Where do new show ideas come from? Do they appear to us in dreams? Does the idea-stork drop them from the sky in adorable little idea-bundles? Or could they come from YOU?

Here's the thing: Our research team has been in overdrive thinking up story ideas for a new NOVA scienceNOW hour called "What's The Next Big Thing?" But the idea stork has been in a holding pattern, and our dreams haven't been so helpful, unless the next big thing is my husband and Shakira co-hosting the Grammy awards. So, we want to know what you think. What is the next big thing? Will it be a leap in medicine? Computers? Energy? Transportation? Something we haven't even thought of yet?

Put on your future goggles and let us know what you see. Next thing you know, you might be seeing your idea on NOVA scienceNOW!

Publicist Note: The fifth season of "NOVA scienceNOW" hosted by renowned astrophysicist, author, and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Neil deGrasse Tyson premieres in 2011. NOVA scienceNOW covers four timely science and technology stories per one-hour episode. The new season, each episode tackles one BIG question such as Where did I come from? How does the brain work? and What's the next big thing?

User Comments:

The smart money is on nanotechnology. Being able to manipulate matter on molecular level and turning wood into gold, the modern alchemy. Or better yet if hadron collider proves String Theory and we find a way to manipulate "strings".

Short term, gestures, interactions with a computer by voice, computers ability to understand gestures and subvocal will happend soon.

Probiotics. We're just getting used to seeing them on a limited basis in some of our foods, mostly for digestive health, but as we begin to understand more about how our bodies interact (cooperate) with the resident, beneficial and healthy microflora, we should hope to see probiotics for a wider distribution of functions made more available to the consumer.

Peak Oil is the next big thing - although I wish it were not.

Maybe it's not exactly in the spirit of the question, but it is the very thing that we will be dealing with for the rest of our lives.

If you are unfamiliar with it (as most people are) see the "Peak Oil Primers" in the bottom left column of http://www.theoildrum.com

I dare you to read "The Long Emergency" http://www.energybulletin.net/node/4856 and not come away wanting to produce programs about Peak Oil.

Agriclutural technology. How will farmers produce more with less?

Machinery is more precision-oriented: GPS-guided tractors, variable rate planters (planting seeds at different populations according to soil type/conditions).

Biotech seeds are in seed companies pipeline, including drought-tolerant corn, corn that utilizes nirogen better, soybeans with omega-3.

No-till farming is becoming more widely adopted, minimizing soil erosion and building organic matter.

Irrigation practices are improving, as farmers become better at watering crops at the right time.

Using molecular markers to breed plants to resist diseases and improve yields.

Lots of technology advances in farming in recent years and companies and farmers are striving to find "the next big thing" to produce more food on less land with fewer inputs per unit produced.

Disclosure: I work for an agribusiness company.

I believe that prosthetic vision for humans could be the next big thing, however, a very different approach, than current researchers are and have been exploring, will beable to incorporate colour capture and a resolution that is as good as or better than natural human vision and would not require the invasive surgery that current explorations into the field require. The results of this project could open doors for application elsewhere that I cannot more than begin to imagine.

The Absolute Next Thing is Cellulosic Ethanol. Novazymes, and Dupont-Danisco, among others, have made a tremendous breakthrough in "Cost" of Enzymes.

Ethanol from corn cobs, switch grass, etc for $2.00 gal is, basically, here.

5% of the land in every county, plus muni solid waste will render declining oil exports a non-event.

The next big thing is personal fabrication machines, like the makerbot.

I think the next big thing to come along will be something along the lines of androids or robots with artificial intelligence.

Bob Grib

I personally believe that the "Next Big Thing" to facilitate all subsequent "Next Big Things" is what I have chosen to call "Ubiquitous Super-Education."

Of the 6.7 billion people in the world, only a small fraction have a college degree. And many of them don't remember much of what they supposedly learned. An even smaller fraction have graduate degrees or doctorates. That small fraction are the people who develop almost all of the "Next Big Things" for all the rest of us. Imagine if almost everyone could achieve the same level of education, or even better, all for free. Imagine a world where 90% of the people over 18 have a graduate level education and the rest have at least a decent college level education. Imagine the breakthroughs. Imagine the population stabilization. Imagine the world peace.

