Feature Story

The Next 100 Years

We asked researchers to transport themselves into the future.Here’s what Dr. Jaymie Matthews from the Physics and Astronomy Department at UBC had to say.

If you could transport yourself to the future, what would you be teaching/researching in 100 years?

It is hard to imagine a more fundamental discovery for science, for philosophy, for theology, and for culture, than proof that we are not alone in the Universe.

Dr. Jaymie Matthews,
Faculty of Science

A: It’s hazardous to predict even a decade into the future, let alone a century. Some of the topics about exoplanets (alien worlds beyond our Solar System) which I shared with UBC students in my ASTR 101 and ASTR 333 courses this year were not even on anybody’s radar a decade ago. The pace of exoplanetary discovery is just that rapid and that dramatic.

But there are some subjects I’m sure will be on the UBC syllabus in 2115:

ENGL 3289.76 — Alien Pastoral Poetry

The concepts of "rural life" depicted in pastoral poems expanded to cosmic horizons in the wake of the discovery of extraterrestrial life in the 2030s, through infrared spectral signatures of microbes on exoplanets found in the early 21st Century.

APSC N=55107 / PHIL 10800 — Ethics of Mars Terraforming

Elon Musk III and his company Global Renovations Inc. want to apply engineering on a planetary scale to make Mars livable for humans. But in a few hundred million years, the Habitable Zone of the Solar System will have moved past Earth and will encompass Mars. Could life evolve on Mars in the far future? Do we have the right to transform a planet — even one uninhabited today — to our liking as a species?

How will the work you are doing now influence your field in 100 years?

A: Exoplanets discovered today by me, my students and my colleagues include ones that are in the "Goldilocks Zone" of their stars. Not too close to the star, not too far, but just right for water oceans, and maybe life.

These will be the targets for concentrated searches for life, and I’m confident that those searches will find aliens in the next two decades or so. Those aliens won’t be Vulcans or Ewoks but microbes, recognized by biogenic signatures in infrared spectra of those distant worlds.

It is hard to imagine a more fundamental discovery for science, for philosophy, for theology, and for culture, than proof that we are not alone in the Universe.

Scientists and students at UBC are laying the groundwork for that transformative moment.

Want to study with Jaymie?

Discover UBC Physics and Astronomy

Explore this Series

Nearly every researcher searches for something — a clue, an anomaly, a missing link — that will unlock new knowledge about the world we live in.

In the first 100 years at UBC, discovery was paramount. The drive for invention and the need to understand cause and effect ushered in decades of eureka moments in labs, classrooms and in the minds of students and professors alike as relationships between things revealed themselves. 

But what will the next 100 years bring? We asked researchers across a range of disciplines at UBC to transport themselves into the year 2115 and imagine what they might be teaching and researching.

Discover what they envision and travel with them into the future.

UBC is proud to mark its 100th anniversary as a global leader in education, research innovation and community engagement.
Learn more about the UBC Centennial.

Story Credits

Thank you to all of our participants for their willingness to predict the unknown.

Special thanks to Tim Herron, Events and Technical Services Manager, Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, for giving us lots of space to be creative and Public Affairs for suggestions on researchers for the story.

Image of Curiosity rover credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Story team: UBC Communications and Marketing — Martin Dee, UBC Photographer; Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Michael Kam, Web Developer; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Adrian Liem, Manager, Digital Communications; Mark Pilon, Designer; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer; Matt Warburton, Manager, Graphic Design.

Published: January 2016