"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
At the end of each year, multitudes of science rags (on and offline) present their lists of the N (where N is around 10) most important science discoveries of that year. For 2015, a quick and unscientific Google search provides the following top-ten-list fodder for that year in review:
1. Researchers Discover New Phase of Carbon
2. Astronomers Discover ‘Fat Jupiter’ And ‘Twin Earths’
3. Doctors Grow Human Vocal Cords from Scratch
4. Have Scientists Found A New Particle Bigger Than Higgs Boson?
5. 2015 is Hottest Year on Record
6. New Pluto Photos Show Edges of Its Frozen Heart
7. Europe To Build Base On MOON By 2030 Using 3D Printer
8. China Set To Launch 'Hack Proof' Quantum Communications Network
9. Spooky Action at a Distance Is Real
10. Neil deGrasse Tyson Claims Entanglement can be used to Communicate Backwards in Time
But highlighting what happened in the past year is easy. The real money is predicting what will happen in the year to come. Here are some actual psychic predictions for 2016 from true psychics (as opposed to all those fake ones):
1. Scientists Will Breed a Hybrid of a Dog and a Cat
2. Drones Will Strike Buckingham Palace
3. Naked Picture of Kim Jong-Un Will Cause a Political Row
4. World Peace Will Break Out
5. Australia Will Soon Be At War
6. Farmers Will Develop a New Strain of Cauliflower
7. Justin Bieber will Become Involved With an Older Woman
8. A Comet Will Come Out of Nowhere and Bring Awe and Wonder to Humanity
It would appear that Niels Bohr was wrong; predictions about the future are remarkably easy to make — so long as they don’t have to be also true. And so month-by-month here are my psychic science predictions for 2016.
(Disclaimer: Quantum Pundit's psychic predictions have no basis in science and are provided here for entertainment purposes only.)
January — High Energy Physics
CERN announces that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has found evidence for yet a third Higg’s-like resonance at a whopping 1,125 GeV. In the ecstasy of irrational (and un-peer-reviewed) exuberance, CERN leaks information about the discovery to the Journal of Irreproducible Results, the National Enquirer, and Portable Restroom Operator Monthly Magazine. Sole evidence for the new particle, dubbed by CERN as the “triphoton”, is what appears to be a tiny bump, nearly imperceptible to the human eye, on a single data curve displayed on a low-resolution CRT computer screen in the LHC cafeteria (between the toilets and the ATM). Nevertheless, the story is picked up by the Associated Press, who renames the triphoton “The Holy Ghost Particle” — third in a row after, "The God Particle (the Higgs Boson) and "The Jesus Particle" (the diphoton). Within several days thousands of theory papers are posted to the HEP-TH high-energy theory preprint archive explaining the physical origins of the triphoton. (However, no two of any of these thousands of theory papers agree with each other.)
Within hours of the announcement, the Facebook posts and Twitter feeds of scientists the world over are bogged down with requests for input from sketchy online newspapers, and the Huffington Post, about their opinions on the existence of the triphoton, and particularly, whether or not they believe that its discovery indeed provides proof for the existence of The Holy Trinity. Several hundred physicists claim that they do indeed believe precisely this, in a shameless bid to win the 2016 Templeton Prize. Pope Francis refuses to comment on the data, saying only, "Who am I to fudge?"
A Twitter flame war over the Holy-Trinity-particle question breaks out between Richard Dawkins, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Koko the Gorilla, which causes the entire Internet to crash for a nearly a minute around midnight on January 5th, the feast day of St. John Neumann. Upon seeing this happen, unbelieving quantum physicists the world over undergo a spontaneous conversion to the Holy Trinity Particle creed. (The next day, however, most of them renounce their newfound belief when Pope Francis explains to them that St. John Neumann and St. John von Neumann were two entirely different people.)
As more and more data is collected, the data bump never seems to be any clearer, and stubbornly stays within only a single sigma of statistical confidence level. Finally, on January 31st, the feast day of St. Xavier Bianchi, a member of the LHC janitorial staff points out that the so-called bump is actually a fingerprint smudge on the computer screen, and he promptly removes it with a spritz of Windex and a Wet Wipe. This explanation for the data bump causes great dismay for the loop-quantum-gravity theorists, until the same janitor explains to them that St. Bianchi is not the patron saint of the Bianchi identities.
