Dear Dr K,
Since we’re just getting started on 2012, I wanted to ask you what developments you would like to see this year. - Suthse Yer
As you know, the most exciting developments that can happen in any given year are developments in the fields of science and technology. Developments in arts and society are exciting as well, but they are, in my opinion less time-sensitive and harder to measure. The advances in science and technology made in a single year are an easy, visible indicator of how much progress we have made as a civilisation. For example, in 5723 BCE we were given the wheel, in 1687 CE Newton proposed the universal law of gravitation, in 1800 CE we were given the incandescent light bulb, and in 2011 we had the iPad 2. All of these were tremendous developments without which the world today would no doubt be a vastly different place.
I have a good feeling that 2012 will be a landmark year in science and technology, and here are the developments I would like to see take place.
1. Invention of the Time Machine: Time travel has been the stuff of fiction for much too long. If there is any year in which humanity will discover the secrets of time travel, it will be 2012. I do not believe that the world will end in 2012, but I hold this hope only because I know that a scientist will invent a time machine some time before the scheduled end of the world and go back in time to tell the Ancient Mayans to reconsider their prediction. Already a suspected time-traveller has been found near the Large Hadron Collider in 2011, which must only mean that a few months in the future we will successfully send the first time-traveller back in time by one year.
2. Discovery of a quick-fix for the planet’s problems: The scientists will all ask, “Why didn’t we think of that sooner?” and there will be worldwide rejoicing as we celebrate the discovery of a ridiculously simple solution to the problem of climate change. It might involve dumping ice into the oceans, or singing a certain Lady Gaga song at a particular pitch, or training cockroaches to destroy all greenhouse gases… only time will tell.
3. Discovery of a nearby habitable planet and the invention of a means to get us all there: If for some reason both of the developments I talked about above fail to happen, it could be that the demise of our planet by the end of the year is inevitable. Foreseeing such an eventuality, I hope some scientists dedicate their efforts towards finding a place we can all go to, and develop the technology to get us there.
4. Invention of the corruption-monitor: Trying to solve the problem of corruption through all this Lokpal business is much too problematic, as we have seen over the course of 2011. Often, difficult social problems are better solved by science and I expect that a group of corruption-disgruntled technicians somewhere will invent a device or an iPad app that can measure the corruptness of a person just by pointing the device at him. Once the device tells you that the person is extremely corrupt, you can either avoid him, report him, or decide what amount is sufficient to bribe them.