National Geographic News
Photo of the ATLAS particle detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

The Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland was used in the hunt for the Higgs boson.

Photograph by Rex Features, AP

Photo of Alfred Nobel.

Alfred Nobel. PHOTOGRAPH BY PRESSENS BILD/AP

John Horgan

for National Geographic

Published April 9, 2014

Call it confirmation bias, but I keep seeing signs that science—and especially fundamental physics, which seeks to discern the basic rules of reality—is running out of gas, just as I predicted in my 1996 book The End of Science.

The latest evidence is a "Correspondence" published today in the journal Nature. A group of six researchers, led by Santo Fortunato, professor of complex systems at Aalto University in Finland, points out that it is taking longer and longer for scientists to receive Nobel Prizes for their work.

The trend is weakest in prizes for physiology or medicine and strongest in physics. Prior to 1940, only 11 percent of physics prizes, 15 percent of chemistry prizes, and 24 percent of physiology or medicine prizes were awarded for work more than 20 years old. Since 1985, those percentages have risen to 60 percent, 52 percent, and 45 percent, respectively. If these trends continue, the Nature authors note, by the end of this century no one will live long enough to win a Nobel Prize, which cannot be awarded posthumously.

Graphic of nobel prizes showing the delay (in years) between discovery and award.
NG STAFF. SOURCE: F. BECATTINI ET AL., UNPUBLISHED PAPER

In their brief Nature letter, Fortunato and co-authors do not speculate on the larger significance of their data, except to say that they are concerned about the future of the Nobel Prizes. But in an unpublished paper called "The Nobel delay: A sign of the decline of Physics?" they suggest that the Nobel time lag "seems to confirm the common feeling of an increasing time needed to achieve new discoveries in basic natural sciences—a somewhat worrisome trend."

This comment reminds me of an essay published in Nature a year ago, "After Einstein: Scientific genius is extinct." The author, psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, suggested that scientists have become victims of their own success. "Our theories and instruments now probe the earliest seconds and farthest reaches of the universe," he writes. Hence, scientists may produce no more "momentous leaps" but only "extensions of already-established, domain-specific expertise." Or, as I wrote in The End of Science, "further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions, but only incremental, diminishing returns."

Needless to say, not all physicists accept this view—or the claim of Fortunato and co-authors that the Nobel time lag reported in Nature is a symptom of physics' decline. The British astrophysicist Martin Rees spins the Nobel trend in the opposite direction, suggesting that it reflects "a growing backlog of potential winners."

Rees conjectures that "there are more people than ever before whose achievements are up to the standard of most earlier winners." But he concedes that "there is indeed perhaps a lull in particle physics."

The recent discovery of the Higgs boson by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) represents, paradoxically, both a triumph for particle physics and a sign of the field's troubles. Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics, predicted the existence of the Higgs boson—the fabled "God particle"—a half century ago.

The experimental evidence from the LHC that bears out their prediction stands as the capstone of the Standard Model of particle physics, which provides quantum accounts of the electroweak and strong nuclear forces governing the interactions of the known subatomic particles. But the Standard Model—often called the "theory of almost everything"—falls short of a full explanation of reality. For decades, physicists have sought to vault beyond it by proposing a host of unified theories, which assume deep connections between the electroweak and strong forces and even gravity. The most popular of these unified theories postulates that reality stems from infinitesimal strings wriggling in a hyperspace of nine or more dimensions.

But evidence—and hence Nobel recognition—for string theory and other unified theories remains elusive. Most recent Nobel Prizes in physics have instead recognized work that contributed to the conventional Standard Model and other preexisting theories rather than providing profound new insights into reality. For example, the 2003 and 1996 physics prizes honored research on superfluidity, a phenomenon first discovered in 1938.

I hope I'm wrong that the era of fundamental revelations is over, and there are grounds to argue I may be. In the late 1990s, for instance, two groups of astrophysicists discovered that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. The researchers won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics for this totally unexpected finding, which hints that our understanding of the cosmos may indeed be radically incomplete.

Just last month, moreover, researchers announced that new observations of microwaves pervading the universe provide evidence of inflation, a dramatic theory of cosmic creation. Inflation theory holds that an instant after the big bang, our cosmos underwent a fantastically rapid, faster-than-light growth spurt. Inflation implies that our entire cosmos is just a tiny bubble in an oceanic "multiverse."

