Friday, June 16, 2006

WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

A few months ago, on its 125th anniversary, Science came up with a list of 25 important questions that it thinks will be key to mankind's survival, knowledge, and experience. Forgot to put up the list then. Here it is. For anyone who sends in a solution, there is an early bird prize of one steady-state Universe

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Some of these questions are what we might consider 'practical', for example those of organ differentiation and regeneration, or about the limits of computing. Others have profound social and philosophical significance, such as that of extraterrestrial intelligence (The practical benefits of such a discovery are dubious; what if the aliens turn out to be like those in Independence Day?).
Some should help to signal the end of religious dogma; but that is a meaningless point, because they have already found satisfactory if not complete answers that should do this job, and yet it has not happened. There is no reason why religious leaders would like to give up their jobs and influence simply because they have been proved wrong.
Some others may simply be unanswerable- can we unify the laws of physics? Can we prove that such questions are unanswerable??

Then there are those questions, such as 'What can replace cheap oil- and when?' which may or may not get answered, depending on the whims of human beings. In fact, what the answer is to that question is a pointless matter. The question should really be rephrased as 'Is the replacement of cheap oil in the interests of corporations and politicians?'. That is a much more profound question to answer.

In any case, all of them without exception promise untold truckloads of week-long (and weekend) fun for scientists, students and postdocs, and they promise to keep the minds of government, citizens and military officials up and running, something that is on the decline these days. We can also hope that we don't choose the easy way of answering these questions; by blowing ourselves up in a nuclear holocaust/dying in the throes of global warming/getting knocked out by a mutated, manmade superbug.
So I would like to add one question: 'Can we rise above ourselves?'

Let's roll!

Note: The complete list contains 125 questions of general importance. Out of those, these 25 have been picked out as the most important ones, and have been expounded upon in greater detail.

3 Comments:

Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

Just curious. Why are 25 'most important' questions ranked from 78 to 102?

1:07 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Actually it was 125 questions of general importance; these 25 questions were the most significant of those.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

एक दोन तीन चाचणी चालू आहे!

Hi, just testing. Let me know if you can see the Nagari script or just garbled characters.

7:38 PM  

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