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  • We live in difficult and challenging

  • economic times, of course.

  • And one of the first victims

  • of difficult economic times,

  • I think, is public spending of any kind,

  • but certainly in the firing line at the moment

  • is public spending for science,

  • and particularly curiosity-led science

  • and exploration.

  • So I want to try and convince you in about 15 minutes

  • that that's a ridiculous

  • and ludicrous thing to do.

  • But I think to set the scene,

  • I want to show -- the next slide is not my attempt

  • to show the worst TED slide in the history of TED,

  • but it is a bit of a mess.

  • (Laughter)

  • But actually, it's not my fault; it's from the Guardian newspaper.

  • And it's actually a beautiful demonstration

  • of how much science costs.

  • Because, if I'm going to make the case

  • for continuing to spend on curiosity-driven science and exploration,

  • I should tell you how much it costs.

  • So this is a game called "spot the science budgets."

  • This is the U.K. government spend.

  • You see there, it's about 620 billion a year.

  • The science budget is actually --

  • if you look to your left, there's a purple set of blobs

  • and then yellow set of blobs.

  • And it's one of the yellow set of blobs

  • around the big yellow blob.

  • It's about 3.3 billion pounds per year

  • out of 620 billion.

  • That funds everything in the U.K.

  • from medical research, space exploration,

  • where I work, at CERN in Geneva, particle physics,

  • engineering, even arts and humanities,

  • funded from the science budget,

  • which is that 3.3 billion, that little, tiny yellow blob

  • around the orange blob at the top left of the screen.

  • So that's what we're arguing about.

  • That percentage, by the way, is about the same

  • in the U.S. and Germany and France.

  • R&D in total in the economy,

  • publicly funded, is about

  • 0.6 percent of GDP.

  • So that's what we're arguing about.

  • The first thing I want to say,

  • and this is straight from "Wonders of the Solar System,"

  • is that our exploration of the solar system and the universe

  • has shown us that it is indescribably beautiful.

  • This is a picture that actually was sent back

  • by the Cassini space probe around Saturn,

  • after we'd finished filming "Wonders of the Solar System."

  • So it isn't in the series.

  • It's of the moon Enceladus.

  • So that big sweeping, white

  • sphere in the corner is Saturn,

  • which is actually in the background of the picture.

  • And that crescent there is the moon Enceladus,

  • which is about as big as the British Isles.

  • It's about 500 kilometers in diameter.

  • So, tiny moon.

  • What's fascinating and beautiful ...

  • this an unprocessed picture, by the way, I should say,

  • it's black and white, straight from Saturnian orbit.

  • What's beautiful is, you can probably see on the limb there

  • some faint, sort of,

  • wisps of almost smoke

  • rising up from the limb.

  • This is how we visualize that in "Wonders of the Solar System."

  • It's a beautiful graphic.

  • What we found out were that those faint wisps

  • are actually fountains of ice

  • rising up from the surface of this tiny moon.

  • That's fascinating and beautiful in itself,

  • but we think that the mechanism

  • for powering those fountains

  • requires there to be lakes of liquid water

  • beneath the surface of this moon.

  • And what's important about that

  • is that, on our planet, on Earth,

  • wherever we find liquid water,

  • we find life.

  • So, to find strong evidence

  • of liquid, pools of liquid, beneath the surface of a moon

  • 750 million miles away from the Earth

  • is really quite astounding.

  • So what we're saying, essentially,

  • is maybe that's a habitat for life in the solar system.

  • Well, let me just say, that was a graphic. I just want to show this picture.

  • That's one more picture of Enceladus.

  • This is when Cassini flew beneath Enceladus.

  • So it made a very low pass,

  • just a few hundred kilometers above the surface.

  • And so this, again, a real picture of the ice fountains rising up into space,

  • absolutely beautiful.

  • But that's not the prime candidate for life in the solar system.

  • That's probably this place,

  • which is a moon of Jupiter, Europa.

  • And again, we had to fly to the Jovian system

  • to get any sense that this moon, as most moons,

  • was anything other than a dead ball of rock.

  • It's actually an ice moon.

  • So what you're looking at is the surface of the moon Europa,

  • which is a thick sheet of ice, probably a hundred kilometers thick.

  • But by measuring the way that

  • Europa interacts

  • with the magnetic field of Jupiter,

  • and looking at how those cracks in the ice

  • that you can see there on that graphic move around,

  • we've inferred very strongly

  • that there's an ocean of liquid surrounding

  • the entire surface of Europa.

  • So below the ice, there's an ocean of liquid around the whole moon.

  • It could be hundreds of kilometers deep, we think.

  • We think it's saltwater, and that would mean that

  • there's more water on that moon of Jupiter

  • than there is in all the oceans of the Earth combined.

  • So that place, a little moon around Jupiter,

  • is probably the prime candidate

  • for finding life on a moon

  • or a body outside the Earth, that we know of.

  • Tremendous and beautiful discovery.

