Scientists' Answers to the Hypothetical Question: "What Are the Pressing Scientific Issues for the Nation and the World, and What Is Your Advice on How I Can Begin to Deal with Them?" Twenty-First Century U.S. President (2003)

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Scientists' Answers to the Hypothetical Question: "What Are the Pressing Scientific Issues for the Nation and the World, and What Is Your Advice on How I Can Begin to Deal with Them?"
Twenty-First Century U.S. President (2003)


SITE SUMMARY: Scientists were asked this question January 4, 2003 at this Web site for the Edge Foundation's World Question Center. The question is one that the Web site's editor imagined, as people may imagine, that a United States president in the first years of a new century and millennium would ask someone who is being considered for the position of presidential science advisor. Answers to this question, including some first published in the New York Times, are offered at this site, of which the New Scientist magazine has said: "Big, deep and ambitious questions … breathtaking in scope. Keep watching…." The site was started, and is edited and published, by the author of The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century, John Brockman.


  1. Find, read, and identify the main points of some answers to the Center's editor's question, as provided by the well-known scientists J. Craig Venter (of the Human Genome Project), Freeman Dyson (who thought of the concept of a space-based artificial biosphere now called a Dyson Sphere), Eric R. Kandel (a 2000 winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine), and Mary Catherine Bateson (anthropologist), in addition to a well-known person involved with science (e.g., PBS-TV Scientific Frontiers host Alan Alda). Comment on why you think these scientists' or science thinkers' ideas are good ones for the new millennium and century. (Note: Find Web sites with information on these scientists or science thinkers and their work in this book's chapter: "Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Human Genome Project" (2000), in this book's Appendix J, or by following links found with the scientists' or thinkers' thoughts at the Question Center's Web site.)
  2. Find, read, and identify the main points of answers to the Center's editor's question, as provided by four other lesser-known yet prominent scientists or science thinkers, including two women and two men. Adapt and apply the comment activity of Question/Activity no. 1 above to this Question/Activity. Additional Optional Activity: Comment on why these ideas may be good yet not what you would think of as the most important ideas for a new millennium and century, or what you might consider in addition to these ideas.
  3. Think of a scientific idea that you would suggest as an answer to the Center's editor's question. Identify the idea's main point(s), then comment on why you think this idea is important for the new millennium and century. (Option: If you are not sure of an idea to choose, note the following suggestions to get some help: visit and search the Web sites cited in the Related Internet Sites section below or any Web site cited in this book's Appendix B [Science News from Media Sources], references in this book's chapter on "Science in the New Millennium" by Stephen Hawking, as well as any other Web sites on news subjects and futuristic science cited anywhere in this book.)


"Science and Humanity in the Twenty-First Century" (1999)

An article by Joseph Rotblat (physicist and 1995 Nobel Peace Prize winner), published September 6, 1999.

Twenty-First-Century Science

Click links to News Headlines, Newsletter, Curriculum Issues, A Flexible Model, and A Partnership at this Web site which has been set up by the Neuffield Curriculum Centre and University of York, both in England, with the aim of guiding educators of students of ages fourteen through sixteen as they teach the sciences that will be prevalent and relevant in the new century.

Twenty-First-Century Science and Technology Home Page

A magazine with scientist consultants that "challenges assumptions of scientific dogma" while aiming toward a "science based on constructible (intelligible) representation of concepts" and shunning methods associated with Newton and Galileo. See links to current issue contents page, back issues contents pages, news, and a page of links to sample articles online (to which new articles are periodically added). Some items provide interesting unusual insights, while other items' views might be considered highly unusual.

Edge Foundation and Its World Question Center and

This Web site aims to "promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, [and other] issues" and "to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society." It also aims "to arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds" and "put them in a room together" to ask and provide answers to questions. Note links to questions that the Center's editor has asked in the past (e.g., "What Now?" on scientists' and other thinkers' thoughts related to September 11, 2001, including the Editors of Nature Magazine, and scientists ranging from Julian Brown to Margaret Wertheim). See also articles of note by or about scientists (e.g., "Seven Scientists: An Edge Obsequy for the Astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia" by Nicholas Humphrey and others, February 10, 2003). A Features link leads to a links page of archived previously featured questions and articles.