Going back to first principles and answering fundamental questions with basic material laws looks very messy, but the Big Bang Theory, quantum mechanics, and DNA all managed it. What holds the other forms of physics together is the blueprint encoded in those very laws. The 23rd century is seeing an explosion of fundamental science, with machines designed to understand the world itself.
Until now, the ancestor of modern science was absolute physics, which suggests that matter is driven by some principle that is independent of the laws of physics. This was the controversial blueprint devised by the atheist Richard Feynman in the 1950s. Now, some of the world’s most influential physicists have laid down the foundations for even bigger change with their approaches to biology.
In a new book, How the Atom Composed the Universe, Enrico Fermi, Vladimir Kagan, and Peter Woit explain the workings of modern chemistry in the context of a chronological account of their evolution. They become even more aggressive in the book’s conclusion, declaring that chemical theory has blown apart our current understanding of the universe. They cite the boundary of our own universe, dubbed the singularity, as the explanation for everything. Until now, physicists have been thrilled to be provided with the means to articulate such a paradox, at least in theory. Now the Big Bang Theory was all gone, there was nothing but quantum theory left. It was the beginning of a new era.
[At the founding of your organisation, you’ve spent years studying the history of physics and genetics, together with genetics, engineering, social psychology, and sociology]. Is your approach to nature drawing on the cultural history of science?