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Is the Era of Groundbreaking Science Over?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the just-until-zefram-cochrane dept.

Science 470

An anonymous reader writes "In decades and centuries past, scientific genius was easy to quantify. Those scientists who were able to throw off the yoke of established knowledge and break new ground on their own are revered and respected. But as humanity, as a species, has gotten better at science, and the basics of most fields have been refined over and over, it's become much harder for any one scientist to make a mark on the field. There's still plenty we don't know, but so much of it is highly specialized that many breakthroughs are understood by only a handful. Even now, the latest generation is more likely to be familiar with the great popularizers of science, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan, than of the researchers at the forefront of any particular field. "...most scientific fields aren't in the type of crisis that would enable paradigm shifts, according to Thomas Kuhn's classic view of scientific revolutions. Simonton argues that instead of finding big new ideas, scientists currently work on the details in increasingly specialized and precise ways." Will we ever again see a scientist get recognition like Einstein did?"

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stupid. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804069)

Is the Era of Groundbreaking Science Over?
No.

Re:stupid. (4, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 years ago | (#42804119)

Yes.

  Everything that can be invented has been invented.

This ain't the first time ... (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#42804167)

In the late 1990's someone proclaimed that there was nothing more to invent, and he was proven to be very very wrong ...

Now someone is trying the same thing, again, while tweaking the wording a little bit, by adding "groundbreaking" in the proclamation

It gonna be as wrong as that guy in the late 1990's.

Science progresses on.

Groundbreaking or not, that's not the issue.

For new breakthrough in science always "stand" on the shoulders of all the previous scientific findings

Furthermore, how do you define "groundbreaking" ?

Does one actually have to "break some ground" to be groundbreaking ?

How about some new ideas being applied to older subjects, which yield new findings ?

Would that be counted as "groundbreaking" ??

Re:This ain't the first time ... (3, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 2 years ago | (#42804247)

Indeed -- if you invent stepping discs, or the transfer booth, or even an economical and practical flying car, you *will* get recognition.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (1)

Cute and Cuddly (2646619) | about 2 years ago | (#42804303)

The flying car should not be a problem. The only reason why we do not have it yet is not because of technical dificulties. We can hardly manage driving a car in two dimensions. Try to add an extra dimension fotr the movement of your flying car and see what happens. Thiink about the traffic controll systems. Think what we have to have instead of traffic lights (That some people still do not pay any attention to). When you have worked out that, then come up with a flying car

Re:This ain't the first time ... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#42804531)

The flying car should not be a problem. The only reason why we do not have it yet is not because of technical difficulties. We can hardly manage driving a car in two dimensions. Try to add an extra dimension for the movement of your flying car and see what happens. Think about the traffic control systems. Think what we have to have instead of traffic lights (That some people still do not pay any attention to). When you have worked out that, then come up with a flying car

So it should not be a problem, but then you promptly list a small handful of reasons why it is a problem.

Everything you've mentioned applies to the people driving it. I agree, the human element is the central weakness, and relying on humans to follow the rules is pointless, we can't even get you to turn on your spell checker.

But Google can make a driver-less car that works in two dimensions on a surface street bristling with moving targets and zero inter-target communication, and lots of stationary objects to hit. Such computer control would be actually easier in the air, where everything would be computer controlled, no stationary barriers, and everything would communicate with everything else.

So lets hand-waive away the control and navigation problems that are mostly human induced, and hand them off to the computer.

That STILL leaves a huge mountain to climb with regard to equipment durability, and failure proofing. Cars today are amazingly durable and reliable.
Still, would you want to be flying in one of them? Or have them flying over your house? If only one in 10,000 or 100,000 flights ended in the engine
stopping the results would be disastrous. What does fly gets rigorous maintenance and inspections by highly trained people. Not shade tree mechanics
and burger flippers apprenticing as mechanics.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804541)

I hope flying cars never get made. I'm not going to risk having my house destroyed because of some moron who has no business flying decides to pull some stupid stunt or fly while intoxicated.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about 2 years ago | (#42804641)

Indeed -- if you invent stepping discs, or the transfer booth, or even an economical and practical flying car, you *will* get recognition.

You'll get recognition all right, ask Stanley Meyer how that worked out for him.
It's not about inventing something new, it's about bringing it to fruition. Expect delays, expect opposition, expect heartbreak.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about 2 years ago | (#42804281)

I think the argument that the author is trying to make is that the scope of new work is more tightly focussed than before. There have been relatively few new 'fundamental' discoveries in physics, compared to refinements and increasing precision. While we are always inventing new ways to use physical laws, the laws themselves haven't changed substantially since quantum mechanics became well understood (proposed nearly 100 years ago).

Once upon a time, people didn't understand how many physical systems worked; the motion of galaxies and the intricacies of light interferometry were classic examples - a single scientist could make a new discovery, Now, we have good reliable models for their behaviour. The sorts of physics experiments that discover novel phenomena about how the mechanisms of the universe functions require teams and teams of physicists.

