Astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, the main guest on Monday night, discussed his new book Our Final Hour, which advances an alarming thesis: the odds are no better than 50/50 that our species will survive to the end of the twenty-first century. As science continues to advance, Rees said that new threats will emerge. "It's very hard to regulate science," he commented but "sometimes the answer is more science or differently directed science rather than putting the breaks on science."
Being an astronomer Rees said gives him an awareness of the enormous time span that lies ahead, and as such he is concerned about the stewardship of our planet. He sounded the warning of the possibilities for "terror, error and environmental disaster," citing the dangers of small groups having access to destructive technology and the continued impact of fossil fuels on global warming.
"For the first time human beings themselves will start to change," Reese said of the coming decades. These alterations will take the form of genetic engineering, targeted drugs and implants into the brain, he outlined, which could lead to new unpredictable behaviors. Rees also foresees space exploration going in a new direction, with "private adventurers," going on missions such as to Mars, rather than NASA style astronauts.
Richard C. Hoagland appeared in the first half-hour to talk about an apparent conflict of interest in NASA's investigation into the Shuttle Colombia accident. As revealed in an article in the Orlando Sentinel, civilian members of the investigation board are actually being paid executive-level salaries by NASA. This was likely done in order to take advantage of a law that stipulates boards composed of "federal employees" can conduct their business in secret. Hoagland believes they may be trying to hide the fact that NASA was aware the shuttle was doomed shortly after takeoff.
Bumper music from Monday May 12, 2003