Later in the year, stand-up comedian, rabbinical scholar, and string theorist, Sarah Silverman, will publish a paper in which she claims to have found hidden messages in the Pentateuch that predicted the existence of the pentaquark nearly three thousand years ago. Dr. Silverman handily wins the 2016 Templeton Prize, only to announce on her deathbed (many years later and after she spent all the money) that it was all a hoax and that she never believed in pentaquarks in the first place. With this off her mind she dies peacefully, surrounded by friends, family, and the ghost of Murray Gell-Mann, who then guides her through the eight-fold way into the afterlife.
February – Biochemistry
The agrochemical giant, Santmono Corporation, modifies the gene-editing tool, CRISPR/Cas into a now trademarked tool they rename TOASTR/Aas. The TOASTR/Aas gene-splicing tool is specifically designed to make any photosynthetic plant life more susceptible to being killed off by Santmono’s premier weed killer, Roundoff. The TOASTR/Aas tool is used to make a gene drive that is then "accidentally" released into the wild, causing the collapse of worldwide agriculture. Santmono responds by marketing a “non-plant-based-human-food supplement” they christen SoLessGreen™ in order to prevent worldwide starvation. Santmono gives sole distribution rights to distribute SoLessGreen™ to the now nearly bankrupt Pichotle restaurant chain (whose motto “Food With Decency!” had recently been changed to “Food with Dysentery!”). Pichotle is relieved, as, unlike their previous food line, it was clear that no virus, bacterium, or prion could survive for more than a few seconds in SoLessGreen™. The truth about the origins of SoLessGreen™ is uncovered by a group of agri-terrorist grammarians but the secret is never revealed to the public, as the group cannot agree if the public announcement should read “SoLessGreen™ is people!” or “SoLessGreen™ are people!” and Charlton Heston is no longer around for a consult.
March – Biology
Urban biologists will report that "pizza rat" (the rat caught on film dragging a slice of pizza into a New York subway station), is not an ordinary Norwegian rat but rather a newly evolved species of rat that is building a large hive-like structure (complete with a three-ton queen rat) in the New York subway tunnel system. The new species is named Rattus pizzapylori, and it is discovered that it can only survive by eating New-York-style pizza (much as a panda can only survive by eating one species of bamboo). As the hive grows to the point where geysers of engorged rats are spouting forth from all the street manholes (which is, frankly, just a regular day in New York City), Mayor Bill de Blasio concocts a plan to feed the queen rat a Chicago-style pizza, which is well known to be inedible by all life forms. The queen dies within minutes, taking the entire hive with her, and as torrential rains from a freak typhoon called “Super Storm Shandy” wash the carcasses of dead rats from the sewers out into Long Island Sound, not one of the New Yorkers notices a damn thing.
April — Space Science
NASA scientists excitedly hold two last-minute press conferences where they announce that they have found water on Mars and that the Voyager spaceship has left the Solar System. When a canny reporter for the New York Times retorts that these same NASA scientists have been making these exact same two claims every few months for the past ten years, the reporter is taken to JPL and given a deep-space probe.
After NASA's New Horizons mission captured a spectacular photo of a human-heart-shaped feature on the surface of Pluto in 2015, in 2016 it will fly by one of Pluto's orbital companions and capture a photo of a new feature on its surface that looks like a pair of human buttocks. Scientists extol the fact that Charon had been literally mooning Pluto for millions of years. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) passes a resolution to rename Pluto the Dwarf Planet, "Sneezy".
SETI will announce they have discovered evidence than extraterrestrials have been secretly communicating with Earth for several decades. They triangulate the signals and find that they have all along been directed to Donald Trump’s hair. Further investigations reveal that his hair is actually a orange-hamster-like alien life form that has been glommed onto his noggin since the 1980s and stealthily controlling his mind using telepathy, in order to win the US presidency, and thus hasten the hostile takeover of the Earth by a sentient race of orange hamsters. Scientists immediately embrace the news, as it is clear that no other theory can reasonably explain the success of Trump’s television show, The Celebrity Apprentice. CIA operatives work feverishly to create a portable psionic-dampening field around The Donald’s hair, and catastrophe is then narrowly averted. SETI scientists will have no time to relax, as further analysis of the extraterrestrial signals reveals the existence of a second invasive alien species. One of which, disguised as a white feather duster, is attached to the otherwise bald head of Bernie Sanders.
