NASA’s Pluto flyby is a truly international event, not limited by borders: the excitement and commentary span the planet. But this phenomenon isn’t new. What’s the first giant, global science story you remember?
The internet has amplified the reach of scientific discoveries, letting us react in real time. As we’ve seen, this can be a beautiful thing, like when enthusiasm over the Mars Curiosity rover’s landing almost broke social media. Prior to the digital age, however, there were still events so massive in scope that much of the world paused to watch, listen and speculate together. My mother can pinpoint where she was when the Apollo 11 moon landing occurred, and my older sister can equally recall the Challenger disaster.
The first memory that popped into my mind was the huge hubbub around the cloning of Dolly the Sheep in 1997. Dolly immediately graced magazine covers and dominated the news; the talking heads made it sound as though we had entered a dystopic age of science fiction and our own human clones were right around the bend. My school even gave a special lecture about cloning the next day in science class. I remember being curious but cautious toward the concept of clones, since the 1993 X-Files episode “Eve” made it seem like a very bad thing. (I just learned that Dolly got her name because “[She] is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton.”)
Was the first science story you remember bringing people together—was it something in space, or much more Earthbound?