  • Our exploration of the solar system

  • has taught us that the solar system is beautiful.

  • It may also have pointed the way to answering

  • one of the most profound questions that you can possibly ask,

  • which is: "Are we alone in the universe?"

  • Is there any other use to exploration and science,

  • other than just a sense of wonder?

  • Well, there is.

  • This is a very famous picture

  • taken, actually, on my first Christmas Eve,

  • December 24th, 1968,

  • when I was about eight months old.

  • It was taken by Apollo 8

  • as it went around the back of the moon.

  • Earthrise from Apollo 8.

  • A famous picture; many people have said that it's the picture

  • that saved 1968,

  • which was a turbulent year --

  • the student riots in Paris,

  • the height of the Vietnam War.

  • The reason many people think that about this picture,

  • and Al Gore has said it many times, actually, on the stage at TED,

  • is that this picture, arguably, was

  • the beginning of the environmental movement.

  • Because, for the first time,

  • we saw our world,

  • not as a solid, immovable,

  • kind of indestructible place,

  • but as a very small, fragile-looking world

  • just hanging against the blackness of space.

  • What's also not often said

  • about the space exploration, about the Apollo program,

  • is the economic contribution it made.

  • I mean while you can make arguments that it was wonderful

  • and a tremendous achievement

  • and delivered pictures like this,

  • it cost a lot, didn't it?

  • Well, actually, many studies have been done

  • about the economic effectiveness,

  • the economic impact of Apollo.

  • The biggest one was in 1975 by Chase Econometrics.

  • And it showed that for every $1 spent on Apollo,

  • 14 came back into the U.S. economy.

  • So the Apollo program paid for itself

  • in inspiration,

  • in engineering, achievement

  • and, I think, in inspiring young scientists and engineers

  • 14 times over.

  • So exploration can pay for itself.

  • What about scientific discovery?

  • What about driving innovation?

  • Well, this looks like a picture of virtually nothing.

  • What it is, is a picture of the spectrum

  • of hydrogen.

  • See, back in the 1880s, 1890s,

  • many scientists, many observers,

  • looked at the light given off from atoms.

  • And they saw strange pictures like this.

  • What you're seeing when you put it through a prism

  • is that you heat hydrogen up and it doesn't just glow

  • like a white light,

  • it just emits light at particular colors,

  • a red one, a light blue one, some dark blue ones.

  • Now that led to an understanding of atomic structure

  • because the way that's explained

  • is atoms are a single nucleus

  • with electrons going around them.

  • And the electrons can only be in particular places.

  • And when they jump up to the next place they can be,

  • and fall back down again,

  • they emit light at particular colors.

  • And so the fact that atoms, when you heat them up,

  • only emit light at very specific colors,

  • was one of the key drivers

  • that led to the development of the quantum theory,

  • the theory of the structure of atoms.

  • I just wanted to show this picture because this is remarkable.

  • This is actually a picture of the spectrum of the Sun.

  • And now, this is a picture of atoms in the Sun's atmosphere

  • absorbing light.

  • And again, they only absorb light at particular colors

  • when electrons jump up and fall down,

  • jump up and fall down.

  • But look at the number of black lines in that spectrum.

  • And the element helium

  • was discovered just by staring at the light from the Sun

  • because some of those black lines were found

  • that corresponded to no known element.

  • And that's why helium's called helium.

  • It's called "helios" -- helios from the Sun.

  • Now, that sounds esoteric,

  • and indeed it was an esoteric pursuit,

  • but the quantum theory quickly led

  • to an understanding of the behaviors of electrons in materials

  • like silicon, for example.

  • The way that silicon behaves,

  • the fact that you can build transistors,

  • is a purely quantum phenomenon.

  • So without that curiosity-driven

  • understanding of the structure of atoms,

  • which led to this rather esoteric theory, quantum mechanics,

  • then we wouldn't have transistors, we wouldn't have silicon chips,

  • we wouldn't have pretty much the basis

  • of our modern economy.

  • There's one more, I think, wonderful twist to that tale.

  • In "Wonders of the Solar System,"

  • we kept emphasizing the laws of physics are universal.

  • It's one of the most incredible things about the physics

  • and the understanding of nature that you get on Earth,

  • is you can transport it, not only to the planets,

  • but to the most distant stars and galaxies.

  • And one of the astonishing predictions

  • of quantum mechanics,

  • just by looking at the structure of atoms --

  • the same theory that describes transistors --

  • is that there can be no stars in the universe

  • that have reached the end of their life

  • that are bigger than, quite specifically, 1.4 times the mass of the Sun.

  • That's a limit imposed on the mass of stars.

  • You can work it out on a piece of paper in a laboratory,

  • get a telescope, swing it to the sky,

  • and you find that there are no dead stars

  • bigger than 1.4 times the mass of the Sun.

  • That's quite an incredible prediction.

  • What happens when you have a star that's right on the edge of that mass?

  • Well, this is a picture of it.

  • This is the picture of a galaxy, a common "our garden" galaxy