Our Favorite Year

When it comes to thinking big, it doesn’t get much bigger than determining the most significant year in human history. The Economist’s MoreIntelligentLife.com has launched a poll asking visitors to weigh in on the subject. The winner so far? 1439, the year Gutenberg invented the printing press. It is followed closely by 5 BC, the year of Jesus’s birth. 1953, the year DNA was discovered, is a distant third. And what was the most recent year suggested by the editors? This one.


2009 is the year of the Copenhagen Climate Summit—possibly humanity’s last chance to come to an international agreement on how to confront climate change.  The Economist deemed this an important enough moment to rank among the most vital ever.  Margot Wallström, the European Commission Vice-President, may agree with this sentiment: she stressed the importance of the meeting in a recently posted interview. Novelist and journalist Kurt Anderson suggested to Big Think that the time period around the 1840s is hugely underrated in terms of importance; he calls it the moment that technological innovation was translated into useful products. Chef Jacques Pepin, meanwhile, explained the importance of food innovation to human history. What are your thoughts on unrecognized but vital years in our evolution?

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
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Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
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Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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