Please see below selected recent science-related change.
- Scientists revived a 48,500-year-old virus in an effort to test the potential infectiousness of long-preserved diseases that are now being exposed by receding Arctic permafrost. Scientists may have reason to worry, as there’s a history of humans being infected by ancient illnesses previously hidden beneath the ice.
- In his 1996 book The End of Science, John Horgan argued that scientists were close to answering nearly all the big questions about our Universe. Big Think asked, was he right? The theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder didn’t think so. As she pointed out, the Standard Model of physics, which describes the behaviour of particles and their interactions, is still incomplete as it does not include gravity. What’s more, the measurement problem in quantum mechanics remains unsolved, and understanding this could lead to significant breakthroughs.
- The bioeconomy, applying biotechnology to key industries, is growing fast. In the US alone, it is approaching 2.4% of the national GDP and is growing at more than 20% per annum, far faster than the economy as a whole. Usescases include Profluent Bio, which applied generative AI to design new proteins, and the US Defense Department, which explored making key materials, such as rubber alternatives, from novel bioeconomy processes.
- Further reading:
- Further reading:
- Can science explain the beginning of the Universe? - Big Think
- New scientific instruments probe the limits of the known - The Economist
- Science vs. God: Understanding reality is not a battle of faith- Big Think
- Synthetic Biology Is About to Disrupt Your Industry - BCG
- The ten greatest ideas in the history of science - Big Think
- Where science fails, according to a physicist - Big Think
- When scientists unfurled the Human Genome Project in 2003, some 8% of genes were left unmapped. For almost two decades, they worked to develop the first truly complete map of a human genome, completing it in 2022. The Wall Street Journal noted that the this vital development may help solve some of the conundrums that vexed scientists over the previous 20 years. The map could also power new discoveries around human evolution and fresh insights into cancer, birth defects and ageing.
- Social media is often the target when we think about misinformation, but a paper by the University of Washington highlights how scientific papers, and indeed the news articles written about them, are not immune from criticism either. Attention is at the heart of the problem, as it’s fundamentally a scarce resource, so there is an inherent incentive for scientists, universities, and journalists to hype things more than is justified. Researchers today get their information and access the literature through search engines and recommender systems that can create a filter bubble. The pandemic may have also exacerbated the situation as the inherent uncertainty around the virus created an urgency for answers into which spurious claims could be put forth.
- The politicisation of science has resulted in a loss of confidence in the field as a reliable institution, pathing the way for scepticism and superstition. From climate to COVID, politics and hubris has disconnected scientific organisations from the philosophy and method that ought to guide them.
- Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Scientific American warned that we must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognised and established threats. Antiscience is the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains. It targets prominent scientists and attempts to discredit them.
- A subatomic particle is disobeying the laws of physics. The discovery may upend what scientists thought they knew about matter and energy, claimed Quartz.
- The Economist described how sudden, concerted action against COVID-19 brought together decades of cumulative scientific progress. The spate of data, experiments and insights has had profound effects on the pandemic - and, indeed, on the future of medicine. Around the world, scientists put aside their own work in order to do their bit against a common foe. The first year of COVID-19 led to some 350,000 bits of research, many of them on preprint servers that made findings available almost instantaneously.
- The Large Hadron Collider made another discovery. Nine years after proving the existence of the Higgs boson, scientists at CERN found evidence of a “brand new” type of particle.
- Quartz argued that the coronavirus pandemic has upended science—the way it gets done, the way it’s communicated, and the way it gets applied in the world. In 2020, scientists published more than 200,000 studies related to Covid-19, accounting for about 4% of the world’s total scientific output. That rapid acceleration was a response to the urgency of the pandemic, but it was also enabled by a long-simmering shift in research standards. Instead of waiting months or years to have their experimental results reviewed by peers and published in a prestigious academic journal, a growing number of scientists now just cut to the chase and put their work online as soon as it’s done. These so-called preprints - uploaded to open platforms where other scientists (and non-scientists, too) can read and respond for free - exploded in popularity during the pandemic. As much as 25% of all research published about Covid-19 has appeared in a preprint.
- Science was the vehicle of progress and the solution to the world's ills. The bedrock of the philosophy of the modern West. But now the halo has slipped, and science is now seen by some as a potentially malevolent force: a tool of the military-industrial complex, a damaging exploiter of natural resources, an ideology masquerading as a single source of objective truth. Should we welcome this shift in our perception of science as the end of an unquestioned belief in a false god? Or is it a dangerous and potentially disastrous slide into prejudice and superstition, that will leave us poorer, less safe, and less in control of our lives, asked IAI TV in a 2020 debate?
