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Old 2009-07-18, 23:35   #1
MooooMoo
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Default Is Science & Technology coming to a standstill?

I thought this would be interesting topic to discuss since we're near the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. So, has science and technology stagnated during the past decade? You decide.

Space flight in 1969: We went to the moon
Space flight in 2009: We're struggling to finish a space station (the ISS) in low earth orbit

Air travel in the 1980s and 1990s: Flying from London to New York took 3 hours
Air travel in 2009: Flying from London to New York takes 6-7 hours
(the Concorde was retired, and no replacement is on the horizon. Also, these times don't include security delays)

Oil production in 2004: 85 million barrels/day
Oil production in 2008: 85 million barrels/day, despite record high prices as an incentive to produce more

Third oldest person in 1997: 117 years
Oldest man in 1998: 115 years
Oldest person, man or woman, in 2009: 115 years
(Life expectancy in developed countries and in sub-saharan Africa have also stagnated mainly because of obesity and AIDS. As you can see, recent medical "advances" haven't helped the oldest people live longer either.)

Range of affordable and highway-capable electric cars in the late 1990s: 120-150 miles on a single charge (for GM's EV1 and Toyota's Rav4 EV)
Range of affordable and highway-capable electric cars now: 40 miles on a single charge (GM's volt. The Tesla slightly exceeds the range of the late 1990s cars, but it's very expensive and not in mass production yet)

Kentucky Derby winning time in 1964: 2:00.0
Record winning time: 1:59.4 (in 1973)
Average winning time for 1995-2003: 2:01.5
Average winning time for 2004-2009: 2:02.5
(better knowledge of genetics and drugs should lead to faster race times, but we're reaching a peak there)

Major inventions, discoveries, and technological accomplishments:
1900s - Heavier than air flight, mass production of automobile, and theory of special relativity
1910s - Theory of general relativity, army tanks, and various household items (stainless steel, zipper, and toaster)
1920s - Color TV (not in widespread use yet, though), liquid fuelled rocket, solo flight across Atlantic, movies with sound
1930s - Radar, nuclear fission, color movies, and scotch tape
1940s - Jet aircraft, nuclear bombs, and early computers
1950s - DNA, Sputnik, organ transplants, and mass production of vaccines
1960s - Lasers, man on moon, ATMs, minicomputers, email, and computer video games
1970s - Integrated circuit, pocket calculators, microvave ovens, VCRs, theory of black holes
1980s - Cell phones and networks, modern computer and internet industry, high-temperature superconductors, cable TV, CDs, digital cameras, camcorders
1990s - Cloning of sheep, genetically engineered crops, GPS, discovery of extrasolar planets, Human Genome Project, Hubble Space Telescope
2000s - ????? A few minor improvements to earlier inventions, but nothing else
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Old 2009-07-19, 00:07   #2
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If it makes you feel any better:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000s_i...and_technology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...g_technologies
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Old 2009-07-19, 00:41   #3
MooooMoo
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Most of them are social changes (increase in online DVD rentals, google becoming a verb, blogs and social networking sites being used more, internet usage surpassing TV viewing), adoption of technology already invented before 2000 (broadband internet usage, RFID, wireless networks, ATMs, and digital cameras), or minor improvements (slightly better hybrid cars, data storage, and Mars rovers).

The very few discoveries and new technologies on that list are all minor (dwarf planet Eris discovered, for example). They're not even close to life-changing inventions like airplanes, computers, nukes, or even genetically modified crops.
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Old 2009-07-19, 01:10   #4
mdettweiler
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Hmm--interesting links. One thing I noticed, though, is that while the technologies listed are definitely interesting, and are important achievements in their own right, they are, as MooooMoo said, mostly social changes--and the relatively fewer technological changes are mostly improvements on earlier technologies. There's nothing of the same life-changing scale that the innovations of earlier decades were.

