16 Apr 2011

The time will come when…

Posted by jofr

The time will come when diligent research over long periods
will bring to light things that now lie hidden. A single
life time, even though entirely devoted to research, would
not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject….
And so this knowledge will be unfolded through long successive
ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be
amazed that we we did not know things that are so plain to them….
Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when
memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry
little affair unless it has in it something for every age
to investigate …. Nature does not reveal her mysteries once
and for all.
— Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Natural Questions, Book 7 “On Comets”, first century

As quoted by Carl Sagan in the introduction of his book Cosmos, Seneca used this text to describe how little we know. The chapter was about the cosmos, the sky and the comets, but the quote also applies to other worlds and universes as well: The world of fundamental particle physics, the world of neurons and neuroscience, the world of numbers and mathematical entities, the world of cells and biological organisms, etc. Each world has its own basic building blocks, its own fundamental interactions, its own structures, organisms and entities, and its own laws and science. The most basic science is Physics, which is well explored, although there is still room for the Physics for the 21st century. In every generation people discover something new and think they are approaching the limits of knowledge and the greatest of all mysteries. How many worlds are there? How many kinds of science do we need to describe these worlds?

(The image of the Earth is from NASA)

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