- Science has never before been redeployed and advanced at such a rapid pace as during the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers accustomed to plodding their way through proposals, meticulous grant applications, and journal reviews have discovered they can mobilise and switch focus at high speed. They have picked up new skills, developed pandemic protocols, and upended their schedules. Now that these abilities have been unleashed, laboratories are unlikely to fully revert to old habits. If and when their coronavirus work is done, they’ll have an enormous backlog of still important research waiting for them, noted Quartz.
- A confluence of advances in biological science and accelerating development of computing, automation, and artificial intelligence is fuelling a new wave of innovation. This Bio Revolution could have significant impact on economies and our lives, from health and agriculture to consumer goods, and energy and materials.
- Tortoise Media notes that the flipside of populist aversion to experts is the arbitrary embrace of snake-oil cures and unscientific speculation. This seemed merely absurd - or it did until the most powerful man in the world actually suggested the injection of patients with disinfectant.
- According to a survey by The Atlantic, over the past century, society has vastly increased the time and money invested in science, but in scientists’ own judgement, we’re producing the most important breakthroughs at a near-constant rate. On a per-dollar or per-person basis, this suggests that science is becoming far less efficient. This suggests that it’s getting much harder to make important discoveries across the board. It’s requiring larger teams and far more extensive scientific training, and the overall economic impact is getting smaller. Taken together, these results suggest strong diminishing returns to our scientific efforts.
- According to renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, the next 100 years of science will determine whether we perish or thrive.
- Physics has a major blind spot, warned Quartz. Scientists describe reality by measuring the material world, missing a major aspect of existence - lived experience. And because everyone is inside experience, no one can objectively or accurately model the universe outside of this “box,” argued a leading astrophysicist.
- According to Shaping Tomorrow, by 2030, workers will spend double the amount of time solving problems and 77% more time using science and maths skills. Already by 2025 we can expect major scientific advances in automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and particularly in telecommunications and greater attention to the use of digital scientific methods to solve many of the world’s greatest problems. The most significant scientific breakthroughs are forecast to come in life sciences, therapies, batteries, autonomous vehicles, materials, broadband, lasers and biology.
- The Institute for Arts and Ideas noted that science has produced explanations for everything from the mechanisms of insect navigation to the formation of black holes and the workings of black markets, but asked how much can we actually trust science, and whether we can actually know the world through it. Increasingly, some scientists see their theories as useful models rather than an ultimate account. Might science therefore be just another human description limited by language, culture and our particular circumstances?
- China may have created the world’s first genetically modified babies. A Chinese researcher said that he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, resulting in twin girls whose DNA have been altered by CRISPR technology. CRISPR had previously only been used in plant and animal experiments, on adult cancer patients, or non-viable human embryos.
- There are roughly 20,000 genes in the human genome, but most research focuses on only about 10% of these, noted The Economist. This is partly because of a self-fulfilling cycle, in which the most-studied genes, and the scientists who study them, receive the most funding from agencies. But since understanding genes and the proteins they encode deepens our knowledge of diseases, scientists would do well to look at the lesser-known parts of the genome, the magazine added.
- The Ethics of Neuroscience examined the fundamental questions being raised by our growing understanding of the human brain. New technologies are allowing us control over the human brain like never before. As we push the possibilities should we ask how far is too far? For example, neurosurgeons can now provide treatments for things that were previously untreatable, such as Parkinson’s and clinical depression, but while many are cured, others develop side effects such as erratic behaviour and changes in their personality.
- For its many fans, science fiction is where the future happens first. A leading sci-fi author recently what we might one day see in film, in real life, or both.
- Emerging neuroscientific findings could impact questions of right and wrong,.as new discoveries start to change the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation.
- Several science news stories seemed to border on science fiction: doctors revisited the idea that water might have a memory; Japanese scientists said they might be able to bring extinct mammoths back to life; research sponsored by Swedish and European foundations manipulated people's perceptions to make them think they have swapped bodies with another human or even a "humanoid body"; and other Japanese scientists have found a way to extract images directly from the brain, meaning that one day we may be able to watch our dreams on TV. And if you're into meditation, you may need to buy bigger hats because some research shows that it can increase your brain size.