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Is the Era of Groundbreaking Science Over? 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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Is the Era of Groundbreaking Science Over?

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  • by Dodgy G33za ( 1669772 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @10:18PM (#42804401)
  • by ganv ( 881057 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @10:53PM (#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?

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"