Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

science's 25 biggest questions, with answers

Science times has celebrated 25 years of existence by publishing "25 of the most provocative questions facing science"

(EDIT - forgot link, here it is www.nytimes.com/indexes/2003/11/10/science/text/index.html)

Here are the questions. I have helpfully provided the answers, behind a cut, for those who don't want to know the meaning of existence in advance.

1) Does Science Matter?
2) Is War Our Biological Destiny?
3) Will Humans Ever Visit Mars?
4) How Does the Brain Work?
5) What Is Gravity, Really?
6) Will We Ever Find Atlantis?
8) What Should We Eat?
9) When Will the Next Ice Age Begin?
10) What Happened Before the Big Bang?
11) Could We Live Forever?
12) Are Men Necessary? ... Are Women Necessary?
13) What Is the Next Plague?
14) Can Robots Become Conscious?
15) Why Do We Sleep?
16) Are Animals Smarter Than We Think?
17) Can Science Prove the Existence of God?
18) Is Evolution Truly Random?
19) How Did Life Begin?
20) Can Drugs Make Us Happier? Smarter?
21) Should We Improve Our Genome?
22) How Much Nature Is Enough?
23) What Is the Most Important Problem in Math Today?
24) Where Are Those Aliens?
25) Do Paranormal Phenomena Exist?


1) Does Science Matter?

Yes

2) Is War Our Biological Destiny?

No

3) Will Humans Ever Visit Mars?

Yes

4) How Does the Brain Work?

The cumulative effect of a large number of simple neural transactions involving stimulation and inhibition

5) What Is Gravity, Really?

Curvature of space-time (not really a very satisfactory answer I know)

6) Will We Ever Find Atlantis?

No

8) What Should We Eat?

Food. Oh, all right then. the kind of food we evolved to eat. Vegetables, fish, shellfish, meat (unless prefer not) fruit.

9) When Will the Next Ice Age Begin?

Next two thousand years

10) What Happened Before the Big Bang?

Meaningless question

11) Could We Live Forever?

No, because the universe will not last forever

12) Are Men Necessary? ... Are Women Necessary?

Nothing is 'necessary', but existence is more fun than non-existence.

13) What Is the Next Plague?

Possibly super-smallpox as currently being developed by the US military

14) Can Robots Become Conscious?

An articially constructed brain could become as complex as a biologically constructed one, and therefore conscious, yes. Whether it would be a 'robot' I couldn't say

15) Why Do We Sleep?

Because we are tired.

Longer answer - evolved originally to induce torpor during dangerous phases of the daily cycle. Now hi-jacked by a range of physical and mental processes, whcih can become more complex and demanding, if not required to be 'on duty' perpetually.

16) Are Animals Smarter Than We Think?

Well, we don't all think the same thing do we? But, on the whole, yes for the larger mammals, rodents, and most birds.

17) Can Science Prove the Existence of God?

No, but science and religion don't have to be as incompatible as they are now, if they would both just lighten up a bit

18) Is Evolution Truly Random?

I don't understand the question. Selection is clearly far from random. Is it directed? No.

19) How Did Life Begin?

No, I'm stumped by this one. See astrobioolgy web zine for some good discussions on this.

20) Can Drugs Make Us Happier? Smarter?

Yes, but can they do it without unpleasant consequences?

21) Should We Improve Our Genome?

We shouldn't try at the moment, because we don't know enough. In the long term - cautious yes.

22) How Much Nature Is Enough?

All of it

23) What Is the Most Important Problem in Math Today?

Don't know

24) Where Are Those Aliens?

Outer space. If this is a reference to Fermi's paradox, they are far, far away, and very different from us, in ways we can't imagine.

25) Do Paranormal Phenomena Exist?

Some of the stuff dismissed by science as paranormal phenomena do, as a hunch, have factual existence.
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