There are relatively few outright mysteries that remain - the Higgs Boson and the effects shaping the inflation of the universe (eg. dark mater) are classic examples of our time. I suspect that eventually, we will have a coherent explanation for all observable physical phenomena - it's not over yet by a long shot, but one day we'll figure it out.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804317)

The article is flame bait.

That is all.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804331)

I think you'll find it was the 1890s, which makes the rest of your post pretty funny. Look at a modern example, did Steve Jobs 'invent' the iPhone? How many people were actually involved in that invention? Tim Berners-Lee is often credited with 'inventing' the World Wide Web, but how many people were actually involved?

The 6th decimal place (3, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#42804365)

The people you are thinking of are Lord Kelvin and Michelson. Michelson quoted lord Kelvin as saying all future science is in the 5th decimal place. But, as Michelson went on to explain, he didn't mean everthing left was about dotting i's and crossing t's. He meant it was unlikely that classica physics was profoundly wrong in the realms we observe and inhabit but there could be great physics out there. It just had to be lurking in the shadows-- out in the 5th decimal place. And sure enough it was. ANd still is. Just the other day someone measured the radius of a proton using muons instead of the usual electrons and it was wrong by 4%. That's absurdly huge. COuld be some new physcis is about to move into the light.

Re:This ain't the first time ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804555)

How can you not tell the difference between science and inventing stuff? How bloody fucking stupid are you?

Re:stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804199)

Righ, which explains why the patent office is so far behind on issuing patents

Re:stupid. (2)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 2 years ago | (#42804659)

Everything that can be invented has been invented.

Does that mean that we can close the US Patent Office now? The fewer bullshit software and business method patents that get approved going forward the better.

Of course not (0)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 2 years ago | (#42804463)

Until half of scientists are female, science remains fundamentally sexist.
Let's break some ground, and get more ladies in there.
Because #Fairness.

Re:Of course not (4, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#42804537)

Until half of interior designers are male, interior design remains sexist. Lets break some ground and get more gents in there.

Because #Bluntness

p.s. the reason there are more females in interior design is that more females enjoy that kind of work/challenge.

Re:Of course not (2, Insightful)

np2392 (2800729) | about 2 years ago | (#42804633)

"p.s. the reason there are more females in interior design is that more females enjoy that kind of work/challenge." I don't understand why more people don't accept this. Why is thinking that their is a fundamental difference between the sexes and that they are better suited for different hobbies/challenges/activities so wrong? Why do we push for equality for equality's sake? You are seeing this with video games recently and the complaints that the video game industry is sexist, there aren't enough women in the industry, games are not made equally for men and women, etc. Why is it not okay to just accept that video games are a hobby that have a special appeal for males? The same thing applies to science. No one is saying women can't be scientists, it's just that the male gender is more likely to be better suited for the role of a scientist. It doesn't mean women are stupider or worse than men, it just means they think differently. Why is difference such a bad thing?

Re:stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804519)

Indeed, stupidest question ever...

Re:stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804675)

yeah, stupid is right
if the orig poster knew anything about biotechnology, he or she would know that in the next 50 years we are going to see transformative technology tht will make electricity and agriculture seem tame

An old story: in the late 1800s, young students like W Pauli and A Einstein were told not to go into physics, as all the important discoverys had been made

or, as R Feynman said, next time you hear a physicist boasting, ask him what happens when you push water thru a pipe - he can't tell you !!

Short Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804073)

NO

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804079)

New improvements in science and technology have given scientists tools to better explore and understand our world. The era of ground breaking science is not over. It is always accelerating.

No (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#42804081)

Flying Cars
Teleportation
Holodeck
Perpetual Motion Machine

No

Re:No (1)

msauve (701917) | about 2 years ago | (#42804283)

Where's my cold fusion?

Re:No (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#42804417)

I dunno doesn't a perpetual motion machine make cold fusion kind of superfluous?

Haha, just kidding... they're the same thing!

Re:No (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#42804543)

Cold Fusion does not necessarily break the laws of thermodynamics.

Tyson? (0)

R0UTE (807673) | about 2 years ago | (#42804085)

You dare mention a man that was partly responsible for downgrading Pluto? Shame!

Strikes rule (2)

jabberw0k (62554) | about 2 years ago | (#42804175)

Starting next year: Downgrade six planets illegally and you'll get booted off the Internets.

Furthermore, Yes, Virginia, everything that can be invented already has. Close the patent office.

Re:Tyson? (1)

msauve (701917) | about 2 years ago | (#42804539)

Did you ever think about Pluto and Goofy? I mean - Goofy is Mickey's peer, and Pluto is his slave. Like Ferengi women, he's not allowed to wear clothing. Not very politically correct of Disney.

Re:Tyson? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804593)

Well, maybe if Pluto learned to talk he could be treated like a talking mouse's peer.

The era of Groundbreaking Physics was over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804103)

Until Einstein, Planck, Bohr, and the quantum mechanics scientists came along and ushered in a new golden age. Before that, the field was considered about 98 percent solved.

