Opinion: Science in the age of selfies

National Academy of Sciences

A time traveler from 1915 arriving in 1965 would have been astonished by the scientific theories and engineering technologies invented during that half century. One can only speculate, but it seems likely that few of the major advances that emerged during those 50 years were even remotely foreseeable in 1915: Life scientists discovered DNA, the genetic code, transcription, and examples of its regulation, yielding, among other insights, the central dogma of biology. Astronomers and astrophysicists found other galaxies and the signatures of the big bang. Groundbreaking inventions included the transistor, photolithography, and the printed circuit, as well as microwave and satellite communications and the practices of building computers, writing software, and storing data. Atomic scientists developed NMR and nuclear power. The theory of information appeared, as well as the formulation of finite state machines, universal computers, and a theory of formal grammars. Physicists extended the classical models with the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and quantum fields, while launching the standard model of elementary particles and conceiving the earliest versions of string theory.

Some of these advances emerged from academia and some from the great industrial research laboratories where pure thinking was valued along with better products. Would a visitor from 1965, having traveled the 50 years to 2015, be equally dazzled?

Maybe not. Perhaps, though, the pace of technological development would have surprised most futurists, but the trajectory was at least partly foreseeable. This is not to deny that our time traveler would find the Internet, new medical imaging devices, advances in molecular biology and gene editing, the verification of gravity waves, and other inventions and discoveries remarkable, nor to deny that these developments often …

Source: Opinion: Science in the age of selfies