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Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009
Guest editor: Martin Rees

Lord Rees reviews his programme

Each year, the Today programme hands over the editorial reins to six public figures, giving them a chance to decide what goes on the programme between Christmas and New Year.

The programme broadcast on Monday 28th December was edited by Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society and the Astronomer Royal.

You can hear highlights from his programme using the links below.

Lord Rees asked the programme to find leading thinkers who were willing to explain what they thought could never be known.

Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, philosopher Slavoj Zizek and Neurobiologist Colin Blakemore stepped up to the challenge.

He also wanted to know why a travel writer would turn to writing about science, and spoke to author Bill Bryson to find out.

As one of the world's leading cosmologists, Lord Rees has a keen interest in space - both human attempts to get into space, and the possibilities of what is out there already.

On his programme, the distinguished British scientist Paul Davies discussed the evidence for aliens and authors Brian Aldiss and Ian Stewart gave their views on the the purpose of science fiction.

He also asked science correspondent Tom Feilden to look into the prospects for new missions to the moon and beyond and interviewed Dr Christopher Chyba , an advisor to President Obama, to try to discern the future of space exploration.

With climate change and other scientifically based policies so high on the political agenda, is it surprising that only 12 MPs have a scientific background? Lord Rees asked political correspondent Norman Smith to investigate if Parliament's lack of scientific knowledge damages its ability to make policy on such issues.

He was also interested to investigate the limits of choice in modern society. Could too much choice be a bad thing? Is our society prioritizing choice over other, perhaps more important, values?

Lord Rees commissioned philosopher Baroness Onora O'Neill to give her thoughts on the issue and personally debated one choice he believes to be an issue of "market failure" - the selection of bottled water on display on supermarket shelves.

Concluding the issue, behavioural economist Dan Ariely and David Halpern, a former adviser to Tony Blair, debated the effect on society of widespread choice.

Finally, Lord Rees wanted to pay tribute to the role that dogs have played in the history of science. Reporter Nicola Stanbridge investigated canine experiments over the years.


Martin Rees is one of the world's leading astronomers. A professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Trinity College, Cambridge, he holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and is president of the Royal Society.

After an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Trinity college Cambridge, Rees went on to study in the UK and US before becoming a professor at Sussex University.

In 1973 he became Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge, where for 10 years he was the director of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy.

He is the author of more than 500 research papers on cosmological topics and seven books, and has received countless awards for his scientific contributions.

His research interests cover the entire cosmos, from gamma ray bursts to the early generation of stars and black hole formation.

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