What is Our Final Century by Martin Rees actually about?
deals with the multitude range of threats facing humanity over the next 95 and a
half years, asking the question - 'Will civilisation survive the 21st century?'
draws on exhaustive research to illustrate his arguments. What's great about
this book is that, if you are a scientific novice, Rees writes in plain english
and rarely baffles the reader with jargon. It is this explanation of the facts,
in laymans terms, that makes the book more accessible to most of it's audience.
been reading a great deal of factual writing of late - mostly of the
doorstopping, hefty-tomed variety. Rees's book, however, is quite short and an
informative, interesting if somewhat disarming read. A fresh change from the
literate leviathan's I've recently been struggling with.
the book, Rees takes us from a technological apocalypse, where self-aware
machines take over from humanity, to the far out world of particle colliders,
and how smashing heavy particles together at almost the speed of light might
allow a 'strangelet' to form and stabilise, potentially turning all water
molecules on Earth into a substance as hard as granite. In other words,
curtains for humanity.
also covers the ever-present and growing threats of nuclear, chemical and
biological warfare. He delves into the dangers of nuclear proliferation and
also covers the scarey prospect of crazies cooking up a doomsday virus. We also
get sections that cover asteroid impacts and supervolcanoes, nano- and
exhaustive as his research is, I was surprised to see that Rees did not cover
two troubling stories of late - the threat of the collapse of one side of La
Palma island in the Canaries that will cause giant Atlantic tidal waves
(megatsunamis), and the supervolcano brewing beneath Yellowstone National Park
in the US. Two natural disasters that are ticking timebombs.
is much to learn from this book. For example, I was surprised to learn that the
aggregate threat of nuclear annihilation throughout the Cold War was as high as
50%. Apparently, we might all owe our present existence to one Russian nuclear
submarine commander, who resisted pressure from two of his equals to attack the
US during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rees also touches on the threat of 'grey
goo', a doomsday scenario Prince Charles has warned about.
it seems like Our Final Century might be a bit too frightening or depressing,
don't be put off. Rees is clear to point out that the risks outlined are just
that - risks. They are, by nature, not necessarily inevitable. The book serves
to inform and warn, and it does it's job well. I can't recommend it highly
wanted to give 10 but felt that some topics were only touched upon, when Rees
could have included more detail, and some threats that have been covered in the
media were not mentioned in the book).