Put Down that Crystal Ball

From the New York Times:
IT started with a Harvard physicist acting on a hunch. It ended up producing a new material, called black silicon, that could have a broad impact on technologies ranging from ultrasensitive sensors to photovoltaic cells.

Stop right there! I don't know nuttin' about "Black Silicon" but I am really tired of reading about how every scientific advance "may lead to" a breakthrough in cancer or other medical treatment, computer technology, or energy production. If I had a dollar for every touted "breakthrough..."

You will see the same sort of language in grant proposals. If grant proposals are the measure, every scientist's research is of critical importance and "may lead to" tremendous advancements for humanity.

The trouble is, sometimes there really is an advance of breakthrough importance. How is the person who comes up with that going to be heard above the noise? Maybe "Black Silcon" is such an advance. But my initial reaction to the first paragraph in that Times' article is to roll my eyes and say to myself "blah blah blah, give me a break."