But in the decades since man first walked on the moon, science has advanced so rapidly that technology which even a few years ago might have been considered magic has become commonplace. Even so, it would be naïve to assume that Apollo 11 ever represented science and technology's pinnacle, and that nothing forthcoming will similarly explode the world's collective dreams and perceptions of what it means to be human.
So what's next? What will be the next worldwide event or discovery that fundamentally changes the way we look at ourselves and the universe we live in?
When President Kennedy laid forth his plan to put a man on the moon he did so in a world that had just become acclimated to rapidly advancing technology. Nuclear power, television, jet engines, satellites and computers had proven that only the scope of our imaginations limited our progress. By challenging America to go to the moon, Kennedy forced the country to expand its imagination to meet the possibilities of science.
So, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, we've assembled a list scientific accomplishments that would certainly shatter our nonchalance about advanced technology, capturing worldwide psyches at the same time.
Clearly, this list is incomplete, and we'd like you, the readers to add to it. What scientific or engineering project, discovery, or advance do you think could inspire and impress the people of today like the moon landing did 40 years ago? Have we, as a civilization, moved past the propensity to marvel at technological progress, or can a sufficiently impressive advance still illicit awe? We look forward to reading your additions to our list, your arguments for and against them, and your general observations about the ability of science to inspire. Now, let's take a look at the list:
A Manned Mission to Mars
Ever since the moon landing, humans (including those who've walked on the moon) have looked past the moon to Earth's next closest neighbor: Mars. Travelling to Mars is of course vastly more difficult than travelling to the moon, but if anything can become a worldwide moment as Apollo 11 did, it would be humans walking on another planet for the first time.
Where We Are Now: During the Bush Administration, and especially under the tenure of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, manned missions to Mars received a great deal of support. However, the Obama Administration is far less taken with the idea of manned spaceflight, and has scalled back many programs considered necessary for an eventual mission to Mars.
Even if the political will was there, right now, the technology isn't. There is currently no shielding strong enough to protect the astronauts from the high power cosmic rays that would constantly bombard them during the trip. These highly charged particles cause cancer, and damage the astronauts' eyes and brains. Additionally, being stuck in a tin can adrift in space for the 500+ day journey (one-way) doesn't exactly do wonders for the psyche, and most research catalogues a range of problems resulting from the cramped, precarious and monotonous living conditions.
All of this adds up to journey that reduces fit, PhD-graduate astronauts to blind, brain-damaged lunatics who probably couldn't get it together enough to land the ship when they did eventually reach Mars.
What Needs To Happen: Designing a rocket that can travel to Mars and back is actually the easy part. Dealing with the shielding and the health problems caused by the trick form the real problem. Cosmic rays travel at nearly the speed of light, so any physical shielding thick enough to stop them built from current tech would likely be too heavy to get into orbit. Luckily, cosmic rays are charged particles, and thus easily manipulated by magnetic fields. Current thinking focuses on magnetic shielding that would redirect the rays around the spaceship, rather than block them outright.
On the psychology front, a recent European study locked six scientists in a simulated spacecraft for 105 days, and none of them succumbed to space madness. This year, another team of six will be locked in the simulator for the full 520 days a Mars mission is expected to take. The results of that test will provide a wealth of data needed to design the psychological program that will keep the astronauts mentally fit to perform their duties.
Chances It Will Occur Within A Decade: Nil. The technology could certainly be developed, but right now, the political will (yet alone the financial support) just isn't there.
Sorry to see this extremely naive stance on nuclear disarmament. Of course he ignores the fact of terrorist states desperately seeking nukes, and focuses on the low hanging fruit of the large nuclear powers reducing stockpiles. Of course if the chief nuclear nations ever did completely disarm, this would dangerously empower any rogue state. Not to mention that if we'd followed this hippie pipe dream in the 80s, we'd still have the Soviet Union to contend with today.
One day we will indeed have a nuke free world--when an even more powerful weapon has made them obsolete.
For a great article on the Apollo Anniversary and some footage weblinks NASA has to offer.
I would have to say that the greatest impact on everyone, and particularly the media because they are the eye of the populace, would be free energy. Once that has happened it would substantially change the way everybody lives. It would also change all the future technologies, so getting to mars after that event would probably be much easier. Removing all nuclear powers is ideal, but its impact would be a safer world and every one can take a sigh of relief. But overall it wouldn't change our current stance on technology. The same goes for HIV/AIDs. I don't even know what to say about alien life. Yes it's interesting, but after we find it, what then? Free energy has, by far, the most impact on the world and it's future, I would give it a higher priority to it than it is now.
Wait I forgot to add my contribution to the list:
A technology more important than all other technologies!
Bow, bow down because we are not worthy.