I think that much of this is due to an overobsession with global warming and the like. It seems that all of science is so ga-ga over the whole global warming thing that they pursue "solutions" for it at the expense of all else. A prime example of this is one that I pointed out over in the thread about faster-than-light travel. Back in the "space race" decades, our entire country saw space exploration (and, by extension, setting records before other countries, namely the USSR, did) as a very high priority. Things like the moon landing were enormous events, and everyone looked forward eagerly to the day when the U.S. would plant our flag on Mars, the next big challenge. But now? The general opinion of a Mars mission seems to be along the lines of "oh yeah, that would be cool". We keep sending space shuttles up to the ISS with more parts, supplies, etc., and keep doing various research in Earth orbit, which is a worthy pursuit, but nonetheless it should not be done to the exclusion of continuing to push out farther. On top of all this, NASA has the shuttle fleet slated for retirement within a few years, and its replacement is still just as much on the horizon as it was a decade ago! And this is with Russia charging upwards of $55 million a man to send people up, which will be our only option when the shuttle fleet is down. Whatever happened to the fervor that our entire nation shared in decades past, when such an occurrence would be considered a slap in the face to our national pride?

Granted, some of that is due to lack of funding, but nonetheless it typifies a general trend of scientific progress being bogged down in global warming and the like at the expense of real progress. Some say that this is because global warming is such a big threat to mankind that it must be dealt with at the expense of all else; but how long will it continue to be so? Many of the "solutions" proposed wouldn't even begin to make a dent until decades down the road, and even then, their impact is rather up in the air. Thus, what we have is an entire society obsessed that will continue to be obsessed with global warming for decades to come. Does that mean that overall scientific progress is to be put on hold until then? Who's to say that even when these "solutions" are supposed to take effect, that people won't just bring up new "solutions" that will hog up the next 50 years or so after that?

Anyway, just my $0.02.
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Old 2009-07-19, 02:52   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MooooMoo View Post
So, has science and technology stagnated during the past decade?
Not at all.

It's easy to cherry-pick examples to appear to show lack of progress as you did.

Quote:
Space flight in 2009: We're struggling to finish a space station (the ISS) in low earth orbit
The ISS is much more capable and sophisticated than the Apollo craft were. Ever see 13 people inside an Apollo at one time?

And why choose to use "struggling" in one context, but not the other, to bias the comparison? There was lots of struggling in the Apollo program -- why did you choose not to mention that?

How many fatalities were there in tests of the ISS modules? (0; Apollo - 3)

How many ISS component delivery flights have had to abort and return to Earth without reaching their goal because of near-fatal mishaps? (0; Apollo - 1)

Quote:
Air travel in the 1980s and 1990s: Flying from London to New York took 3 hours
Air travel in 2009: Flying from London to New York takes 6-7 hours
(the Concorde was retired, and no replacement is on the horizon. Also, these times don't include security delays)
7% of the Concordes in airline service crashed.

Can you cite any other commercial airliner model in the last half-century that had crashes of 7% of its planes in commercial service?

The Concorde was never financially viable without government subsidies. Is that the sort of standard you hold up as superior?

Quote:
Third oldest person in 1997: 117 years
Oldest man in 1998: 115 years
Oldest person, man or woman, in 2009: 115 years
(Life expectancy in developed countries and in sub-saharan Africa have also stagnated mainly because of obesity and AIDS. As you can see, recent medical "advances" haven't helped the oldest people live longer either.)
No, what _I_ see is that you picked dates and figures that happen to match the message you want.

If you were really trying to prove what you proclaim, you'd use broad statistical measures instead of carefully selecting only what favors your thesis.

Quote:
The Tesla slightly exceeds the range of the late 1990s cars, but it's very expensive and not in mass production yet)
Gee, you didn't bother mentioning expense when you held up the Concorde as an example. How selective of you.

Was the Concorde in "mass production"? (Hint: Only 14 went into airline service) How many Teslas have been built?

Quote:
1970s < snip > theory of black holes
Black holes were predicted 200 years ago. It didn't require general relativity to come up with that idea, or to have a black hole -- Newtonian physics suffices.

Quote:
1980s - Cell phones and networks, modern computer and internet industry, high-temperature superconductors, cable TV, CDs, digital cameras, camcorders
You're a decade late on some of those.

Quote:
1990s - < snip > Hubble Space Telescope
HST was built in the early 1980s. It was originally scheduled to be launched on the next shuttle flight after what turned out to be Challenger's last launch, then was mothballed several years.

Quote:
2000s - ????? A few minor improvements to earlier inventions, but nothing else
Wow -- what 20/20 hindsight on 1920s color TV, which, of course, was not shown to be a significant invention until it became more practical decades later.