But I remain skeptical of inflation. There are so many different versions of the theory that it can "predict" practically any observation, meaning that it doesn't really predict anything at all. String theory suffers from the same problem. As for multiverse theories, all those hypothetical universes out there are unobservable by definition. It's hard to imagine a better reason to think we may be running out of new things to discover than the fascination of physicists with these highly speculative ideas.

I would nonetheless be delighted if further observations provide enough evidence of inflation to impress the Nobel judges, who historically have had very high standards of evidence. Physicist Max Tegmark, a proponent of multiverse theories, thinks that inflation has a "good shot" at winning a Nobel.

If the Nobel Committee on physics does decides to award prizes for the invention of inflation, it shouldn't dally. The theory was originally proposed more than 30 years ago, and its inventors, including Alan Guth and Andrei Linde—at ages 67 and 66, respectively—aren't getting any younger.

John Horgan teaches at Stevens Institute of Technology and writes the Cross-Check blog for Scientific American. Follow him on twitter at @horganism.

72 comments
Mazikeen Morningstar
Mazikeen Morningstar

Are you INSANE?! We've barely etched the surface in quantum!! We are consistently developing technology in order to get beyond where we are now! STUPID ARTICLE! 

william newtspeare
william newtspeare

I think it is a good article, as it draws attention to the lack of progress in our fundamental understanding of the universe during the last half century or so. The fact that other comments criticise the article so strongly, reflects the religious nature of modern physics, where physics-believers take their faith so seriously that they cannot abide any criticism of their beliefs.

In 1900, physicists were still debating the existence of atoms. By 1950 every schoolboy knew that the world was just a collection of protons, neutrons and electrons, plus energy. So this progress was rightly rapidly rewarded with Nobels; since then little real progress has been made in fundamental physics, so prizes have had to wait for belief to take hold of the physic community, which inevitably takes a little longer. Certainly technology has made amazing leaps, but this has mostly been based on the theories of electromagnetism, atoms, and photons, not on new physics. In a century or two, it may be possible for humans to live for ever, but this will come from mastering the chemistry of life, not from new physics.

People have doubtless been crying wolf and claiming that they understood the universe ever since Aristotle came up with his nonsense, and certainly such claims were made in the aftermath of Newton and Maxwell. But in the end the wolf will come. The theory of atoms is the better part of the theory of everything, and what now remains is to understand gravity and nuclear forces, and to figure out what protons and neutrons are made of; so that we can get rid of imaginary beings like quarks, gluons, dark matter and the Higgs field. The problem is that physicists are so attached to their imaginary beings, that they cannot bear the thought that these things do not really exist; such that the experimental evidence that quarks do not exist, was overruled by a decree making them experimentally undetectable.

There is only one thing that protons, neutrons, electrons, positrons, muons, pions etc. can be made of, and that is positive and negative charges. Once that is accepted, the basic structure of the universe is secured, and can never be rewritten. Squish theory is the theory of everything, but getting physicists to accept it does not look likely in the near future.

Teodor Jovanovski
Teodor Jovanovski

Can i get a nobel prize for discovering a machine that can create more energy that it can use?
A non-chemical refrigerator?
Interstellar drive?
I'm waiting.

Daniel Mark
Daniel Mark

How easily we forget that history repeats itself with unvarying consistency.Back around the turn of the nineteenth century prominent men of science,specifically physicists,were expressing almost the same pessimism as is being opined today. Well, we all know how blessedly wrong the predictions were. For,the twentieth century proved to be the year of physics as it gave us mind-bending insights into nature's  secret with the development of quantum physics and relativity.The universe is replete with inexhaustible reservoirs of knowledge.

prasanna gandhiraj
prasanna gandhiraj

Why not the Nobel prizes be awarded for human collectives rather than individual scientists?. In my opinion this would bring due recognition to people involved in  modern physics which is increasingly becoming a collective endeavor.

ralf sigmund
ralf sigmund

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement."

william steen
william steen

If Mr Horgans' mission was to stir up controversy mission accomplished. At 73 my interest in science has only recently been renewed. I am very excited about the future of science and the world of discoveries yet to be discovered. As for the Nobel  Prize, anyone out there who discovers a sure way for me to extend my stay here another 20-30 years will get my vote! 

Haim Heilprin
Haim Heilprin

The issue here is deeper than the prospect that science is “scratching the bottom of the barrel in fundamental science” or “running out of fundamental discoveries" and is qualitatively different from the myopic predictions made by some 19th century leading scientists – it's the realization that's been dawning on quite a few for several decades now, that less than five hundred years after the birth of the scientific method, it can be categorically concluded that we live in a reality that ultimately lays beyond our capacity to either examine or comprehend. This realization must be heartbreaking to anyone who put his or her trust in science.

