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01-27-2011 - Science approaching critical mass

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Many of the latest discoveries go unreported due to the specificity of the corresponding achievement; special knowledge is required to understand the discovery. By themselves, these discoveries may not be newsworthy (except in relevant journals and websites), but the pace of advancement and the relationships between the various scientific arenas may lead to discoveries that go beyond innovation.

Looking at scientific history, it is surprising how many simultaneous discoveries were made by unrelated parties. In today's information age this is much more likely to occur. Since money is required to fund research, grants, patents and commercial applications are an integral part of institutional protocol. The potential profitability and scope of this research make it more likely the results will be publically available in some form or fashion, as compared to being secreted away for governmental use.

Genetics has long held promise but seems to have come up short in some respects. It has only come up short relative to sci-fi standards, in my opinion, and this is partially due to the controversial nature of the subject (playing God and/or playing with fire). The ability to read genomes at a pace orders of magnitude faster than before reveals more and more data on a daily basis. The cause of disease is being isolated. Induced pluripotent stem cells can be generated from the patients themselves negating the requirement for fetal tissue as well as precluding rejection. Body parts are being grown, or the basis for doing so is being developed. Apoptosis, the programmed cell death within our genes responsible for aging is beginning to be understood and life spans of various organisms have been doubled. Genetic computing is combining genetic processes (the result of billions of years of research) within a programmatic framework resulting in internal and external applications.

Quantum mechanics, combined with the various investigative technologies that are finally allowing us to peer deeply enough, is continually showing us how weird this place is. In essence, most of the advances being made are due to working with the wave-like nature of matter and energy; the particle-wave duality evinced by elementary particles that make up everything around us, including ourselves, has practical applications. Light has been slowed down to a walk, at least artificially. New phases of matter are being created and understood in the lab. Particles are being smashed together at unprecedented energies. Quantum computing is rapidly becoming a reality. In the last few months alone, many of the various parts necessary to construct said device have been developed and are undergoing testing and integration. Quantum entanglement is being rigorously evaluated regarding unbreakable data encryption. Eye-observable quantum behavior in a macroscopic object has been seen for the first time. This exploration of the fundamental properties of matter and energy provides the greatest potential for altering our perception of reality and the manner in which we interact with it.

Materials Science and Nanotechnology, in conjunction with quantum mechanics and atomic-level tools, are demonstrating that we've barely scratched the surface. Metamaterials, invisibility cloaks and invisibility-inducing waveguide structures, self-healing materials, new alloys with better and better properties, individual components, structures and processes for constructing nanobots, pills with cameras, cancer-seeking nano-vehicles, data storage, optics and electrical tuning are a few areas where advances being made. The most promising is superconductivity. Much reduced power requirements and new modes of propulsion are within our reach once materials are developed that can superconduct at or near room temperature.

These technologies have a common thread in that they deal with the atomic, subatomic and nanoscale properties of nature where the Newtonian view loses traction. Unlocking these doors is, or will be, a momentous step. Many exciting and, perhaps, somewhat frightening, technologies await. The Drake Equation approximates the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy and utilizes a parameter representing the likelihood of a civilization's self-destruction. We've made it this far, but skepticism on anyone's part is well understood in this regard.

When you see immortals floating in the sky in their nanofluidic transformational antigravity vehicles, personally augmented with quantum-processor neural integration, wearing holo-clothing of a design published 0.015 milliseconds ago...you'll know we've arrived.

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