Should you bother watching the Transit of Venus?

Yes, unless you believe Kurzweil...

Of course you don’t need to get up to watch the Transit of Venus tomorrow. Didn’t you see those keyboards on the Jubilee Concert stage? Ray Kurzweil, the man whose name was writ large on millions of TV screens for hours (or did it just seem like hours?) last night, knows what he’s doing. You don’t get that kind of product placement without having a bit of nous.

Kurzweil used to be a developer of reading machines for the blind; it turned out that his technology was also useful for synthesising the sounds of musical instruments. The rest is Jubilee history.

But, while Kurzweil’s got to be pleased with the TV presence, he is no doubt fuming at today’s papers, with all these science writers saying that tomorrow marks our last chance to see the Transit of Venus. Haven’t they heard? Science has made it clear that our generation will still be around in December 2117, when Venus next passes between the Earth and the sun.

Kurzweil, now working as a futurologist, announced this via The Sun (the newspaper, not the burning ball of gas).

"I and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies' stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nanotechnology will let us live for ever."

Even better news: that was September 2009, which means that we’re only 17 or so years from reversing ageing and living forever. So what’s the point of getting up at 5 am tomorrow morning? I’m sure the 2117 viewing will be at a much more convenient time. Plus, by then, Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting technology will have matured to give us an unobstructed view.

It might be worth pointing out that the views of Kurzweil and his "many other scientists" are not uncontested in scientific spheres. If you’re thinking about staying in bed during the Transit, you might consider reading Leonard Hayflick’s take on the success of research into fighting the ageing process. The fact that it’s called “No Truth to the Fountain of Youth” and signed by 50 real, named scientists probably tells you all you need to know.  You’re not going to live forever. Just set the alarm.

No, not that Venus... Photograph: Getty Images

Michael Brooks holds a PhD in quantum physics. He writes a weekly science column for the New Statesman, and his most recent book is At The Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science By Surprise.

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What did Jeremy Corbyn really say about Bin Laden?

He's been critiqued for calling Bin Laden's death a "tragedy". But what did Jeremy Corbyn really say?

Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for describing Bin Laden’s death as a “tragedy” in the Sun, but what did the Labour leadership frontrunner really say?

In remarks made to Press TV, the state-backed Iranian broadcaster, the Islington North MP said:

“This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died.”

He also added that it was his preference that Osama Bin Laden be put on trial, a view shared by, among other people, Barack Obama and Boris Johnson.

Although Andy Burnham, one of Corbyn’s rivals for the leadership, will later today claim that “there is everything to play for” in the contest, with “tens of thousands still to vote”, the row is unlikely to harm Corbyn’s chances of becoming Labour leader. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.