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Database of Scientific Problems

If we knew what was broken, perhaps someone could fix it.
  [vote for,

There's a lot in this world that we (humans) don't know. However, the world is such a large and complex place that even knowing if a problem has been solved by someone else is quite difficult. It would be useful therefore to have a centralized database of all questions left unanswered.

I shall leave the form of this database open - it could be anything from a website to a book. I shall also leave the quantity of data open - it could be restricted to only the most high-level questions (Is there a relationship between the equations of general relativity and quantum mechanics?) or expanded to lower level questions. The database should have references to relevant research, and be updated at least annually. Once a solution has been found and verified, it will be removed from the database (perhaps to be placed in a separate "solved problems" database).

How this database could be funded is by those asking the questions. For a fee, a question is submitted. The question is then researched by paid researchers to find out if there has been a solution to this problem. If not, it is included in the database and the fee paid to whoever solves the problem (or finds it solved elsewhere).

Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003

Pubmed http://www.ncbi.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
Biology / health sciences database. [bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

"The Five Biggest Unsolved Problems in Science" (book title) http://www.powells....nkey=1-0471268089-1
[phoenix, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Some Mathematical Problems http://www.math.uni...winkel/problem.html
[phoenix, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

(?) "My favorite unsolved problems" (page title) http://www.math.pur.../~eremenko/uns.html
[phoenix, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

(??) MIT's attempt. http://www.thinkcycle.org/home
[subflower, Aug 09 2005]

Google answers http://answers.google.com/answers/
Nifty! [bungston, Sep 22 2005]

Wikipedia has these https://en.wikipedi...f_unsolved_problems
Lists of unsolved problems, by discipline. [briancady413, Mar 20 2016]

Infinity has some. https://infty.xyz/goal/list/
Only small fraction of them are so far scientific+unsolved. (Goals unrealized = Problems) [Mindey, Mar 21 2016]

Innocentive https://www.innocen...ar/challenge/browse
Similar concept to this idea [scad mientist, Mar 21 2016]


       I like it alot. Yes, humans should be doing this at around this stage of their development. +
sartep, Dec 03 2003

       Presumably this would be a database of UNSOLVED scientific problems. Otherwise, it's just a textbook.
phoenix, Dec 03 2003

       Yes, that is the intent. Unsolved.
Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003

       How would this be any different from a literature search? Presumably any problem worth solving will have folks working on it - a search for the problem should turn up their efforts as well as background explanations. If you are just trolling for any problems worth consideration, why not just pick up recent journals and see what's cooking?
bungston, Dec 03 2003

       Great! + There is a ton of unused processing power out there. Just look at the HB – how many times have you punched in a search at Google to have a link to the HB show up? It could be a website much like this one, except people pose problems and wait for answers (hey, we should do that here too).
TIB, Dec 03 2003

       [bung] //literature search// Exactly - this is what the researchers would do. Instead of each person searching through journals, you'd flip to the page in the unanswered questions book, and if it's there then you know not to search.   

       The problem with just picking up a journal is that people generally publish problems they are solving. Not many journal articles are published titled "Here is a problem that I have no idea how to solve".   

       [px] Wonderful. You've started the search already, and perhaps realized how distributed the sources of unsolved problems are. Now if we only had a centralized database...
Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003

       A cursory search reveals many individual sites with unsolved problems. Bringing them all together seems natural enough.
phoenix, Dec 03 2003

       Thing is, Worldgineer, finding worthwhile problems is part of the skill of being a successful scientist. Like seeing opportunities that everyone else has missed. Not a chance in hell that anyone would share good ideas they haven't had time to check out first themself.
lubbit, Dec 03 2003

       I'm fine with that. If they "check it out first thems(elves)" they may solve the problem, which would then be inappropriate for the database. If they can't solve it, they may submit it.
Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003

       Or they might file it under good idea that I'll try and solve later.
lubbit, Dec 03 2003

       Absolutely true. But how is that different that what's happening now?   

       I see this as similar to the HB. You share the problems you want solved. You benefit in that your problem may be solved (if this is a desire of yours). If your only desire is to solve something yourself, don't share it. The difference between this and the HB is a) the focus on unanswered scientific questions b) money is involved and c) oddly enough, a sharper focus on the properties of custard.
Worldgineer, Dec 03 2003

       I think this is a great idea. Can you imagine if there were a central database how we might all begin trying to solve the world's problems in our spare time? Perhaps it could be set up like message boards too, so people could dialogue about their tried and failed solution attempts.
jennyusp, Nov 22 2004

       You could start a Wikipedia category for this right now.
koshua, Jan 27 2005

       There are some massive problems in implementing this - but it should be attempted anyway, it can only be to the good. Some thoughts:   

       How do you differentiate between a 'solved' and an 'unsolved' problem? Most people think "How was the universe started" is a solved problem: there was a Big Bang. There is however still a reasonable contingent of steady state supporters in the academic community. Many 'solved' problems have been reexamined decades later as new evidence appears.   

