November 8, 2010

NYT: Glimpsing a scientific future as fields heat up

We are in the midst of the biotechnology revolution and Gina Kolata of the New York Times knows it:
“I’ve learned over the years that the best predictor for what will be new and exciting is, ‘Expect the unexpected,’ ” said Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein, a Nobel laureate who is professor and chairman of the department of medical genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Dr. David Baltimore of CalTech, another Nobel laureate, said, “If you could predict it, it wouldn’t be a breakthrough.”

But even if it’s impossible to predict a particular major discovery, one can sometimes sense when a particular area of science is taking off, says Dr. Richard Klausner, a former head of the National Cancer Institute who is now a managing partner in the Column Group, a venture capital firm. “It gets on a Moore’s Law curve,” he said, referring to an observation in computer science that the speed of computing keeps increasing exponentially.

When that happens, Dr. Klausner said, “barriers and unknowns seem to be falling,” and it is pretty much predictable that even more exciting discoveries will be made.
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