kNOW micropedia - Introduction

A rounded scientific education has never been so important as in the 21st century, to understand the changes occurring now and in the future. The next few decades promise to be a breathlessly exciting time, as we see progress or changes on the following:

  1. Theory of Everything: or at least evidence of strings, super-symmetry, gravitational waves (!), dark matter, dark energy; what happened in the big bang;
  2. Mathematical Conjectures: P=NP; fluid equations; Riemann hypothesis; the new standard of rigor is to check proofs with proof-checkers;
  3. New Materials: from nano-materials to optics to plastics to superconductors; organic LEDs: self-cleaning flexible e-paper, window-lights; (methanol) fuel cells replace batteries;
  4. Computable Cell: map of genes, proteins, metabolism and cell development...; effect on Medicine - regenerated organs, tailored medicines; eventually, only brain-ageing diseases are incurable;
  5. Tree of Life: how and why species evolved (as more genomes are read), especially the very first cells (prokaryotic and eukaryotic) and humans, extinction of the dinosaurs; ironically, a high-profile species may go extinct eg gorilla, tiger, or Amur leopard, but the mammoth is 'revived';
  6. Map of Brain: which neurons connect where; how the brain develops + learns; what is consciousness?
  7. Intelligent Gadgets: as computing becomes more powerful and cheaper, it pervades our society; house-cleaning and guard robots; wireless control of objects (from shop-prices to home-appliances); personal "agent" devices that make calls, plans, and payments, give advice and monitors body; self-driven cars; speech-recognition; 3D computer/TV displays; 3D-printers; photos are created not taken; hand-held diagnostic sensors; the internet continues with its growth; intelligent searching; automated programming;
  8. History Depository: history departments and museums collaborate to feed vast amounts of records to an online AI database, which could lead to surprising revelations, especially in the evolution of languages and migration of people; as other subjects follow suit, computer knowledge grows until it hits the "ignorance barrier";
  9. Energy Transition: from Oil/Gas to Coal, slowly to Solar energy; from petrol cars to hybrids using biofuels then hydrogen or electric; water demand, but not supply, increases as world population reaches up to 9 billion people;
  10. Global Warming: less winters, hotter summers; the disappearance of summer arctic ice and glaciers, + more dams, and consequent drying up of some rivers+lakes, leading to famine; some sea water rise with more floods, especially in river-delta cities;
  11. Globalization: growth of China, followed by India, and the rest of BRIN (Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria); their populations and economies become larger than West's; backlash of protectionism? large corporations may become the real global leaders, but then again, open-source web competition may fragment them; cashless, branchless banking; immigration to West's aged population leading to one multicultural society; a pandemic may change economic stability; the major universities grow online;
  12. Political Tension: transition to a new balance of power - US, Europe, China, India, Russia; bolstered by China's and Gulf's dollar reserves; economic friction over global warming and patents/copyrights; foreign secretaries of governments will become ever more important, reform of the UN Security Council; political friction - China/Pakistan vs India; a revolution in China? perhaps the first use of automated attack-cars, or of a terrorist biological bomb?
  13. Space Colonies: first steps, as space tourists, then probably on Moon to mine helium3, gold, ...
If we are lucky, we may have some answers about: is the universe unique? is life unique? are we alone?

Unless, that is, science is on its way out ..., with people focusing more on pressing buttons, impressing others, and earning more.

Often people, even graduates who may be experts in their area, have titbit exposure to science, too busy to pursue anything outside their work: physicists who have never heard of a eukaryote, biologists with radical views about the economy, historians for whom 'field'=battlefield, etc. This 'distorted' view of the world is in a sense inevitable. A hundred years ago, it may have been possible to be familiar with all of science, but today, even continually reading research articles about a pet-subject only gets you as far as a narrow specific area.

To compensate we may read popular science books and magazines, or look up a query in an Encyclopedia. Easier still, we just google for information! Knowledge has become cheap, appealing, democratic, ... and disorganized, disconnected, overwhelming. Of the hundreds of millions of web pages, we need to discern the high quality from the poor. Paradoxically, we need to be knowledgeable to search for knowledge.

These pages are an attempt to present in one place a universal and coherent overview of science, albeit in a highly-condensed visual form. We process images faster and more naturally than words; jargon and acronyms are used minimally - they are probably the biggest obstacle to understanding for an outsider, although technical words are essential to make ideas precise.

The aim is not to teach science, or to present all theories, but to offer a broad view with the hope of encouraging anyone to explore further.

Main Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia, MIT OpenSource, and Science Daily; the images are mostly taken from Wikipedia. A word of caution about the content: there is sure to be some out-dated info, and some areas are still highly controversial (eg how did life start?).

Your suggestions and corrections are greatly welcome! You can help this site by linking to it.

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©2006-2016 Joseph Muscat