By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News,
He will suggest that less time and money is spent on endeavours such as space exploration and particle physics.
He says population growth and poverty in
"The challenges of the 21st Century are qualitatively different from anything that we've had to face up to before," he told reporters before the opening of the festival, which is being held this year in Liverpool.
"This requires a re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society's inner attitudes towards science and technology."
Sir David's remarks will be controversial because they are being made just as the
The Collider, built at the Cern laboratory under the Swiss-French border, is starting full operations this Wednesday.
It will seek to understand the building blocks of matter, and, in particular, try to find a mechanism that can explain why matter has mass.
This international venture is extremely expensive, however. The
Sir David said it was time such funding - and the brains it supports - were pushed to answering more pressing concerns.
"It's all very well to demonstrate that we can land a craft on Mars, it's all very well to discover whether or not there is a Higgs boson (a potential mass mechanism); but I would just suggest that we need to pull people towards perhaps the bigger challenges where the outcome for our civilisation is really crucial."
Chief among these challenges for Sir David is the issue of climate change. When he was the government's top scientist, he made the famous remark that the threat from climate change was bigger than the threat posed by terrorism.
He said alternatives to fossil fuels were desperately needed to power a civilisation that would number some nine billion people by mid-century - nine billion people who would all expect a high standard of living.
"We will have to re-gear our thinking because our entire civilisation depends on energy production, and we have been producing that energy very largely through fossil fuels; and we will have to remove our dependence from fossil fuels virtually completely, or we will have to learn how to capture carbon dioxide from fossil fuel usage," he said.
Finding and exploiting clean energy sources was now imperative, he said; and Sir David questioned whether the spending on particle physics research in the shape of Cern's Large Hadron Collider was the best route to that goal.
He even doubted whether Cern's greatest invention was an outcome that could only have come from an institution that pursued so-called "blue skies research".
"People say to me: 'well what about the world wide web? That emerged from Cern'. Brilliant. Tim Berners Lee was the person who invented that. What if Tim Berners Lee had been working in a solar [power] laboratory? Perhaps he would have done it there as well. The spin-out
would have come from the brilliant individual."
gear-change 【機】 變速桿 (亦作 gear lever)
endeavour = endeavor 努力,盡力
face up to勇敢地對付;面對事實
civilization = civilisation文明;文明階段;文明國家;文明世界, 開化(過程),教化(過程), 【口】(現代生活的)文明設施
fossil fuel 化石燃料(如煤、石油、天然氣等)
carbon dioxide 二氧化碳