Friday, November 24, 2006

Other Frontier Areas

Nanoscience has recieved a lot of attention and funding. What discipline do you think will recieve the next big wave of funding and attention? I suspect that systems biology, neuroscience, immunology, environmental remediation, drug design, and genetics will be a really big deal, and there may be renewed enthusiasm for aerospace engineering thanks to private space exploration giants like Scaled Composites in Mojave, California and Virgin Atlantic, their partner for space tourism. Rapid and inexpensive sequencing is an enabling technology for understanding a host of tricky genetic diseases. Nanoassays may lower the nearly 800 million dollar price tag on developing small molecule drugs and put it within the reach of botique companies that will attempt to tackle neglected diseases in the third world as well as maladies of the affluent that affect far too many people to lure large and frugal pharmaceutical giants toward finding a cure. Transgenic plants and animals for may become a cottage industry, but will probably remain a part of the private sector. Computing will remain within the realm of industry as well. Since humans have such a hard time overcoming the inertia of preparing for or reacting to subtle threats, I suspect that there will be a time in the near future where some extremely scary environmental disasters spur the public support for a massive campaign to combat global warming and pollution. It could even mean a massive propaganda campaign intended to change the lifestyle of those in the developing world to be more in line with the needs of the environment.

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