For the editors of Scientific American, the beginning of a new year offers an opportunity to look ahead and see what is likely to take place in the world of health and science. In 2022, we covered fascinating and troubling news: stunning images of space telescopes drastically reduced rights to reproductive health across the U.S., efforts to remove environmental regulation and an era of war that exposed the energy-related co-dependencies we share and an award of the Nobel Prize for our Neandertal ancestral roots, and more. We’ll take a look at what we’re keeping an eye on when 2023 is due to arrive.
Large satellite constellations of all sizes are obscuring the night sky. Two space stations with crews are operating and several nations are developing new capabilities for military operations on orbit. The governments of 2023 could see the orbital regions of Earth as in dire need of more international protection.
In the event that SpaceX’s first flight on its orbital Starship vehicle goes well and successful, it could signal the new age of exploration in space, science and commerce since it provides an affordable method to transport crews and cargo off Earth. We believe that 2023 will be the year that we begin to exploration of life beyond Earth and beyond, regardless of regardless of whether it is the case that James Webb Space Telescope tells us about biosignatures from an exoplanet that is far away or we find fossils in the rock that make up Mars’ Jezero Crater, where NASA’s Perseverance robot is currently collecting samples.
We continue to use a huge amount of fossil fuels as well. European leaders, who are facing rising costs and the possibility of shortages as a result of the Ukraine War, will have to make important decisions about the infrastructure for energy. We’ll be watching their decisions on what to construct, especially for renewable energy as well as transportation of fossil fuels in addition to what structures they maintain. The newly installed U.S. government could determine the future climate-related financial support and regulations. At the same time, science is showing the extent of death and destruction the climate change has caused. We’re hoping that this increasing evidence will convince people across the globe that we must to act today.
It’s highly likely that 2023 will be an important year of recovery following flooding, storms, droughts and wildfires. This is exacerbated by the current global climate crisis. A large part of the recovery process will require government officials to decide the need to rebuild and, should they, if so what to do in a manner that will help us to withstand the effects of climate change, and also avoid encroaching inequality. One concern is whether the adaptation mechanisms can be altered by those in power in the name of fair and equitable decision-making.
With Twitter becoming a new entity and with other social media platforms debunking their real role of spreading false information, by 2023 we’ll need to alter the way that we people who consume news choose what we consider and the way we manage through the “infodemic.” The federal government is beginning to pay more attention to antitrust and privacy concerns, in addition to the health effects of constant utilization of the social network. All of this could affect the tech industry. Tech companies that prospered during the epidemic are now suffering and major firms like Meta, Stripe and Lyft cutting people off. A tech recession could be on the way.
The public’s curiosity about COVID and the funds to study the disease are declining. Yet, many people die of the disease , or suffering from chronic COVID, which medical professionals are only beginning to research. The SARS-CoV-2 infection continues to change, and new treatments and vaccines are being developed. Other outbreaks of diseases, such as monkeypox, highlight the need to be more prepared for pandemics.
As abortion rights are restricted, we will continue to cover the scientific basis behind abortion by examining how restrictions or bans on abortion could harm pregnant women particularly those with restricted access to healthcare. We will also continue to provide information on the health of transgender people as well as gender science and the impacts of laws on children and families who seek gender-affirming treatment.
In the quest for new psychiatric medicines, psychedelics are promising. They are being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration may be able to approve MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in the coming year. Spravato (esketamine) was approved in 2019 as an antidepressant, and psilocybin is currently being studied for the treatment of major depression. The chemicals are beginning to gain acceptance, but they’re not an answer to all problems as three experts from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently warned that these treatments are prone to the dangers of a “hype market.”