Public Release: 

Ann Druyan to introduce famed UK astronomer at lecture exploring Earth's future

Cornell University

WHAT: The first Carl Sagan Distinguished Lecture will feature the United Kingdom's Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees, to talk about Earth's vulnerabilities, possibilities and future. Ann Druyan, an Emmy and Peabody-award winning science communicator and Carl Sagan Institute board member, will speak ahead of Rees at the event.

WHEN: Monday, May 8, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Kennedy Hall's Call Auditorium, Cornell University, Ithaca

MEDIA: The event is free and open to the public. Media members are asked to RSVP to Daryl Lovell in Cornell's Media Relations Office at 607-254-4799 or

ITHACA, N.Y. - After 4.5 billion years of existence, Earth's fate may be determined this century by one species alone - ours. The unintended consequences of powerful technologies like nuclear, biotech and artificial intelligence have created high cosmic stakes for our world.

The United Kingdom's Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, will explore our vulnerabilities and possibilities in the first Carl Sagan Distinguished Lecture at Cornell University on Monday, May 8, at 7 p.m. in Kennedy Hall's Call Auditorium. His talk, "Surviving the Century," is free and open to the public. Rees will be introduced by Ann Druyan, Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer/producer of the PBS documentary series "Cosmos" and board member of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute, sponsor of the lecture.

Rees is a cosmologist and space scientist whose research interests include galaxy formation, active galactic nuclei, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, as well as speculative aspects of cosmology such as the multiverse. Based at the University of Cambridge, he has been director of the Institute of Astronomy, a research professor and master of Trinity College. He served as president of the Royal Society (the U.K.'s science academy) from 2005 to 2010, and in 2006 he was nominated to the House of Lords.

"We need to deploy more expertise to address which long-term threats are credible versus which will stay science fiction - and to achieve a balance between precautionary policies and the benign exploitation of new technologies," says Rees. "During this century our creative intelligence could trigger transitions from an Earth-based to a space-faring species and from biological to artificial intelligence - transitions that could inaugurate billions of years of post-human evolution even more marvelous than what has led to us." Or, he points out, humans could trigger bio, cyber or environmental catastrophes instead.

Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, says Rees is a compelling speaker with an important message: "There's a reason that his TED talk garnered more than two million views. As he said, he speaks both as an astronomer and as a 'worried member of the human race.' His profound scientific understanding combined with his deep caring for Earth and humanity make him a speaker not to miss."


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