Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

What don’t we know? Science presents the great unsolved scientific mysteries of our time

01.07.2005


What is the universe made of? What is the biological basis of consciousness? Can the world continue to sustain a growing population and growing consumption? In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Science has taken stock of some of the most important, yet-unanswered scientific questions and delved into 25 of them for a closer look at just what we do and don’t yet know about our universe.

Questions like these show us how far science has come in explaining the natural world, and they also fuel the discoveries of the future, writes author and journalist Tom Siegfried in an introduction to the special 1 July issue of Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

In the special issue, Science’s editors have identified 125 "big questions" that scientists have yet to answer. Rather than a comprehensive inventory, this list is a significant sampling of the major questions facing science today. Science’s news team has also focused on 25 of these questions in a special package of essays.



"Today, science’s most profound questions address some of the largest phenomena in the cosmos and some of the smallest. We may never fully answer some of these questions, but we’ll advance our knowledge and society in the process of trying," said Donald Kennedy, Science’s editor-in-chief.

"As Science celebrates its 125th birthday, we’ve recognized that an examination of science’s outstanding mysteries also reflects its tremendous accomplishments," he added.

Founded by Thomas A. Edison, Science debuted on July 3 1880, with 12 pages of articles on the possibility of electric-powered railroads, the latest observations of the Pleiades and advice to science teachers on the importance of studying animal brains. Issues over the following decades included articles by Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Louis Leakey and other great scientific thinkers.

Over time, the prominence of the journal’s coverage of science and science policy has increased, according to Science’s news editor, Colin Norman.

"The worlds of research and policy have become thoroughly intertwined, and when we report on scientific developments, the distinction between the two is often very blurry. The journal’s news section is now a section for all of science, for both scientists and policymakers," he said.

When Norman joined Science in 1981, he and his colleagues, based almost entirely in Washington D.C., punched out articles on typewriters and sent the final pages off to the typesetter. Today, Science’s correspondents based around the world file stories on their laptops.

To honor the journal’s 125th anniversary, Science’s editors had initially intended to select just 25 questions that would reveal the remaining gaps in our scientific knowledge. But with the help of the Board of Reviewing Editors and the Senior Editorial Board, they compiled well over 100 candidate questions that were just too interesting to discard.

"Some of the questions were naturals, just really fascinating, others we chose based on how fundamental they are -- whether answering them would provide insights across several areas in science. Some were central to current social policy, for example relating to HIV or climate change," Norman said.

Ultimately the editors selected 125 questions for their list and focused on 25 that there was a chance of solving – or at least knowing how to approach solving – in the next 25 years. These 25 questions include:

  • What is the universe made of? In the last few decades, cosmologists have discovered that the ordinary matter that makes up stars and galaxies is less than 5 percent of everything there is. What is the nature of the "dark" matter that makes up the rest?
  • What is the biological basis of consciousness? In contrast to René Descartes’ 17th-century declaration that the mind and body are entirely separate, a new view is that whatever happens in the mind arises from a process in the brain. But scientists are only just beginning to unravel those processes.
  • Why do humans have so few genes? To biologists’ great surprise, once the human genome was sequenced in the late 1990s, it became clear that we only have about 25,000 genes – about the same numbers as the flowering plant Arabidopsis. The details of how those genes are regulated and expressed is a central question in biology.
  • How much can human life span be extended? Studies of long-lived mice, worms and yeast have convinced some scientists that human aging can be slowed, perhaps allowing many of us to live beyond 100, but others think our life spans are more fixed.
  • Will Malthus continue to be wrong? In 1798, Thomas Malthus argued that human population growth will inevitably be checked, for example by famine, war or disease. Two centuries later, the world’s population has risen sixfold, without the large-scale collapses that Malthus had predicted. Can we continue to avoid catastrophe by shifting to more sustainable patterns of consumption and development?

| EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sciencemag.org
http://www.aaas.org
http://www.eurekalert.org

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Decision-making research in children: Rules of thumb are learned with time
19.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>