Race to the moon
Science News Letter did its best to downplay the soviet
union’s achievement in launching sputnik in 1957. “our
rocket scientists have been perfecting … their satellites,
instead of concentrating upon scoring a ‘first,’” a reporter
wrote that year (10/19/57, p. 243). ongoing russian victories
became hard to swallow during the space race of the 1960s.
when cosmonaut yuri gagarin became the first man in
space, one politician said the united states needed “space
enthusiasts who are willing to take some risks” (4/22/61,
p. 243). the magazine also tracked celebrations, such as
when the united states had “practically overtaken” the
soviet union in 1965 (6/19/65, p. 387), and lamented set-
backs like the deaths of three astronauts in 1967 (2/4/67,
p. 112). though predicted “moon mines” and “space
factories” never became a reality, the american flag planted
on the moon in 1969 became a banner for a u.s. space
program that still makes headlines today. — Devin Powell
1959 | Nutcracker Man
In East Africa, Louis Leakey
excavates the skull of the
oldest known hominid at the
time, Zinjanthropus boisei,
now called Paranthropus
boisei (12/5/59, p. 379).
high-altitude atomic bomb
detonation could unleash a
broad electromagnetic pulse
that would disrupt all electronics (11/9/63, p. 293).
propose the existence of
quarks — fractionally charged
particles within protons and
neutrons (4/25/64, p. 261). N
and sometimes galaxy-like
as quasars, for quasi-stellar
objects (5/9/64, p. 297).
1960 | Laser
Theodore Maiman demonstrates the first optical maser,
or laser (4/23/60, p. 259).
1964 | Quarks
Murray Gell-Mann and
George Zweig independently
1964 | Quasars
Astronomers describe 12
strange celestial objects that
appear sometimes starlike
1965 | Antibiotic resistance
Doctors report that
Staphylococcus bacteria are
becoming resistant to antibiotics (1/30/65, p. 69).
1960 | Marrow transplant
Physicians report successfully transplanting bone
marrow from one woman to
another with Hodgkin’s-like
disease (1/23/60, p. 54).
1961 | Cosmonaut
Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet
Union becomes the first
human to orbit the Earth
(4/22/61, p. 243).
1963 | Cancer screening
Mammography is shown to
be a valuable gauge of the
presence of breast tumors
( 3/23/63, p. 184).
The future’s so bright
the science writing of the 1950s and ’60s reflected
an atomic age optimism that technology could solve
nearly any problem. some of the ideas of the time
foresaw a future that never quite came to fruition.
s 1957 engineer richard whitcomb predicts that in
10 years, commercial planes “should be able to fly
approximately 3,000 miles at about 1,000 miles
per hour” (3/23/57, p. 179). in 1958, reports
claim that “by 1966 at the latest, the air traveler
will fly commercially from los angeles to new york
in under two hours” (6/14/58, p. 378).
s 1966 people could travel even faster through
“mole-hole tunnels,” moving between any two cities in 42 minutes by essentially
“falling” through a frictionless tube to the new locale, a sylvania electronic systems
scientist calculates (2/19/66, p. 117).
s 1955 “atomic plants do not pose the ‘disposal’ problem that many laymen often
think.… fifty years would perhaps be the right time to let the hottest radiations die
away” (8/27/55, p. 131).
s 1958 scientists suggest they have “outguessed rust diseases that could attack
wheat for the next 100 years” (5/31/58, p. 341). Science News still has coverage
(above) of these pernicious fungi (9/25/10, p. 22). — Erika Engelhaupt
march 24, 2012 | SCIENCE NEWS | 27