ADVENTURE MAN C.
ADVENTURE MAN C.

Nonsense, God made too many wonders for us to be done, or nearly done with science.

Philip Stack
Philip Stack

Ooops!  I should have read all the comments before trotting out the 1899 comment about the Patent Office.


Oh,well.  Statistics about the Nobel Prize have nothing to do with actual scientific problems or accomplishments.

Philip Stack
Philip Stack

This reminds me of the prediction of the U.S. Patent office around 1900 (or so) that they would probably have to close down because "everything had been invented"!

Patrice Ayme
Patrice Ayme

To predict something, one ought to have reasons valid in the future. Here two reasons are in evidence: 1) the delay between idea and Nobel is increasing, and, 2), as Feynman said, one discovers America only once (actually it was three or four times, but never mind).

Neither do have any theoretical validity looking forward: both reasons are empirical, and look backwards.

For example Haroche got the Nobel for the new method of seeing light, without disturbing it, with atoms. Such fundamental Quantum technique could well bring a revolution, tomorrow, if a deviation from the rules of the Copenhagen Interpretation of physics is detected.

Ditto for the global entanglement experiments. Quantum entanglement has been partly checked up to 15 kilometers. But certainly not up to 15 parsecs. Any deviation, any time, from the Copenhagen Interpretation would shatter all of fundamental physics. It would not make it completely false, it would just indicate another universe of knowledge beckons.

As the present Standard Model of High Energy Physics explains no more than 5% of the mass-energy out there, one can guess that twenty times more than what we know remains to be discovered in the rough sketch of what is to be known in physics that we have.

Lord Kelvin thought we understood 95% of physics, at least, and that there were only "two little black clouds at the horizon" (the UV catastrophe and the Blackbody radiation). To explain them, Planck suggested in 1899-1900, the Quantum emission of radiation, and his constant.

Now we know, for sure, that we understand just a little patch, no more than 5%.

In pure theory, non linear effect are a mystery, from hypersonic flight, to thermonuclear fusion, to the Navier-Stokes equation... Thus begging the question that may be all this non-linearity, if it were sorted out, would have a huge impact on the foundations of Quantum theory.

Physics is not finished, it barely got started.
http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/quantum-wave/  

Bret Richards
Bret Richards

This is a symptom of a problem with all academic publishing and research.  The process of getting papers published continues to slow down. Today from start to finish, a research paper can take between three to five years to get published in a journal.  The need for perfection hinders the advancement of knew knowledge that others can use.  


I understand that a Nobel Prize winners research needs to be near perfect, but there are other things at work than then end of discoveries.   Academia needs to reevaluate how to move faster.  The rest of the world's processes are speeding up but academics are slowing down.


Chris Reeve
Chris Reeve

The scientific process differs in an important way from entrepreneurial innovation: When a new business is proposed, all assumptions are questioned — because ultimately, it’s not a person’s or community’s opinion which determines the success of the new idea.  It’s their willingness to hand their money over.


Science, by contrast, operates on the basis of agreement.  When we rethink our theories, we onlly rarely scrap everything to date.  And yet, there are competing theories which surround science which demand completely new hypotheses.


Scientists who imagine that they have run out of ideas are probably right, but it’s not because there are no ideas worth pursuing.  Their knowledge inspires a destructive form of certainty which precludes their adoption of true entrepreneurial innovation.


This is why death currently plays a role in scientific innovation.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Conventional scientists could alternatively just recognize the difference between scientific and entrepreneurial innovation, and go out of their way to explore the fringes of science in an honest manner — rather than with an underlying desire to debunk or undermine that which causes us to rethink our initial hypotheses.

David Konerding
David Konerding

I'm a scientist who has a lifetime of interesting unsolved questions in front of him.


I see numerous problems with this article.  The first and foremost is a sole interest in physics, with an emphasis on high energy physics.  What about life science, which is making phenomenal discoveries?  Material science and chemistry?  Both of those fields contribute far more to GDP than HEP.  Further, the author seems to have a big obsession with "explain it all" theories.  It's not clear that having or not having an explain it all theory really is an end-goal at all: it may be due to the nature of the universe that we can never explain it all given our brain's capabilities, yet science can still do many things.


Second, To use Nobel Prize awards as a proxy for achievment in science is just bogus.  Lots of great science happens without awards.  The cited Nature article isn't useful for assessing the future of science.


