Is science sometimes in danger of getting tunnel vision? Recently published ebook author, Ian Miller, looks at other possible theories arising from data that we think we understand. Can looking problems in a different light give scientists a different perspective?

Another Year Gone

This will be my last post for 2014, and as is customary at this time of the year, I thought I should survey what I thought were the highlights for me this year. I started this year with posts on how the ancients could have considered the heliocentric theory, largely to support my science fiction trilogy that I had written. The key here was to get this into the plot as a key element, and that gave me the chance to try to explain what I believe science is all about. Now the good news is I have sold quite a few copies, so hopefully there are some more out there that get introduced to the beauty of theoretical science at a level they can understand. (I doubt there is any way you could explain quantum field theory to the general public in a way that makes sense and honestly goes to the basis of the theory.) The key I tried to get across was to ask questions and devise ways to make critical observations that clearly separate possibilities. (In this case, either the Earth moves, or it does not, therefore one needs observations that could be carried out by an ancient Roman that will be different whether it does or does not.)
The next milestone for me was in a sense a negative one. My ebook on "Planetary Formation and Biogenesis" was published three years ago, and its basis is that planetary accretion started through chemical interactions (including physical chemical) in the accretion disk, which has led to the various planetary systems being compositionally different. What is interesting for me is that in the following three years, no observation has been found that falsifies anything of substance toward the theory. Unfortunately, while I made over seventy predictions based on the theory, most are too difficult to carry out. Notwithstanding that, there is one simple chemical experiment that could be done in the lab right now. I shall post on that in the new year, but it is based on an experiment carried out by Carl Sagan's group in the 1960's and which has seemingly been forgotten, or at least its significance not appreciated, since.
The next milestone for me was to produce my ebook on biofuels. I have worked in this area on and off (depending on funding, which has been erratic to say the least) for decades. The conclusion I reached is that by simply looking at the size of the problem (the amount of oil consumed) this cannot be met by biofuels without using the oceans. There are ways to do this, at least in theory, but it would need a significant investment in science to achieve it. I am not holding my breath waiting for funding, but then again I have now reached an age where my personal research involvement is fading away at a serious rate.
What about chemistry as a whole? My impression is that it is very efficient at making new compounds and doing things with them, but I continue to think that we are not so good at sorting and analyzing what we know, probably because of the rate of production of new compounds, etc. I have no doubt that people know a very lot about their specialist field, but in my opinion it is harder to understand the bigger picture. Maybe you do not agree? If so, I welcome your comments.
Meanwhile, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and all the best for 2015. I shall be back mid January.
Posted by Ian Miller on Dec 15, 2014 2:01 AM Europe/London

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