Re:The era of Groundbreaking Physics was over (5, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about 2 years ago | (#42804157)

No it wasn't.

No scientist knew if atoms were real or not, and they knew it, and they had no mechanistic explanation for the regularities in the recently understood periodic table, and they knew it. They had no mechanistic quantitative explanation for chemical reactions or reaction rates, and knew it.

Right now, physicists know that they have no good, experimentally confirmed, ideas for explaining

a) dark matter
b) dark energy
c) the variety of arbitrary parameters in the standard model

They have an large selection of theoretical proposals for the above.

Today they do have good knowledge about virtually all materials and energetic processes typically occurring and observable on Earth,
That's a difference from the 19th century.

Re:The era of Groundbreaking Physics was over (1)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about 2 years ago | (#42804335)

The book I'm reading at the moment, The God Problem, has a nice theory* replacing dark energy with gravity by proposing the shape of our universe as a 3D torus (or bagel as described in the book). I'm only about 10% of the way through, pretty big book, but finding it entertaining so far and if it continues to hold up in the face of verifiable data it would change our entire view of the universe. It's even calculated the potential end of the universe, when it annihilates with it's anti-matter cousin, as being under 2 billion years away and back to a cyclical pattern, which I find comforting compared to the deep freeze!

*It's not a new theory as the torus hypothesis has been around for awhile, but the data matching up with the shape does lend more creditability.

Re:The era of Groundbreaking Physics was over (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42804367)

Today they do have good knowledge about virtually all materials and energetic processes typically occurring and observable on Earth,
That's a difference from the 19th century.

Derived consequence: progress will be slow until we'll see a jump at least one order of magnitude (if not more) in either:
1. energies available to use during an experiment; or
2. capacity to sense and sift the irrelevant from what the universe throws at us

Without the above to confirm/falsify the theories, everything is a matter of "scientific faith" (the "church of strings", the "congregation of super-string", the "church of the standard model")

Re:The era of Groundbreaking Physics was over (1)

ganv (881057) | about 2 years ago | (#42804457)

mbkennel is right. Before the quantum revolution there were a few people who declared that they understood almost everything (Michelson's quote is famous), but the wiser ones clearly knew that they could not explain many properties of matter including discrete spectra, heat capacities, and most of chemistry. Check a biography of Lord Kelvin to note how early these problems were clearly appreciated. The three mysteries s/he cites are a good summary. Note how huge the difference is between today and the 19th century. The first two mysteries have no currently observable effects on scales much smaller than a galaxy. And the third is a 'we don't know why the universe has a specific set of parameters' question. Answering it will be extremely interesting, but there are not a bunch of practically important unexplained phenomena waiting to be united with our deeper understanding if it arrives.

... until the next one. (5, Insightful)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#42804115)

Well, this article is right. And will remain right, until the next big breakthrough.

At which point, it'll probably be irrelevant, so ...

Depends on the Genre (2)

stoicio (710327) | about 2 years ago | (#42804117)

Isn't this like saying we now know everything major, so only minor things are left to discover.

Seems a bit dubious since there are massive voids in our scientific knowledge in many fields.

And, didn't we just find a Higgs Boson(s) recently?

Re:Depends on the Genre (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804173)

And, didn't we just find a Higgs Boson(s) recently?

My colleagues and I came up with exciting discoveries around Higgs, yes.

I don't know exactly what you did.

Your colleagues ... (2)

stoicio (710327) | about 2 years ago | (#42804245)

Gee, I thought 'anonymous' only hacked networks.
Who knew you also work on particle physics....

Re:Depends on the Genre (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about 2 years ago | (#42804351)

While I don't agree with the article (or at least the summary) I don't think the Higgs Boson was the ground breaking science they're talking about. Finding it didn't change our view or model of how things worked. It reinforced it. Now the idea that time moves at different rates related to mass and acceleration. That's groundbreaking. Of course even that was dependent on numerous other little advances in observation. Until you can measure the speed of light accurately you're never going to wonder why it moves at the same speed whether you're headed away from or towards the source.

There's no way to know when an advance will change the way we look at things. The question of why light was the same speed to all observers lead to the conclusion that space and time must be flexible. So it comes down to whether our theories are fundamentally correct and it's just a matter of taking observations to fill in the holes or whether some observations that don't fit will lead to fundamentally different theories.

I think the distinction is subtle. Finding dark matter would be a groundbreaking observation. Coming up with an entirely different theory of how gravity works to explain why galaxies rotate the way they do would be groundbreaking science. And to nitpick myself, observation is a part of science. But I think this is the difference the article is making.

PCR (3, Insightful)

Wild_dog! (98536) | about 2 years ago | (#42804121)

The guy who came up with PCR while driving on the road to Santa Cruz California would make the question in the Title completely silly and irrelevant.

Is slashdot becoming like yahoo or something? Snazzy titles to suck people like me in, but once I consider what the title is saying, it is really just absurd.

