My guest in this edition of the After On podcast is British Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. And just to state the obvious? Astronomer Royal is such a cool title. And it’s just one of a long list of positions and honors that Sir Martin has earned over his five decade career in astrophysics.
That said, most of today’s conversation is not about the stars. It’s mostly about how we could possibly survive this century in the face of multiple "existential risks." Along with Bill Joy (who wrote a highly influential Wired cover story on the topic), Sir Martin helped kickstart this urgent conversation back in 2003, with the release of his amazing book Our Final Century? (which had the more breathless title Our Final Hour in the US).
You can hear our full conversation by clicking below:
Despite the interview's main thrust, I couldn't help to ask Sir Martin about two really cool deep space topics. Toward the start of the interview, we discuss the most violent events that have occurred in the universe since the big bang itself - roughly one of which detonates with ZERO warning somewhere in the observable universe, daily. It’s crazy, and fascinating stuff.
Then toward the end of the interview, we discuss a truly eerie phenomenon called fast radio bursts (FRBs). These are intensely strong radio wave sources with utterly mysterious origins. And while this will sound breathless, it's not out of the question that advanced extraterrestrials could be causing them. Now - astronomers have discovered across many mysterious celestial phenomena in the past, which now have well-understood natural explanations. Read the rest