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LostInParadise's avatar

Will the most extraordinary scientific discoveries be made in biology?

Asked by LostInParadise (23616points) October 8th, 2012

This is obviously a very subjective matter. Let me put forth why I think the most dramatic discoveries will be made in biology.

In the early 20th century, the most dramatic advances were in physics. Relativity and quantum mechanics resulted in a revolutionary change in how we view the universe. We still don’t have a theory of everything to unite the two fields, but we are quite capable of cobbling together the two theories to make rather accurate predictions. I may be wrong, but I don’t see further developments having the same impact as the initial ones.

The latter part of the 20th century saw the discovery of the structure of DNA. This was rather remarkable, but I see it as just a beginning. There is so much we have yet to learn. Even if we disregard questions on how the brain works, there are still fundamental questions on how even the simplest multicellular organisms grow and maintain their structure. The answer has to involve understanding of individual cells along with knowledge of how they interact. I feel strongly that there are some very non-intuitive discoveries to be made that will cause us to rethink the way the world works.

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6 Answers

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Here’s a thing for you. It may not be science, but….psychology. It’s still fresh and young in comparison to all the other sciences – and arguably it may not be considered to be a science per se, but DNA for instance, is seen as a clincher in a court, but the human mind, that’s a different matter. So….maybe biology could be where all the amazing and groundbreaking stuff gets discovered, but I still think there’s a fair way to go for psychology.

flutherother's avatar

I think the biggest surprises will come in physics and cosmology.

Bill1939's avatar

Understanding neural networks and the interconnection of parallel and serial processing by the left and right hemispheres of the brain will transform both computer science and psychology.

janbb's avatar

I think we are going to have to make environmental, biological and physical discoveries in order to cope with life in a time of rapidly changing global climate.

wds2's avatar

@flutherother Yeah, I would agree with this. Also, more out there stuff like quantum physics (google Schrodinger’s Cat and think about that) and, actually, the prediction of events using psychohistory, a combination of psychology and history. Any Asimov fans? Not that the latter has any scientific basis


wundayatta's avatar

I think it is the intersection between the disciplines where most new insights will come. As we see from the Nobel in physics today, we are further along the way towards quantum computing. I think quantum level physics is going to be key to understanding how the brain works and possibly how genetic variation occurs and maybe even in understanding how to deal with various cancers.

Understanding the brain at the quantum level will also have important implications for psychology and philosophy—who are we? To what degree are our actions determined by physical processes?

There’s more, of course, but that’s all I’m going to think about for now.

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