Once upon a time, just over a hundred years ago, a wizard addressed a large gathering of industrial and scientific leaders. Drawing on his 20/20 foresight, he described the powerful discoveries that could enrich the coming century. "Your current language is inadequate," he said. So he conjured visions of energy quantization, relativity theory, atomic and nuclear structure, quantum mechanics, and molecular biology to give some impressions of the sciences that might come. With mounting excitement, he outlined some of the magical technologies that might accompany them: magnetic resonance imaging and a wealth of other medical diagnostics, lasers, nuclear power, computers, and genetic manipulation.

The audience was quite literally spellbound. They had expected him to talk about developments in electric and steam power, hydraulics, and oil and coal technologies. This was totally unexpected. When he had finished, someone asked what had to be done to make these fantastical things happen. His...

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