May — Technology
The 3N Corporation will develop a 3D printer that is capable of printing working copies of itself using only solar energy and sand as input. A shipping error results in a prototype of the printer being shipped to a FedEx (formerly Kinkos) copying center in Barstow, California. The store manager, unwilling to pay the return-shipping fee, dumps the 3N3D printer in the local landfill, where it springs into action and begins churning out copies of itself at an exponential rate. Within days the entire Inland Empire is blanketed with 3D printers that threatened to end life on Earth, as we know it, by converting the entire planet’s crust into 3D printers. In the nick of time a fleet of stealth bombers from nearby Edwards Air Force Base, equipped with top-secret laser cannons, blankets the region with laser fire, thereby melting all the printers (and the inhabitants) into a molten sea of glassy slag. A memorial plaque is placed in what was once Barstow to honor all of those who were vaporized.
Nearby, Gögle Corporation will launch its well-publicized “Project Loonacy” from Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View, California. As originally envisioned, fleets of high-altitude helium filled balloons, carrying on-board solar-powered wireless routers, would provide Internet access to the most inaccessible spots on the globe. Alas, due to the continuing worldwide helium shortage, Gögle takes the drastic measure of replacing the helium-filled balloons with hydrogen-filled balloons instead. A memorial plaque is placed in was once Mountain View to honor all of those who were vaporized.
Waysag Corporation will release a new model of their hoverboard that will actually hover (as opposed to just roll around on the sidewalk an periodically pitch the rider into oncoming freeway traffic). They solve the ongoing problems related to the devices’ batteries bursting into flames — or just flat-out exploding — by replacing all the rechargeable sealed lead acid batteries with plutonium fuel cells. This works well until a group of hoverboard enthusiasts, returning from a hoverboard competition in Duluth, Minnesota, decide to pack several hundred of their hoverboards into a single towed U-Haul trailer. They exceed critical mass for runaway nuclear fission and Duluth is reduced to a smoldering pile of glowing embers, while the rest of Minnesota enjoys an early summer. A memorial plaque is placed in what was once Duluth to honor all of those who were vaporized.
June — Mathematics
After the famous 2002 proof that PRIMES is in P, and the recent tantalizing 2015 result that the Graph Isomorphism Problem is solvable classically in quasi-polynomial time, a Lithuanian mathematician at the University of Vilnius, discovers a classical polynomial time integer factoring algorithm and programs it into a desktop telephone-answering machine before he is assassinated by a gang of rouge computer scientists. The discovery renders the most pressing cryptoanalytical need to develop a quantum computer moot, and the computer scientists hold the economy of the World hostage by threatening to publish the classical factoring algorithm on the Internet, thereby causing collapse of Internet commerce. Robert Redford and his group of hackers (secretly working for the NSA) take out the rouge computer scientists, and the telephone answering machine is recovered and secreted in a giant underground government storage facility, next to the Arc of the Covenant. In order to keep all this a secret, the NSA gives Dan Akroyd a Winnebago as a bribe to maintain his silence.
July — Computer Science
Not to be outdone by the success of IBM's Watson computer in playing Jeopardy, T-Wave Systems programs its newly released T-Wave 3Y Computer System to play Wheel of Fortune. In a double-blind series of tests, the T-Wave machine scores slightly better than chance, when pitted against either Richard Dawkins, The Archbishop of Canterbury, or Koko the Gorilla. T-Wave trumpets this result as proof of the existence of an exponential speed-up in their quantum computer. However MIT professor Aaron Scottson, ever the party pooper, points out that the T-Wave machine cheats as it is also programmed to regularly compliment Vanna White on her snazzy outfits, and given that it is she who is in charge of choosing which letters on the board to light up, it is Prof. Scottson's claim that T-Wave is skewing with the results.
August — Astronomy
The Kepler, space-based, exoplanet observatory loses the third of four original gyroscopes, potentially rendering the craft useless, as it is now unable to point itself. After losing the second of four gyroscopes in 2013, crafty NASA engineers were able to stabilize the craft by balancing the solar wind pressure across the surface of the spaceship. With the third gyroscope now out of commission, the engineers will come up with a fix whereby, in addition to the solar wind, they balance the cosmic background radiation and vacuum fluctuation pressure across the ship. This leaves the telescope pointing forever at a single fixed point in the sky. There the astronomers find, orbiting a Sun-like star in the Goldilocks zone, an Earth-sized planet that appears to have liquid water and the spectrum of oxygen in the atmosphere; both telltale signs of life. They name the planet Kepler-137q but the press quickly nicknames it “Alderaan” given its likeness to the fictional planet from the Star Wars films. The planet also has orbiting it what appears to be a small moon, which the astronomers name “Lovell” (after retired astronaut Jim Lovell).
