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Our Final Hour
Martin Rees

Posted May 27, 2003

Published by (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 asteroid impacts. 

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 Numbers

“Rees has 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 Beginning

“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.


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