Some of the greatest mysteries of the universe may never be resolved because they are beyond human comprehension, according to Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society.
Rees suggests that the inherent intellectual limitations of humanity mean we may never resolve questions such as the existence of parallel universes, the cause of the big bang, or the nature of our own consciousness.
He even compares humanity to fish, which swim through the oceans without any idea of the properties of the water in which they spend their lives.
“Some aspects of reality — a unified theory of physics or a full understanding of consciousness — might elude us simply because they’re beyond human brains, just as surely as Einstein’s ideas would baffle a chimpanzee,” he said.
Other scientists are more optimistic. Brian Cox, the BBC science presenter and physics professor who was awarded an OBE yesterday, said: “The idea that certain things are beyond us is quite a bleak one and history does show that we can eventually overcome the most difficult of problems.”
The mind boggles: The scientific mysteries that may be beyond us include:
* Multiple dimensions — string theory suggests space has up to 11 dimensions, but mathematicians have struggled to prove this
* Consciousness — scientists suggest consciousness derives from chemical reactions in the brain but cannot explain how this might generate a sense of self
* Are we real? — Rees and other physicists have suggested the universe and humanity are part of a giant computer simulation as seen in the Matrix films