With the right educational-content format-standards and software it is possible to do. I know it may sound like a pipe dream and this is a bit self-promotion, but I am working on a system to do just what I describe. For more information please see http://www.demml.org as well as my philosophy statement at http://demml.blogspot.com/2009/07/philosophy-statement.html.

The next big thing? Perhaps a shift in managing how we do things in society. Basically, lifestyle changes.

We have to deal with providing for the collective needs of billions of people on a planet with finite and diminishing resources.

Until someone finds a method for dealing with topsoil erosion, fresh water depletion, enviromental impact, agriculural concerns, resource management, etc, we're in trouble.

And we have to have a plan for peak oil as well. Oil powers our entire modern civilization. The future isn't looking so rosy.

I think the next big thing is ultimately going to be about downsizing how we do everything and getting by on less.

Otherwise nature is going to forcefeed it down our throats.

pre-marital genetic counseling? as more and more diseases are linked to genetic markers perhaps couples will have dna testing to see whether they are compatible for bearing children with a better than average hope for remaining healthy through a lifetime. might this lead to the extreme of fetus removal if in vitro testing shows a potential diabetic or propensity toward leukemia, for example? scary thoughts but is it possible?

Permaculture theory, edible lawns, food forests, & succession-based plant communities! Plant your urban victory garden now!

There us a story just beginning to be told about the finding of the original stone which gave rise to the notion of the Philosopher's Stone.
Details are visible at
This a breaking story, and if true will be one of the most astounding events to the discipline of not only Archaeology, but too, the ongoing question of
What is the Philosopher's Stone. How is it read?
What can it tell us about the building in front of which it was placed as a "key".
Bernard Pietsch

Our town wants to poison a 156,000,000 aquifer and the Maine DEP will give them $400,000 to do it. I would like to try to save it with mushrooms and willow

The next big thing is not technology, it's not high tech science- the real big thing is more of a realization, the realization that art and science go together more than any other discipline combined, in fact, drawing and art can do more for the life sciences than anything else. It may not appear as exciting as finding a new planet, but it's more like finding a tool that unlocks the door to creativity,your relationship to the planet, with yourself, and with all the diversity of life on Earth. As a biologist and artist, I strongly believe that the tool of art is not in the brain as an anatomical location but more that it exists throughout the mind and body at a quantum level-I think DaVinci was, and still is excellent evidence of this. I would love to see a story on the complex interdependent relationships between our minds, manual skills like drawing, and our ability to thoughtfully and sensitivly investigate our niche on the planet.

The next big thing will be the mind being transported to the outer universe. Transporting individuals will be too Long of an endurance to be feasible. However, if only the minds of individuals could be transported, there is no end to the posabilities. In other words, mind controlled robots.

Kate: I would love to hear what Nova can tell us about fascinating new discoveries in brain science ... how that so-called (85%)unused part of our human brains, we now know is made up primarily of glial cells, is very active, and could very well hold the keys to cures for schizophrenia, Alzheimers, Parkinson's, etc. Our brains are so much more than neurons, axons and dendrites. See "The Other Brain" by R. Douglas Fields, PhD. I would guess that this expert on the suubject, with a talent for communicating his knowledge to laymen, would be glad to assist in such a project.

A long long time ago I watched a series about fractals. It has stayed in my brain for that long as I was so compelled to learn more. However, I have not seen anything like it since. The fractals were like triangles that with each turn and connection to another triangle or three lines, each and every living creature was built, just by a single turn of the lines. I'm not sure I am explaining it correctly, but, if were to teach our childrean and the adults that every living thing is made just by an incremental change, maybe we could explain how our actions cause reactions to the earth. When I look up fractals now they go to a completely different explanation and it is not what I am looking for. Did anyone else see this or have any idea what this was called. Thanks Aunt B

Joseph Palmer (above) called it: Peak Oil. Describe it for the curious public that seeks out NOVA programming. Everyone needs to understand the concept and the potential impacts.

