Future of Physics
As of 2004, research in physics is progressing
on a large number of fronts.
matter physics, the biggest unsolved theoretical problem
is the explanation for high-temperature superconductivity.
Strong efforts, largely experimental, are being put into
making workable spintronics and quantum computers.
physics, the first pieces of experimental evidence for
physics beyond the Standard Model have begun to appear.
Foremost amongst this are indications that neutrinos have
non-zero mass. These experimental results appear to have
solved the long-standing solar neutrino problem in solar
physics. The physics of massive neutrinos is currently
an area of active theoretical and experimental research.
In the next several years, particle accelerators will begin
probing energy scales in the TeV range, in which experimentalists
are hoping to find evidence for the Higgs boson and supersymmetric
attempts to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity
into a single theory of quantum gravity, a program ongoing
for over half a century, have not yet borne fruit. The
current leading candidates are M-theory, superstring theory
and loop quantum gravity.
astronomical phenomena have yet to be explained, including
the existence of ultra-high energy cosmic rays and the
anomalous rotation rates of galaxies. Theories that have
been proposed to resolve these problems include doubly-special
relativity, modified Newtonian dynamics, and the existence
of dark matter. In addition, the cosmological predictions
of the last several decades have been contradicted by recent
evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
rush to solve high-energy, quantum, and astronomical physics,
quite a bit of everyday physics (sometimes called quotidian
physics by persons not working on such problems) was left
behind between circa 1930 and 1970. Complex problems that
seem like they could be solved by a clever application
of dynamics and mechanics, like the formation of sandpiles,
nodes in trickling water, the shape of water droplets,
mechanisms of surface tension catastrophes, or self-sorting
in shaken heterogeneous collections, still remain insufficiently
characterized, and more importantly, poorly understood.
complex phenomena have received growing attention since
the 1970s for several reasons, not least of which has been
the availability of modern mathematical methods and computers
which enabled complex systems to be modeled in new ways.
The interdisciplinary relevance of complex physics has
also increased, as exemplified by the study of turbulence
in aerodynamics or the observation of pattern formation
in biological systems. A quote famous for its prophetic
accuracy is due to Horace Lamb (1932): "I am an old
man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two
matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum
electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion
of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic."
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