If you don't have some time machine with which you've traveled forward to the 2040s to see which inventions of the 2000s will then be known to be significant, how can you possible declare that nothing from the 2000s is significant? (Answer: you can't.)

This whole thing is just a meaningless rhetorical exercise, certainly not proving your claim.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-07-19 at 03:04
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Old 2009-07-19, 03:29   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
7% of the Concordes in airline service crashed.

Can you cite any other commercial airliner model in the last half-century that had crashes of 7% of its planes in commercial service?

...

Was the Concorde in "mass production"? (Hint: Only 14 went into airline service)
7% crashed, and there were only 14 in airline service. You're conveniently (thinly) disguising the fact that that means that only one crashed. Hardly a reasonable sample size to draw any reasonable conclusions. If 0 of the 14 crashed, I doubt you'd be raving about the amazing 0% crash rate and asking what other commercial plane could claim such statistics.
You're cherry-picking too. (but less blatantly)
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
Wow -- what 20/20 hindsight on 1920s color TV, which, of course, was not shown to be a significant invention until it became more practical decades later.

If you don't have some time machine with which you've traveled forward to the 2040s to see which inventions of the 2000s will then be known to be significant, how can you possible declare that nothing from the 2000s is significant? (Answer: you can't.)

This whole thing is just a meaningless rhetorical exercise, certainly not proving your claim.
I agree. Way too much cherry-picking. Also, looking back at the list, many of the important inventions didn't seem important or because of costs were not widespread at the time. I think the same could be said of nearly any decade that you're currently in.
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Old 2009-07-19, 03:49   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mini-Geek View Post
7% crashed, and there were only 14 in airline service. You're conveniently (thinly) disguising the fact that that means that only one crashed. Hardly a reasonable sample size to draw any reasonable conclusions.
It was MooooMoo who cited the Concorde as significant, not me!!

Yes, only one crashed, but that was still 7+%.

If the Concorde was as significant as MooooMoo seems to say ("Flying from London to New York took 3 hours", as though that were the standard for air travel in the 1980s and 1990s), then that 7% crash fraction is mighty significant, too!

Quote:
If 0 of the 14 crashed, I doubt you'd be raving about the amazing 0% crash rate and asking what other commercial plane could claim such statistics.
You're cherry-picking too. (but less blatantly)
I was shoving MooooMoo's rhetoric back, to make a point!

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-07-19 at 03:57
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Old 2009-07-19, 04:19   #8
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SR-71 Blackbird for flying from New York to London (Sept 1, 1975) in 1hr. 54mins & 56.4 secs (mach 2.6) from take off to touch down.
Quote:
Space flight in 1969: We went to the moon
Space flight in 2009: We're struggling to finish a space station (the ISS) in low earth orbit
Space flight in 1969: 7 day missions, 3 people
Space flight in 2009: 180 day missions, 6 people

Quote:
Oil production in 2004: 85 million barrels/day
Oil production in 2008: 85 million barrels/day, despite record high prices as an incentive to produce more
Oil consumption/production 1965: ~50 million barrels
Oil consumption/production 2008: 85 million barrels, despite a doubling of world population and an increase in the standard of living in India and China.

Last fiddled with by Uncwilly on 2009-07-19 at 04:30
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Old 2009-07-19, 05:42   #9
MooooMoo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
If the Concorde was as significant as MooooMoo seems to say ("Flying from London to New York took 3 hours", as though that were the standard for air travel in the 1980s and 1990s)
The Concorde wasn't that significant - even if you exclude it, commercial air travel in the 70s was still faster because the Tupolev Tu-144 exceeded Mach 2. If you only look at non-supersonic aircraft and don't count security delays, air travel today is still slower than in the 90s, mainly because pilots are flying slower to conserve fuel: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/mar...save-millions/

Quote:
Oil consumption/production 1965: ~50 million barrels
Oil consumption/production 2008: 85 million barrels, despite a doubling of world population and an increase in the standard of living in India and China.
That's because we replaced oil with an even dirtier fossil fuel (coal) for generating electricity. Vehicles did not become more efficient by any significant amount since the early 1990s.