Re:PCR (0)

phriot (2736421) | about 2 years ago | (#42804215)

Unfortunately, PCR was invited 30 years ago now.

Re:PCR (3, Funny)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 2 years ago | (#42804679)

Unfortunately, PCR was invited 30 years ago now

Where was it invited?
Who invited it?
Did it go?

Re: PCR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804549)

The author is saying that breakthrough understandings of the natural world are not coming.

This is radically different than saying that breakthrough *technologies* are not coming.

Breakthrough technology is happening all around us. But it is all based on the same understandings about the fundamental natural world we've had for many decades.

Didn't we just have this article? (5, Insightful)

swampfriend (2629073) | about 2 years ago | (#42804123)

There was just a question the other day asking if we were past the age of invention. I believe one of the tags on it was "retarded."

Re:Didn't we just have this article? (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about 2 years ago | (#42804151)

Yes there was, and thanks for reminding me to tag this one.

Re:Didn't we just have this article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804591)

Joe Flacco, is that you?

Quantum Physics? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804127)

What about Quantum Physics? A complete joke science.

The problem isn't that we become 'better' at science, it's that we become entrenched in a view and hold onto it, no matter how many reverse time particles we need to invent to keep it viable.

Re:Quantum Physics? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804601)

Other stupid things we need to stop doing is attributing the "best guess even though it's not perfect" strategy to defining the universe. It's why a completely undetectable thing like invisible purple unicorn "dark matter" droppings are still defended as "probably right", and then we get stories about the masses of planetary bodies not having as much mass as previously thought. But rather than re-examine the underlying theories and masses that gave rise to the idea of dark matter, it just gets swept under the rug.

Before any theory should be accepted as "probably right", all of the situations where it isn't right need to be examined for reasons for what's making the "probably right" theory start to look "probably wrong". If all, and I mean all, of the known issues can't be solved, then don't attribute the theory as being right. It's not a crime for a scientist to man up and admit they either don't know, or they're still trying to figure it out, or their hypothesis was just plain wrong.

Yes, it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804129)

If you look at physics, all the previous breakthroughs where all related to populating the periodic table of elements, and knowing how the elements are built inside and how they behave. So unless you believe there are more and different chemical elements to find, that's over, finished and done.

The next scientists and the next breakthroughs will be in the softer sciences, biotechnology and social sciences. How to structure a society in a world were "work" is increasingly meaningless (both physically as machines can do more and more, and morally as we desperately try to "create" new jobs to cling to the old workweek model). How to understand biology and stop aging.

I doubt it. (1)

anavictoriasaavedra (1968822) | about 2 years ago | (#42804131)

I doubt it because look at the achievements of people like Craig Venter. The importance of his work is still largely unrecognized, as suggested by the fact that he still hasn't received the Nobel prize (and I firmly believe he deserves it). It could be that the impact of their work is still too fresh to be assessed. There are still lots of groundbreaking scientific discoveries waiting out there, like room-temperature superconductors, the cure to cancer, teleportation, tractor beams... Maybe the question will be deemed silly in 50 years. Who knows?

Re:I doubt it. (1)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#42804497)

The importance of his work is still largely unrecognized, as suggested by the fact that he still hasn't received the Nobel prize (and I firmly believe he deserves it)

Deserves it for what? The metagenomics research was pretty cool (but not really revolutionary), and the synthetic biology work is also very neat, but it hasn't really changed the field. His contribution to genome sequencing was far less than many of his fans would like to think; the biggest impact was forcing the public project to reorganize along more industrial lines.

We don't even understand Gravity (2, Insightful)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#42804133)

I'm pretty sure whoever figures that one out will be famous.

Re:We don't even understand Gravity (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 2 years ago | (#42804269)

Uh, actually, I think we do. Magnetism, too, despite Dick Tracy.

No (5, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 2 years ago | (#42804141)

Is groundbreaking science over? No, not remotely. Is the era where groundbreaking science is publicized and sort of vaguely understood by a lot of non-scientists over? Probably not, but that's at least closer to the truth.

Re:No (5, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 2 years ago | (#42804161)

Is groundbreaking science over? No, not remotely. Is the era where groundbreaking science is publicized and sort of vaguely understood by a lot of non-scientists over? Probably not, but that's at least closer to the truth.

Sorry to self reply, but another thought: the only reason people ask this stupid question or make the implied statement is that there's just do damn much groundbreaking science done today. Yes, it's harder to stand out than it was a couple hundred years ago. No, it's not because progress is slower - it's just ubiquitous. Science is more amazing than ever and in a hundred years it will be more amazing yet.

Shit, I think I'm arguing for the existence of something analogous to Kurzweil's moronic singularity.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804585)

THANK YOU.
We are doing today what scientists only DREAMED of in yesteryears.
The easy problems were solved by the Einsteins and Newtons. Yes they were brilliant, but the problems had fewer degrees of freedom. We are now attacking complexity, the beast from hell itself.

Re:No (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804631)

As far as I know, Vernor Vinge, not Kurzweil, started talking about the "singularity" before anyone else (in the early 1980s).