To whom it may concern,

You asked about "the next big idea" but you did not dare to mention all of the very good "big ideas" that have already been submitted to our US PTO over the last many decades. Ideas which might have saved our planet's environment by now had they not been bought up by and then hidden or buried or suppressed in some way by large corporations who some how percieve techno-progress as a threat to their corporate economy or bottom-line profitability.

I have been an independent inventor for several decades but I have as yet been financially unable to submit any of my own "big ideas" for serious consideration to be patented due to poverty and economic hardhip. ........... And I am not the only person like me ....... I am quite certain that there are many thousands of people who, except for poverty, might have been the next "Thomas Edison" or "Nikola Tesla" type inventor.

If you really want to see a flood of "big ideeas" then set up some economically viable way for poor independents to "get in the game line" and begin submitting their own "big ideas" without regard to economic hardship circumstancces.

The next big thing, is the military experimenting to make a super military, using experiments and robotics. or biological war far. Or are they experimenting trying to make an invisible military using DNA, From lizards.

Imagine computing with more than two (binary) values. All devices which compute today use Boolean logic. I think the "next biggest thing" will be the advent of ternary, quaternary, quintinary and higher-order logics integrated in computing devices. There are significant evolution implications to this possible revolution: the evolution of reasoning (beyond "True" or "False"), and multiple more facets to "truth" as we think we understand it. Today we are able to experiment with multiple-valued logics (MVL) using existing computers. However, there are considerable challenges: the capacities needed for computation speed and--especially--storage are daunting, and the persistent storage of non-ASCII symbols is not currently supported by conventional relational database technology.

I believe we are going to be forced to look inward with the catastrophes of late with nature and economy. Quantum physics tells us that reality is only the reality of the observer. If the quantum field holds all the information, every thought, every action, couldn't people who are tapping into the quantum field be getting info from the field? That would explain ppl who don't know each other and at opposite geographical locations coming up with the same ideas. Whether the "next thing" is tech or not, we need to guide it toward "evolving" our thinking, embracing art,science & spirituality as one. The next thing had better be "human evolution" to the next step and add another figure of a man to the storyline of human evolution. We've done parallel universes and other ideas of quantum physics, lets take that further and explore the possibility of humans with the potential to tap into it; ie., Edgar Cayce, Nostradamus, anyone with psychic abilities, deja vu. But with the idea of advancing our culture, our way of thinking, etc.

Greetings Kate,

You just do it don't you? I read almost all of the sections that you have on the page and especially the stuff about the Higgs boson.
But you have a marvelous opportunity to be the first to recognize that my research and report about the original philosopher's stone which I recovered from the base of the Great Pyramid, --is truly real and it is actually that object.
If you are not interested in this all well and good, but you will be passing up the chance to be the first to see that the recovery of this simple stone can and will rival Carter's discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.
Just imagine, Finding the "PHILOSOPHER'S STONE", Can it be??????

The Philosopher’s Stone


Today,I was listening to your program on PBS,WOW,it was so wonderful,I can`t wait to buy the book,The next best thing!
We should all take heed to this vital information!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Apiffany Fulcher

I concur with those who think an in-depth look at Peak Oil (which the U.S. quietly experienced around 1970) is long overdue from a respected series like NOVA.

The public is being fed too much vague information about oil being scarce with no mention of the peaking phenomenon. It's a case of when, not if, with regard to global peak production.

A study from Kuwait in March 2010 predicted a global peak in 2014, and some think it already triggered the current recession with the price spike in 2008, leading to an immediate demand slump. There could be a bouncing-ball price effect as demand rebounds, causing oil to rise, then fall again with another recession. Sooner or later, economic mitigation (i.e. bailouts) won't work and the core flaw of oil-based growthism must be faced.

Also note that the Alaskan subset of U.S. crude oil production peaked in the late 1980s, including ANWR and the NPR-A. The U.S. can easily burn a billion barrels of oil in just 50 days, which puts "vast" reserves in perspective. Oil shale may never be feasible in terms of net energy (output minus input).

Many economists still talk about oil prices as if physical limits are irrelevant and arcane market mechanisms are at fault. There seems to be a fear that the public can't handle the truth, but it really ought to be presented soon.

I don't know about it being the next big thing,but it could make an interesting show.
Ice Age megaflooding shaped the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

blog comments powered by Disqus