Saturday, January 22, 2005

Which sciences are important now and why?

This is a quick and dirty look at which sciences are most important right now. These sciences are: physics, astronomy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, semiconductors, computation and information theory.

The important areas of physics are particle physics at accelerator and detector labs, and anything related to quantum theory/unified field theory/many worlds theory. These areas will help us to understand more about and control the properties of the smallest pieces of matter which are not atoms, not quarks but strings or other.

Astronomy is important because we need to find out more about the rest of the universe, how it works, more about black holes, dark energy and dark matter and how to harness them. Understanding the physics of that which we do not currently understand. This is important for many reasons including our eventual need to move off the Earth (4.5 billion years to the Earth's engulfment by the sun) and out of the galaxy (10 billion years until Andromeda collides with the Milky Way).

Nanotechnology is important because it will allow us to build and create objects from the ground up, truly mastering our world by creating matter. In addition there are interesting novel properties of atomic level matter which may offer better knowledge of quantum behavior.

Biotechnology is important in being able to improve and redesign ourselves as humans, in the near term to get to baseline by eradicating disease and then to expand from baseline into new enhanced capabilities and forms. As we look to immigrating to other worlds and space colonies, biological transformation will be key.

Semiconductors and computation are important as we need to reach successive tiers of computing capability to further master knowledge about how our universe works, especially regarding large phenomenon like galaxies and small phenomenon like brains. Software is a harder problem than hardware and with greater processing, a lot of results can be achieved by brute force computation and don't need to wait for and rely on more complicated human team work dependent software.

Information theory is increasingly critical as a new conceptual model by which the universe is being explained. Seth Lloyd is one of the foremost authors on this. The idea is that there are many forms of information storage and computation in the universe, including life (plants, animals, etc.) who store DNA and compute from it, even rocks reacting to their environment are said to process information. Black holes also take in information, process it and return output, but this phenomenon is tested or understood yet.

These sciences share the theme of helping us answer the biggest remaining outstanding questions the fastest. Who are we? Where did we come from? What is the nature of this universe? Are there other universes? What are the physical laws that govern all matter and phenomenon of this universe?