Scientists? (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42804145)

Ask people who are famous scientists, and you'll get Einstein, Newton, and maybe a few modern ones like Watson and Crick, or Stephen Hawking (who incidentally probably IS more famous than any of those listed in the summary, and also has been at the forefront of his field).

So you have two big ones separated by a few centuries, then a scattering of scientists who are in the modern era. Going by that timeframe, we're highly likely to see groundbreaking research by a new famous scientist in the next 300 years.

Also, Edison was a GREAT scientist (j/k, j/k, have mercy, mods!)

Hindsight (5, Insightful)

Slippery_Hank (2035136) | about 2 years ago | (#42804153)

The greatest scientists of our generation will not be truly known until many years from now, when we can look back on the contributions with a greater understanding of the truth.

Its going on right now - just look! (5, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#42804171)

There IS ground breaking science. Dark matter, dark energy, experimental measurements of cosmological inflation: our picture of the large scale structure of the universe has changed dramatically. Higgs bosons, neutrino mass: our picture of the microscopic structure of the universe has changed. We've found hundreds of extra-solar planets. We've built giant particle accelerators and telescopes, huge computers and data networks, peta-watt and X-ray lasers. We've sequenced the DNA of many creatures, including some that are extinct - and which we may bring back.We have pictures from the surface of a moon of Saturn, and an car driving around Mars.

Re:Its going on right now - just look! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804361)

This is all true, but who 'discovered' the Higgs Boson? It was thousands of people all over the world, wasn't it?

Re:Its going on right now - just look! (1)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#42804477)

who 'discovered' the Higgs Boson? It was thousands of people all over the world, wasn't it?

Correct. All of the projects mentioned by the GP are similar in this respect, in that they required large investments of capital and manpower, and were the collective contribution of many very smart people. There is certainly plenty of groundbreaking science left to be done, but the idea of a lone patent clerk coming up with a huge breakthrough seems laughable now. Perhaps some genius will manage to invent cold fusion in his garage, but I doubt it.

I recommend reading "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" for a good overview of how the field of physics changed in the 20th century. At the start, the experiments being done were almost simple enough for a present-day undergraduate lab course, but many led to enormous advances. By 1940, the field had advanced to the point where massive government investment was required to perform the experiments, and that's where it stayed.

Re:Its going on right now - just look! (2)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about 2 years ago | (#42804525)

So very very true!

I literally stayed home all last year (maybe a month outside tops) after leaving full time work, decided to dedicate the year to myself and leisure (damn first world problems! I'm only 29) and ended up spending over 12 hours every day online trying to keep up to date on the new breakthroughs and studies in most fields. The speed we're progressing at is so insane that perhaps this is why such articles are around, it's that there's so much ground breaking science happening our brains do what they do best and adapt to the patterns and assume them away.

I'm trying to rein myself in on the reading this year since there is just not enough time in the day to stay up-to-date and have a semblance of a life.

Era of Groundbreaking Stupidity Begins! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804187)

Dude, read a little and realize how dumb what you just submitted is.

You haven't invented time travel yet ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804197)

But you will.

                                                            - John Titor

Re:You haven't invented time travel yet ... (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#42804329)

If time travel ever is discoverable, where are all the time travelers?
Similar with FTL - where are all the aliens (and, again, time travelers)?

There are some fundamentals like the arrow of time and the absolute barrier of c that seems inviolate, as otherwise we would have seen evidence that we just don't see.

Sure, there is lots more to discover, but discovering limits is also discovery.

Re:You haven't invented time travel yet ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804453)

If time travel ever is discoverable, where are all the time travelers?
Similar with FTL - where are all the aliens (and, again, time travelers)?

OK, I'm with you on the time travelers, but aliens? Dude, where have you been? They are everywhere.

Seriously though, if FTL travel is possible there is no reason to believe that there are large number of aliens traveling FTL that can or want to come here. Even with the large number of planets out there, intelligent life may be fairly uncommon and FTL travel may be very hard and expensive. We may be interesting, but getting here might not be unlike an expensive James Cameron deep ocean probe.

Re:You haven't invented time travel yet ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804483)

The fundamental flaw with this argument is that you assume that now is a time period time travelers would want to go to.

Re:You haven't invented time travel yet ... (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 2 years ago | (#42804551)

If time travel ever is discoverable, where are all the time travelers?

Perhaps they vanished in a parallel reality? If you travel to the past, you will change the future. Like a butterfly causing a storm, a single breath will change the future, and your future you will not be yourself anymore, which imply that you are not you anymore.

Re:You haven't invented time travel yet ... (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 2 years ago | (#42804621)

if time travel is possible at all, it stands to reason that our descendants are not in fact in posession of divine levels of self control and either

the future is predetermined and mankind is doomed before we ever discover time travel

or b)time travel requires some sort of anchor or beacon point to carry out and thus can't really travel back prior to the first time travel machines

"IP" (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#42804203)

Only if ideas can be patented, in which case, yeah, we might expect science to grind to a halt.

