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When Did Science Become Vast?


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We learned more about the subject of science as we learn more about the subject there will obviously be more material that one must learn in order to know everything, the technological advancement from the 50s until now happened we have learned more about science in that period then quite possibly the rest of history look at how the world has changed since 1950.

Edited by VictorMedvil
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I disagree with the premise of this thread.

Generally speaking, you can be more of a polymath today than at any other time in history. There is wide-reaching access to raw data and compiled notes on subjects that dwarfs anything available even 30 years ago, let alone 100+. There is also ready access to insane levels of computation. The average $50 cellphone in 2019 can hold more raw data and crunch more numbers faster than entire wings of computers(the job title for a dedicated mathematician back in the day).

Back in even the 1940's the only people with wide-ranging areas of expertise were those who were paid to sit in an archive reading for a living. Specialists like Turing certainly didn't have a broad base to work off of. 

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I disagree with the premise of this thread.

 

Generally speaking, you can be more of a polymath today than at any other time in history. There is wide-reaching access to raw data and compiled notes on subjects that dwarfs anything available even 30 years ago, let alone 100+. There is also ready access to insane levels of computation. The average $50 cellphone in 2019 can hold more raw data and crunch more numbers faster than entire wings of computers(the job title for a dedicated mathematician back in the day).

 

Back in even the 1940's the only people with wide-ranging areas of expertise were those who were paid to sit in an archive reading for a living. Specialists like Turing certainly didn't have a broad base to work off of. 

 

Even so, one has access, not necessarily the knowledge itself. Assuming they do manage to learn a lot, I'm not aware of how one person from one field makes contributions to a related but quite different field by direct study, within the modern research framework. For example, I don't think I could ever expect someone that is by trade a mechanical engineer to contribute to the study of understanding the properties of dark matter. At best they may help design the detector from given specs. Nor do I expect them to come up with a new interpretation of quantum mechanics or a new algorithm for cryptography. Again, the best they could probably do is build the surrounding systems or work with given specs.

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We've reached a point where it seems like you can't be an expert in everything. But it seems from history that there was a time when you could be good at all the latest research subjects. Over what time period did those changes happen and what changes happened for such a shift?

Yes this is obviously the case nowadays. The depth of knowledge and detail in any field of science makes it quite impossible to be an expert in anything but a small fraction of it. I rather think it became impossible to master all fields of science some time towards the end of the c.19th. But it is a speculative judgement. I don't have any mind any historical individual who can be seen as the last person to have a grip of it all.  It just seems to me that after the contributions from Faraday, Maxwell, Mendele'ev and Darwin, plus all the German work on organic chemistry, it must have been starting to get very difficult.

 

Rutherford seems to have been the last person to contend that physics, at least, was simple. He is credited with that notorious, but seemingly apocryphal,  remark that if you can't explain your physics to a barmaid it probably isn't good physics. But already by 1915 that remark would have been greeted with a hollow laugh, in view of the advances in relativity and the start of quantum theory. By 1930, I think it is safe to say that specialisation was effectively mandatory.

Edited by exchemist
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