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The Internet Generation Of Scientists - what years?

  1. Apr 24, 2012 #1

    Stephen Tashi

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    What's a good year to mark when the Internet Generation of Scientists will dominate sicentific activity?

    I define the Internet Generation to be a generation who has used the resources of the internet (such as physicsforums, of course) throughout all their scientific training, from elementary algebra onward. There will be other significant apsects of their culture beside the internet per se. Many will have adopted software tools such as Matlab or Mathematica early in their careers.

    Perhaps some forum members are in this generation. A person who was 14 in the year 2000 would be 30 in 2016. If that person is an exemplar then the Internet Generation should dominate science (an everything else) in roughly the late 2010's.
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  3. Apr 24, 2012 #2


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    Someone born in 1985 in Europe or the US is likely to have used the internet throughout their life in education. So if we assume a minimum age of 18 to start as a scientist then by 1998 we get the first batch entering the profession. Assuming a retirement age of 65 over 50% of scientists will be from the internet generation by summer 2030 (using this same method the percentage in the profession now is 21.5%).

    That's a simple answer. A more complete answer would have to consider that most scientists don't publish a paper until their early 20s, older scientists will still have their names on the papers of younger ones which complicates the definition of "dominate" and whilst younger scientists might publish more a scientist who has been in a field for decades will probably produce work that is more valuable.
  4. Apr 24, 2012 #3
    What about those professors/scientists who are old(er) however have been able to assimilate into using these technologies? Shouldn't they also be considered part of this whole definition?

    I mean, not all old(er) people are clueless about technology. The PI where I work is in his 60's (or older, I'm not sure) and uses a lot of software for spectroscopy stimulations, enzyme kinetics etc (not to mention the typical stuff like Internet/database searches, email, Word, Excel, SigmaPlot etc). He is also very knowledgeable about instrumentation and such. When a problem comes up with the "hardware" (not necessarily computer hardware) he pretty much has seen it all and after a few questions, tells me the problem and how to fix it. He also told me of how he remembers when spectroscopists cut out spectra and weighed them to do integrations!

    This complicates matter further because another person in the lab is in his 70's and can barely save an email attachment. Brilliant guy who has done a lot of important work in his field, just never really got into the technology surge of the 90's/2000's.
  5. Apr 24, 2012 #4
    Outside of segregating a population of scientists, what does this matter? Much of what is taught relies on work done before the internet, before computers, and in the case of mathematics, before electricity :smile: And, yes, I still have my college slide rule... somewhere
  6. May 6, 2012 #5
    There are two sides to the coin. On the one hand, the Internet has indeed been a helpful tool for research. On the other hand, there has been to much reliance on it. Remember all the great scientists of the 19th century who have been able to achieve extraordinary inventions and made life changing discoveries without the existence of a computer. These achievements still resonate with us today. Creativity and innovation have little to do with computers and the Internet. I strongly beleive that these tools are not indispensable to the creation process.
  7. May 6, 2012 #6


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    Welcome to the forums! I don't see why computers or the internet would do anything but facilitate invention and creativity. The speed at which research and work can be done is massively increased and the diversity of material one can be exposed too is far in excess of someone working in pre-internet times.

    As for reliance, everyone relies on the infrastructure they have available. There's often little merit learning how to be reliant on different, more primitive, infrastructure.
  8. May 6, 2012 #7
    most of the major advances of modern physics were in the 19th century and early times of twentieth century.
    now, we have internet but it is so difficult to make an advance in physics.
  9. May 6, 2012 #8


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    Are you referring to the development of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity? If so, then I think you have missed the countless developments we've had since then, especially in the near past. New developments are founded of the principles of the underlying theory, but that doesn't mean they are any less important. Some can have enormous influences themselves. And I don't see how it's any harder to make an advance in physics compared to 100 years ago.
  10. May 6, 2012 #9
    I am 49 and internet is my whole life.
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