Science doesn’t like to stand still. Every month, every week, every day, researchers find ways to advance knowledge. More often than not, a new development poses just as many questions as it answers: What else? What next? How can we know for sure? Science is powered by forward momentum, and as science writers, we can’t help but be a little future-oriented.
But science is a story that spans past, present, and future, as you’ll see in this issue of the Yale Scientific — our first issue as the 2015 masthead. In the pages that follow, we tread through time with an open mind, and I invite you to do the same. Our cover story (pg. 20) looks back on 50 years of renowned physics research at Yale, sharing a narrative that acknowledges the true weight of history. A feature on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (pg. 28) nods to the present-day influence of social media, recognizing the power of social context on scientific advancement. A piece on in vitro human muscle tissue (pg. 31) considers how lab-grown muscles will be used in years ahead to personalize medicine. As you read this magazine, don’t be surprised if you find yourself traveling through time. Conveniently, the first article in this year’s series “Science or Science Fiction?” (pg. 33) discusses time travel. Once thought to be purely imaginative, time travel is now within reach because of scientific progress.
Science is utterly vulnerable to time, because with time comes new insight. A discovery that took years, or even decades to develop can be dismantled in a flash. In the 1960s, a confident Linus Pauling told the world that vitamin C was a quick fix for the common cold, but now scientists have published evidence to debunk this myth (pg. 32). Nothing in science is set in stone, and we must be careful not to become too comfortable with a certain way of the world. We’re trained to read the genome one way, as a series of specified codons, only to one day find amino acids that fall outside the bounds of this old dictionary (pg. 15).
There’s a lot we can learn from science of the past, whether it’s a matter of understanding misconceptions or informing new research questions. We would fail in our role as science writers if we didn’t call attention to science across time — and so, with this issue, I hope you come to appreciate scientific roots as much as scientific progress. Whether it’s astronomy or technology or climate change that you find most fascinating, I think you’ll read something between these covers that strikes a chord.
As we embark on a new year of the Yale Scientific, we usher in expanded online coverage, to be featured on our redesigned website. With our new blog, “The Scope,” we’ve created a space for more innovative science writing. Like the researchers whose work is featured in these pages, we hope to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of science and science journalism.