"Future advances are likely to build on what is already known rather than alter the foundations of knowledge," Simonton writes in a commentary published in today’s (Jan. 31) issue of the journal Nature.
An End to Momentous Leaps Forward?
For the past century, no truly original disciplines have been created; instead new arrivals are hybrids of existing ones, such as astrophysics or biochemistry. It has also become much more difficult for an individual to make groundbreaking contributions, since cutting-edge work is often done by large, well-funded teams, he argues.
What's more, almost none of the natural sciences appear ripe for a revolution."The core disciplines have accumulated not so much anomalies as mere loose ends that will be tidied up one way or another," he writes.
Only theoretical physics shows signs of a "crisis," or accumulation of findings that cannot be explained, that leaves it open for a major paradigm shift, he writes.