Welcome to a new regular feature called "Too Hard for Science?"

The idea here is to interview scientists about pet ideas they would love to explore that seem impossible to investigate in real life. Perhaps they involve machines beyond the realm of possibility, such as particle accelerators as big as the sun; perhaps they would be completely unethical, such as lethal experiments involving people; perhaps they would be too expensive, or require centuries to run, or could never find volunteers to participate, or are in some way unprovable.

This feature aims to look at the seemingly impossible dreams, the most intractable problems in science. However, the question mark at the end of "Too Hard For Science?" suggests that nothing might be impossible. Perhaps these very interviews could spur brainstorms that actually make these ideas a reality.

In the coming weeks you'll read about ideas such as manufacturing brains using printers; neutrinos from the Big Bang; the sense of meaning in dreams; the genetic foundations of intelligence; recreating what killed Pompeii; and what renowned scientists Freeman Dyson and E.O. Wilson think might be too hard for science.

Stay tuned!


If you have a scientist you would like to recommend I question, or you are a scientist with an idea you think might be too hard for science, email me at toohardforscience@gmail.com.

Follow Too Hard For Science? on Twitter by keeping track of the #2hard hashtag. Follow Scientific American frequent contributor Charles Q. Choi on Twitter @cqchoi.