As we look over the precipice of a new year, it’s always fun to consider what has happened in the previous year, and how that may change in the coming one. It’s a guess, of course, and one which if successful will be shouted from rooftops at this time next year. Because that’s how bloggers roll.
Nevertheless, my predictions list is more about predicting trends than declaring “The next Hitler.” What will I be writing about in 2015, and what will the science community be researching? Here is my totally-not-hedged-upon List of Predictions:
5 Predictions for Science in 2015:
5. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Research
The University of Rochester is part of a constellation of schools currently researching and mapping the glial system of the human brain. This research has lead to the discovery of a complex interdependence between the so-called “grey matter” that processes information and the “white matter” that regulates the brain. This research will continue into the new year, possibly leading to breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.
4. Wearables are Here to Stay
As hard and as unsuccessfully as Google has pushed this year to make Glass the new iPad, you’d be forgiven for thinking that wearable tech in the form of glasses is as dead as Google Glass battery.
But other companies such as Epson and Vuzix have quietly attempted a very different track, one that has served computer technology well in the past. They’re working on making Heads-Up Display a functional technology for business and first responders, rather than an inscrutable technology to drive people at Starbucks nuts. Meanwhile, Recon Jet is moving into providing data for athletes like bicyclists. Once the technology becomes ubiquitous in business and sports, the rest of us will find reasons to need it as well.
3. Drones are Headed for a Legal Explosion
When this many different interests all converge on a single technology – virtually without the effort afforded HUD – you know those interests will sooner rather than later collide in a court room. From Constitutional questions about the use of drones for government surveillance and monitoring to legal questions about airspace and private use, expect some serious fireworks this year.
Corporations are already gathering detailed information on private citizens’ movements and personal property, largely without the question of propriety even having been asked. Local governments are gearing up to use drones for traffic monitoring and other law enforcement uses. And with the cost of drones now edging down below $1000 per unit, you can guarantee that enterprising private citizens will come up with whole new ways to violate each others’ privacy.
Drones have the promise of doing amazing things for our species, some too far off to predict. But in the meanwhile, there will definitely be a few legal questions to iron out, starting this coming year.
2. Space Travel Goes Mainstream
There are no less than three separate entities rapidly building towards useable space planes, including the European Union and a company called XCOR. All have plans to release their first practical models in 2015. What will the price of a ticket be? Well, that’s a good question. But they’ll be available by the end of the year.
1. Forensics on the Stand
One big meta story that’s not getting a lot of attention except when high-profile cases hint at it, is the crisis unfolding within the forensics, law enforcement and criminal justice communities. The use of DNA evidence in criminal court cases has been heavily scrutinized, especially locally, where District Attorney Sandra Doorley was recently in hot water over what some regard as fluffing otherwise pretty thin DNA evidence.
Right now, Renee Bailey has just been released from prison and is awaiting a potential new trial on the basis of faulty research on Shaken Baby Syndrome. This boogeyman of parents everywhere may have always been a myth, and cases all over the country are getting overturned.