In the 1960s and 1970s, doctors pointed to two likely culprits for the country’s heart disease epidemic: dietary fat and cholesterol. Much of the country tried to avoid fat at all costs. But did the low-fat recommendation help or hurt? And why is nutrition still so controversial?
Over the decades, the Pentagon has led an aerial arms race, spending billions of dollars in a quest to develop a futuristic aircraft that could fly virtually undetected by enemy radar. In 2001, the F-35 became the latest incarnation of that stealth dream. And that’s not all. It was a plane that was slated to be more technologically advanced, and cheaper to maintain than any previous stealth jet, while also meeting the divergent needs of three branches of the US military. But more than 14 years later, the F-35 has yet to fly in combat and the weapons program is plagued with problems - many of which are not flying under the radar.
The recount of votes in Florida during the 2000 election focused worldwide attention on the country’s antiquated and disorganized voting system: chads (hanging, dimpled, pregnant or otherwise), confusing ballots, under-votes and over-votes. A bipartisan consensus soon emerged that the mechanics of voting needed to be improved. But the election also reminded many politicians that a few hundred votes could mean the difference between winning and losing. And, 16 years later, the rules of voting are more controversial - and politicized - than ever.
The first time the word “robot” ever appeared in literature in the 1920s, the fictional machines rose up and killed their creators. We’ve been telling the same story ever since. From Hal 9000 to the Terminator, it often seems the measure of a fictional machine’s intelligence is best taken by its wish to do us harm.
When a dentist named Barney Clark received a permanent artificial heart in 1982, it was hailed as a medical miracle. To the public and the press, he represented hope and a huge leap forward in fighting the world’s biggest killer: heart disease. But hope turned to controversy as Clark and other patients suffered a series debilitating complications and critics called the medical experiment cruel and unethical. Eventually the FDA said no more permanent heart implants and the device faded from public view. But it was hardly the end of the story, for the artificial heart continues to impact medical science in surprising ways.
In 1983, scientists gave the world a new reason to fear nuclear war. It had long been assumed that the immediate, direct effects of a nuclear blast would cause a devastating loss of life, and that radioactive fallout would linger. But these scientists stressed that smoke from nuclear-ignited cities might affect something far more remote — the climate around the globe.
Dungeons & Dragons debuted in 1974 and had moved from a cult classic to a mainstream hit by the early 1980s. Millions of kids around the world were gathering around tables and going on imaginary adventures set by the Dungeon Master as part of this role playing game. But a string of murder-suicides that involved kids who played the game brought a new focus, and critics, many of them conservative Christians, thought the game was an invitation to devil worship and violence.
By the mid-1990s, with record numbers of Americans on welfare, public resentment reached a tipping point. Recipients were stigmatized as lazy ne’er-do-wells feeding at the public trough. Politicians railed against “welfare queens”, the unwed mothers they claimed were gaming the system, having more babies to get more taxpayer cash.
In the 1960s, a psychologist and former Harvard teacher named Timothy Leary coined the phrase ‘Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.’ The slogan was inspired by advertising jingles, but Leary wasn’t pushing a product, he was promoting a drug: LSD.
The USS De Haven sailed from Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor on May 5, 1958, carrying 240 men deep into the Pacific on a secret mission.
In the digital age, where everyday people can suddenly become public enemy number one, how do we strike the balance between keeping free speech alive online and preventing a cyber mob from taking over?
Since the 1990s, it’s been hard to watch coverage of parenting without being told there’s a war going on. The so-called Mommy Wars are being fought between employed mothers and those who stay at home – a supposed fight over whether mothers’ choices are helping kids or doing them harm. But, as the years have passed and women have made different individual choices, it turns out that it may be the question itself – and the false assumptions behind it – that are the real problem.
Phyllis Schlafly honed her political skills in the conservative movement of the 1950s and 1960s, then put them to work to stop the ERA. She traveled the country decrying the proposed amendment, which sought to ensure equal rights for women under law, as “anti-family” and un-American.
In the 1970s, a landmark Supreme Court case named Gautreaux officially brought an end to segregated government housing in Chicago. But it also created a new challenge: how to undo decades of segregation. One part the solution was a relocation program that moved families from the city’s housing ‘projects’ to the mostly-white suburbs.
The first presidential debate in 1960 was a creation of the television age, and it quickly entered its founding lore. We’re told those who saw the debate on TV favored the handsome, well made-up Kennedy. Radio listeners, on the other hand, thought Nixon had won. Evidence supporting this story is shoddy — a mix of anecdote, assumptions and a debunked survey – but the story continues to shape how we understand debates today.