Michael Crichton - Timeline - Timeline by Michael Crichton...

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Timeline by Michael Crichton For Taylor "All the great empires of the future will be empires of the mind." WINSTON CHURCHILL, 1953 "If you don't know history, you don't know anything." EDWARD JOHNSTON, 1990 "I'm not interested in the future. I'm interested in the future of the future." ROBERT DONIGER, 1996 INTRODUCTION Science at the End of the Century A hundred years ago, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, scientists around the world were satisfied that they had arrived at an accurate picture of the physical world. As physicist Alastair Rae put it, "By the end of the nineteenth century it seemed that the basic fundamental principles governing the behavior of the physical universe were known."* Indeed, many scientists said that the study of physics was nearly completed: no big discoveries remained to be made, only details and finishing touches. But late in the final decade, a few curiosities came to light. Roentgen discovered rays that passed through flesh; because they were unexplained, he called them X rays. Two months later, Henri Becquerel accidentally found that a piece of uranium ore emitted something that fogged photographic plates. And the electron, the carrier of electricity, was discovered in 1897. Yet on the whole, physicists remained calm, expecting that these oddities would eventually be explained by existing theory. No one would have predicted that within five years their complacent view of the world would be shockingly upended, producing an entirely new conception of the universe and entirely new technologies that would transform daily life in the twentieth century in unimaginable ways. If you were to say to a physicist in 1899 that in 1999, a hundred years later, moving images would be transmitted into homes all over the world from satellites in the sky; that bombs of unimaginable power would threaten the species; that antibiotics would abolish infectious disease but that disease would fight back; that women would have the vote, and pills to control reproduction; that millions of people would take to the air every hour in aircraft capable of taking off and landing without human touch; that you could cross the Atlantic at two thousand miles an hour; that humankind would travel to the moon, and then lose interest; that microscopes would be able to see individual atoms; that people would carry telephones weighing a few ounces, and speak anywhere in the world without wires; or that most of these miracles depended on devices the size of a postage stamp, which utilized a new theory called quantum mechanics - if you said all this, the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad. Most of these developments could not have been predicted in 1899, because prevailing scientific theory said they were impossible. And for the few developments that were not impossible, such as airplanes, the sheer scale of their eventual use would have defied comprehension. One might have imagined an airplane - but ten thousand airplanes in the air at the same time would have been beyond imagining.
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