No IP for E=Mc^2 (1)

stoicio (710327) | about 2 years ago | (#42804259)

'Big Al' didn't get IP from the 'ergs from mass' thing.

Re:"IP" (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 2 years ago | (#42804279)

Only if ideas can be patented, in which case, yeah, we might expect science to grind to a halt.

You've just managed to scare me.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804241)

Just Say No.

I don't see why not. (3, Interesting)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 2 years ago | (#42804249)

Einstein was famous because his discovered relativity. If he didn't discover it, someone else would have, and they would have been approximately as famous as Einstein.

There are lots of really famous scientists like bohr, heisenberg, feynman, etc. They did amazing groundbreaking work. And that wasn't even too long ago. Some science involves spending billions of dollars on particle accelerators to verify existing hypotheses, but it still takes visionaries (like Peter Higgs) to come up with the ideas worth building an LHC to verify.

To say that no one will ever be as famous as einstein, is to say that there isn't anything else out there that we could learn that would be as mind blowing as relativity. Maybe that's true, but I don't see any reason to believe it is true.

After Newton came up with his laws, I'm sure the scientists of the time felt they'd pretty much figured it out. Sure there was some details that needed filling in, but Newton had hit the nail on the head and it was just a matter of time before everything else fell into place with this new knowledge. Why would anything contradict these laws? They are so perfect!

Well it turns out they weren't so perfect afterall, and observations did contradict Newtons laws that they had to be wrong in some fundamental way. Nothing but a revolutionary theory was going to make sense of it.

We are already in a time when stuff doesn't make sense. Phase 1 complete. All we need is for someone to complete phase 2 and come up with a clean equation (or a crazy dirty one) that explains it all, and phase 3 build a really fucking expensive death ray type device to open a portal into another dimension to verify that it's right. What an exciting time we live in.

When you read about scientific history, it seems like discoveries come so fast because we get to skip all the boring parts. In the present it seems to go so slow because we can't fast forward. But in reality things are going so much faster now. Maybe the next great scientists will be an artificial intelligence that we create.

It's the public education and R&D, stupid. (4, Insightful)

Uberbah (647458) | about 2 years ago | (#42804255)

500 years ago: scientific research is done by aristocrats as a self-funded hobby, or sometimes by priests [wikipedia.org] after the Catholic Church got over it's butthurt on heliocentrism. Printing is exorbitantly expensive and education for the general population. There might have been hundreds of Issac Newtons born in a generation, but they ended up working on farms or in the military, not going to an academy.

Now: research is directly sponsored by governments. You don't have to be in the priesthood or be the child of rich parents to go to secondary school anymore - though the latter certainly helps with admissions and student loans. The Mars Rovers were huge government funded, collaborative projects, not a hobby by Bill Gates. And of course the Internet allows sharing of data at a speed and volume that Newton never could have imagined.

You would hope the "anonymous reader" would have thought about this after a couple seconds, and is just posing the question for conversational purposes....

Two possibilities: (2)

rnturn (11092) | about 2 years ago | (#42804287)

All the low-hanging fruit -- i.e. discoveries -- have mostly been discovered and what remains requires the "big science" projects like CERN that involve hundreds or thousands of scientists. Or... today's scientists just don't measure up to the Einsteins, Bohrs, et al. (OK... I've got on my Nomex longjohns on... fire away.)

...eventually (1)

hanshotfirst (851936) | about 2 years ago | (#42804305)

" Those scientists who were able to throw off the yoke of established knowledge and break new ground on their own are revered and respected."... many years later. Their contemporaries often criticized and ridiculed them, even threatening excommunication if they didn't recant.

Define groundbreaking (4, Insightful)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about 2 years ago | (#42804307)

Sure, Einstein was ground breaking, but apart from E=mc^2, how many people know what he did (or even what it means)? How many know of the photoelectric effect? Relativity and quantum mechanics gets thrown around a lot as buzzwords, but most people have no idea what they mean.

So you might consider that Einstein has become a great popularizers of science - unintentionally, but most people know that he was in a physicist, and don't really have a clue what he did.

You seem to want groundbreaking to mean both Famous and Important Contributions. But I'm not sure how long it took for Einstein to become a household name. And you also want it to be One man/woman. That might not be as realistic anymore. Because research in most areas requires lots of equipments and teams (except in a few areas - theoretical mathematics and physics come to mind). But just because it is a team, doesn't make it any less valuable.

In fact, I prefer teams and organizations get recognition. Students and the younger crowd have something concrete to work towards. Not "I want to be the next XYZ", but instead "I want to work at XYZ". They might have a hero-worship of the organization, but will still work hard towards something measurable.

