Nine years has passed since the 1992 second edition of the encyclopedia was published. This completely revised third edition, which is a university and professional level compendium of chemistry, molecular biology, mathematics, and engineering, is refreshed with numerous articles about current research in these fields. For example, the new edition has an increased emphasis on information processing and biotechnology, reflecting the rapid growth of these areas. The continuing Editor-in-Chief, Robert Meyers, and the Board prepared a new topical outline of physical science and technology to define complete coverage. Section editors are either Nobel Laureates or editors of key journals in their fields. Additional Board members representing the global scientific community were also recruited.
The new 18-volume edition of the Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, 3E, will have the added feature of an Index Volume, containing abstracts of all of the articles in the encyclopedia.
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Robert A. Meyers, TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, CaliforniaExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I had the privilege to write the foreword for the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology in 1987 and was asked to write a shorter foreword for the third edition as an update to the first foreword. Barely fifteen years have elapsed between the two publishing dates. Fifteen years is a short time in terms of the development of science or technology; but as this Encyclopedia shows, momentous changes have occurred during this span of years, necessitating not only the updating of many sections of the Encyclopedia, but more startling, the addition of hundreds of new topics. Significant examples are entries for the World Wide Web, nanostructured materials, nanotubes, and smart pixels to name a few of the more prominent additions.
The appearance of new subject matters over fifteen years is not in itself a surprising event. What should capture our attention, however, are the changes in the science and technology field itself. I want to concentrate on four such changes.
Importance of Science and Technology
Science and technology are moving center stage in the considerations of nations and states, because of the recognized nexus of technology and the economy. The great spurt in the U.S. economy over the last decade has been in great part due to our investment in research over many decades, transforming education, living, government and industry alike. Other nations have seen this U.S. process and what it begot and are trying to duplicate it within their own boundaries.
Creating the Knowledge and Information Age.
The last century was dominated by the exploitation of physical systems, be it the detailed aspects of materials and their properties, transportation and energy systems, mechanical systems or electronic ones. This century will be characterized by the pervasiveness of information technology and computers, altering forever the content of products and the approaches to their creation and production.
Multidisciplinary Nature of Science and Technology.
It is the pervasiveness of the information technology that increases the multidisciplinary nature of research, which in turn leads to the proliferation of new disciplines and activities that spring up at the interfaces of technologies and the sciences, as well as at their interfaces with the arts and the humanities. These same technologies also contribute foremost to the rapid development that the biological and health sciences are experiencing today. The decoding of the Human Genome and its exploitation to create new cures and new products would be unthinkable without computers, database concepts and large-scale storage.
Globalization of Technology.
Hand in hand with the much touted globalization of the economy goes the globalization of science and technology. R&D is becoming a global enterprise. This is driven by the increasing diffusion of information, the increasing investment by most nations in R&D activities, the availability of educated technical human resources around the globe and the world wide web capability of connecting in real time geographically distributed human resources for a common purpose, as well as the remote access to specialized equipment and instrumentation.
These four basic changes in the science and technology enterprise are indicative of what we can expect for the next decade. We certainly can expect an accelerating pace in the generation of new ideas and concepts. This is caused by the increased participation in the performance of R&D and the productivity increases from the use of new tools and approaches. One can also expect a more rapid time to market of some of the inventions and developments. The use of modeling and simulation made possible by the computer revolution is the driver for this development. Lastly, the focus on science and technology means that the community itself needs to be more aware and more active, explaining to the public at large its activities and the fallout from new science and technology. The community also needs to be ready to explain the choices that science affords and that confront the citizens and governments. Scientists and engineers need also to be willing to enter the political fray as informed observers or active participants.
In the past we have not been necessarily wrong in forecasting how science and technology would develop, but we have horribly underestimated both the acceptance of new technical developments and their effects on the individual and society as a whole. We probably are in the same position as far as the future is concerned.
The Advisory Group
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