Spear's Liquid lunch with Martin Rees: ‘an insect is more complicated than a star’

04 February 2019
by Rasika Sittamparam

A star-struck Rasika Sittamparam dines with Astronomer Royal Martin Rees for Spear's:

" ‘I’m a theorist trying to make sense of observations,’ says Professor Lord Martin Rees, introducing himself at the House of Lords dining room. ‘I’ve worked on how you can learn from black holes; how galaxies are formed and why they are where they are; the Big Bang and what happened in the first nanosecond when the first stars and galaxies were formed. Extreme phenomena,’ the 76-year-old says, ‘and the multiverse.’

Declining the offer of anything stronger, Rees sips a large glass of still water and continues to explain his role as the Astronomer Royal of Britain. His title is a continuation of the tradition started by Charles II in 1675, when he appointed the first Astronomer Royal in support of his naval ambitions.

Unlike his forebears who tabulated lunar cycles, the Queen granted Rees, a Cambridge academic, the honorary title in 1995 for more modern, and arguably more global pursuits. For instance, he set up the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to coordinate the expertise of everyone from the Pope to Elon Musk, technocrats and global leaders (as well as scientists), to solve some of the 21st century’s greatest challenges, including preventing the collapse of humanity and civilisation.

‘We’re vulnerable because a few people, by error or by design, can cause widespread catastrophe,’ he explains, name-checking the risks of cyber-attacks and bio-war as he slices through his salmon starter. "

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