Boston.com - May 1, 2011 by Graeme Wood
The Royal Institution of Great Britain has stood on the same site since 1799, and on most days it would seem one of the older and fustier buildings in central London. But on April 6, time did a funny thing: The institution’s 212 years of existence suddenly contracted, and went from seeming unimaginably long to unimaginably short.
“Our sun formed 4.5 billion years ago, but it’s got 6 billion more before the fuel runs out,” Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, told the audience seated among the busts and weathered books of the institution’s second-story library. “It won’t be humans who witness the sun’s demise: It will be entities as different from us as we are from a bug.”
The occasion for Rees’s mind-bending assertion was his acceptance of the 2011 Templeton Prize, an annual cash award of $1.7 million, payable to individuals who have made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” — in Rees’s case, by looking millions of years into the future and venturing a guess as to what might be waiting.
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