50 Years Ago

  1. rulers
    Science & Society

    The U.S. has resisted the metric system for more than 50 years

    Australia adopted the metric system 50 years ago. The United States tried by passing legislation for a voluntary conversion that was largely ignored.

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  2. Multimammate rats
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists were trying to get a grip on Lassa fever

    In 1970, scientists were on the trail of a deadly new virus. Fifty years later, a vaccine is just now being tested in people.

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  3. solar eclipse
    Space

    50 years ago, scientists were studying why the sun’s corona is so hot

    In 1970, scientists were hoping to learn why the sun’s corona is so hot during an eclipse. Fifty years later, the corona’s magnetic field may hold some answers.

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  4. Trans-Alaska Pipeline
    Environment

    50 years ago, protests and promises launched the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

    50 years ago, the upcoming Trans-Alaska Pipeline prompted an economic boom amid outrage from environmental and Native American groups.

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  5. smallpox vaccination
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists debated the necessity of a smallpox vaccine

    In 1970, scientists debated the necessity of routine smallpox vaccinations as the disease declined. Fifty years later, the debate continues.

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  6. moon
    Space

    The sterile moon may still hold hints of how life began on Earth

    50 years ago, scientists found no signs of life on the moon. Today, lunar mission regulations may be relaxed in light of that fact.

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  7. supernova
    Space

    50 years ago, scientists didn’t know where heavy elements came from

    Five decades ago, scientists suspected ordinary supernovas created heavy elements. Now we know they don’t, but merging neutron stars do.

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  8. inequality graph
    Humans

    50 years ago, income inequality was severe in the U.S. It still is

    In 1969, lower-income households tended to be nonwhite and in the U.S. South. That still holds true today.

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  9. smoke stacks
    Climate

    50 years ago, scientists puzzled over a slight global cooling

    Five decades ago, scientists were puzzled over a slight dip in global temperatures. Today we know it was just a blip, and that Earth’s climate is warming thanks to industrial activity over the last century.

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  10. melanoma
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, cancer vaccines were a dream

    Researchers are now prodding the immune system to fight cancer, reviving the longtime dream of creating cancer vaccines.

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  11. A map of Gondwanaland
    Earth

    50 years ago, an Antarctic fossil pointed to Gondwanaland’s existence

    Fifty years ago, fossils from Antarctica helped seal the deal that the southern continents were once connected in one, giant landmass called Gondwanaland.

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  12. a photo of a person smoking marijuana
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists warned of marijuana’s effects on the unborn

    In 1969, scientists warned about prenatal marijuana exposure. Researchers today are still untangling drug’s effect on fetuses.

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