Martin rees on the future of science and humanity quanta magazine electricity freedom system


In the public square, Rees holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and is one of the 23 holders of the Order of Merit, an award personally made by the queen. Among the many academies to which he belongs is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences — an international group of up to 80 scientists of all faiths and none — where he participates in discussions on earthbound issues like climate change and bioethics. m gasol nba As a lifetime member of the House of Lords, he speaks and legislates on science policy issues.

No. I didn’t know from the start what my vector would be. I was good at maths. And so, when, at the age of 15, I was required to pick an area to specialize in — that’s standard in the British system — I chose mathematics. Later, while at Trinity College, Cambridge, I came to realize that I didn’t enjoy mathematics enough to spend my life doing it.

For a while, I thought I might become an economist. However, through a series of fortunate accidents, I ended up being taken into the applied mathematics department in Cambridge, where I expressed an interest in cosmology and astrophysics. I chose the subject before I was knowledgeable about it, but after a year I was happy that I made that choice. The 1960s were a remarkable moment in astronomy. industrial electricity prices by state The field was opening up dramatically right then.

At the time, there were people who didn’t believe in the Big Bang. Some people believed in the steady state theory, according to which the universe was there forever with an infinite past. But once we had that first observation of the CMB, then, very quickly, two or three more observations came in, and the Big Bang was accepted. Similarly, the first pulsar was observed in 1967, and a consensus that pulsars were neutron stars emerged very quickly.

With the CMB, it was important to explore whether there were alternative explanations that didn’t attribute it to the Big Bang. That remained an open issue until the early ’70s. I wrote a somewhat perverse paper in 1972 to explore the possibility that it could have been generated by shock waves during the cosmic expansion — but the observations soon became precise enough to rule this out. gas dryer vs electric dryer cost savings There was further corroboration of the Big Bang model: It explained the proportions of helium and deuterium in the universe. By the 1970s we had, at least in outline, a model for cosmic history extending back to the first second — huge progress from the early 1960s, when there was no clear evidence of a Big Bang at all.

There are times when I’ll work simultaneously on two different interpretations of the same phenomenon. I don’t feel the need to commit to a particular belief in order to be motivated. gas 78 I just want to know the answer. Sometimes, the best way to know the answer is to explore different options and see which one hits the bottom first. You suggested earlier that the 1960s were a golden age for discovery. Are we living in a similar time today?

In astronomy, we can’t do experiments, and so we depend on computer simulations to a greater extent than other scientists. For example, we cannot crash two galaxies together. But a computer might be able to calculate what that would look like. gas pain relief We can then compare that model to things we see in the sky. Of the recent breakthroughs, which excites you most?

At the most obvious level, it makes the night sky far more interesting. You realize that every star is orbited by a retinue of planets, just as the sun is orbited by the Earth and other planets. You recognize that there are probably in our galaxy billions of planets like the young Earth — in the sense that they are about the size of the Earth and at a distance from their parent star so that water can exist.

There’s a hope that within 10 or 15 years we’ll be able to directly observe some of those Earth-like planets circling around nearby stars. We can’t do that yet. power energy definition The evidence on extrasolar planets is indirect. Observers detect their effect on the brightness or motions of the star they are orbiting. But there are new telescopes coming that should be able to detect and analyze the light from exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. I’m thinking here of the James Webb telescope, and even more the ELT, short for Extremely Large Telescope, being built by a European consortium in Chile.

When the stakes are this high — on this and any other similar issue — you’ve got to be confident at the level of one in a billion. You just can’t be wrong. The idea of “tearing the fabric of space” had earlier been raised in a serious paper by an eminent Harvard professor [Sydney Coleman]. electricity merit badge pamphlet pdf So the public surely expects physicists to explore the possibility and reassure them, at the level of a billion to one, that this can’t happen.

A lot of what will happen will depend on advances in technology. Improved computing will give us the power to model and understand the new information we’ll be receiving from more powerful telescopes. For example, the European GAIA satellite found data on more than a billion stars. We can now analyze that. eseva electricity bill payment It’s something we couldn’t have done a few years ago.

And I hope we also have advances in the study of angular fluctuations (and perhaps polarization) of the CMB. That will perhaps give us some diagnostics of the very early era — the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second — which is when inflation might have occurred. There’s hope of that from the Simons Observatory in Chile and the University of Chicago–led experiments at the South Pole.

I’m hoping we’ll see more theoretical ideas from particle physics, which has given us little firm theoretical progress in recent years. The goal is a theory that could unify the strong interactions and electroweak interactions — and better still bring in gravity. That would allow us to firm up some physical ideas that will be applicable to the very early universe.