50 Years Ago

  1. Anthropology

    50 years ago, X-rays revealed what ancient Egyptians kept under wraps

    In the 1970s, scientists used X-rays to unravel mummy secrets. Now, advances in technology are providing unprecedented views of ancient Egyptians.

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  2. A bottle of aspirin
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists found a link between aspirin use and pregnancy complications

    Scientists are still learning about the risks and benefits of taking aspirin at each stage of pregnancy.

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  3. sewage runoff pours out of a drainpipe
    Environment

    50 years ago, chemical pollutants were linked to odd animal behavior

    Fifty years after studies hinted that pollution interferes with how aquatic creatures communicate, scientists are still unraveling its myriad effects.

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  4. a photo of Charon behind Pluto
    Planetary Science

    50 years ago, astronomers were chipping away at Pluto’s mass

    Prior to the discovery of Pluto’s moon Charon, astronomers struggled to pin down the dwarf planet’s mass.

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  5. an computer illustration of streaks of yellow bouncing around in loops - showing how the debris from a proton-antiproton collision moved. the straighter path of a high-energy electron is also shown
    Physics

    50 years ago, physicists thought they found the W boson. They hadn’t

    Fifty years after a false-alarm discovery, physicists have caught the W boson and are using it to unravel mysteries of particle physics.

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  6. a gloved hand holds plastic pack rings (to hold six canned beverages together), behind the rings is a beach
    Chemistry

    50 years ago, scientists developed self-destructing plastic

    In the 1970s, scientists developed plastic that could quickly break down when exposed to light. But that didn’t solve the world’s pollution problems.

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  7. Epstein-Barr virus
    Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, scientists found a virus lurking in human cancer cells

    In 1971, scientists were building a case for viruses as a cause of cancer. Fifty years later, cancer-preventing vaccines are now a reality.

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  8. a screen capture from a declassified video of an unidentified object
    Science & Society

    50 years ago, UFO sightings in the United States went bust

    In 1971, reports of unidentified flying objects were on the decline. Fifty years later, sightings have spiked thanks in part to pandemic lockdowns.

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  9. a photo of an astronaut at the Apollo 11 moon landing site

    50 years ago, NASA relaxed quarantine rules for returning moon missions

    Fifty years after NASA declared that moon missions returning to Earth weren’t a contamination risk, protocols for planetary missions are under review.

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  10. two people on a snowmobile
    Science & Society

    50 years ago, scientists predicted steady U.S. population growth

    The country’s annual population growth rate, mostly stable since the 1970s, is now the lowest it’s been in over a century.

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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.

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