Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Whoops! Science ain't what it used to be. Have the cookie-cutters and clerks taken over?

William J. Broad, What Happened to All of Science’s Big Breakthroughs? NYTimes, Jan. 17, 2023. From the opening:

Miracle vaccines. Videophones in our pockets. Reusable rockets. Our technological bounty and its related blur of scientific progress seem undeniable and unsurpassed. Yet analysts now report that the overall pace of real breakthroughs has fallen dramatically over the past almost three-quarters of a century.

This month in the journal Nature, the report’s researchers told how their study of millions of scientific papers and patents shows that investigators and inventors have made relatively few breakthroughs and innovations compared with the world’s growing mountain of science and technology research. The three analysts found a steady drop from 1945 through 2010 in disruptive finds as a share of the booming venture, suggesting that scientists today are more likely to push ahead incrementally than to make intellectual leaps.

“We should be in a golden age of new discoveries and innovations,” said Michael Park, an author of the paper and a doctoral candidate in entrepreneurship and strategic management at the University of Minnesota.

The new finding of Mr. Park and his colleagues suggests that investments in science are caught in a spiral of diminishing returns and that quantity in some respects is outpacing quality. While unaddressed in the study, it also raises questions about the extent to which science can open new frontiers and sustain the kind of boldness that unlocked the atom and the universe and what can be done to address the shift away from pioneering discovery. Earlier studies have pointed to slowdowns in scientific progress but typically with less rigor.

There's more at the link.

1 comment:

  1. I've run into such people myself, though I haven't tried to publish in any official capacity. I wanted to post my findings about mathematical (number-theoretical) motivations behind shell structures (electronic, nuclear, and superatomic), but the folks who regularly posted to the science blog I was using attacked both my findings and me- even though what I was describing had never been published or described before so far as I can tell, and I walked them through the description step by step. All exact results identical to what you see in professional publications and classroom presentations (which is a far cry from crank work and 'pathological' science mavens). Yet I was told what I was doing wasn't science, and that it was already known, and was total nonsense. How could these last two be true simultaneously. The mods, who were friends with these folks, shut down my thread, and when I complained and described what they were saying, banned me for life from that blog (which is the biggest and most popular one online). From this analysis I've discovered all sorts of new things- conservation of energy of shell components over nuclear deformation, for example, which wasn't known, and an analogue to the Madelung Rule in the electronic system, but for the nucleus, among many other things.