He’s not a scientist, but writer and professor John Horgan believes scientists may be running out of things to discover.
Horgan, director of the Center for Science Writing at Stevens Institute of Technology and author of “The End of Science,” points to a slowing pace of discovery and preoccupation with large and speculative theories, as evidence scientists may be unable to produce any more “great revelations or revolutions,” but only refine current knowledge.
Inflation theory, for example, holds that immediately following the big bang, our cosmos underwent a faster-than-light growth spurt, and implies that our entire cosmos is a bubble in an oceanic “multiverse.” But conclusive evidence for these theories remains elusive, Horgan wrote Wednesday in “National Geographic.”
The problem with the vast theories currently fascinating scientists, he writes, is that they can predict essentially anything, and therefore nothing at all.
Horgan also cites a correspondence published in the science journal “Nature” Wednesday, in which six researchers discuss what they call a “worrisome” trend — it’s taking longer and longer for scientists to win Nobel prizes. If the trend continues, they note, by the end of the century scientists won’t live long enough to win one.
Basically, scientists have discovered all the important stuff, except all the important stuff they can only speculate about because it’s so far beyond their understanding. And that’s not cool, because they can’t figure it out fast enough to win a Nobel Prize before they die. Winning a Nobel Prize is really hard by the way. (RELATED: Still not sure how Obama earned a Nobel Peace Prize after less than two weeks in office?)
“I hope I’m wrong that the era of fundamental revelations is over,” Horgan continues, then gives an example demonstrating how wrong he is. The “totally unexpected” discovery in the 1990′s that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, Horgan writes, “hints that our understanding of the cosmos may indeed be radically incomplete.”
But he presses on, apparently torn between his desire to sell his book and his desire for scientists to win Nobel Prizes. ”It’s hard to imagine a better reason to think we may be running out of new things to discover than the fascination of physicists with these highly speculative ideas,” he writes. “I would nonetheless be delighted if further observations provide enough evidence of inflation to impress the Nobel judges, who historically have had very high standards of evidence.”