From Here to Infinity: A Vision for the Future of Science

Overview

One of our greatest scientific minds reflect on the role of science in the twenty-first century.
Science is often portrayed as an obscure, difficult discipline, governed by elite researchers and inaccessible to the general public. In this riveting, inspiring new book, preeminent astrophysicist Martin Rees overturns this view, urging improved communication between researchers and laypeople. In order to shape debates over healthcare, energy policy,space travel, and other vital ...

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From Here to Infinity: A Vision for the Future of Science

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Overview

One of our greatest scientific minds reflect on the role of science in the twenty-first century.
Science is often portrayed as an obscure, difficult discipline, governed by elite researchers and inaccessible to the general public. In this riveting, inspiring new book, preeminent astrophysicist Martin Rees overturns this view, urging improved communication between researchers and laypeople. In order to shape debates over healthcare, energy policy,space travel, and other vital issues, ordinary citizens must develop a “feel” for science—the one truly global culture—and engage directly with research rather than relying on pundits’ and politicians’ interpretations. Recognized as an expert on the political and ethical impact of science, Rees demonstrate show we must solve the new challenges we face—from population growth to climate change—by devising strategies with a long-term, global perspective. In the process, he offers insights into the prospects for future discoveries while also explaining science’s intrinsic limits. Just as importantly, Rees reminds us that science should be a source of pleasure and wonder for specialists and nonspecialists alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rees, Britain’s former astronomer royal and a scientist’s scientist, offers his thoughts on how science should navigate its ongoing interaction with culture, politics, and ethics in the 21st century. Rees’s major thesis is that scientists, politicians, and laypeople must engage in meaningful dialogue about how science should be deployed to address the century’s looming dangers: “the threats without enemies.” This list includes developing reliable energy sources, a burgeoning world population, climate change, diminishing biodiversity, the misuse and unintended consequences of gene manipulation, and the design of drugs that may alter human beings themselves. Rees offers no set-piece solutions, but instead suggests rational and achievable responses—some scientific, some sociological—that might ameliorate these potential dangers. He champions better funded universities and the idea that science should remain agnostic as to religion; he says that the benefits of globalization must be fairly shared, and, most intriguingly, “There are doors that science could open but which are best left closed.” There is enough hard science for this book (based on a series of lectures) to satisfy readers concerned with science’s future horizons, as well as a surfeit of wisdom on science and its role in society at large. Agent: George Lucas, InkWell Management. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The fate of the world demands that scientists and the public communicate better, writes British astronomer and former president of the Royal Society Rees (Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning, 2003, etc.). Expanded and directed at an American audience, these are four of the distinguished Reith lectures, delivered annually over BBC radio by renowned thinkers beginning in 1948 with Bertrand Russell. Readers will learn that 21st-century science impinges on us more than ever and in ways that transform our lives, usually, but not always, for the better. It is the one "truly global culture, transcending all boundaries of nationality and faith." America is definitely the leader, and Rees uses American institutions as examples of how to do it right (our universities are the best; our entrepreneurs the most entrepreneurial), with exceptions (our politicians who proudly reject science). No Cassandra, he reviews our planet's looming problems, from climate change to overpopulation to nuclear war, emphasizing that there are no solutions outside of science. Since the future depends on our youth, he stresses that scientists are cool, pointing out that Einstein was a hip young guy when he made his dazzling discoveries, not the disheveled, elderly man portrayed by the media of the time. He also warns about the "tendency for long-term strategies, however important, to be trumped by more immediate issues that can be resolved within an electoral cycle." David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity (2011) provides a more powerful exploration of this theme, but Rees delivers shrewd insights into how science can lead us to a better future.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393063073
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/18/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 805,608
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Rees is a leading cosmologist and astrophysicist. He is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, a member of the House of Lords, and former president of the Royal Society. He lives in Cambridge, UK.

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