How far a civilization can go depends mainly on the level of technological development. Only with sufficiently advanced technology can we cope with all kinds of sudden challenges. Physics is the most basic subject in natural sciences, and its progress often affects the development of human civilization and science and technology.
Anyone who has a better understanding of the development of physics should know that there have been no major breakthroughs in physics in the past 100 years. The last major breakthrough was at the beginning of the 20th century, and it has been 100 years.
After so long, why hasn’t there been a major breakthrough in physics? When will there be another great scientist like Einstein?
In Liu Cixin’s science fiction novel “Three-Body”, there is a saying that the reason why the development of human science has encountered a bottleneck is because basic scientific research is restricted by a higher level of civilization, and it is locked by the wise man of the three-body text This has made the scientific research of mankind have been stalled.
But this is an imagination after all. There has been no major breakthrough in physics in the past 100 years, and it should have nothing to do with this.
We may be able to find the reason in history.
The development of science in the modern sense began in the 16th century, and physics was one of the earliest developed disciplines. Since Galileo, the development of physics has been on the fast track. This is because Galileo, the pioneer of modern science, introduced experiment as a research method and introduced physics. Prior to this, scientific research was mainly based on observation and lack of evidence.
During this period, there were mainly two major breakthroughs.
The first time was the end of the 17th century. During this period, Newton proposed the law of universal gravitation and Newton’s three laws. More importantly, Newton introduced mathematics as an important tool into physics research.
The second time was the beginning of the 20th century. Many scientists represented by Einstein and Planck established the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. The reason why Einstein is regarded as the pinnacle of human intelligence is that he created the theory of relativity almost by himself, and he also participated in the foundation and construction of quantum mechanics.
Galileo and Newton ushered in the era of classical physics, while a group of scientists represented by Einstein and Planck ushered in modern physics. From classic physics to modern physics, these two major breakthroughs have been separated by more than 200 years. Now, it has only been 100 years since the last major breakthrough. In fact, it is not a long time at all.
As the two pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum mechanics have far-reaching impact on the development of human civilization. They are epoch-making theories, which completely revolutionized the human world view, and even philosophy is deeply influenced by them.
Take quantum mechanics as an example. Many people think that it is very far from our lives. In fact, it is really important to our lives. If there is no semiconductor technology, there will be no information age, and smart phones will never come out. The theoretical basis of semiconductor technology is quantum mechanics.
Now, physicists are still doing further research on the basis of relativity and quantum mechanics, as well as doing some repair work. For example, the popular gravitational waves in recent years, scientists have made early predictions of the existence of gravitational waves based on the theory of relativity. Many scientists have worked together on the basis of the Yang-Mills theory to establish a unified basic particle, as well as the standard model theory of strong, weak and electromagnetic forces. This theory belongs to quantum field theory, and quantum field theory itself is quantum mechanics The product combined with the special theory of relativity.
From the perspective of the history of scientific development, every major breakthrough must be separated by a long period of time, but it is hard to say how long it will take. Usually, only after human beings have thoroughly understood the last theory and turned it into technology, can it lead the next wave of development. This is because the explosion of science and technology also requires a process of accumulation, and people often ignore this process.
Why can’t we discover the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics in the first place? This is mainly limited by our observational research methods at that time. Whether it is in large-scale or small-scale space-time, it is impossible to observe and research with the naked eye. We need sophisticated instruments and equipment, but these are all dependent on science and technology. development of. The development of science and technology requires an accumulation process, and basic science naturally also needs it.
In the future, where will physics make breakthroughs?
In fact, it has been foreshadowed. Three dark clouds have appeared in the sky of modern physics. They are dark matter involved in gravitation, dark energy that causes the accelerated expansion of the universe, and mysterious black holes. The existing physical theories are not applicable to them. According to the research of scientists, dark matter and dark energy account for 95% of the total mass and energy of the universe, but we don’t know anything about it. To solve these three dark clouds, conservative estimates, at least until the end of the 21st century.
Scientists have always hoped to unify the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, and establish the theory of universality. But now it seems that this is probably an unrealistic dream. Moreover, the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics are not complete either.
The next time physics will undergo major changes, I am afraid that a brand new theoretical system will also be established. But this does not mean that the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics are wrong and overturned. Just as Newtonian mechanics has not been overthrown, scientists have only discovered its limitations and found that it is not applicable in the microscopic field and the field of high-speed motion. The new theory will only give us a deeper understanding of the universe.
As for what existing cognitions will be overturned? According to some cutting-edge theories in modern physics, such as superstring theory, our universe may contain more than four dimensions.
As for when will there be another Einstein?
It is not so much that genius has created an era, as it is that era has created a genius. Newton was able to put forward Newton’s three major laws, and Einstein was able to establish the theory of relativity. They all stood on the shoulders of giants, which is the research results of predecessors. Of course, his own ingenuity and hard work are undeniable.
There has never been a shortage of smart people in the world, and there are many people with higher IQs than Einstein. If you let Einstein travel to the Newtonian era, using Einstein’s brain and using the knowledge of the time, can he complete Newton’s mission? It’s really hard to say.