The Nobel Prize has a long list of people to award.  They can only give a few awards; one per year to no more than 3 living people.  So, they necessarily can't award all great work.  These days, they seem to balance awarding people who are about to die so they don't get criticized with recognizing the best current work.


The more interesting philosophical and scientific questions remain:


1) from whence did life on earth come, terrestrial or otherwise?  How did it arise spontaneously, given the nature of the 2nd law of thermodynamics?  What are the implications for life in the universe?  Why do we not detect large, ordered energy from other planets if life abounds?


2) the origin of consciousness and the nature of evolution.  How can self-awareness and other complex biological phenomena results from random selection and mutagenesis?   


3) origin of the universe.  As much as we've done with HEP, there still remain many interesting questions.  


And those are only the "pure" science questions!


Beyond that are the more interesting questions.  For example, of interest to me:


1) Given that cancer is so tightly tied to the nature of cell biology, is it even possible to "cure" cancer?


2) Many people suffer from diseases which sicence can't detect, not less treat.  A common problem is autoimmune disorders.  like cancer, the autoimmune disorders are a side effect of an incredibly powerful cell biology, and direct attempts to destroy cancer using a war metaphor has led to great suffering. 


3) can we personalize medicine- most medicines have side effects and only limited function.  Can we stratify patients in a way that minimized side effects and increases efficacy, without increasing the cost of drug discovery?


4) can we modify humans in ways that enhance their capabilities?  We have primarily developed things like prosthetics to help people who have lost limbs, but the technology could also be used to enhance "Regular" people's capabilities.   This raises important ethical questions (could an "enhanced regular" win the olympics, and if so, where does the line on self-modification get drawn?)




William Melchior
William Melchior

As suggested by several other comments, the article portrays a very narrow view of "science", not dealing with the many other active areas, including other types of physics (such as different states of matter and quantum effects), biology (how organisms work, genomics, evolution), meteorology, astronomy and cosmology, and geology, to name just some of them.  Scientists are not going to run out of things to look at, even major new discoveries, any time soon.

Daniel Glenn
Daniel Glenn

"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote."

Michelson, 1903

N A
N A

This is a terrible article. It offers no value of any kind other than to regurgitate some historical findings one could look up in a history text. Furthermore, it's not that scientists are "running out" of things to discover, it's that the discoveries are getting harder and harder to explain to simple human brains, so discovering them takes more time and more specializing.

Candice SO
Candice SO

So upset to read this article.   What about our life, full of money-mind, electronic devices and upfair??

Candice SO
Candice SO

It is so upset to read this article.   What are our model ife?  Full of money-mind,  electronic device and even ..............................................................................worst??


Anonymous Poster
Anonymous Poster

Really? This sounds a lot like some kind of pro-science propaganda I heard as a kid where somebody in the 1880s said "nothing left to discover" or something like that, then we had to sit around pretending to care about Einstein's ugly bald head.


Point being, this is a really dumb article.

Arnel Alejandrino
Arnel Alejandrino

It is us that has limits.. we always look towards the expanse of the universe trying to find answers, and we get tired and we got none.. the answers are within us. Our connection to our maker is just to believe he is there, and he has good plans for us. We would not be here without him.

J Pruitt
J Pruitt

In principle scientific discovery has no limit, however, in practice, experimental science is limited by physical, economic, and cultural constraints.  Uncomfortably, it's also true that there is no guarantee that humans are sufficiently intelligent to suss out the whole truth of the universe, even if we could afford to perform all the experiments.


Running up against practical constraints is most obvious in particle physics right now.  How many more generations of larger and larger particle colliders will be funded?  If they are not, will there be enough real-world data to test new theories against?

The amazing pace of scientific discovery over the last couple of hundred years has been due to theory and experiment running hand-in-hand.  Although technological advances cannot be reliably forecast, I know of no physical principle that rules out, say, a 500 year pause in scientific discovery in a given area.


The hazard presented by this situation is that physics or any other science is likely to get into serious trouble if there is no physical evidence available to winnow out truth from wild speculation. If a theory is not testable, because of its own shortcomings or from lack of experimental data, then what claim does it have to be the truth?  If beauty and elegance are the _only_ criteria for pursuing a theory, then doesn't that vindicate those who say that science has no more claim to the truth than the humanities?




David Seabaugh
David Seabaugh

"It is the weight, not numbers of experiments that is to be regarded". -Isaac Newton. I wish you a long, healthy life so that you will live to be embarrassed by this drivel.

