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Editorial Science

What Are You Optimistic About? 146

Posted by Hemos
from the explain-yourself dept.
vix86 writes "Last year's "World Question" from The Edge was "What is your Dangerous Idea?" So to kick off the off the new year: As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put. What are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us! "
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What Are You Optimistic About?

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  • Slashdot wishing it to fail just isn't enough.
    • Slashdot wishing it to fail just isn't enough.
      Why is this a flaimbait? There's no denying the bias that a large mass of Slashdotters have against Microsoft.

      But, personally, I'd have to say that I'm at least hoping Vista will go somewhere. In fact, I'm quite optimistic about many aspects of Microsoft; I have faith that at least some of the company has learned its lesson from past mistakes.
  • Last Year's (Score:5, Informative)

    by quanminoan (812306) on Monday January 01, 2007 @09:53AM (#17421668)
    If you missed last year's discussion [slashdot.org] here on the most dangerous idea you should read through it. There were some pretty interesting ideas...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 01, 2007 @09:55AM (#17421678)
    about finally getting laid! YAY!
  • Energy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:04AM (#17421698) Homepage Journal
    I am optimistic on several major points regarding energy over the long term:
    1. That mankind will wean itself of fossil fuels. This means massive increases in renewables, energy transport, and improved nuclear fission reactors/processes (breeder reactors and thorium fuel cycles, and ultimately, fusion).
    2. Part of this process will be radical improvements in efficiency. Examples include stored thermal heat exchanges (underground water tanks for summer cooling and winter heating), coal gasification instead of conventional coal-fired power plants, hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and so forth.
    3. Industrial civilization with continue and even thrive as a result, even unto the "developing world" countries of India and China.
    4. As a result, anthropogenic climate forcing will cease to be an issue.
    Yes, I know, I'm off my meds this week.
    • Very good. One and two are already underway. Three is only wished against by the Luddites who don't correctly remember the crap-fest that was life before technology. Four will actually come about as we learn more about climate and the factors influencing it, thereby realizing we weren't all that big an influence to begin with.
      • I'm optimistic that in 2007, the majority of AGW skeptics will finally be convinced that the problem is real. (Or at least convinced to a reasonable level of certainty.) In 2006, we saw Bill O'Reilly accept it as reality, as well as the Bush Administration (although they had tacitly accepted it as reality as early as 2001, their support of the science behind AGW was strengthened in '06). Even ExxonMobil has begun changing their tune.

        Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards fixing the problem

    • by Anonymous Coward
      In many ways the science is already done for renewable energy and we're basically
      at the price point where renewable energy is competative. So, I'm optimistic that
      we'll see rapid growth in this sector. There is a technological limit in that sporadic
      renewable sources of energy can't provide more than about 20% of electicity use
      without some kind of effectively huge capacitor. I'm hopeful that a cheap and efficient
      battery technology that can hold tens of days of the nations electrical needs can
      be found or demon
    • Life is like a video game. When one kills off the most powerful opponent the game becomes boring since one is usually invincible. When mankind solves most of it problems will life than become boring to most of it people? This is why I do not believe that heaven would be such a great place. If everything is perfect what is the purpose of life? We must have a society where everyone can contribute to its success. I guess what I am saying is that solving problems will lead to a bigger problem. That is wha
      • by yusing (216625)
        "When mankind solves most of it problems..."

        Until it solves the inner problems, solving the outer problems will continue to be like a clothes change: looks good, still needs a bath.
    • by bagsc (254194)
      I am optimistic that the writing is on the wall, and politicians will finally start funding these initiatives like the country depends on it. I'm thinking something like the Peace Corps that gives out scholarships to tens of thousands of engineers and scientists in exchange for a few years working on the country's biggest energy and ecological problems. "Lose" a few billion dollars to educate, train and motivate a giant part of America - that's my kind of trade-off.
    • by yusing (216625)
      Considering how much the expressions of "industrial" have changed in the past century ... along with the idea that "more stuff" will lead to a better world ... I predict that the meaning of "industrial" will again change greatly. It's not the size of the fix, it's the quality of the fix.