       A good database could keep track of developments in related areas. For instance paleologists who dead-end on dating certain important finds accurately enough could be contacted when any other discipline at all makes an advance that relates to dating.   

       Taxonomy is a mess. Many species have been 'discovered' many times over. We don't know how many of the known species still exist because there's no record of who made the most recent sighting and when. A database would be invaluable here.
wagster, Jan 27 2005

       Good points. The first issue can mostly be solved by a peer-review process. If a panel feels the problem has been "solved", the fee will be paid. If further problems or inconsistancies pop up later, they will have to be resubmitted to be researched or re-solved.
Worldgineer, Jan 27 2005

       I like this idea - it would help me out no end! I see many problems in science where one group has a solution and another has a problem yet unless they actually talk to each other it ain't gonna happen!   

       However, I agree with wagster that it would be difficult to implement, though that's no reason not to do it.
hazel, Jan 27 2005

       I've been discussing this for years with some people that could make it happen. Checkout Peaceroom.org for the basic idea and Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion Earth educational tool.   

       A peaceroom type of presentation available to world leaders could be incorporated into NASA's WorldWind earth viewer program.   

       Time histories of satellite imagery would show clearly if someone had a solution to a particular problem. The presentation would be categorized and viewable from space or zoomed in to ground level/underground?   

       Whole continents could present a communal challenge based upon the real -borderless- earth.   

       Solutions that have been tried and theoretical models can be presented with this tool.
subflower, Aug 09 2005

       The University of Minnesota has been running a questions site. Most of the questions are either already answered or unanswerable (not stated clearly, matter of opinion, etc.). Maybe a fee would help.
Ford, Jan 24 2008

       I just looked at the Wikipedia page (as linked) on unsolved problems in biology, and it is pathetic. It's just a random smattering of questions ranging from trivial to profound.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 20 2016

       You could edit the page, and make it less pathetic...   

       Good link though.
In the Philosophical category Qualia is no mystery. I know for a fact that people perceive differently yet attribute the same words to experience. For example, the color of the sky in my world is not the same as the color of the sky in your world, yet we both use the word blue to describe its appearance.

       //In the Philosophical category//   

       All questions in the Philosophical category are unanswered.   

       Philosophers have to swear the Oath of Anopheles, which forbids them from ever answering a question definitively. This is the only way to keep philosophers in business, and is the reason that philosophy (although an interesting hobby) is ultimately a complete waste of time.   

       You will note that there is no Wikipedia page entitled "Solved problems in philosophy".
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 20 2016

       That joke.   






       My head.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 20 2016

       So... by answering philosophical questions a person violates their right to actually become a philosopher?   

       In retrospect, mime school would have been the way to go.   

       //In retrospect, mime school would have been the way to go//   

       Would mime schools ring a bell that could actually be heard?
AusCan531, Mar 21 2016

       Innocentive <link> is similar. It is less profound unsolved questions, but more practical engineering/science solutions that have a either commercial value or are sponsored by charities for the good of humanity.
scad mientist, Mar 21 2016

       // For example, the color of the sky in my world is not the same as the color of the sky in your world //   

       How can you know that, though?
notexactly, Mar 27 2016

       Excellent find [scad]. They've generated $48M in awards and have a "premium challenge" (whatever that means) success rate of 85%.
Worldgineer, Apr 01 2016

       //// For example, the color of the sky in my world is not the same as the color of the sky in your world ////   

       //How can you know that, though?//   

       I was born seeing what folks are calling visual snow.
I see like I'm on LSD 24/7. Always have. Nobody knew what I meant growing up, so I assume it's safe to say that a rainbowy pointalist entoptic Purkinje-tree floater-filled scintillating expanse is not what most people are seeing when they look up at a clear blue sky.

       ...might not be how 'anyone' else sees it.   

       I will vouch for the innocentive folks, whom I found in the "half-siblings" list under links up there below the croissant.   

       And for Worldgineer. Make with some schemes now, World. 10 years should be enough ruminating time.
bungston, Apr 01 2016

       Sorry [bungs], I'm still working on the Massive AOL CD Solar Collector Array of Doom. I just don't get as many in the mail as I used to.
Worldgineer, Apr 01 2016


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