It is too many groundbreaking that misled you IMHO (0)

dng88 (577547) | about 2 years ago | (#42804327)

Around turn of the last but one century (1900), the end of physics was in sight. Done it you know. It took a nobody who is not even got a tutorship in U and has to do a patent to break everything in one year. He even got a Nobel Price in QM which he did not believe! Since then, no one dare to say anything. What can be said now is that change is so inherent and everyone is finding their breakthrough that it is not aware of so many discovery and changes around us. Just like water to fish. Just 30 years ago, do you think you can have 42" colour TV in your pocket, now our HD resolution IPAD same as that -- if you hold your IPAD and sit in your sofa and check. It is effectively the same size! ... That is enable by a lot of material science breakthrough, ... It is just so many (but little or stable) that you are drown with discovery everyday. Just now sure can a clerk somewhere can do what he did then. Have to give up a child and never found her again in his life.

Re:It is too many groundbreaking that misled you I (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804491)

My brain hurts just trying to parse what you said. I think it would be better if you put it in whatever your native language is and we let google translate it into English. It certainly couldn't be any worse.

what kind of breakthroughs do you expect (2)

ganv (881057) | about 2 years ago | (#42804341)

Many seem to be declaring that a new breakthrough is right around the corner. But I suspect they don't realize how successful our current theories already are. In fundamental physics, we simply can't find anything that deviates from our current theories at scales smaller than a galaxy and at energies small enough to be relevant to anything except the big bang and future particle colliders. What would a breakthrough in fundamental physics look like? Maybe someone finds a supersymmetric particle that guides us to a theory uniting general relativity and quantum mechanics. Our understanding would advance, but what practical effect would it have? Our theories already predict the behavior of matter and energy at the scales relevant to human life in our corner of the galaxy very accurately. It would be at best a minor correction to precision measurements. (And eventually in thousands of years when humans start travelling across the galaxy there might be some practical relevance for understanding dark matter etc.) The important revolutions to come in science are not in fundamental physics. They are in learning how to apply the known laws of physics to the behavior of the human brain, the global climate, ecosystems on earth, etc. And these problems are much less amenable to solution by a single genius like Einstein. They are more likely to fall to large group efforts coupling massive computational resources with experiments and multi-scale theoretical models.

Public recognition is a PR thing (1)

rroman (2627559) | about 2 years ago | (#42804349)

Let's take Stephen Hawking as an example. He is thought to be one of the biggest geniuses nowadays. But if you ask common public member, what did he discover, most people won't be able to say a single thing. He published many books for general public, which made him good PR, he is disabled, which is good for such image too. The media think, that he is current Albert Einstein and hence the general public does.

To be sure somebody doesn't take me wrong, I took S.H. just as an example, I'm not by any means questioning his work.

Is this a serious question or a troll? (5, Insightful)

Proudrooster (580120) | about 2 years ago | (#42804353)

Answer any of the following and you too can win a Nobel prize...

1. What is a magnetic field?
2. What is a electric field?
3. What is gravity?
4. Do tachyons exist?
5. Does the Higgs Boson exist?
6. Does matter decay?
7. Is a magnetic field really a field or is it just another property of space-time?
8. In how any dimensions does the Universe or multiverse exist? (The basic question of string theory)
9. Can magnetic and electric fields be quantized or are they continuous?
10. Can time and space be quantized or is it continuous?
11. Why can't we all just get along?
12. Is the universe a giant predetermined simulation playing out or do we have free will.

We are a species that just recently wandered in off the Sahara. We know a lot about a little. Our knowledge is like Swiss cheese, full of holes, gaps, and inconsistencies. There are things we observe but can't explain and things we can explain but can't observe. Go watch this video from Fenyman...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsgBtOVzHKI [youtube.com]

Re:Is this a serious question or a troll? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804413)

Savanna maybe.

Re:Is this a serious question or a troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804553)

[So sayeth Wikipedia]
People lived on the edge of the desert thousands of years ago[7] since the last ice age. The Sahara was then a much wetter place than it is today. Over 30,000 petroglyphs of river animals such as crocodiles [8] survive, with half found in the Tassili n'Ajjer in southeast Algeria. Fossils of dinosaurs, including Afrovenator, Jobaria and Ouranosaurus, have also been found here. The modern Sahara, though, is not lush in vegetation, except in the Nile Valley, at a few oases, and in the northern highlands, where Mediterranean plants such as the olive tree are found to grow. The region has been this way since about 1600 BC, after shifts in the Earth's axis increased temperatures and decreased precipitation.[9] Then, due to a climate change, the savannah changed into the sandy desert as we know it now.

Re:Is this a serious question or a troll? (3, Informative)

ganv (881057) | about 2 years ago | (#42804649)

Your list is a bit problematic. We have excellent theories of quantum electrodynamics that are compatible with special relativity and effectively answer 1,2 7 and 9. 3 is good: there would be a nobel prize for anyone who creates a successful theory of quantum gravity. 4 is like asking 'does bigfoot exist'. We have very good reasons to think the answer is no. 5 wouldn't get you a nobel prize becomes the first publication was last summer. 6 has a definite answer 'yes and no: top quarks decay, electrons do not'. I suppose you mean 'do protons decay'. That one would get you a nobel prize. 8 would also get you a nobel prize, but you would have to connect it to something measurable, which the string theorists seem to strictly avoid. And 11 and 12 are good questions for the sociologists and philosophers. 10 amounts to about the same thing as 3, basically it is asking for quantum general relativity. But none of these questions (excepting the last two non-scientific ones) have any clear practical relevance to our world. What technology will you build after answering them?

