Science is full of popular ideas and concepts. The ones we hear about are those that the general media speculate will determine the course of human society. However, it is the mundane and simple ideas that develop to shift our daily lives in ways that are difficult to predict. In this article I explore some of the more obscure and unassuming scientific endeavors that I believe will affect all of our lives in the years to come.
1. Photovoltaics — Solar power that can generate electricity from sunlight, without relying on any other energy source. This is a new technology for homes, but is already powering street lights and traffic lights. Solar power has the potential to be a key part of the future of green energy, and if solar cells can be produced cheaply enough, they could replace our existing power grids with thousands of smaller solar generators scattered across the globe. Decentralized power availability will be the key to sustainable energy, as opposed to depending on a few massive power plants, and using more expensive methods of transportation of electricity over long distances.
2. Superconductivity — the state of matter in which an electrical current moves through a material almost with no resistance (or at least with brief resistance), as opposed to an insulating material like glass which has very high resistance. There are two known forms of superconductivity: BCS and Tl2Ba2CuO4 type. Both are subject to a variety of problems at the moment, but superconductive materials are continually being discovered and researched in what is a relatively new field. Superconductors have the potential to revolutionize many industries, but it may be a long time before we can say that they have.
3. Drug Development — Most drugs we have today were recreated from plants or herbs by ancient civilizations, with modern science just identifying the chemical compounds in these ingredients. Modern medicine has advanced to where we can identify new pharmaceuticals, and plant compounds are often a good starting point for new drugs that can have more direct effects on our health than chemicals derived from animal testing. Drug development is an growing process, and there are many new drugs being discovered every year. Many of these could have been discovered a decade or more ago, but the time needed for developing…