What to expect from Science in 2013
It is customary to look back at the end of the year, but we can also look ahead to what to expect in 2013
Over the festive period, I ended up watching “Most Shocking Celebrity Moments of 2012“. I didn’t want to, it’s not something I’d ever watch normally, but I was at my mother’s house so didn’t have control over the TV. I really have no interest this sort of thing, but there was one element of the programme that did fascinate me.
These programmes always feature talking heads, whose job is usually mocking the antics of attention-seeking z-listers with no sense of irony or self-awareness, although some have a logical reason for being there. One of the talking heads on this show was Dane Bowers. When he first appeared, he was described as “Dane Bowers: Former pop star”, which is fair enough. When he appeared later in the same show, he was described as “Dane Bowers: Friend of Alex Reid“.
I don’t know why Dane Bowers and Alex Reid would be friends, what could they have in common? Regardless of this, I’ve never actually witnessed someone getting less famous in the space of a single programme before. We ended up wondering what his claim to fame would eventually be if the programme continued even longer. “Dane Bowers: Working digestive system”, or maybe “Dane Bowers: Biped”. Sadly, there’s no way of knowing whether this prediction is accurate or not.
But this is not always the case with more scientific subjects and areas, where past trends and data can be used to determine the likelihood of something happening in the future. So predictions about scientific matters can be made without invoking some pseudoscientific gibberish like astrology.
Seeing as there will be plenty of people who will be doing recaps of the most notable science of 2012, coupled with the fact that mentioning science in the context of “the past” currently risks reigniting a tediousturf war in the science-communication field, it seems it would be more interesting to look ahead, not back, to see what science breakthroughs and landmarks we can expect in 2013.
2013 Predictions: Computing
With the ever increasing demand for more powerful and faster processors in our computing devices, we are nearing the point where the laws of physics become a restriction. The commercial value of developing an alternative, more powerful but workable means of processing cannot be understated, so a lot of research into this area would be the logical end result. Around June in 2013, we could expect to see a breakthrough in quantum computing, resulting in processors that use the spin and entanglement of particles to perform calculations at much greater speeds than semiconductors.
Quantum computers would be somewhat different to current methods though, which underpin much of modern society, so they would initially be met with resistance by established interests. However, this should change via the usual way new technologies are proliferated; via the porn industry. The combination of quantum processes and the porn industry will provide some interesting results. Applications of entanglement and super states will allow willing individuals to have sex across surprising distances, and it will be possible to have threesomes and orgies with just two participants.
2013 predictions: Science stunts
2012 saw the record-breaking free fall dive from the stratosphere by Felix Baumgartner. In order to generate similar levels of publicity for sponsoring company Red Bull, this formidable achievement will have to bettered with an even more impressive/reckless stunt. As a result, late in 2013, perhaps in October, one year after the 2012 jump, we should see Baumgartner or a similarly courageous/insane individual attempt the first ever interplanetary jump, between the moon and Earth.
In order to achieve escape velocity from the moon (2.4 kilometres per second), the jumper will have to use some sort of rocket assist to initiate the jump (perhaps built into the boots of the jumper, to make it look cool), and carry enough oxygen and supplies for several days of travelling alone across 384,400 kilometres of vacuum in a spacesuit. Also, a parachute would be necessary for the last “falling through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds” bit at the end of the journey.
This will set the record for most records set during a single stunt, including the first interplanetary jump, and first trip that is worse than flying Ryanair. It will also mark the first ever successful attempt of an energy drink producer to land on the moon. It will be live-streamed online, so that certain people can actually deny that it’s happening while watching it in real time.
2013 predictions: Neuroscience
The current enthusiasm for bizarre studies involving MRI scanners will reach its peak around May in 2013 with the publication of a study which claims to have isolated the brain region that processes an individual’s credulous response to being shown an image of a brain scan. The study will present data that suggests a specific area of the brain, probably in the medial temporal lobe, is responsible for people finding brain scans and other imaging studies cool and credible without any associated understanding of what they actually mean or represent, which would explain the proliferation of dubious science stories where very complicated cognitive processes are ridiculously oversimplified and “located” in the brain via the use of scanners.
This study will become quite widespread as people site it as grounds for requiring improved standards in science reporting. However, the data supporting this study will have also been derived from the use of brain scans, and thus will result in a logical paradox which casts doubt over any future studies that use MRI Scanners, leading to a decline of their popularity in mainstream media.
2013 predictions: Medicine and healthcare
2012 saw several advances when it came to repairing serious, supposedly permanent injuries. Paralysed people were able to control robotic arms, electrochemical treatments allowed paralysed rats to walk again, several other examples abound. There have even been promising signs for restoring sight to the visually impaired via technical solutions, and advances in the extraction of stemcells for a variety of therapeutic purposes promises even greater progress treating disabilities. Buoyed by the example set by British paralympians, people with impairments in the UK will be keen to sign up for these treatments, which will be heavily subsidised by the UK government who are keen to get disabled people into work (by any means necessary)
After the initial success of this scheme to treat the disabled, the UK government will finally realise that the people they’ve been demonising and tormenting for some considerable time are now an army of technically enhanced super-beings with every reason to be furious at them. Towards the end of the year, around November, we should see a force of enraged cyborgs storm parliament and kick the cabinet out into the street, where they will be forced to undergo cruelly ironic challenges, such as having to walk 20 metres after having their legs broken, in order to keep their jobs.
Resistance is futile!
2013 predictions: Space
Early in 2013, let’s say by the end of February, the Mars Curiosity Rover will find something on the red planet that strongly indicates the presence of life. It may be an unlikely rock combination, some weird colouring of soil, or any number of things. As Curiosity isn’t equipped to find life, this will result in a flurry of enthusiasm for an immediate follow up mission to hopefully find the life and bring samples of it home. This will provide some distraction from the ongoing financial crisis for a while, but right-wing columnists like Richard Littlejohn will soon start ranting about the Mars missions, under the guise that it is “yet more tax being spent on immigrants”, which is technically true, if missing the point somewhat.
These are just some of the things we can look forward to in 2013. All of the above will be announced by Brian Cox, who will be named ‘Mister Science’ by all UK media by mid January. This will mean he is the go-to guy for all types of science in the media. If a science story breaks and Brian Cox is not available, it will have to wait until he is.
So there we have it. And as with my Nobel Prize predictions, if any of these ends up being accurate, I’ll eat this blog. I’ll literally track down and devour the server that hosts it. Although on the subject of predictions, I’d say there’s a 60-65% chance that someone will leave a comment stating that Dane Bowers and Alex Reid have both had a “physical relationship” with Jordan, revealing that the commenter hasn’t actually bothered reading to the end of the piece.
Meh, c’est la vie. Happy New Year!
Dean Burnett demonstrates his cluelessness about how the world works on a regular basis on Twitter, @garwboy