Yes because Simpsons did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804375)

All of it.

Some things never change... (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about 2 years ago | (#42804395)

Some things never change. Stupid gimboids complaining that everything has been invented and lamenting that all the groundbreaking science has been done is probably one of the few immutable things one can count on (like taxes).

Old Higgsy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804423)

My how quickly we forget the insane fan fare that just months ago surrounded Peter Higgs. While I understand the sentiment of the article, there will simply always be individuals that make great strides and discoveries which then later garner main stream media attention, in spite of the growing fact that conglomerates and large teams at universities make discoveries rather than individuals... and why shouldn't it be this way?

Massive funding and teams of individuals can make progress at a greater rate than any individual could ever be expected to. There are simply too many nuances upon nuances in science now, to have them all be understood even by the greatest of geniuses.

This may however not hold true for theoretical science (i.e. theoretical physics)... which can largely still be worked on by individuals, owing largely to the fact that much of what they work on will never be supported or disproven in their life times, given out current lack of ability to research such things.

Again Peter Higgs is a perfect example.... His Higgs-Boson theory could NEVER have been proven (I know, I know never say proven) without the billions of dollars of funding provided to test his theories.

There is growth in some fields. (1)

PerlPunk (548551) | about 2 years ago | (#42804425)

Some fields where there is growth and potential for breakthrough will include the field of statistics proper and fields that rely heavily on it. The revolution in information technology has enabled growth in the field of statistics because it has allowed the investigation of theoretical questions that could not be tested before cheap and powerful computational facility came before. CART and Random Forest algorithms, for example, were made possible by the IT revolution. Fields like genetics (obviously) and sociology and psychology (less obviously) will grow because of this.

Note that in these last two fields (sociology, psychology), there have in the last 100 years been no breakthroughs that are the equivalent of a heart-transplant or splitting the atom. So, there is indeed room for growth in these fields.

That said, along with information technology, fields in the humanistic sciences will still probably be constrained by the ability to reliably a) observe phenomena, and b) account for a vast number of hidden variables. So advances there will be the result of revolutions in ability to observe human phenomena.

No Science is not at an end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42804429)

I'd say that some actual scientists are just as well known:

Lawrence M. Krauss
Steven Hawkins
Richard Dawkins

Also I would point out that Neil deGrasse Tyson is a working scientist who does do real research, as was Carl Sagan

Yes we may be in the middle of a non revolutionary period in science but doesn't mean that a revolution isn't on its way. Heck You will find quite a few writers who would argue that quantum mechanics as it stands is in desperate need of another Einestine to come along and replace it with something more coherent. Its just that such that to do something that ground breaking you have to be born at the right place and at the right time. And that just does not happen that often.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented (1)

KuRa_Scvls (932317) | about 2 years ago | (#42804443)

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

A misquote that sums it up nicely.

Yeah Right! (1)

nicoleb_x (1571029) | about 2 years ago | (#42804447)

OK, so how does gravity work again? We don't know Jack!

The era is on hold for now. (0)

erroneus (253617) | about 2 years ago | (#42804465)

In case no one has been paying attention, anything creative and truly original is being held back and/or suppressed. It's the same with music, movies and all other such things. Surely the whole world didn't suddenly lose its ability to create and wonder. No.

This is what happens when business gets behind everything. They require profits and success in a steady and predictable stream. The only way to deliver in that way is to only make incremental improvements and to remake everything over and over again.

Welcome to the Corporate Nations of Earth. How do yu like it so far?

Maybe genius has become ubiquitous (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about 2 years ago | (#42804573)

For example, some people say physicist Ed Witten is greater than Einstein or Newton. In any case, there are probably more super geniuses working on science than ever. Maybe there are fewer breakthroughs from genius, precisely because science has become professionalized and there are already many geniuses working on the big problems. In such an environment, the huge breakthroughs and paradigm shifts just aren't left waiting around to be found.

I'm sure there will be breakthroughs and paradigm shifts in the future, it would be silly to argue otherwise. However, maybe science has become so advanced that even the great geniuses only make incremental advances.

In physics for example, the breakthrough wanting to happen is String Theory. Who is the man behind String Theory? Well, there isn't one man. String theory is hard. If it takes shape and takes hold, it won't be a "breakthrough." It will have been a long, hard slog with a tough problem that no single genius could solve.

Not informed means end of Groundbreaking Science (1)

Faisal Rehman (2424374) | about 2 years ago | (#42804683)

creating synthetic cells in lab, reconstruction of visual images from brain activity, new america on moon and mars, powerful algorithms for mathematical calculation, exoskeleton, vision for blinds, end of polio. preparedness of natuural disaster and its mitigation, All these are not groundbreaking.
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