      More still: it's not a fix that we need at all; but simply to appreciate better what already exists. In that sense, Pescovitz' comments on "wunderkammmer" are brilliant.
  • by fishyfool (854019) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:04AM (#17421704) Homepage Journal
    Just thrills me to death. It makes me optimistic for the future of the United States and we the people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dachannien (617929)
      I'm just hoping that the tax-and-spend liberals aren't our only alternative.
    • I am optimistic that we will end 2007 with method(s) of electronic voting that pass critical scrutiny. I am optimistic that many of the USA elections of 2008 will be perceived as being at least as honest as the elections of the 1960s.

      I am less optimistic that Diebold executives will get through 2007 without facing Federal criminal investigations.

      I am very optimistic that Condoleeza Rice will continue to displace 129,000 tons of salty brine as she moves Middle East oil to the refineries of the USA (under

      • I am very optimistic that Condoleeza Rice will continue to displace 129,000 tons of salty brine

        Does she have 6000 hulls?

        • Does she have 6000 hulls?

          No, as anyone can plainly see, she is double-hulled. She is also very wide, very stubborn and slow in responding to the helm, but very powerful.

          Uh, we are talking about the boat, right?

      • by zCyl (14362)
        I am optimistic that many of the USA elections of 2008 will be perceived as being at least as honest as the elections of the 1960s.

        We may even exceed the honesty of the 1960 elections if we can figure out a way around the absentee vote verification problem.
  • i would make annual donations to important GNU/Linux projects like the Linux kernel, xorg, alsa, && etc...etc...

    until that happens i will keep working my loser deadend job to keep from being homeless & starving :)
    • In case you do, I'd consider separating some amount as soon as you win (since it's a donation it'd be tax deductable), set some kind of fund where the money earns interests and you separate a set amount each year for Linux projects. If you initially set a target amount of time (say, 10 years) you can maximize the amount you'd be giving.
  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:12AM (#17421734) Homepage
    The major drive of science in the last century was war. In this century it seems some of the most important science will be in trying to resolve the issues caused by our "optimistic" science of the past 100+ years. What I hope for the future is that we succeed in saving ourselves from ourselves. I'm not optimistic.
    • Right. The eradication of smallpox, polio and other little beasties; the improvements in energy; diagnosis of genetically caused problems and mapping the human genome; astrophysical, geological, chemical, and other hard scientific advancements... Well, you get the picture. Only someone with long-term memory problems (or, maybe, a political agenda) would make a statement such as "The major drive of science in the last century was war".

      That we need to correct problems our ancestors didn't foresee becau
      • Right. The eradication of smallpox, polio and other little beasties; the improvements in energy; diagnosis of genetically caused problems and mapping the human genome; astrophysical, geological, chemical, and other hard scientific advancements... Well, you get the picture. Only someone with long-term memory problems (or, maybe, a political agenda) would make a statement such as "The major drive of science in the last century was war".

        Well ignoring the fact that the scientific methods behind vaccination that allowed diseases, smallpox in particular, to be eradicated were developed in the 18th century, not the 20th. And also overlooking that polio in fact has not been eradicated yet, allow me to make myself clear since clearly at least one person couldn't understand my point: I can't speak for others but the things that make me optimistic are the things that will have an effect on my life and the lives of my children. While medicine may

    • I think you have a typo in there. The major drive of science was "money".
    • by bagsc (254194)
      Motivation and political will are the driving forces. It just so happens that we don't have those unless we're being threatened.
  • by Pao|o (92817) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:15AM (#17421758)
    This year's the year I'm getting laid! I shall be no virgin anymore at the age of 27!
    • This year's the year I'm getting laid! I shall be no virgin anymore at the age of 27!

      I wish you luck and suggest you start by not hanging around here. /. is NOT the place to get dating advice (or a date, if you have any standards at all).
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:23AM (#17421772) Journal
    From the web page:

    I am pleased to present the 2007 Edge Question:

    What Are Yot Optimistic About? Why?


    All kidding aside, it is interesting to see that the "world's greatest minds" are optimistic, when reportedly so many other people are already down on 2007. [yahoo.com]
  • Its got to happen one of these days.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Peripherus (727117)
      I predict that one year after baldness is cured, men will start shaving their heads.
      • More than likely the "Geico Caveman look" will then become all the fasion and we will be spammed to high end with adds about guys being able to have more hair in more places so we can have that 21st century caveman appearance.
  • well.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:31AM (#17421802)
    That if I wax lyrical on slashdot and other sites for long enough, naked ladies who lust after Unix coders will emerge spontaneously from the interweb.
  • Space (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordoftheLemmings (773163) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:32AM (#17421806)
    I'm optimistic aboout the space program. With the new commercial intiatives, and some real goals for the moon and beyond, I'm hopefull that 2007 will be a good year for space.
    • Bigelow (Score:3, Interesting)