After several weeks of observing Alderaan and its companion, one NASA astronomer exclaims, “That’s no moon!” and Alderaan suddenly disappears in what appears to be catastrophic explosion. Meanwhile the so-called moon, Lovell, moves out of view, seemingly under its own power. Given that they literally have nowhere else to look, the sad and lonely NASA “extronomers” continue to look for Lovell in Alderaan places.
As August comes to an end, a comet will appear out of nowhere and bring awe and wonder to humanity.
September — Economics
At the headquarters of the investment management company, Pimpco Corporation, in Oldport Beach, California, Satan Incarnate will appear in the cubicle of a “quant” stock market trader, named Donna Giovanni, who is located in a windowless subbasement of a Quonset hut on the perimeter of the Pimpco campus. Lucifer will offer Ms. Giovanni a working quantum computer, a faster-than-light communicator, and a quantum algorithm for solving the Black-Scholes stock derivative equation in BQP runtime. All this he offers her in exchange for her immortal soul. Ms. Giovanni, who is sure she is already damned anyway for working at Pimpco, gladly accepts the offer. She then sets up a superfast trading station in the sub-basement that allows her to make stock trades faster than anybody else, by exploiting the quantum algorithm, the quantum computer, and by communicating with the Wall Street trading computers instantaneously, using the faster-than-light communicator. Within a few weeks she earns trillions of dollars for Pimpco (and a hefty billion-dollar bonus for herself) before her shenanigans trigger a stock market flash-crash that wipes out the life savings of millions of people and sends world into a second great recession. Luckily for her, Ms. Giovanni cashes in her stocks before the crash, is promoted to president of the company, and lives a long and luxurious life off her wealth before she dies peacefully in her bed surrounded by her friends, family, Beelzebub, and the ghost of Murray Gell-Mann. As Gell-Mann guides her through the eight-fold way into the afterlife, the Devil returns empty handed to Hades. (As Ms. Giovanni had suspected, she had already sold her immortal soul to Pimpco many years before Old Scratch* ever showed up.)
* “Old Scratch” is a name of the Devil, chiefly in Southern US English. It is rarely, if ever, used to refer to Prof. Murray Gell-Mann.
October — Quantum Physics
Neil deGrasse Tyson, still reeling from the repercussions of claiming in 2015, on his television show StarTalk, that backward in time communications are possible using quantum entangled particles, contacts Ms. Giovanni at Pimpco corporation (after the stock market crash) and offers to buy her diabolical faster-than-light communicator for a bargain price. (A faster-than-light communicator doubles as a backwards-in-time communicator.) Dr. deGrasse Tyson then uses the machine to send a message backwards in time to tell his earlier 2015 self not to make that claim on television again, until such time as the future Dr. deGrasse Tyson had secured the patent rights to the communicator. The plan backfires when, due to quantum coherence, the message has the effect of producing a quantum-Schrödinger-cat-like superposition of Neil deGrasse Tysons, one who did make such a claim in 2015 on television and the other who did not. These deGrasse Tysons become quantum entangled with a superposition of future 2016 deGrasse Tysons, one who patents the faster-than-light communicator and the other who does not.
The resulting paradox rips a rift in the entire space-time continuum, which threatens to suck the entire universe into a super-duper massive black hole whose center is located at the Tokyo patent office. The universe is saved, however, at the last minute when a strange looking Englishman, wearing a bad suit, a bowtie, and a fez, emerges from a blue police box in the lobby of the Hayden Planetarium and repairs the rift (and also undoes the stock market crash and the collapse of worldwide agriculture while he is at it) with a glowing and buzzing green handheld magic wand, which the curious traveller claims is a screwdriver. After this all blows over, quantum physicists decide to hold an emergency international workshop on closed time-like curves, to which they invite as plenary speakers, Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Deutsch, and the online Random Fictional Deepak Chopra Quote Generator. (Example from that last one; “Your desire embraces innumerable photons.”)
