THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS SCIENCE IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 21ST CENTURY

Edited by John Brockman Book Review by Mik Scarlet

From the moment I learnt to read, I devoured anything science based. By the time I was 12 I saw the future as a place populated intelligent robots, biomechanical engineering, interstellar spaceships, aliens, and ray guns. A fantastic future that would resemble a mixture of Star Trek, Star Wars, and 2000AD comic.

Yet here we are 25 years later in a world that is pretty much the same as the one I lived in as a pre-teenager. In fact instead of conquering space, we are only just building our first real major space station, and that’s in near Earth orbit. This is where anyone who tries to predict what the future holds; they are too unrealistic.

This book however purposely tries to go where no other book has gone before – it tries to get it right. Each of the 25 contributors has looked at what science is capable of now; how science actually got to it’s current state and how long it took to get here. They then calculate where science will be when I am 87 (now that is a scary thought!). No one claims that all the universes ills will be cured, but the book as a whole does view the future as a nice place to live. Some of the essays lean a little on techno babble and a couple use data that is already out of date, but most explain very clearly what science may be able to achieve half way through the 21st Century. In the whole this is a great read for anyone with an interest in what the world of tomorrow might bring, whether or not you can discuss quantum physics over dinner or not.

*Interesting Nerd Fact (from Ian Stewart’s essay) – The “Clay Mathematics Institute”, Massachusetts, has offered $1 million dollars to the first person who can solve “The Poincare Conjecture” and create a topological map of a three dimensional sphere. Will this be the first theoretical maths question that will be solved by a computer games designer?

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