For all the power of modern science, we are masters of only one of these forces: electromagnetism. Laptops, smartphones, wirelessly connected thermostats, Google Glass — all our high-tech miracles exist because we’ve learned to control the electromagnetic force at the subtlest of levels. We routinely nudge electrons around circuits with the precision of an atomic watchmaker and coerce light to do our bidding with the barest of whispers. When it comes to electromagnetism, we have powers that are almost godlike.
With the other three, we’re not even close. Consider nuclear power plants. Yes, they rely on our remarkable knowledge of the strong and weak nuclear forces. But when all is said and done they simply use the heat generated by splitting atomic nuclei to boil water, which then spins turbines, which then generate electricity. That’s not so different from a 19th-century steam engine. Compared with the precision of an electron microscope (or even a grocery-store laser scanner), our handling of nuclear forces is still at the level of slamming rocks together.
The same is true of gravity. Obviously, we can make a plane fly by forcing air to flow over a wing, which generates the pressure to lift it off the ground. But the interaction of those air molecules is a result of electromagnetic forces. And the fuel we use to power planes (and blow rockets off the planet) is a result of our understanding of chemistry, which again is a matter of electromagnetism.
It is sort of crazy that our mastery only extends to one of the four forces. Bring on anti-gravity already!