M P.
M P.

Dear John,  "If the Nobel Committee on physics does decides to award prizes for the invention of inflation, it shouldn't dally." What does that sentence mean? -MP

Doug L
Doug L

In  Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth's 1843 report to Congress, Ellsworth states, "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." 

M P.
M P.

"the grand underlying principles have been firmly established...further truths of physics are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals"  -Albert Michelson c.1894 (Mihcelson Interferometer)




jamie d
jamie d

I have actually never commented on one of these before, but this is article is completely ridiculous. I can't believe it was published. I mean... come on! When we are peering at electrons through a microscope, know the origins of consciousness, have landed on a distant star, found alien life, etc, then guess what...there will still be more to explore and discover. We may have come to a time where the discoveries are more difficult to find, and require more time, but they are no less exciting, and definitely not signalling an end to science. Even typing "an end to science" felt wrong. 

James Goudy
James Goudy

I'm pretty sure many people said that when Galileo was alive too.  And Euclid.  And Ugg by the campfire.  There are forces at work and areas of discovery to be found that we can't even conceive of within our current context.  Evolution?  Origins of DNA?  Time and space?  We are intellectual infants barely pulling focus on the blocks around us.

Andrew Roberts
Andrew Roberts

We are at a stage where the technology has not kept up with the science.  It will catch up in the future and new discoveries will be made and verified.  Then there will be more Nobel Prizes.

Scott Mendelson
Scott Mendelson

You are drawing conclusions from an epiphenomenon. The ignorant and unimaginative of every era say that Science has run its course. Boloney.

Tom McDonald
Tom McDonald

You have to ask yourself a metaphysical question: is reality infinite or finite? If reality is finite, then it is possible in principle for science to draw near an end to major discoveries, and the author here is looking at evidence pointing to this conclusion. On the other hand, if reality is infinite, then there may be no end to new discovery, but this would be a quasi-religious view that there is some sort of 'infinite creativity' behind the universe with which we can never catch up, ad infinitum.

Tom McDonald
Tom McDonald

You have to ask yourself a metaphysical question: is reality infinite or finite? If reality is finite, then it is possible in principle for science to draw near an end to major discoveries, and the author here is looking at evidence pointing to this conclusion. On the other hand, if reality is infinite, then there may be no end to new discovery, but this would be a quasi-religious view that there is some sort of 'infinite creativity' behind the universe with which we can never catch up, ad infinitum.

Alan Saeed
Alan Saeed

A more accurate headline for this article would have been "Fundamental Physics Is Running Out of Things to Discover." The current headline is misleading, because major breakthroughs did happen in other areas of physics in the last decade alone.

Derek Houston
Derek Houston

Alternative hypothesis: The rate of major scientific discovery is greater than the rate of awarding Nobel prizes (1/year).

t. giobbi
t. giobbi

i'd like to see his graphs compared to the level of funding of research worldwide and level of funding of anti-science movements (tea party-esque) worldwide. i would hypothesize that that has way more to do with this supposed problem than running out of things to discover.


A couple of errors: theories aren't invented, they are hypothesized and then tested and retested (and retested and retested and...); fascination with speculative ideas is exactly how we have things like a theory of evolution or a law of gravity yet he claims speculative theories are a sign that we're running out of things to discover.


If he's so worried about this, is he going to research something ground breaking? nope, he'll just try to capitalize off of a disaster he's inventing. What a surprise that his reading and crafting of the data supports a book he wrote in 1996. By his logic we can say that scientific writing is disappearing because this author is aging. or in his words "isn't getting any younger"This whiffs of sensationalist writing that is more suited for a daily newspaper than something like National Geographic. 

Chesley Adams
Chesley Adams

It's very silly and is even more cocky to think we're running out of things to discover, especially in theoretical physics.

We don't know what mass or energy actually are. We don't really know what gravity or light are or how entanglement truly happens.

We don't know what anything is, period.

We have made models of how things react in certain circumstances and they work well for us, but we don't know anything truly fundamental about the nature of mass or energy, or what a field truly is or where it came from...which pretty much encompasses everything.

Also, our models don't work together at all (see Classical vs Quantum mechanics), so again, we've got a long way to go.


We may have determined the shape of the thing to some degree, but we don't know that it's an elephant or much, if anything at all about how it is ultimately constructed.

robert clapp
robert clapp

The "computer world" may write a new universe.

