Scientific Events that Most Changed the World—Survey Response by Dr. Seth Shostak

In your opinion, what are the five scientific events that changed the world the most?

 1. Publication of “Principia” by Isaac Newton

2. Copernicus publishes his work establishing the solar-centric cosmos

3. Neils Bohr proposes quantized states for the hydrogen atom

4. Albert Einstein publishes his work on Special Relativity

5. Darwin publishes “On the Origin of Species”

When Newton published his work on (classical) mechanics, he did two things of enormous importance: (1) he provided the analytic tools for analyzing and predicting the behavior of essentially all mechanical systems, from celestial to domestic, and (2) by so doing, he built the foundation of modern science, which seeks natural explanations for phenomena, and quantizes these explanations so that they have predictive power. This latter ability is what sets science apart from other endeavors — it not only tells you how something works, but will allow you to design something entirely new with confidence about how it WILL work.

By Seth Shostak, Ph.D.

 Seth is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the 2004 winner of the Klumpke-Roberts Award awarded by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.

He hosts the SETI Institute’s radio program Are We Alone? Each week, Shostak interviews guests about the latest scientific research on a variety of topics: cosmology, physics, genetics, paleontology, evolutionary biology and astrobiology, and once a month hosts “Skeptic Check”, a show focused on debunking pseudo-science, U.F.O.s and practices such as astrology and dowsing. Are We Alone? is available for download at the SETI Institute’s website ,and through podcasts.

Shostak has been an observer for Project Phoenix (SETI) as well as an active participant in various international forums for SETI research. He is also Chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group.