50 Years Ago

  1. hands rolling a marijuana joint
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists claimed marijuana threatened teens’ mental health

    In the 1970s, scientists linked pot use to mental health woes in teens. Such concerns have helped keep the drug illegal for teens for 50 years.

  2. a balloon being filled with helium
    Science & Society

    50 years ago, the United States wanted to deflate the helium stockpile

    An attempt to dismantle the Federal Helium Reserve in 1971 failed. Fifty years later, the U.S. government is still determined to run out of gas.

  3. Perseverance parachuting down to Mars

    50 years ago, experiments hinted at the possibility of life on Mars

    In 1971, lab experiments suggested organic molecules could be made on Mars. Fifty years later, robots are searching for such signs of life on the planet itself.

  4. a composite image of a person in a wheelchair progressing to walking with a walker
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, researchers treated chronic pain with electricity

    In 1971, doctors eased chronic pain by sending electrical impulses to the spinal cord. Fifty years later, improved techniques help paralyzed people walk.

  5. a photo of a whaling ship hauling in a catch

    50 years ago, U.S. commercial whaling was coming to an end

    Commercial whaling has brought many whale species to the brink of extinction. But after bans, some show signs of recovery.

  6. an illustration of a five-quark particle

    50 years ago, scientists were on a quest for quarks

    In the 1970s, physicists confirmed particles called quarks existed. Fifty years later, many kinds of quarks in many combinations have been discovered.

  7. an illustration of a Brontosaurus

    50 years ago, scientists made the case for a landlubbing Brontosaurus

    In 1971, a scientist argued for a landbound Brontosaurus instead of a swampy swimmer. Recent evidence comes from studies of its ancient environment.

  8. an illustration of the molecular structure of water

    50 years ago, scientists poked holes in the existence of polywater

    In 1971, scientists were casting doubt on an anomalous form of water. Fifty years later, water’s odd properties are still mysterious.

  9. a microscopic image showing the sickle curved shape of blood cells
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, urea showed promise as a sickle-cell treatment

    In 1970, scientists found the first treatment for sickle-cell disease. 50 years later, they’re trying to cure it with CRISPR.

  10. Murchison meteorite fragment
    Planetary Science

    50 years ago, scientists caught their first glimpse of amino acids from outer space

    In 1970, scientists detected amino acids in a meteorite. Fifty years later, a variety of chemical ingredients for life have been found in other space rocks.

  11. a microscopic image showing several radiolarians

    50 years ago, scientists named Earth’s magnetic field as a suspect in extinctions

    In 1970, researchers saw a link between magnetic pole reversals and extinctions. Fifty years later, scientists have uncovered more suggestive examples but no strong evidence of a direct link.lamb

  12. a photo of clouds

    50 years ago, scientists suspected microbes flourished in clouds

    In 1970, scientists presented early evidence that microbes in clouds may be alive and kicking.