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  • Public health deals with the health and well-being of the population as a whole and its achievements over the past century, especially in the richer countries, have been truly impressive. What direction should public health take in the future?

    • Barry R. Bloom
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • Optical magnification instruments once brought about the Copernican revolution that put the Earth in its correct astrophysical context. Sophisticated information-compression techniques including simulation modelling are now ushering in a second ‘Copernican’ revolution. The latter strives to understand the ‘Earth system’ as a whole and to develop, on this cognitive basis, concepts for global environmental management.

    • H. J. Schellnhuber
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • Perhaps the deepest mysteries facing the natural sciences concern the higher functions of the central nervous system. Understanding how the brain gives rise to mental experiences looms as one of the central challenges for science in the new millennium.

    • M. James Nichols
    • William T. Newsome
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • Under the prevailing contract between science and society, science has been expected to produce ‘reliable’ knowledge, provided merely that it communicates its discoveries to society. A new contract must now ensure that scientific knowledge is ‘socially robust’, and that its production is seen by society to be both transparent and participative.

    • Michael Gibbons
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • The gains in food production provided by the Green Revolution have reached their ceiling while world population continues to rise. To ensure that the world's poorest people do not still go hungry in the twenty-first century, advances in plant biotechnology must be deployed for their benefit by a strong public-sector agricultural research effort.

    • Gordon Conway
    • Gary Toenniessen
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • General cognitive ability (g), often referred to as ‘general intelligence’, predicts social outcomes such as educational and occupational levels far better than any other behavioural trait. g is one of the most heritable behavioural traits, and genes that contribute to the heritability of g will certainly be identified. What are the scientific and social implications of finding genes associated with g?

    • Robert Plomin
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • By 2010, a click on the PC on your desktop will suffice to call up instantly all the computing power you need from what by then will be the world's largest supercomputer, the Internet itself. Supercomputing for the masses will trigger a revolution in the complexity of problems that are tackled, whole disciplines will go digital and, rather than spending time collecting their own data, scientists will organize themselves around shared data sets.

    • Declan Butler
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • A collection of many particles all interacting according to simple, local rules can show behaviour that is anything but simple or predictable. Yet such systems constitute most of the tangible Universe, and the theories that describe them continue to represent one of the most useful contributions of physics.

    • Philip Ball
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • Combining fields as diverse as comparative embryology, palaeontology, molecular phylogenetics and genome analysis, the new discipline of evolutionary developmental biology aims at explaining how developmental processes and mechanisms become modified during evolution, and how these modifications produce changes in animal morphology and body plans. In the next century this should give us far greater mechanistic insight into how evolution has produced the vast diversity of living organisms, past and present.

    • Peter W. H. Holland
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • The Earth is teeming with life, which occupies a diverse array of environments; other bodies in our Solar System offer fewer, if any, niches that are habitable by life as we know it. Nonetheless, astronomical studies suggest that many habitable planets may be present within our Galaxy.

    • Jack J. Lissauer
  • For the past couple of centuries the penchant for prediction has been prevalent at century turns. How much have evaluations of scientific discovery and predictions for future advancement changed since those of the science commentators at the end of the last century?

    • J. L. Heilbron
    • W. F. Bynum
    ImpactsOpen Access
  • Cellular functions, such as signal transmission, are carried out by ‘modules’ made up of many species of interacting molecules. Understanding how modules work has depended on combining phenomenological analysis with molecular studies. General principles that govern the structure and behaviour of modules may be discovered with help from synthetic sciences such as engineering and computer science, from stronger interactions between experiment and theory in cell biology, and from an appreciation of evolutionary constraints.

    • Leland H. Hartwell
    • John J. Hopfield
    • Andrew W. Murray
    ImpactsOpen Access