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Astronomer Royal Lord Rees to deliver BEYOND lecture

March 10, 2011

7:30 p.m., April 14, Murdock Hall 101

The long-range future for life, here on Earth and far beyond, will be one of the issues addressed by renowned astronomer Martin Rees when he delivers the annual signature lecture presented by the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University.

Lord Rees, until recently president of the Royal Society – Britain’s most prestigious scientific role – and also holder of the honorary title of Astronomer Royal since 1995, will present a lecture titled “Life’s Destiny in Our Universe and Others” at 7:30 p.m. April 14 in Murdock Hall, Room 101, on ASU’s Tempe campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We can trace cosmic history back to some mysterious ‘beginning’ nearly 14 billion years ago,” wrote Lord Rees, “We understand in outline the emergence of atoms, galaxies, starts and planets – and how, on at least one planet, life emerged and developed a complex biosphere of which we are part.

“But these advances highlight new issues which will be addressed in the lecture: Was our ‘big bang’ just one of many? How much vaster is physical reality than the domain that we can, even in principle, observe? How much variety could the ‘multiverse’ display? Are there limits to what we will ever understand?” he noted.

“Martin Rees is arguably the world’s finest all-round cosmologist, and a sublime and articulate lecturer,” said Paul Davies, an ASU theoretical physicist, cosmologist and founding director of the BEYOND Center. “All in all, Lord Rees is one of the most distinguished scientists and scholars to have visited ASU. His subtle wit and easy-going style makes him one of the most sought-after presenters anywhere, in any subject.”

Lord Rees is Master of Trinity College and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. He gave the BBC Reith Lectures last year, which according to Davies, are “probably the world’s most prestigious forums for public debate.” In 2005, he presented a talk titled “Is this our final century?” at TED Global. That same year, he was appointed to the House of Lords, taking the title Lord Rees of Ludlow.

Lord Rees is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Pontifical Academy and several other foreign academies.

“He has contributed significantly to almost every branch of modern astronomy and cosmology. He is able to combine an encyclopedic knowledge of science with real wisdom and a deep humanity. I respect his judgment more than that of any living scientist,” Davies said.

After studying at the University of Cambridge, Lord Rees held post-doctoral positions in the UK and the US before becoming a professor at Sussex University. In 1973, he became a fellow of King's College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge. He has been president of the Royal Astronomical Society (1992-94), British Association for the Advancement of Science (1994-95) and Royal Society (2005-2010).

Lord Rees is on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Science and Industry, Institute for Public Policy Research and Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.

For the past 20 years, he has directed a wide-ranging research program at Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, where his main research focuses reside in the areas of high energy astrophysics and cosmic structure formation. He is the author or co-author of more than 500 research papers, as well as several books, and magazine and newspaper articles on scientific and general subjects. His research papers have made significant contributions in the origin of cosmic microwave background radiation in addition to galaxy clustering and formation.

A few of his most celebrated books include “Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others,” “Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe,” “Our Cosmic Habitat” and “Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future in This Century – On Earth and Beyond.”

“The BEYOND annual lecture challenges one of the world’s leading intellectuals to think beyond the confines of their specialism, and to offer new insights into science, philosophy or futurology,” Davies said. Past speakers were Frank Wilczek, who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics; Daniel Dennett, a philosopher propelled to international fame with his ground-breaking book “Consciousness Explained;” Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist and popular science writer; and Murry Gell-Mann, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science is a pioneering international research center established in 2006 at ASU. This “cosmic think tank” is specifically dedicated to confronting the big questions raised by advances in fundamental science, and facilitating new research initiatives that transcend traditional subject categories. More information is available at 480-965-3240 or Online maps of the Tempe campus and parking facilities are at

Written by Chanapa Tantibanchachai.

Media Contact:
Carol Hughes,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences