50 Years Ago

  1. Earth

    50 years ago, the sun’s influence on Earth’s lightning was revealed

    The solar wind and sunspots seem to give lightning a boost. But exactly how solar activity stimulates strikes is an enduring mystery.

  2. Genetics

    50 years ago, chimeras gave a glimpse of gene editing’s future

    Advances in gene editing technology have led to the first successful transplant of a pig kidney into a human.

  3. Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, phantom pain was blamed on misfiring nerves 

    Researchers now know that the cause of post-amputation pain is more complex, which is leading to new treatments.

  4. Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, margarine’s ‘healthy’ reputation began to melt away

    In the 1970s, scientists began to suspect that margarine was bad for heart health. A key component, artificial trans fat, was a major factor.

  5. Animals

    50 years ago, scientists wondered how birds find their way home

    In the 1970s, lab tests hinted that birds can navigate using magnetic fields. New studies suggest that beak and eye proteins are behind the ability.

  6. Space

    50 years ago, scientists found a lunar rock nearly as old as the moon

    Studies of such rocks continue to reveal secrets about the moon’s history.

  7. Physics

    50 years ago, superconductors were warming up

    Superconducting temperatures have risen by about 250 degrees since the 1970s, but are still too cold to enable practical technologies.

  8. Health & Medicine

    50 years ago, computers helped speed up drug discovery

    In 1974, a computer program helped researchers search for promising cancer drugs. Today, AI is helping speed up drug discovery.

  9. Anthropology

    50 years ago, evidence showed that an extinct human ancestor walked upright

    Fossil finds have since pushed back the ability of hominids to walk on two legs by millions of years.

  10. Paleontology

    50 years ago, trilobite eyes mesmerized scientists

    Decades of research has confirmed that for such simple creatures, trilobites had astoundingly complex eyes.

  11. Physics

    50 years ago, timekeepers deployed the newly invented leap second

    After more than 50 years, metrologists will stop using the leap second to align the time kept by atomic clocks with the rate of Earth’s spin.

  12. Animals

    50 years ago, the U.S. Navy enlisted sea lions and other marine mammals

    Today, dolphins and sea lions in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program protect harbors and participate in research on animal health and well-being.