The Four Factors Involved In Scientific Revolutions
Scientific revolutions are not a mystery anymore. It is obvious from the past revolutions that there are four critical factors which pave the way for major revolutions in science and technology. These factors were present in the early 1600 and at the turn of twentieth century. These factors are present again to surprise us for grand breakthrough in science and technology.
The first factor is the emergence of scientific anomalies: new discrepancies and paradoxes in old scientific models which are questioned when new facts come to the surface. Like Einstein and Bohr found inconsistencies in Newtonian physics and replaced these with another model of physical reality. This has opened up a variety of new possibilities in science and technology (quantum physics lead a path towards solid state electronics, laser and nuclear power).
One of the several anomalies that has been surfaced in natural science and multidimensional mathematics is dark energy which some physcists believe to be a cosmic force to overcome the influence of gravity. But the source of dark energy or why it would exist is yet unclear and there are no satisfying explanations. Now if it is true that some kind of energy, even unknown to us, is considerably greater than all the gravitational force and mass of the universe, it demands a shift in the existing theory of energy and matter and this may have immense consequences for our scientific understanding in future.
Interestingly, Einstein's early work on equation of relativity included a factor called "cosmological constant". Later he took it out of the formula and called it as a big mistake but it might be the big mistake taking the cosmological constant out of the formula as the cosmological constant produces the same behavior evident in dark energy.
The second factor is the development of new instruments that detect the phenomena never observed before and this becomes the major source of scientific anomalies. The history shows that Telescope enabled many famous scientists (Kepler, Galileo) to provide data for much of the "new physics" of mid twentieth century. This time around orbital telescopes and devices detect x-rays and gamma rays.
Another telescope is planned to be positioned in earth's orbit beyond the moon to detect the size of planets. Another telescope will be able to create the images of surface of those planets. Meanwhile, IBM has announced to launch a new telescope that can detect and distinguish electrons. Other devices like Femtosecond cameras are in the pipeline which can capture the images of processes that last 10-15 seconds. With this speed we can see/follow all the steps in a chemical reaction.
We will be surprised to watch the subatomic particles swirling and aligning in the formation of new substances. This can enable us to manipulate chemical reactions atom by atom. One set of instruments, which uses terahertz, is under development. At low power this can penetrate in living tissues without damaging it. The development of new powerful technology is imminent and is emerging from quantum physics and biological research which might enable us to deal with the computational codes of gene processing.
The third factor is rapid and effective communication among scientists. Even though the printing press was new in seventeenth century but it was significantly well established to facilitate the circulation of scientific papers and R & D work. In the late nineteenth century, telephone, telegraph and printing technologies were well in place and the scientists did use these technologies to communicate with one another. Of late the internet has revolutionised the level of communication among scientists. Literature reviews happen almost instantaneously. Scientific journals and books covering every area of science and technology have web-based publications and easily accessible to scientists around the globe.
Scientific conversations on the web and online seminars have been evolved into a sort of ongoing colloquium for researchers working on multidisciplinary research in different laboratories/research institutes in the world and this kind of effective communication among scientists has certainly never been possible before.
The fourth factor is the political and economic culture that values science and technology and rewards people for it. The lavish funding is needed to establish and accelerate the scientific research. In the U.S. billions of dollars are spent (175 billion dollars annually) through universities, R & D corporate and foundation grants. Developing nations have realised the importance of establishing their own technology oriented R & D program.
However, huge funding is still needed to carry out research in a variety of scientific disciplines. This kind of funding might be hardest for politicians and economists to justify. Though, it is often a source of most significant breakthroughs. For example, the current drug to cure anthrax came not as a result of intensive effort to protect the disease but was an outcome of researcher's curiosity about the structure of toxins. This research was funded 15 years before its practical outcome. Hence, it is vital to establish a network of research institutes/R & D corporate to provide an essential infrastructure to allocate the money and conduct research.
All these factors synergise to create a momentum in scientific research and development. It is not possible to provide the details of a scientific revolution which has not yet born. However, it is relatively easy to predict that by 2050 the state of knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy will be surprisingly different from today.