I have to say that if farming towers pulls through, we could hopefully reduce the food shortage in many countries. While this IS a relief technology, it does help to know that may be able to apply this in a hostile environment, namely space. Thus sustaining life during space travel will be more sustainable and independent of earth.
Nothing, especially energy will ever be free. As long as the world is based on a monetary system the current oil/energy corporations will make sure that you pay for every single electron you use. So what if the power comes from oil, fusion, wind, the sun or gerbils on treadmills. .You're going to pay for it.
robotic house construction. A large portion of a houses cost is human labor...i'd say 40%. Robotically built housing would reduce the cost of houses and change the world. Home ownership is linked to financial prosperity. Alot of people can't afford a home because they cost so much so they are forced to rent..which is wasted money when it could be going to a house you could own. But if they were built by robots the cost would lower significantly allowing a much greater percentage of the population to own houses. And home values double every 10 years.
This would change everything as the average person would become financially stable and save tons of money that would then be spent in other industries.
Most importantly build nuclear spacecraft that can get us to where we are going in 1/10th the time, nuclear rockets have been tested for forty years. The nuclear fuel would have to be mined and processed in space like the moon or asteroid. It would be more publicly acceptable that way, then and only then can we finally use a far superior rocket system to get us to where we are going much safer than chemical rockets can. Note nuclear rockets would have to be tethered a substantial distance from the explorers because of their fast and slow moving neutrons in order to be safe.
The discovery of alien life is within our grasp within our lifetime for maybe a very few of us, but since the delay of stopping human exploration beyond low earth orbit after the moon missions it may only happen for a few of the young ones alive today.
Would we recognize alien life if we saw it with a robotic mission to another world, I would guess not because they would be treated like UFO's. However if human explorer's were sent to search for life and found life, they would recognize it right away. Because of not trusting our instruments or what we actually see the treatment of something moving in the soil, unidentified moving object, UMO, will be explained away similarly to how we explain away UFO's today. Take this example right here, we may only find out for example if this is life taken from the images of the Phoenix Lander, by human exploration long after I have passed away:
Obviously Popular Science has a pop culture take on achievements that would rival landing on the moon. I would select entirely different achievements, like 1) Space elevators with Buckminster carbon fiber threads because nothing promotes space like weightless sex 2) Cheap electrical batteries with power densities that exceed gasoline by a magnitude of 2. - Because batteries are the ball and chain tether of robots, cars, planes, submarines and energy weapons. 3) Cheap room temperature Super Conductors – no need for wasting money on fluff solar or wind because we could make due with what we have. 4) Micro fusion anti-matter nano-bombs that are smaller than a grain of sand yet yield in the kiloton atom bomb range – way cooler than sharks with lasers on their heads and perhaps Gravity bombs – what better way to suck souls 5) Teleportation at a cheap rate and infinite range – look out universe!
Lots of room to add all sorts of goodies:
-Science finally conquers superstition and irrational thinking;
-A worldwide network of vacuum tunnels with ultra-highspeed trains running on magnetic tracks. Major cities would be joined togethr, with subnetworks for lesser destinations.The world would really then be a much smaller place;
-At the equator, you could transfer to stations from where gondolas would climb up nanocables to tethered colonies at geostationary orbits. To attain escape velocities one would merely have to climb further past this point and letting go at the right time. Space would literally be a couple of train rides and an elevator trip away;
-programmable matter becomes a commercial reality: want to turn your blank wall into a window, a mirror, or a giant video display?;
-We finally ween ourselves away from our petroleum addiction;
-Total neuro-cybernetic interface, the best of William Gibson's prophecies that still haven't come true;
-Science finally makes the human lifespan indefinite. I don't know about you guys, but I would like a longer recommended shelf life.
what about free water? if we could make the ocen water drinkable worldwide and free, africa will be much more green.
Well I have to say some lofty goals in there. If the truth were to be known I am sure that we havent needed to search for a free energy source for a long time now. Nuclear fusion is a dangerous pipedream suitable for space exploration possibly. Nuclear disarmament will be acheived once a few nuclear weapons get fired on other countries....of course by the time the last nuke gets fired there may not be much of a planet left. As for E.T. look all you like search the skies, dream ponder, space is big who knows. Cures for disease will eventually be found through genetic manipulation... so will super viruses that can destroy the human race. Bottom line 90%+ of all species that ever existed on the earth are extinct.... Why should we be any different? Enjoy life while you can, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die. ;)
"Although the start up costs are high, solar thermal and offshore wind power drastically reduce the long term cost of energy by using a fuel that, unlike coal, natural gas and nuclear, costs exactly nothing."
If this were true, our energy problems would be solved. But solar and wind are *NOT* free after the initial investment. Thousands of devices with moving parts (wind turbines, rotating mirrors, high pressure/high temperature pipes and generators) must be maintained over a distributed network. Additionally, the thousands of miles of high power lines must also be maintained.
