I have heard recently some scientist (sorry, no link) saying that with the Discovery of the Higgs Boson, physical theory is complete. There’s nothing more to be added to the Standard Model. We’re done.
Which led me to think about where I’d heard that before. Oh, that’s right. When I took Modern Physics back in College, my professor described the state of physics in the late 19th century. The attitude, he said, was that physical theory was complete. They could just add a digit or two of precision to physical constants and then we could all go home.
Then two guys by the name of Michelson and Morley, and Hittorf’s discovery of “cathode rays” started a process which turned physics on its ear. Michelson and Morley weren’t looking for the foundations of new physics. They were looking to measure the movement of the Earth through the Luminiferous Aether scientists though carried “light waves”. But what they found was something far more profound. And the “cathode rays” led to a series of experiments that led to the discovery of the electron and eventually other atomic particles and the “atom” wasn’t so indivisible after all. Between them, these to branches led to Relativity and Quantum Theory, giving us the Modern Physics.
So, are we on the cusp of the next big revolution in physics? I think we are. No telling how long the “hang time” will be at this cusp, but sooner or later (and I really hope sooner) somebody’s going to point at an experimental result and say “what the hell is that?” and we’ll be off with whole new worlds of physical theory to discover.