Later in the month T-Wave will announce that have finally built a working quantum computer, the T-Wave 4Z, capable of solving intractable mathematical problems of tremendous practical importance. Nobody will believe them. Nevertheless, MIT Prof. Aaron Scottson will write a fiery blog post condemning the announcement. The United States will continue for the rest of the year to not invest in photonic quantum information processing and therefore the Chinese will be the first to invent the quantum Internet, just in time for Christmas.
November — Chemistry
Chemists manage to coax a large sheet of graphene to grow into the shape of a Klein bottle, which is a topological oddity; namely a hollow three-dimensional object, with a two-dimensional surface, embedded in a four-dimensional space. The chemists name the new object the “funkyball”. A key property of any Klein bottle is that its inside is the same as its outside, so that it can never be bigger on the inside than on the outside. As the chemists run electrical tests on the new material to search for signs of semiconducting or even superconducting properties, they begin receiving strange signals from the funkyball that seem to be intelligent in origin. Having nowhere else to turn, they call in Jody Foster, who explains that the signals are in fact repetitions of the first million digits of pi in base three (or perhaps the first million digits of three in base pi). The chemists have inadvertently opened a trans-dimensional portal and made contact with extra-dimensional beings that live in spatial dimensions four through six. As the days go by, a rudimentary simultaneous translator is developed that allows the chemists to communicate with the beings in Morse code (base pi).
Things go well for a while. For example the chemists learn that the extra-dimensional beings are composed entirely of dark matter and have hitherto only interacted with our own universe gravitationally. The transdimensional beings amusingly note that in dimensions four through six, our own universe back here is considered to be made of what they call dark matter that acts only gravitationally with them.
Matters take a turn for the würst when the human chemists reveal that on Earth people still eat meat while the shocked extra-dimensional aliens declare that they are all vegans. Terrified that our meat-eating ways might corrupt their young, the aliens decide to destroy all human and animal life in our universe by attempting to send an army of self-replicating killer nanobots from the fourth dimension through the funkyball and into our domain.
In the nick of time the chemists call in an elite squad of militant carnivorous topologists, who succeed in convincing the chemists to cut funkyball in half using an ion beam. This well-known topological operation reduces the Klein bottle into two Möbius strips; two, one-sided, two-dimensional objects embedded in ordinary three-dimensional space. Their swift action cuts off the portal to the fourth dimension, destroying all the nanobots in mid-transport, and saving our universe.
The chemists and the topologists share the 2016 Fields medal.
December — Earth Science
NASA earth scientists will declare 2016 to be the hottest year on record (after declaring both 2014 and 2015 to also be the hottest years on record). Senator James Inhofe, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, will call a joint session of congress, and subpoena NASA and other climate scientists to testify before it, to allow the Senator to protest the NASA scientists’ findings. Having trouble finding a snowball this time around, as it is 83°F in Washington DC on that day in December, Senator Inhofe drives to the nearby Dairy Queen ice cream shop in Arlington, Virginia, and purchases a vanilla ice cream milkshake, which he then dutifully totes back to congress and displays on the floor, claiming, “Ladies and gentlemen this ice cream milkshake is proof that global warming is a hoax!” He then hurls the milkshake at the head of Minority House Leader, Nancy Pelosi. Congresswoman Pelosi is, however, more agile than Inhofe gives her credit for, and she ducks. The milkshake instead hits Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, squarely on his newly bearded jaw. Since Dairy Queen ice cream milkshakes contain neither ice cream nor milk, but rather Plasticine-like substances more akin to Epoxy and Elmer's Glue, the white milkshake sticks to Congressman Ryan’s beard and hair, making him look for all the world like Santa Claus.
The entire incident is broadcast on live television worldwide and millions of confused children begin to telephone Congressman Ryan’s office number with their Christmas lists. In desperation, Congressman Ryan contacts The Official NORAD Santa Tracker for help. NORAD agrees to automatically forward the calls to their own Santa Claus Christmas list phone number, which they have been using since 1955, and to track now both Santa Claus and Paul Ryan on Christmas Eve to soothe the nerves of all the confused children. The standard NORAD videos of 24 hours of Santa zipping around the globe in his flying sleigh and delivering presents delight children the world over, as usual. The NORAD videos of Congressman Ryan were less popular, as they showed that he spent most of Christmas Eve working out at the gym and lighting candles over the tomb of Ayn Rand.