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Big Bangs, Biospheres and the Limits of Science


8 November 2012

The UK's Astronomer Royal Professor Martin Rees will trace cosmic history from the big bang to the development of life.
The UK's Astronomer Royal Professor Martin Rees will trace cosmic history from the big bang to the development of life.

Take a journey through the universe and beyond - to potential other universes in a 'multiverse' - when Professor Martin Rees, the UK's Astronomer Royal, presents his Sydney Ideas talk this Friday 9 November.

Titled Big Bangs, Biospheres and the Limits of Science, Professor Rees will trace cosmic history from the big bang and galaxy formation, to the emergence of planets such as Earth and the development of life.

"Astronomers have made astonishing progress in probing our cosmic environment," says Professor Rees. "We have worked out that there was some mysterious 'beginning' nearly 14 billion years ago, and we understand in outline the emergence of atoms, galaxies, stars and planets.

"We also know that, on at least one planet, life emerged and developed a complex biosphere of which we are part. We have recently learnt, moreover, that many other stars are orbited by retinues of planets - some resembling our Earth, and perhaps harbouring alien life."

Showing gorgeous images of our universe and its many fascinating components, Professor Rees will transport the audience on an astronomical adventure through space and time in this free public talk.

"Telescopes have revealed billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars. But there are intimations that physical reality is hugely more extensive than the domain our telescopes can probe," said Professor Rees.

"Indeed we may inhabit a 'multiverse' - living in the aftermath of one among an infinity of 'big bangs'. It's remarkable to consider the place of our universe.

"These advances in astronomy pose new questions: How 'special' is our Earth and the time in which we are living? Are there aspects of science that human brains will never grasp? What does the long-range future hold, for our cosmos and for 'post-human' evolution?"

Starting with astronomy and ending with a broader consideration of the limits of science, Professor Rees will discuss some of the issues explored in his latest book From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons. His talk is co-presented by Sydney Ideas and the Faculty of Science.

The following day (10 November) Professor Rees will receive a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from the University of Sydney for his work as a world-leading astronomer and key thinker on the future of humanity in the cosmos. The honorary degree ceremony will also see eminent Australians Cate Blanchett, Kate Grenville, Robin Warren and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu receive honorary doctorates in their relevant disciplines.


About Professor Martin Rees

Professor Rees is one of the world's most eminent astronomers. He is the UK's Astronomer Royal and a member of the House of Lords. He is a former Master of Trinity College Cambridge, and he was Director of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University for ten years. Professor Rees was also President of the Royal Society (2005-2010), President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1994-95) and the Royal Astronomical Society (1992-94) and a trustee of the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Kennedy Memorial Trust, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and the Cambridge Gates Trust.


Event details

What: Big Bangs, Biospheres and the Limits of Science - Professor Martin Rees at Sydney Ideas 

When: 6.30pm, Friday 9 November

Where: The Great Hall, the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

Book now online 


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Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au