Just recently, T. Boone Pickens, an oil baron who promoted a significant investment in wind energy in Texas, has run into problems when he couldn't get financing for the $12 billion needed to build the power lines for his wind project. He's now selling off the thousands of turbines he purchased from GE.
I don't say all of this to rain on the alt-energy parade. I very much support wind and solar. But you can't make statements like "hey it's free!" and remain honest. There are significant costs, which is why we aren't powered by these systems as easily as with coal and nuclear.
Heart disease kills many more people than AIDS, at least where I sit it does. I suspect malaria and other diseases might compete for the top spot world-wide, as would famine and the need for clean drinking water. Lack of affordable energy also contribute to poor health and high mortality.
The sad truth is that AIDS is a largely preventable disease. The fact that it has not run rampant through developed countries shows that education and common sense can keep it in check. This is not to say that we shouldn't search for a vaccine or effective treatments, but I wouldn't say it tops the list of things mankind should aspire to.
Since you asked, I would say the top 5 should be: 1) clean, plentiful and cheap energy; 2)clean drinking water for all of earth's human population; 3) effective waste treatment and disposal which protects the environment and recycles as much of the material and energy as possible from waste streams; 4) free quality education for all who want it, subsidized through the college level; 5) freedom to choose your local and national leaders without threat of tyranny.
I'm sorely tempted to move #5 to #1 at the risk of making the list more political than scientific/technical. I do believe that political freedom provides the foundation for many of the other items in the list, but I'll leave it as it is.
Space Elevator was mentioned but it needs to be emphasized - that one item alone will radically alter humanity simply for the fact that mankind will have the means by which we can ensure the survival of our race.
Also - no one mentioned full, complete Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) with human-level or greater reasoning capabilities...
Pixie-dust realization (Human regeneration)
Full HCI (Human-Computer Interfaces) allowing full augmentation of all bodily process as needed/desired.
I think when Sky Net becomes self aware we'll have a real problem on our hands (you've all seen that one). All kidding aside, I agree that when mankind forgets about their worst invention (yes, invention) yet, religion, the world will experience an infinite amount of prosperity leading to achievements that will make the lunar landing look like a joke. After this point we will need to invent a way for machines to take over a majority of our work days so that humans will only have to put in roughly two hours a day to maintain the machines. At this point we will be able to concentrate on more important things and move forward. I think this is within two three to four decades away, as for religion, who knows.
Do you have any idea how dangerous free energy would be?
All oil is purchased in US dollars, regardless of where it came from, or where it's going. So if you want to buy oil, you first have to buy US dollars. This artificially inflates the demand (and hence the cost/value) of the US currency.
If the demand for oil declines as much as we dream of it, so too does the demand for the green-back.
Since we've moved most of our manufacturing off-shore, the price of consumer goods would sky-rocket as the value of the dollar plummets. Economic chaos.
The good news is that it would likely repatriate a whole whack of manufacturing jobs... But then China would find themselves in big trouble, wouldn't they? So it's in the best interest of the 2 biggest economies in the world to keep everyone burning oil and paying for it with USD.
Don't buy it? Just ask Venezuela and Iraq how their experiments with selling oil for Euro's instead of dollars went.
I would believe that the biggest advance in technology we could accomplish soon would be true artificial intelegence. This would lead to a huge increase in technology also as using the AI we could eliminate the need for many non technology related jobs, freeing up many more people to pusue technilogical advances, and in fact use the AI to create new technologies. With the building of more and more advance robotics systems I see this as being something that will come within the next 10 years also. You all read it here, Japan will unveil a true AI by the year 2015.
Even if solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. aren't completely cost-free, they'd still be significantly less expensive than fossil fuels, due to the fact that the source of that power itself is free. Then the only financial cost incurred would be the initial setup of the collecting mechanism, battery storage, the transmission grid, and maintenance costs. And I would guess that the maintenance costs would be a lot less expensive for clean power (particularly solar, whose infrastructure requires no moving parts) than for fossil fuel generated power. Free? Maybe not. Bargain? Absolutely!
I think that the idea of nuclear disarmament is a nobel albeit naive goal. As long as people let religion dictate their views, the need of resources run the economies and land for the uncontrolled population growth then we(humans) will continue to strive to make deadlier weapons to kill people with. A goal which I was surprised not to see on the list was a cure for cancer. Not a treatment that might irradicate it, but an honest-to-goodness cure like what they have done for smallpox. Cancer has been around much longer than HIV/AIDS and has killed many more people than HIV/AIDS. Now some would argue that it is because cancer has been around much longer than HIV/AIDS and they would be right and in all that time we have not yet been able to reliably cure it.
To follow up on the life question outside of earth, here is a new YouTube video from Mars Opportunity Rover Microscopic Imager showing what appears to be some salty brine drip sol 1886? There seems to be some small spherical spherule, Blueberries, like objects causing some of the drip?
