This month, the world saw the first-ever image of a black hole. The picture was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of radio telescopes operated by a global team of scientists. The black hole is 53.49 million light-years away, at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy. Taking a picture of such a distant object was an immense feat of science and engineering. The roots of this achievement stretch from Einstein’s first theorizing about the existence of black holes, all the way to the creation of cutting-edge technology that allowed us to finally see one.
Such stories are reminders of why it sometimes feels like science can do anything, from exploring the cosmos, to peering into the distant past, to blurring the boundary between life and death. And that feeling often extends to the science that informs our health. On that front, the 20th century brought a host of major discoveries, from penicillin to the double helix. As the Digital Age ushers in new advances, it is as easy as it has ever been to imagine that science really can solve all our health problems one day.
Our behavior suggests we may even hope that, through the power of science, we can one day innovate our way out of the human condition—the inevitability of age and death. Consider: the United States spends far moreon health care than any other country in the world. The vast majority of this spending goes to the drugs and treatments that are the fruits of scientific discovery. With this sky-high spending have come sky-high expectations.
Read the full piece at Scientific American.