The 2010 Reith Lectures given by Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, in June of this year.
Science scares most people stiff so we run away from it. Martin Rees, this year's distinguished lecturer, is the Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society, and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He is a techno-optimist, by his own admission, affirmative even when asking us to contemplate imminent catastrophes of population growth, water shortage, bio-terror. His lectures are cautionary. They have also been upbeat, about how good science can extend boundaries of co-operation as well as understanding. “We must proclaim science,” he says in his final lecture, “both as an intellectual challenge and as a prerequisite for meeting humanitarian imperatives health, education and 'clean energy' for the developing world.” That means spending money on education and research. It will be a bold politician who stands up for that nowadays but someone has to say it.
You can listen to the lectures on-line, print the transcripts to read or download the programmes onto your iPod. Spoilt for choice!
Lecture 1: The Scientific Citizen
We are increasingly turning to government and the media to explain the risks we face. But in the wake of public confusion over issues like climate change, the swine 'flu vaccine and, more recently, Iceland's volcanic ash cloud, Martin Rees calls on scientists to come forward and play a greater role in helping us understand the science that affects us all. (Listen on-line | Download the transcript)
Lecture 2: Surviving the Century
Our planet is coming under increasing strain from climate change, population explosion and food shortages. How can we use science to help us solve the crisis that we are moving rapidly towards, as we use up our natural resources ever more quickly? (Listen on-line | Download the transcript)
Lecture 3. What We'll Never Know
In this lecture Martin Rees is in speculative mood. He stresses there are things that will always lie beyond our sphere of comprehension and we should accept these limits to our knowledge. On the other hand, there are things we've never even dreamt of that will one day be ours to explore and understand. The outcome of the quest for alien life may revolutionise our sense of self in the next two decades. But some things like travelling back in time will never happen. (Listen on-line | Download the transcript)
Lecture 4. The Runaway World
Martin Rees acknowledges how the internet and other technologies have transformed our lives. Now he calls on politicians and other authorities to provide the funding that will keep the UK among the world's front runners in scientific research and discovery. Without money and without education to attract young people into science, the UK is in danger of falling behind China and other countries in the Far East that are investing heavily in their science and technology sectors. (Listen on-line | Download the transcript)