Open Problems of Present-Day Theoretical Chemistry

  • Hans Primas
Part of the Lecture Notes in Chemistry book series (LNC, volume 24)

Abstract

“Knowledge of any kind is a thing to be honored and prized”, says Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) in the opening sentence of his On the Soul. According to the Auger report “the number of scientific journals and periodicals, which was about 100 at the beginning of the nineteenth century, reached 1’000 in 1850, more than 10’000 in 1900, approaches 100’000 in 1960 and — if this rate of growth remains constant — should be in the neighbourhood of a million at the end of the century” (Auger, 1961, p. 15). Linus Pauling (1958) guessed “that about 100’000 new chemical facts are being discovered each year, at present”. Stanislaw Ulam (1976, p. 288) estimated that contemporary mathematicians produce one or two hundred thousand theorems a year. Due to this explosive development of research, science has split into many different sciences. Chemistry has split into many disciplines only tenuously connected. No researcher can keep abreast with the work in his own narrow subfield. Nobody can digest even the most outstanding results of science, to say nothing of integrating them into our culture. “The man of knowledge in our time is bowed under a burden he never imagined he would even have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed. For centuries men lived in the belief that truth was slim and elusive and that once he found it the troubles of mankind would be over. And here we are in the closing of the 20th century, choking on truth” (Ernest Becker, 1973). This is something to worry about. The widely accepted tale “knowledge is good for mankind” has become suspicious.

Keywords

Lithium Steam Helium Acidity Explosive 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Primas
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory for Physical ChemistrySwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)ZürichSwitzerland

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