of Rees's book is his vision of the infinite future that we have put at risk
-- a cosmos more vast and diverse than any of us has ever imagined. If we
are the only sentient beings in the universe, our world’s fate takes on a
truly cosmic significance. The wider Cosmos has a potential future that
could even be infinite. But will these vast expanses of time be filled with
life, or be as empty as the Earth's first sterile sees? The choice may
depend on us, in this century.
A work of a stunning scientific originality, Our Final Hour is
also a humanistic clarion call on behalf of the future of life.
Praise for Just Six
written a brief readable and profoundly constructive account of where
cosmological knowledge stands at this moment. This is the kind of book that
transforms not only how you look at a clear winter sky but also how you
think about life itself.” - The New Yorker
Praise for Before the
“A fascinating eminently
readable meditation on what is known and what is merely conjectured about
the universe and its enigmatic neighbors.” - The New Yorker
Sir Martin Rees is Royal Society Professor
at Cambridge University, a Fellow of King's College, and England's
Astronomer Royal. The winner of several international awards, he has
published numerous academic papers and books and is the author of four
titles for a general readership: Just Six Numbers, Before the Beginning, and
Our Cosmic Habitat. He lives in Cambridge, England.