      by benhocking (724439)
      Of the commercial enterprises, Bigelow [bigelowaerospace.com] has me the most optimistic. They launched Genesis I [bigelowaerospace.com] in 2006, and are scheduled to launch Genesis II in "early 2007".
  • talking about her experiences with Linux.
  • That it is possible to unearn your citizenship through repeat violent crime.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, let's just dump psychology in the ocean and forget about it while we're at it, eh? I mean, it's not like if we actually applied some of that wisdom to things like crime we could, you know, rehabilitate offenders and get the benefit of positive contributions to society out of them.

      Oh, wait. Damn you science, you provide answers to our questions, but we have to actually implement the solutions? And we have to restrain our primitive urges for revenge and hate to do so? Rationality hurts.
  • Uh, yeah... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Otter (3800) on Monday January 01, 2007 @10:47AM (#17421886) Journal
    As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic.

    Somehow, I'm thinking the person who wrote this doesn't actually work as a scientist...

    And for those of you who do -- get back in the lab! Wasn't taking a day off for Christmas enough for you? You can watch football while your gel runs.

  • The coming of robot wives and that I'll finally get to have sex!
  • That my boyfriend will become enthusiastic about using GNU/Linux again. Unlikely, but a girl can dream. Failing that, a situation where Linux developers create fluorescent green penguins, and Microsoft supports the Chinese in a battle to protect their IP, ultimately resulting in America requiring the entire corporation to be deported for supporting the communists. They relocate to that new island that appeared, only to discover that the Earth sucks it back down again hours later. Conspiracists declare that
  • emergent AI in our life time, if they can be bothered to create a interface.
  • 1) Human intelligence
    2) Slashdot editors

    (sorry, had to)
  • bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bobtree (105901) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:06PM (#17422368)
    Science is a tool of impartial curiosity, not optimism.
  • I think late 2007 or early 2008, these things will actually get good.

    Hoover or some other real vacuum cleaner company will come out with one which actually cleans well, and a damp mop clean technique version will emerge. Roomba will add native spacial intelligence on the bots it makes, meaning actual mapping of spaces.

    Ok, mid 2008.
    • by smenor (905244)
      Really? I think they already are pretty good.

      I was pretty skeptical when I got one but Roomba does an amazing job of covering space without resorting to mapping. Also, it only costs about as much as a normal upright (though you might want to get a few if you've got very much square footage).

      My only real complaint is having to manually empty it and clean the filter every time it runs (if iRobot could just automate that, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone).

      Sure, it's not great for heavy duty clea
      • Your points are all good -- insightful even -- but look at what you're saing:

        You might want several if you have more footage. (Mapping solves this. The device needs to navigate better, and not repeat the same areas over and over. With that, you'd only need one.) ...having to manually empty it and clean the filter every time it runs. (Right -- it's not a well-designed vacuum cleaner. You're spot on. That needs fixing.)

        Sure, it's not great for heavy duty cleaning (Right... Why accept a need for a manua
    • I almost just bought a Roomba, but decided against it because it only cleans the _floor_! Better than nothing, I know, but if I still have to go around cleaning all the other surfaces in my house and office, I may as well wait for the robot that will clean those as well.
  • With more and more technology abused to cut into our civil liberties and taking away more and more of our freedom, I feel compelled to ask with every new technology that comes around "And how are they gonna abuse it this time?"

    I certainly won't go as far as saying that technology itself is evil. Far from it. But today, it seems new technology serves only one purpose, to keep those in power where they are. New entertainment media more often than not offer more DRM than actual value. The same holds true for n
  • I am optimistic about free(libre) software crossing every state line and bringing people from the whole world together. There are many large factors merging cultures, but trade, as they argue, may unite us more than anything. Whether or not this is true, the exchange of ideas and knowledge is definitely good for all cultures and uniting us into one. And Libre [wikipedia.org] Software does exactly this.

  • by Flying pig (925874) on Monday January 01, 2007 @12:33PM (#17422524)
    Yes, that's right. And no, I am being serious. Forget all this garbage about colonising other planets. Stephen Hawking's views on the subject don't matter - he is a physicist, not a biologist or an ecologist or an engineer, and has no idea of the impracticalities.

