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on 28 May 2008
The book is well worth reading, however be warned that the book is identical in content to "Our Final Century" !!
The books have different covers, and are different sizes, but they are both the same book!
I felt cheated by Amazon for selling me the same thing twice!!

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on 8 July 2008
This is a brief description of the major threats to the survival of life not just on Earth but in the universe itself. The title is suitably dramatic and given the weighty name of Sir Martin Rees the current Astronomer Royal I was expecting a lot. Unfortunately this book never quite lives up to its promise.

The book starts off describing some of the well known threats that we face as a race. I found this part of the book rather mundane. I was really looking for some revelations here and some food for thought on this important subject.

It wasn't until the ninth chapter on experimental particle physics (about half way through the book) that I became truly engaged. Given Sir Rees' vocation it's probably not surprising that this is the area where he is most informative. His discussion here about the dangers of this kind of science and the responsibility of scientists to keep the rest of us informed was enlightening.

I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first as it was more optimistic. This part of the book describes the potential that we have as a race and also discusses the level of our cosmic significance.

My disappointment with this book was twofold. The first was that it is a rather brief book. I finished each chapter wanting to know very much more than the author told me. Secondly given the fact that Sir Rees rates our survival past this century as around 50% I was surprised to find that there was no practical advice as to what we as individuals could do to improve our chances. Rees puts our fate squarely in the hands of either scientists or terrorists.

I have to say that given Rees' comments on the possibility of a post human future I was surprised to see him treat scientists such as Ray Kurzweil so scathingly. It seems to me that someone who can so eloquently speak about the possibility of parallel universes should be able to conceive of the world changing to the point where some of us may become immortal.

Overall this is a rather negative view of the world. Rees believes that we are living at a critical time in history. In his view it is this century that will make or break us and on balance he doesn't think we have more than an even chance to survive. He may very well be right but while he should be congratulated for wanting to discuss these issues, I personally don't think a warning such as this is much use without some advice on what to do about it.
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on 9 June 2003
This is how the world might end: A genetically engineered virus, a supervolcano blocks sunlight, scientists in a huge bioerror.
The end of the world has been predicted since it began, but the chance of keeping the planet alive has been getting worse with the awesome speed of scientific advance. Rees calculates that the odds of a terminal disaster striking Earth have risen to 50% from 20% over the century.
Rees lists major threats from - nuclear terrorism, deadly viruses, rogue machines and genetic engineering that could alter humanity. All could result from innocent error or the action of a single aggressor. By 2020, an incidence of bioterror or error will have killed a million, Rees contends.
An interesting read, a conversation starter. Read it.
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on 18 April 2006
Mr Rees obviously forgot to outline another doomsday scenario - everyone who reads this book dies of boredom. (So hopefully I can save the day by putting you off !)

The whole book (and it's a very small book at that) smacks of a sidelined project which has a great premise but no serious devotion. Almost all of the 'catasrophes' are well known and there's next to no 'in depth' analysis about statistical probabilities or objective viewpoints. In most cases it just boils down to Mr Rees saying 'X could happen, it probably won't, but then again there's a lot of nutters out there, so who knows.' To make things worse the last few chapters are nothing to do with 'our final hour' they're just Carl Sagan-esque musings about the possibility of aliens and space flight. I'd suggest you find something better to worry about.
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on 23 May 2012
Rees is an eminent astronomer, but fails miserably in every other science he talks about. This very brief book is short on clear reasoning, rational argument and common sense. It alleges that we are choking ourselves to death on CO2 emissions, a familiar topic imported from the IPCC, without any questioning or debate. As a scientist he should know that debate and skeptisicm lie at the heart of good science, but it is thrown to the winds in this dreadful potboiler. He has written like this before, and all are at a similar trivial level. He raises the possibility of a meteororite destroying earth but it is in the realm of Hollywood rather than we poor mortals. The same applies to global warming: the earth has been cooling for the last decade, and all those catastrophes predicted by the IPCC have not transpired at all. Give it a miss, there are much more important subjects worth writing about.
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