How the Scientific Revolution Stalled and How to Start it Again
What’s the Latest Development?
According to Caltech professor emeritus and microelectronics pioneer Carver Mead, the scientific revolution that got under way at the start of the 20th century has been stymied by big egos. This was his message before an international crowd of scientists gathered this week in San Francisco. To illustrate the point, Mead told the story of how Charles Townes, the inventor of the laser and maser, took his ideas to the leading quantum-mechanics theorists at the time, Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Though Townes was eventually proven right, Bohr and Heisenberg initially doubted his theories.
What’s the Big Idea?
The theories of special relativity and quantum mechanics, which began a revolution in our understanding of nature, have stalled due to the routine method of scientific investigation. By isolating variables, science has gotten to the essence of many natural forces. But now, says Mead, this process is holding us back from a deeper understanding of the universe. “If we want to get that stalled 100-year-old revolution unstuck, Mead said, we’ve got to ask – and discover – where those constants come from, and not just believe in them as handed down by academics and buried in mountains of math.”
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