Science has brought us incredible advancement. We rely on science in some form for much of our everyday lives. Every time we turn on a light, take a painkiller, or use a washing machine, we’re using the fruits of past scientific discoveries. By its nature, science is ever-changing. There are many, many scientific discoveries yet to be made. The big question is how long will those discoveries take? No-one knows, but in some cases at least, it’s possible to take a reasonable guess.
1) The cure for HIV
Like cancer, much progress has already been made towards helping HIV patients with drug therapies. There is some evidence already of potential cures, including stem-cell treatment given to one man in Germany, and natural immunity in others, which could be harnessed. A vaccine is the best hope of eliminating HIV (as vaccines have done for other diseases). No-one knows how long that may take: it is likely to be at least 10 years, perhaps longer.
2) The secret of eternal youth
We’re living longer than ever before; life expectancies in the west have increased by decades as a result of modern medicine and better living conditions. The problem is that our bodies are not keeping up: someone may live until 90, but many of those ‘extra’ years are spent in a frail frame. Scientists have already discovered the existence of ‘telomeres’. These are found at each end of each fragment of DNA, and they help slow down and prevent the diseases of ageing. It is thought that within 20 years, a drug which targets telomeres and helps them work better will be found.
3) The cure for cancer
Cancer treatment has seen great advances in recent years. It has gone from being a death sentence for most, to something that can generally be treated well enough to allow survivors to live a normal lifespan. Much has been achieved with chemotherapy, but this damages the rest of the body. Targeted drugs have been developed, and they work for some, but not most cancer patients. The key to curing cancer is to develop such drugs which work for all. It’s unclear when that may be, but it is hoped it will come within 25 years.
Teleportation of single atoms has already been achieved, by German scientists in 2004. More complex teleportation is achievable in theory, through a process called ‘quantum entanglement’, which allows connections between particles which are miles apart from each other. Teleportation may be with us in a few decades.
5) Time travel
To travel through time, an object would need to travel faster than the speed of light. That may not be possible: Einstein’s theory of relativity determined that traveling faster than light is not possible. However, scientists are constantly testing this theory, and may yet find that it is possible. If they do, it is likely to be a discovery centuries away, as there is currently little to suggest it is possible (although some have thought it is).
Rachel is a freelance blogger with a background working on science parks and an interest in making science more accessible.