Idly surfing the web, I came upon this story in the Washington Post about the discovery of a so-called kilonova, the collision of two neutron stars one hundred thirty million years ago. There are many exciting details in the story, including the news that the observations confirm a claim made by Albert Einstein a century ago about gravitational waves. But what really caught my eye was the fact that the scholarly article announcing the discovery listed roughly 3,500 authors! The work was a world-wide collaboration, involving not only huge multi-million dollar arrays of equipment but enough scientists to staff the STEM departments of a dozen universities.
I thought of my tea with Bertrand Russell sixty-three years ago. He had been reported as saying that, had he to do it all over again, he would not have chosen philosophy as his field. I asked him what he would have chosen, and he said unhesitatingly, Physics.
This is where the forefronts of knowledge are, here and in Molecular Biology. The era of the research team in a laboratory headed by a senior scientist has given way to an entirely new stage of scientific development, one in which thousands collaborate.
I wish I were young enough to see how this will all play out.