Average MPG of cars in 1991: 21
Average MPG of cars in 2006: 22
Average MPG of vans, pickups, and SUVs in 1991: 17
Average MPG of vans, pickups, and SUVs in 2006: 18
(source: http://www.project.org/images/graphs/MPG.jpg)

Quote:
Space flight in 1969: 7 day missions, 3 people
Space flight in 2009: 180 day missions, 6 people
Space flight in August 1988: 240 day missions (achieved by cosmonauts on the Mir station)

Quote:
Gee, you didn't bother mentioning expense when you held up the Concorde as an example. How selective of you.

Was the Concorde in "mass production"? (Hint: Only 14 went into airline service) How many Teslas have been built?
My point was that we were able to build affordable electric cars with decent performances and a range that exceeded a hundred miles in the late 1990s. However, today's electric cars sold or leased at the same price range perform worse, and electric cars that perform a bit better than those in the 1990s are only available at a limited quantity and are sold at a price vastly greater than their 1990s counterparts.

edit:
Quote:
Black holes were predicted 200 years ago. (referring to theory of black holes in the 70s) You're a decade late on some of those. (referring to the 1980s inventions)...HST was built in the early 1980s. It was originally scheduled to be launched on the next shuttle flight after what turned out to be Challenger's last launch, then was mothballed several years. (referring to the Hubble Space Telescope as part of the 1990s)
OK then, shift some of the 80s inventions to the 70s category, delete the theory of black holes from the 1970s, and put the HST in the 80s. You'll still see that each decade has significant discoveries and inventions, except for the decade we're in right now.

Last fiddled with by MooooMoo on 2009-07-19 at 05:48
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Old 2009-07-19, 06:07   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MooooMoo View Post
adoption of technology already invented before 2000 (broadband internet usage, RFID, wireless networks, ATMs, and digital cameras)
... and the 2010s will see adoption of technology already invented before 2010 (AKA 2000s) ... but we don't know now just which technology that will be, do we?

Did _you_ know in 1999 that RFID would be important now? I did, but I can't claim that about most other stuff.

(In the mid 1970s I knew about digital cameras -- used by astronomers. But that's a specialty interest of mine.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by MooooMoo View Post
You'll still see that each decade has significant discoveries and inventions, except for the decade we're in right now.
Aren't you even the least bit suspicious that the phrase "except for the decade we're in right now" might also be true ten years from now?

Do you already know that by 2019 nothing invented in the 2000s will have been deemed important yet? How?

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-07-19 at 06:29
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Old 2009-07-19, 06:33   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MooooMoo View Post
1980s < snip > cable TV
Cable TV came to Tulsa around 1970, and that was after it became popular in the boonies such as the Michigan UP where there are no stations (so everyone subscribes, making it profitable right away).

Quote:
Originally Posted by MooooMoo View Post
air travel today is still slower than in the 90s, mainly because pilots are flying slower to conserve fuel: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/mar...save-millions/
So, you don't count improved fuel economy (which is due to improved airplane design as well as slower cruising) in airplanes as progress ...

Quote:
Vehicles did not become more efficient by any significant amount since the early 1990s.

Average MPG of cars in 1991: 21
Average MPG of cars in 2006: 22
Average MPG of vans, pickups, and SUVs in 1991: 17
Average MPG of vans, pickups, and SUVs in 2006: 18
(source: http://www.project.org/images/graphs/MPG.jpg)
... but you cite failure to improve fuel economy (by much) in ground vehicles as a lack of progress??

(Hmmm ... why didn't you compare figures on pollution emissions by cars/vans/SUVs between now and 15 or 20 years ago? Does that not count as progress?

How about noise levels generated by aircraft during takeoff?)

You seem bound and determined to show that the "good old days" were better than we have it now, no matter which data points you have to ignore.

But that's getting away from your thesis about "science and technology stagnated during the past decade".

Hmmm ...

Well, during the Bush-the-Younger administration years, there was that Republican War On Science thing for 8 years of the decade. Maybe by 2025, we'll see that there was a notable dip in significant inventions from 2001-2009 ... Naahhh.

Let's not veer further into politics.

We Baby Boomers are getting into our 60s and retiring nowadays. Could it be that all that progress we made in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s is not being matched by the younger generations after us? (We _do_ outnumber some of them [in the US], so maybe some slowdown is to be expected.)

- -

Nanotechnology in the 2000s?

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2009-07-19 at 07:22
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