    Our species is turning into a major problem for itself. It is subject to all kinds of ecological problems caused by population pressure exacerbated by the growing food and energy footprints of part of the world. What we actually need is to start to decline in numbers as a species, and fast.

    We, as a species, will lose nothing by it. As Stephen Gould has pointed out, human beings of 30 000 years ago (when the population was tiny) were just as intelligent as those of today, they just lacked the means of recording and developing information that allow cultural development. If our population could somehow be knocked back to, say, a hundred million tomorrow, the survivors would be all the better for it.

    Global warming would not be an issue; the population could relocate to environmentally benign areas without displacing others. No Middle East problem; there would be enough land for all in Palestine (you can view the entire Middle East conflict as ultimately being a war for land and hydrology.)

    Of course, if I was one of the human beings who died for this to happen, I would not be very happy about it, at least at the time.

    So this is my strange, twisted ground for optimism; we look ever closer to a plague or other factors which will reduce our population, and paradoxically this will best ensure the long term survival of human beings as a species - assuming this to be a good thing.

    Note for Creationists - I know you don't believe that there were human beings 30 000 years ago, and personally I don't give a shit what you think.

    • by bagsc (254194)
      Human beings have always found incentives to clean up their act at some point. Our history has already seen most of the world discard once common norms: murder, human sacrifice, slavery and serfdom, factories from "The Jungle," genocide, child prostitution, etc.

      We've already killed off most of the large animals, deforested most of the planet, and yet somehow, we're thriving. If the world is warming, we'll find solutions. Cheap electronic Hebrew-Arabic translators and desalination might stop the Palestini
    • Right, YOu have some wierd ideas about the meaning of the word: "Optimism".
    • by khallow (566160)

      And what keeps the population down? Periodic pointless diebacks each time the population gets too big. Under such circumstances, the fast breeders will triumph since their progeny will be more numerous and hence, more will survive.

      We need a plan B here.

      My take is that global population will decline for a period of time, perhaps 50-100 years starting sometime after 2050. A decent window of opportunity for a sane population management policy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender (156273)
      So you read the Asimov novel where an entire planet was populated by a small number of people, each with a huge plantation and an army of robots to work it? That planet sucked.

      Higher population drives technology. Technology empowers humanity as a whole. That's a good thing.

      Also, your idea is not going to happen. Evolution states that every gene does whatever it can to make more copies of itself. Your idea goes against the fundamental principles of LIFE. You lose. Game over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by niktemadur (793971)
        So you read the Asimov novel where an entire planet was populated by a small number of people, each with a huge plantation and an army of robots to work it? That planet sucked.

        That planet was Solaria and the novel was "The Naked Sun", the second Elijah Bailey / R Daneel Olivaw detective story. The premise in quite intriguing. A man is found murdered in his plantation.
        It couldn't have been a human, since there is no contact between people, as the population is reproduced in vitro and every person is raised
    • An increase of general wealth in any society retards the growth of the population of the next generation. A self limiting property if prosperity can be spread and sustained. It's a big universe people. We can do this. http://iussp2005.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submi ssionId=50540 [princeton.edu]
    • Hey Malthus, you were debunked years ago.
      • by Kattspya (994189)
        This comment need to be modded up.

        If you look at the developed nations you will se that the population is barely increasing or even stagnating. Population growth is not a problem as long as we can bring the technological blessings to the third world.
  • I'm optimistic about the environment. I think humans will drive it to a point of mass devastation that will take out a huge portion of life on Earth. I think it's kind of one of those things that keeps things in balance. If something is damaging the environment too much, it will take drastic actions as a self-defence mechanism. Almost like a fever. Once that happens, I think some life will persevere and it wont be humans (or most mammels and fish). I'm guessing some bacteria will make it. And then the stage
  • A Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gamefreak99 (722148) on Monday January 01, 2007 @01:18PM (#17422830)
    I would like either:

    1) DRM to be ruled illegal
    2) The RIAA and MPAA to explode

    I'll take either, both would be icing :)
  • by sracer9 (126645)
    Since nobody's said it yet.... Locking.
  • A couple years ago I was getting pretty fed up by the entropy of the computer industry. Then I discovered GNU/Linux and the other people who just want to get things done and right.

