Human endeavour set in the context of society and culture
May 10, 2012 10:24 PM   Subscribe

New Scientist - Every issue from its launch in November 1956 through to December 1989. Well, confusingly, one issue with a cover date of November 1952 but with contents from 1959.

What was in the issue of your birth date? Mine had an essay from Charles Darwin [no, not that one, the grandson] on the dangers of the approaching Age of Leisure (through technology). He concluded that:
"…most of mankind are not fitted by nature for a life of freely chosen leisure, because most would not know what to choose. Something equivalent to the compulsory games of the schoolboy would undoubtedly have to be instituted."
posted by unliteral (31 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
What was in the issue of your birth date?

I'm older than New Scientist.

Suddenly I feel VERY old. Get off my LAN.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:28 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

What was in the issue of your birth date?

Intelligence testing, depression, an ad for Glenfiddich. Not much has changed, apparently!
posted by insectosaurus at 10:46 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suddenly I feel VERY old. Get off my LAN.

Maybe you should check out Old Scientist
posted by birdherder at 10:49 PM on May 10, 2012 [16 favorites]

Hmm.. not enough ads, that's usually the interesting part of old magazines. Let's check out the "Appointments and Situations Vacant" ads in the back.




is required for experimental and theoretical work in connection with the further development of gas-cooled, graphite-moderated nuclear reactors. The selected candidate will work as a member of a small research team engaged on exponential experiments with a variety of lattice arrangements, and the work will involve planning the experiments and analysing the results. The team will be based in the South of England.

With possible career advancement prospects to Chernobyl.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

These are really fun to peruse, thanks for the link!

What was in the issue of your birth date?

The evolution debate (ugh) and classified ads for Fortran programmers.
posted by knave at 11:08 PM on May 10, 2012

A story about the largest particle accelerator in the world at the time: The Serpukhov.

Great link, thanks!
posted by nordlys at 11:47 PM on May 10, 2012

Worth it for Ariadne and Daedelus alone, surely one of the greatest back-page traditions in publishing. This tradition is almost lost, as are the days when a magazine could assume that its readership would get the classical allusions in the names.

I suspect this weekend will see a lot of time lost trawling through the archive, reminding myself of some of the truly inspiring flights of whimsy therein. New Scientist still has a very decent back page pairing of quirky reader queries and eccentric observations, but it must be time for DREADCO to relaunch itself as an online startup... DRDCOM, anyone?
posted by Devonian at 11:56 PM on May 10, 2012

In "Could we control the climate?" we learn that "We could greatly modify it by relatively easy means, like damming the Gibraltar or Bering Straits, opening a wind-duct through the Sierra Nevadas, or generating a cloud-cover over the Arctic by nuclear explosions."

In "Hopes fast fading for Venus probe" it is announced that "The Soviet Venus probe has disappeared" but that "Jodrell Bank has not given up trying" to receive its signal.

In the Letters column, C. P. Snow counters Sir Robert Watson-Watt's objections to something or other C. P. Snow must has written between asserting this and questioning that.

The National Spastics Society is looking for an organiser.

And I wonder how life worked out for the person who got this job:
EDITORIAL ASST. (either sex) for "RESIN REVIEW". Knowledge of plastics would help.
posted by pracowity at 12:01 AM on May 11, 2012

And I wonder how life worked out for the person who got this job:

EDITORIAL ASST. (either sex) for "RESIN REVIEW". Knowledge of plastics would help.

Sounds like a job for JG Ballard at that time.
posted by nordlys at 12:17 AM on May 11, 2012

Also, all but the last four years' worth of Grimbledon Down.

The best of Daedalus was at least available in book form, but I don't believe Grimbledon Down was ever published outside the pages of New Scientist.

It's always seemed to me that the British love of humour and satire has manifested itself in part in the way that otherwise serious magazines often have a weekly page with at least a whiff of Private Eye (another staple read of my youth, Flight, still runs 'Straight and Level'). At Christmas this would frequently expand into entire special festive issues; New Scientist was no exception, and I fondly recall articles such as the class assignment on the physics of the Six Million Dollar Man...
posted by Major Clanger at 12:54 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

14 Jan 1982 - Science in the US: Frontiers and Barricades... sigh.
posted by knile at 1:22 AM on May 11, 2012

My birthdate issue has a cover story entitled, "Female Chauvinist Bird," along with analysis of the SALT II treaty and an article about increased workers' organization leading to better safety. Cool.

