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 Cebit 2018: Saarbrücken Start-up combines Tinkering and Programming for Elementary School Kids
05.06.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht The classroom of tomorrow – DFKI and TUK open lab for new digital teaching and learning methods
03.05.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>