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The Future of Science, and the Universe

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  • Ian Pitchford
    The New York Review of Books November 15, 2001 The Future of Science, and the Universe By Steven Weinberg In the program for a lecture series at the New York
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2001
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      The New York Review of Books
      November 15, 2001

      The Future of Science, and the Universe
      By Steven Weinberg

      In the program for a lecture series at the New York Public Library I saw one
      vision of the future: Raymond Loewy's conception of an airliner, as exhibited
      at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.[1] I was there at the 1939 World's Fair,
      but I don't remember Raymond Loewy's design. I was very young. What I best
      remember are the fountains lit up by colored lights. Also, I remember that a
      dairy company was giving out tiny free ice cream cones. With the Depression
      still going on, free ice cream was a memorable experience. Whatever predictions
      of future technology were made at the World's Fair did not leave much of an
      impression on me.

      It was no great loss. Aside perhaps from the vision of modern superhighways in
      the General Motors pavilion, the World's Fair did not score great successes in
      its predictions of future technology. The illustration of Loewy's design for an
      airliner of the future doesn't look at all like passenger aircraft today. It
      shows eight engines, and a fuselage resembling a diesel locomotive. I didn't
      know it in 1939, but Raymond Loewy had in fact designed diesel locomotives for
      the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1930s, giving them a futuristic "streamlined"
      look without actually paying much attention to principles of aerodynamics. He
      could get away with this with diesel locomotives, but not with airplanes. But
      predicting future technology is very difficult even if you don't ignore the
      laws of physics. You might better spend your time admiring fountains of colored
      water.

      My subject here is not the future of technology or other applications of
      science, but the future of science itself. Here we can make a prediction with
      fair confidence—that sooner or later we shall discover the physical principles
      that govern all natural phenomena.

      Full text
      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14796
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