But not as cool as the week after my birth, with a MOONRAKER cover story!!!
posted by thecjm at 1:30 AM on May 11, 2012

For a small boy who wanted to be a physicist, NS was nectar. Science held up as something that mattered, that made a difference & had value to society. These were inspiring ideas.
posted by pharm at 1:52 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is fun about the headlines is that so many of them were phrased as questions - to which time has given us a pretty good answer:
"Is this the end of the wales?" (1975) - nope
"Could cloning give us a cure for the common cold?" (1980) - nope
"Could computer technology have prevented the recent fall in share prices?" (1975) - emphatic nope
posted by rongorongo at 2:10 AM on May 11, 2012

I guess you didn't write this letter that appeared in the first issue then pharm:
Sir, — Judging from your advertisements you propose to publish a weekly paper designed to bring scientific news to the attention of both scientists themselves and to the general public. Your reason for this venture is that you believe that a wider platform is necessary for science. I think you both misjudge the temper of the non-scientific public and the usefulness of such contacts. We are heartily fed up with scientists who already make themselves felt too much outside their laboratories. Let industry develop their discoveries and let us find out about them in better and cheaper products; there is no need at all for this group of people to receive any special attention. Their continual claims to be heard on general matters, to receive ever-increasing support from public funds, to have privileges at work denied to lesser mortals, are beginning to annoy the non-scientist. Above all the claims of an ever-increasing of scientists with no great achievements to their credit to the right to be paid highly by the taxpayer, in one way or another, to sit in expensive ivory towers and meditate and play seems to be out of keeping with present economic necessities. Yet this is essentially what these gentlemen engaged in "pure research" do; and this activity seems to be on the increase. What we need is a forum to expose this bogus, not one that encourages it.
posted by unliteral at 2:35 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

*ever-increasing number of scientists*
posted by unliteral at 2:38 AM on May 11, 2012

@insectosaurus: an ad for Glenfiddich

With many of the early ads, the past is another country. How about this page from 8th January 1959: the Curta mechanical calculator, W&F Faulkner's Ascot Gold Cut tobacco, and a booklet on "Making the most of lead".
posted by raygirvan at 3:23 AM on May 11, 2012

I'll take mapping the human genome, and a look at prehistoric babies, that's pretty cool, as it took most of my schooling years until the latter was completed. I'm so glad they included all the advertising pages, which is one of the great losses of doing research in most databases-- no awesome old cars, no dubious electronics!
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:38 AM on May 11, 2012

The week of my birth was accompanied by a solar eclipse.

And lo, the signs and portents were ignored by the people, and the unspeakable evil was permitted to escape.
posted by subbes at 4:39 AM on May 11, 2012

Great find. New Scientist should do like National Geographic did and offer all their issues on a DVD.
posted by 2manyusernames at 4:39 AM on May 11, 2012

My birth date issue includes an article How American Science Is Hampered by Dr Kurt Mendessohn FRS (may need a comma in there) as well as Unlicensed Trip - a space parable by the Rt Hon the Earl of Halsbury.

It has quite an interesting little piece about how too much deuterium turns out to be fatal to mice, though they can survive small doses. The author seems to think it perfectly natural to have proceeded to check whether the deuterium cured cancer or rendered the mice immune to x-rays (apparently the answer in both cases was yes, up to a point). Science was fun in those days.
posted by Segundus at 5:07 AM on May 11, 2012

My birthday was right in between two issues, but the most interesting thing is the AIDS watch column. On January 7, 1988, they were discussing the discovery in San Francisco that safe sex disrupts the transmission of HIV. On January 14, 1988 there was an article about how Africa was coping with the AIDS crisis, and a short blurb wondering how heterosexual transmission of HIV worked ("Both those who caught HIV and those who did not perform vaginal sex almost exclusively; neither of the men and only one of the women who caught the virus practiced anal sex. Nearly an equal number from both groups reported practising fellatio, cunnilingus, and deep kissing.").
posted by ChuraChura at 5:29 AM on May 11, 2012

My birthdate issue has information about a plan for pumped storage in Langdendale, which is actually quite interesting. I knew there were other sites planned after Dinorwig, but I didn't know this was one.
posted by Jehan at 6:16 AM on May 11, 2012

posted by dismas at 7:22 AM on May 11, 2012

What I find quite interesting is how some of the stuff we tend to think of as recent issues, has been of scientific concern for some time.

Overfishing: 1957
Global warming: 1975
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria: 1964

It's scary how slow we are to respond to these issues.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:40 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

From my birthday (in 1985): "Aids could plague the world -- or not?"

posted by ztdavis at 7:51 AM on May 11, 2012

I'm just shocked that a magazine isn't 75% advertisements. There are articles in here.
posted by Fizz at 8:11 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is wonderful!
New Scientist has been one of my absolute favorites for many years, when I could afford the subscription... now that I'm retired, I'll go without ice cream before I'll see it vanish from my mailbox!
posted by drhydro at 10:59 AM on May 11, 2012

No birth /year/ for me.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:23 AM on May 11, 2012

One of the articles from my birthweek:

"Few jobs for post-docs in the US"

Future prospects for a large number of young scientists in post-doctoral positions in the US look bleak-- there are simply too many of them to find permanent faculty jobs in academic research . . .

Damn. 30 years later and it's still the same. I like this later quote from the same article too:

The lack of job prospects and the money certainly tarnishes the glamour of post-doctoral positions.

Wait, being a postdoc comes with glamour? I haven't really noticed that over the past 4 years..
posted by nat at 10:08 PM on May 11, 2012

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