Summary analysis

After watching the collection of talks on The Edge of Knowledge, read a thoughtful recap of the major points in this TED Study, and learn where experts believe things are headed.

In this series of TEDTalks, we've heard how the pursuit of fundamental physics has led us to a beautiful and concise set of laws. As it stands today, experimental observations, both at the smallest scales of the elementary particles and the largest distances of the cosmos, agree well with the predictions of these laws.

Nevertheless, many questions remain unanswered: What is dark matter? What is the correct quantum theory of gravity? Does supersymmetry exist? Are there extra dimensions of space? These are just some of the big questions for which we don't yet have answers.

New discoveries may be just out of reach, ripe for discovery with the next round of experiments, or harder to find. In the latter case, we'll need all our ingenuity to design and build the most effective experiments or to discover the key theoretical idea(s) that will push us forward.

But even if we one day succeed in finding a fundamental "theory of everything," there will still be plenty to challenge our understanding. As Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg points out, "In the Middle Ages Europeans drew maps of the world in which there were all kinds of exciting things like dragons in unknown territories." Yet even without "here be dragons," our modern-day world is far from boring.

The successes of fundamental physics attest to humanity's insatiable desire for exploration and our thirst to understand the world around us and our place within it. Whatever the future holds, we can be confident of one thing: humanity will keep finding big questions to ask.

Relevant talks