The search for a single overarching theory of nature that describes all the fundamental physical forces and particles has been the major thrust of modern physics. Are we about to reach this elusive goal, or is it turning into a quixotic quest that needs to be abandoned?
Jalees Rehman at the website of Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings:
How will the 20th century be remembered by the historians in the year 2525 – if man is still alive? Will the annals of history label it as the century of human suffering, in light of the millions of lives that were prematurely claimed by two world wars, countless cases of large-scale atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide? Or perhaps as the century in which hygiene, vaccinations and antibiotics helped save millions of lives, subjugated colonies gained independence from their oppressors and in which the majority of countries finally recognized women as full citizens, granting them the right to vote and reproductive control over their own bodies?
Considering that the 20th century ended less than two decades ago, any attempt to ascertain what will be deemed significant in the coming centuries would be pure speculation. Nevertheless, when we reflect on what we believe most important about centuries past, it becomes rather obvious what aspects of history leave a long-lasting imprint on the collective consciousness of subsequent generations: expressions of human ingenuity. In school, we may have memorized the dates of when wars started and ended, but we are enthralled by the beauty and insights emanating from the great works of art, music, literature, philosophy and science of centuries past. Testaments to human ingenuity, tenacity and the pursuit of beauty and justice include the development of vaccines and antibiotics, abandoning colonialism and granting equality to women. But there is another, far less known front-runner for the most important intellectual accomplishment in the 20th century: The Standard Model. It is also a shoo-in for the “Most Understated-Name-Ever Award.” What is the Standard Model, and why is it a pinnacle of human achievement?