Five achievements of man. . .How bout the amazing $2 bill giveaway going on at Verblist.net See site for details.
I'd modify the list like this:
Mission to Mars would be replaced by Permanent Settlement on Mars. Although the trip to Mars would be a quantum leap beyond a trip to the moon, on the surface, people wouldn't see a huge difference. I think, for most people, setting foot on Mars and setting foot on another planet would be almost the same.
Alien life is good, but it would have to be more than a microbe. Multicell alien life would qualify. I think single cell alien life, or a protovirus of some sort would not excite people too much.
Free energy is excellent. I'd keep it. But I'm not sure what form this breakthrough would have to take to excite people. Probably something like the creation of the first fusion reactor. Saying "We're going to build wind and solar power over the next 20 years to replace dependance on other sources" would not generate too much excitement.
Nuclear disarmament is not enough. Making war obsolete would be a better criteria. How? Who knows. But, if nuclear disarmament were possible, it would just set the stage for the next big thing (biological warfare, chemical, etc.)
Finally, the cure for HIV/AIDS would as this point be almost anti-climactic. I think the cure for cancer would be the one that would excite people.
the manned mission to mars seems the closest to being feasible(followed close by the cure for HIV/AIDS). but i think if it is ever going to happen we can't think the same way we did when going to the moon, it is a completely different situation. there are a couple of ways we can approach this problem., now i'm thinking purely about getting there, not so much being alive when we get there( if we can't fix our magnetic field what are we going to need a portable one for?), so this could be applied to any new rover missions. it seems clear that sending the entire mission from earth to mars is to much, so i see just two options: 1. we build a space craft in space, just for space. it could be lighter and faster because it does not need to be able to survive re-entree. this would also allow us to build it in pieces(like the ISS)2. we send 2 tanks of fuel into space, one orbiting earth(or the moon) to provide the fuel to start the journey, and the other one sent to mars with the fuel for the return trip. instead of having a fuel tank floating around earth we could just build a moon base, but then that a whole different ball game. and i think that's the big choice; a moon base or a manned mission to mars. both would be great but with no motivation(as in America beating them damn commies to the moon) there is no funding. but i think we have bigger problems on earth that need dealing with, especially if you live on the coast.
wowlfie...... the worst kind of religion is the kind that won't admit itself....like the naturalists religion. Let's face it....how many people it did the atheists Soviet Union ship off to spend tropical vacations in Siberia?
As far as the article goes.
Mars would be an achievement.
Disarming all nukes can't happen. Once knowledge like that is out there, it's not going away. Someone will always be able to build one if they are driven enough.
Finding alien life would be interesting. If all that money they've blown on SETI actually brings in some alien's sit-com our 'scientists' today might have a reason to hold to the (generalized) Copernican principal.
I love some of the comments here... I laughed my ass off. To add to the list, I fully believe that the human mind is capable of doing much more than it currently does, it just lays dormant most of the time. For example, regeneration... the genetic make-up of your body is there, so if you lose a limb or something why can't the mind simply recall those genes and regrow your limb. Memory, accessing long-term memory at will or handling memory however you please. Promting your mind to send the correct signals to your body so that you can do whatever like re-grow hair, burn fat and build muscle... whatever. Or telling your body what to do specifically fight any disease, such as AIDS, where you tell the body to essentially ignore the HIV cells so that you don't contaminate your own.
I went on a tangent, but I hope I got my idea across.
BTW, of those mentioned in the article, I think intelligent Alien life would have the most dramatic effect. The push to connect with it and potentially others, or maybe the fear of the unknown would alter our lives dramatically. In some instances it may force mankind to unite under one banner. No longer seperated under racial, religious or national banners, but by species in the universe.
Number one earth game changer... When people stop confussing the terms religiosity, extremism, and religion. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. If anyone thinks this is Global problem, please explain. However, Religiosity is that oppresor of souls, that bogs humans down in impossible to keep laws, traditions, dress codes, regulations, and unfounded superstitions. In this case we do have a world wide problem. Finally, extremism is violence under that name of a cause (in most cases in the name of a religion), but not always. Lets not forget the Columbine shootings, that was violence in the name of naturalism and natural selection. So, at the top of my list would be for all humanity to embrace true religion so that we all will be enabled to work together to push for the advances in science and technology.
I agree with the global smackdown of religion. It is just another voracious parasite we can do without, and maybe the jimmy swaggart's and oral roberts' can get real jobs. Then maybe electromagnetic propulsion, genome bridging, to make us prepared for space travel/colonizing. auto translation at any publicly owned facility for all languages and lastly worldwide health care.
We forgot the cure for cancer. It kills more people than AIDS does. And I will ad - abolish religion. This is a major setback for technology, advancement and causes trouble worldwide.
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