New Scientist has a few thoughts on what next year might bring to us all, and why not, its that time of year again …
So what is the basis for their thoughts … a best guess? Nope, they got Samuel Arbesman, who works on computational approaches to the study of science at Harvard Medical School in Boston to help. He is pioneering ways to employ scientometrics – a field that attempts to measure scientific progress – to make predictions about when new discoveries will occur. So what came out of all this?
Elements occupying the far depths of the periodic table are so exotic and ephemeral it seems as if they are only barely there. In early 2010, when physicists announced the creation of the superheavy element ununseptium, even the handful of atoms that were made decayed into smaller ones in a fraction of a second.
Theory predicts, however, that superheavy isotopes with lifetimes of minutes can be made.
Prediction: we won’t reach the fabled “island of stability” at the far depths of the periodic table until 2042
In 2010, one new exoplanet appeared every four days or so; by the end of the year, the total topped 500. But in September, a truly exceptional find punctuated this steady drumbeat of discovery: the first alien planet that could host life on its surface.
Prediction: discovery could happen next year
Here is a quick summary of some of the other predictions
- A draft solution to the so-called “P versus NP” problem generated excitement in 2010 – will 2011 bring a correct proof? – No.
- The internet will be weaving its way around the world for decades, but will there be fewer new users in 2011 than there were in 2010? – No, we don’t hit that point until 2013.
OK, so out of the 4 predictions so far, 3 are about things that will not happen!!! Hey I predict that those 3 are probably right. In fact, I bet I could cobble up a far longer list of predictions about things that will not happen in 2011 and be proven 100% right. For example, I predict that I will not personally go the Mars next year, I also predict that nobody will get paid $1 Trillion next year. I’m not quite sure they get this prediction concept, its supposed to be about stuff that will happen, not stuff that will not happen.
Anyway, they have 4 more predictions (guesses), which are not scientometric based, but instead are directly from the New Scientist staff …
- 2011 will be the year of the electric car (Sigh!, not hard to “predict” this, just check the shipping schedule for several leading car makers to get this)
- Trials of therapies to treat paralysis and blindness could reveal the therapeutic potential of human embryonic stem cells (Somebody read the ACT press release to get this one … also not too challenging)
- Private space flight takes off (in what way is this a prediction, just check the Virgin Galactic schedule to “predict” this one).
- This could be the year when we quit dragging ourselves to work and send remote-controlled robot avatars instead (No don’t worry, I don’t believe this one either, I think somebody hit the beer a bit too hard as they were drafting this one)
So there you go thats a wrap for 2011. As a sanity warning, take all this with a huge gain of salt, its just a bit of speculative fun. If past experience is truly anything to go by, there will be stuff that will completely surprise us all that nobody saw coming.