Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Top 10 Scientific Mysteries for the 21st Century – Really?

ScienceNews Magazine Online posted a piece on the “Top 10Scientific Mysteries of the 21st Century” and being a collector of science riddles, I couldn’t help but read it.

The punch line came at the end with the coloned “Editors Note” on the writer of the posting:

Editor’s Note: It might not surprise readers to find out that Tom Siegfried is the author of a book about game theory. But he says the book did not include the sort of wild speculation that is suitable only in blog posts.

The list labeled scientific seemed a bit unscientific in its selection of what Siegfried considered the top ten and it was mostly about mysteries in the science of physics.  Maybe that was the reason for the editor’s note.

At any rate here is ScienceNews' list of top ten mysteries for the twenty-first century and my comments, plus mysteries I thought were overlooked, or for some mysterious reason, excluded.

10. How did life originate?
I fully agree with this one, but I would give it a higher rating than the bottom of a top ten list.  This may be solved in this century and by mathematics before lab proofs.  Siegfried’s theories on Game Theories participation may come into play, also.  Once the RNA - and certainly DNA – molecule are present on the earth, evolution takes over and everything alive or that ever lived can be explained.  And Game Theory certainly applies once life begins.

Discovery of amino acids in asteroids, comets, meteorites, and in the lab, by simulating primordial earth have shown that the basic building blocks of life were and still are present in the universe.  Also, primitive cell walls have formed in lab experiments, which would provide protection in a hostile world for a replicating molecule to develop.  The mystery is how these basic molecules come together to form a more complex molecule that exploits its surrounding and replicates this ability, with the chance of mutations to capitalize this exploitation.

If some primitive RNA molecule precursor could be represented mathematically, probable chemical reactions could be calculated and we could determine if life is highly improbable – we who are alive won a lottery like no other – or it is going on all the time.

If the latter is true, it may be going on right now under our noses and we just never found it. And one way good reason we never found it is because it is eaten as soon as it develops.  A key to evolving is to consume or exploit lower life forms, so a soon as a life predecessor molecule forms, it is consumed by bacteria. 

9. What is the identity of the dark matter?
8. What is the nature of the dark energy that drives cosmic acceleration?
I lump these two together.  They are apart of the same mystery.  We cannot explain what we are seeing.  Dark matter and dark energy are theories concocted as a result of observations in space any astrophysics grad student could make, the red shift of the stars, supper nova, pulsars, and galaxies. 
The problem with the theory of dark matter is that it is suppose to be everywhere in great abundance, but while we see the red shift in everything we look at in space far away, nobody can detect it locally.  Where’s our dark matter?  MIT came out with a report a couple of years ago that it could not find any trace of the effect of dark matter on local planets and their moons. 
So far, we can only detect dark matter or energy in fast moving bodies at great distances, which begs the theories.  This also brings up a mystery I have been banging away all over the Internet, trying to solve.  Since we cannot detect dark matter locally, what is the closest object in space that we can detect dark matter? 

7. How to measure evidence
I didn’t understand this one or only vaguely, so I am missing either the mystery or Top-10ishness of it or both

6. Genes, cancer and luck
No mystery here.  This one is pretty much answered as both genes and luck.  More about this below.

5. Are there extra dimensions of space?
4. The nature of time
3. Quantum gravity
As above, I would lump all three of these together.  In the Standard Model, gravity has got no particle, or at least they have not found it yet, so at best the gravity particle is theoretical, or in this case, a mystery.  Einstein’s relativistic space/time don’t fit with particle physics and the three mysteries above are all rolled into one.

2. Does intelligent life exist elsewhere?
Isn’t this the setup for the punch line: first they need to find proof of intelligent life on earth.  More mysterious than finding intelligent life would be to find proof of life anywhere else.  How life started was rated number 10, so it follows that life on any other planet or moon would solve one of the great mysteries in this century.  Any life forms rather than intelligent life is the big Top-10 mystery to solve.  Intelligence of some sort may be as probable as standing on two feet or flight, which has evolved several times in different evolutionary lines.   

1. The meaning of quantum entanglement
This one was way over my head and why this is number one is beyond me.  It may need to be lumped in with 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 above since it is another mystery in physics.  Just as the acceptance of solar centric over earth centric universe solved a lot of observable mysteries several hundred years or so ago, if they solve the mystery of space/time and particle physics, several of these mysteries in physics may fall out.

So as this listing of Top-10 scientific mysteries shows a bit of physics biasness, here is an additional mystery in the field of science not included in ScienceNews' article.
Determining how the DNA molecule works.  This will be a biggie in this century.  We have mapped the genes in DNA, but that did not tells us how it works.  Which genes are switched on and which ones are not and why is still a mystery.  Species differentiation may be from the expression of the same genes in different ways.  How the DNA molecule determines any individual species or gene(s) expression within a species is a major scientific mystery.
Solving this mystery may answer a lot of questions such as the cancer mystery listed in number 6 above, Alzheimer’s, ageing, and controlling every living thing around us way more so than we are currently doing.  Used to be: Survival of the fittest.  Now, it is survival as we see fit.
Who know, we may be living forever by the end of the century.  I hope they solve the ageing problem or that will not be something to look forward to.  Who wants to live forever as a decrepit, feeble old person?  Now if I could spend eternity as the 29 year old I used to be – but with the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated since then – that would be something.


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