Cyllbio Marlon
Cyllbio Marlon

So sad even if light speed will be discovered, it amounts nothing at all, because of the vastness, and the immensity of time and space.

Vivianne Guzman
Vivianne Guzman

The greatest discoveries now days aren't about finding something new but to improve or deny past theories, doing so requires a lot more investigation...instead I think we are running out of things that simple Nobel prizes could honor and/or recognize.

Dan Hariton
Dan Hariton

Greetings:

This article in National Geographic / Daily News, entitled:


"Opinion: Science Is Running Out of Things to Discover.
The advancing age when Nobelists receive their prizes could suggest fewer breakthroughs are waiting to happen",
attempts to statistically extrapolate scientific discovery counts to Nobel Price award counts and concludes with the opinion that the -scientific- end is nigh.

Do not worry, it is not going to happen, as there is no ideas depletion observed at the inventor level.

I am talking from past experience (11 patents, awarded by USPTO).
Yet enthusiasm for patent applications is slower for two main social reasons:
1) USPTO delays in awarding and resolving patent disputes (9 years).
2) Inventors get paid peanuts (1/1000 of the patent value) when employed by corporations.

For future article writing clarity, do trust more individual human ingenuity at need, and trust far less organized science (awards; governments) as metric for discovery and innovation.

To understand the -our- present social context, and how it should change if needed, by analogy to the past, I highly like to recommend for your reading, this book:

The Life and Science of Léon Foucault: The Man who Proved the Earth Rotates  William Tobin (Author), presently out of print at

http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Science-L-e9on-Foucault/dp/0521808553

Best regards,
Dan

Abdelhamid Cherragui
Abdelhamid Cherragui

  We can't say that all easy things have been discovered already because what seems easy and obvious today was considered impossible and fictional less than a 100 years ago. Of course we don't know what's the next discovery or in which field because it hasn't been discovered yet, but we have a lot of unanswered questions. Any who thinks that we know it all knows absolutely nothing.

A fundamental rule in research and discoveries is you will always end-up with more questions than answers.


   When bacteria was first discovered, that event was just a key to open a vast amount of questions and problems that some of them remain unanswered until the today. To make a discovery isn't the end but just the beginning, a discovery is less than the first step, it is just noticing an event or a phenomenon which may lead to a countless number of other discoveries.

   The observation in the article about Noble prizes is correct but it can justify the assumption that "science is running out of things to discover", and no offense to the author at all, but only someone who knows very little about science will say such a thing.

   Lets say that there is a "multiverse" this discovery is only the absolute beginning of actually finding, naming, studying another universe beside ours. And who knows, may be someone will discover that there isn't such a thing but just one big universe with multiple reflections, or the same universe existing in different dimensions unknown to us. And knowing that there is a "multiverse" answers one question but opens a thousand. The same if someone discovered a life-form somewhere in space, it is the answer of one question, but it opens a thousand.

   Science was always challenging, the past is similar to the present, if the rotation of the Earth around the Sun is so obvious why it took us 3 centuries to admit. We discover with the technology we have, the technology is getting more complicated, discoveries are getting more complicated as well, and if any one thinks that we are running out of things to discover, just look at the mirror and think who can you think.     

c mo
c mo

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Allegedly said by Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899

Hermann Alvino
Hermann Alvino

Einstein was an outsider regarding the scientific system of those years. Perhaps the coming disrupting discovery or theory will be also from an outsider. The problem is that nowadays,  to be an outsider is almost impossible, unless you are a billionaire devoted to science.  

Mr Me
Mr Me

@Patrice Ayme

Perfect response...I registered soley to laud this comment 'and' as well as your Blog.  Wow Patrice, I expected a site dedicated to maths and physics (which would have pleased me well enough) and instead I find much much more.  The depth of your musings astounds me, really everyone take a look, it's quite impressive the amount of care/time Patrice spends on each article (they are more articles than blog entries, even though strictly speaking it's a blog).

http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/

I will be spending some time here Patrice :-)

John Horgan
John Horgan

@David Konerding  David, excellent comments. I agree that applied science, which seeks better treatments for cancer, mental illness and other diseases, surely has a bright future. You also raise good points about big remaining questions--notably how life began and how brains make minds--that lie beyond the scope of physics. I address these and other major questions in End of Science. But in this column I focus just on fundamental physics. See also my followup post on my Scientific American blog: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2014/04/11/does-growing-time-lag-for-nobels-portend-end-of-fundamental-discoveries-in-physics/

Share

Feed the World

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

Latest From Nat Geo

See more photos »

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »