Is it possible in the future that there will be an end to science.

At some future time will science no longer be necessary to study because nature will be entirely explained? Does that go for mathematics as well?

Short answer, no.

Medium length answer: No, because newer generations will need to be taught about these subjects, even if fully researched to the maximum potential.

this is a hard question to ask, and an impossible question to answer.

i suspect that the previous poster is acknowledging things that are impossible to know, physically. i.e. position AND momentum of subatomic particles, what happens at FTL speeds, etc. that also doesn’t get into the what-if scenarios that are also equally unanswerable.

but what i suspect you’re asking is more along the lines of “is what we’re capable of knowing finite?”

again… impossible to determine.

Since there is no factual answer to this, I’m moving it to Great Debates.

General Questions Moderator

Not only no, but hell no.

The more we learn about the natural world, the more we understand that we don’t know. Science is less like peeling an onion away one layer at a time until you get to the center, and more like trying to carve your way through an endless jungle, occasionally coming to a clearing and seeing a mountain or lake, only to find more jungle behind it.

With regard to mathematics, no one has found a serious flaw in Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, which essentially state that any consistent system of axioms whose theorems are sufficiently complex (i.e. a complete system of algebra) is incapable of proving certain truths about arithmetic.

Covered_In_Bees!, science isn’t about teaching; that is pedagogy. Science is the inquiry, research, and falsifying practice of testing the response of nature to hypotheses. While this certainly happens on a personal level (all children are scientists as they learn by trial and error), science on a civilization level is about expanding the boundaries of knowledge.


At the very least, there ought to be some level of biological science that’s infinite, so long as life and evolution exist.

Well, what if it’s an endless onion? That way, the layers never stop, nor do the tears.

Not any time in the forseeable future. In the unforseeable future, well, that’s hard to predict.

It’s even harder to foresee.

Add technology to the mix:

IMO, no. Science isn’t just the knowledge accumulated, it’s the methods you use to accumulate that knowledge. As long as we use scientific methods, we’re doing science.

The bigger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

I think that we could probably get all the physical laws down pat, but there’s still so much to observe and that’s going to be nearly infinite. Also, there’s infinite creativity, people will always find novel ways to use existing knowledge. Not all new stuff is because of technology. People still find new things to make using technology that’s existed for a century or more.

If science ends it will not because it is all explained (that seems impossible to me) but because humanity has lost interest. It has happened before and will happen again. In the middle ages, science essentially disappeared from Europe. A lot of Greek science and math were preserved only in Arabic translation during the high Islamic period. Then interest in science pretty much disappeared in the Islamic world, but not before it ignited interest again in the west. I recall reading in a history of math book that one Gerbert (who was Pope during the year 1000, I think he was Sylvester) studied mathematics by “Posing as a Muslim”).

But it could certainly happen that interest in science decline with no one around to pick up the baton. And libraries are digitizing all their journals and getting rid of the paper copies. Now some journals (of which I am editor for one) are published only online. What will happen to all that when the technology to read it disappears?

I think that we are seeing signs of loss of interest in science in the US. The hysteria over inoculation agains H1N1, being one sign. My wife recently overheard a woman in a supermarket in Seattle tell the butcher that she won’t allow them to put any of that stuff in her children.

I see there as being two parts to science - “knowing about something” and “being able to (accurately) explain how it works.” I think it’s theoretically possible that at some point we might able to come up with a Unified Theory of Everything, giving us the ability to explain everything we can observe, and I also think it’s possible that we might eventually become able to observe everything observable (though limits like the speed of light and uncertainty might interfere with this somewhat.) But even if we get all that under control, the universe is a moving target, and the state of things will continue to change for at least as long as we’re around to observe it, meaning that there will always be more new things to observe. So, while the theoretical physists might somecentury put themselves out of a job, the zoologists and arthropologists will have employment forever.

I honestly don’t know. There is 10^69 Joules of energy in the known universe, including 10^80 atoms.

Every atom above uranium (92) is not naturally occurring. However the periodic table has 25 elements above that because humans have made bigger ones. And we are still making bigger ones.

There are about 50 characters in the english language (10 single digit numbers, 26 letters, a variety of punctuation marks) that are heavily used, but they can be arranged in endless ways. You can use 26 letters, 10 numbers and a variety of punctuations to write infinite books and articles.

A handful of instruments each creating a handful of potential sounds can create virtually infinite music.

So even if we reach a point where we understand everything about ‘what is’, we still won’t understand what could be. The matter and energy in the universe can be arranged and rearranged in nearly infinite ways. Understanding everything possible about what the human body is the way it is is not the same thing as finding ways to improve or change it.

However, if we ever reach a point where we find out how to predict the results of those rearrangements before they happen in real life (an extremely advanced virtual reality simulator) then maybe science will end because then we’ll know everything that has been and everything that could be, assuming the known universe is all that exists.

Even if the knowable universe turns out to be finite, it’s still going to be many orders of magnitude larger than any one human brain can comprehend. And larger than hundreds of billions of human brains over millions of years could comprehend.

That means that the hard limit to science is not the universe, it’s the human brain. We can’t discover everything because we are finite creatures with finite brains. That doesn’t mean an end to science, because we can discover things faster than we forget them. But someday the last sentient species on Earth will become extinct, and on that day there will be an end to science.

I think it is completely unimaginable and preposterous that we will ever understand all the basic laws. My cats are inherently unable to “get” the integral calculus. How could it possibly be that the underlying rules of the universe end in their complexity inside the human capacity for understanding? There must be things as hard for us to get as the calculus is for cats. If there are beings who understand them, there must be things as hard for them to get as the calculus is for cats, and so forth. I guess it’s best to think of abstract understanding as occupying a continuing carpet that goes off to the horizon and beyond, but it is obviously laughable to think that it ends within our grasp.

If we ever advanced to the point where we no longer needed science, we would be gods.