    Truly a breath of fresh air, instead of so much corprate marketing BS. The PR/marketing bull is still there, but now there is a bar of quality and responsibility to measure against - instead who can can blow the most hot air or try to "lock-in" the most marketshare.

    Regardless of whether GNU/Linux, FOSS reaches the common person

  • Hello Superconductivity!!
    It's the easiest way to a more efficient use of energy. So many things in our lives depend on electricity (understatement indended) that it only makes sense to bring this tech to it's fruition.

    I really hope to see superconductivity come into our daily lives soon.
  • American voters will become as mad as hell and stop taking it from the elected but unrepresentative lawmakers and executives in Washington by changing the constitution.

    The poor and declining middle class will redistribute the excessive wealth of the wealthy.

    Our country will stop the import of foreign oil by switching to alcohol for all internal combustion engines.

    Our foreign police will become "Leave us alone and we will leave you alone." All US troops will come home, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, a
  • I'm optimistic the Earth will recover from the damage mankind has done to it. Though I'm not as optimistic about whether mankind can recover.
  • Science is not optimistic. Maybe some scientists are, but Science itself is not. It is simply a methodology. You can be optimistic that the methodology works, but that does NOT make Science optimistic.

    Science doesn't know anything. It doesn't feel anything. It doesn't predict anything. It is only a method. I dislike it when people attribute human emotions to it.

    TLF
  • I wont even go into the relative merits/weaknesses of these products. The fact is that enough of my clients are going to want them installed and require training on them, means its going to be a very good year for me.

    The Ojay's said it best: "Money, money, money, money,..............MONAY!"

  • I am optimistic about oil prices: that is to say,I believe they will stay high (above 50$ a barrel). Because of this, serious attention will be paid to conservation and the development of alternative energy sources, and most importantly, alternatives to the internal combustion automobile. I believe this to be the case because past oil shocks were largely driven by political issues (boycotts) or intentional manipulation by oil producers. The current high prices are driven by booming economies in China, India
  • I'm optimistic that breasts will more often be an option in /. polls.
  • I have Heart Failure. I was a perfectly healthy 53 year old male with an unmedicated cholesterol of 154 in 2002. They say a virus attacked my heart in 2003 - 2004. I flat-lined on the table. Now I am kept alive by a fancy device called a Bi-Ventricular Pacemaker with and ICD. I also take what they call a heart failure cocktail of 5 prescription drugs a day. I am optimistic about the research in the field. Technology is my friend. Technology keeps me alive. I am particularly following stem cell rese
  • What am I optimistic about?

    Zero human population growth is going to happen.

    What I'm not optimistic about are the prospects of its happening soon enough or in ways that are not extremely painful for all of us.

    My pessimism on this score arises from consideration of the following issues:

    1) World overpopulation and its current growth rate
    2) Climate change
    3) Imminence of peak oil and peak natural gas (or to state it another way, the end of cheap energy supplies)
    4) Global economic structural imbala
  • I am optimistic that once robots have supplanted the American manufacturing age, the Japanese one, our current Chinese phase and the one or two (South America, Horn of Africa) following, humans will still find productive ways to occupy their 60-100 years on this planet.
  • by niktemadur (793971) on Tuesday January 02, 2007 @01:37AM (#17429134)
    I want to post before I go to edge.org and read the article.

    1. The ever increasing number of people who are converting to the latest generation solar energy to heat their homes. The trendsetter in the United States is California, where these homes are not only self sufficient, but feed their excess production of electricity to the grid, thereby receiving a check from the energy companies. As more people convert, three things will go down: equipment costs, energy costs and environmental impact.

    2. People like Richard Dawkins fighting to stem the tide of fundamentalism, finding that everywhere they go, there are many who were previously cowed into silence and are now ready to stand and speak up, even in the so-called bible belt.

    3. The clear and shining example, or should I say beacon, set by a country like Ireland, who turned their country around in ten years and made it the most prosperous nation in Europe, a process that included implementing free education at all levels to its' citizens.

    4. The swift kick in the pants to the complacent and increasingly irrelevant United States mass media, supplied by the new independent journalism of the blogosphere. The media should be about keeping transparency going, and now they are under a scrutiny they have only been used to applying and not receiving.

    And finally:

    5. The ever increasing cross-disciplinary dialogue in science, as exemplified by the fruits of NASA's Origins program, which is helping to create a coherent map of knowledge while not getting in the way of specialization in research.
  • January 20, 2009

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