by Hyuntae Byun
2015 has officially started and the beginning of a new year inspires reflection on the past. Exactly 100 years ago, countries around Europe were fighting in World War I, Alexander Graham Bell made the first United States coast-to-coast long-distance telephone call, and the 1 millionth Ford car rolled off the assembly line in Detroit. 75 years ago, World War II officially broke out, the very first McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino, and plutonium was first synthesized at UC Berkeley.
Fifty years ago, the Vietnam War broke out, UC Irvine opened its doors, and Digital Equipment Corporation launched the 12-bit PDP-8, the first successful commercial minicomputer. Twenty-five years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, and Magellan was the fourth successful NASA space mission to Venus.
Over the course of the past 100 years, the world has undergone two major world wars, technology has advanced from telephones to data traveling along fiber optic cables at the speed of light, and humanity has landed the first-ever man-made probe on a moving comet. And even now, the rate of human progress continues to accelerate. Here are some awesome and happy things to look forward to during the course of this year.
The United States Postal Service will soon release a commemorative stamp of Steve Jobs, although this
gesture is ironic because Jobs popularized technology that has pushed the USPS towards extinction. This year promises to be a big year for Apple, as it is expected to release its Apple Watch smartwatch device into the consumer market. In other technological advancements, Carlsbad-based startup Ostendo Technologies will soon release mini projectors capable of displaying 3D holographic images.
As technology advances at unprecedented rates, science is also making startling discoveries. For example, in March the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, will come back online after two years of upgrades and maintenance. The Large Hadron Collider has been modified to use more energy, which will allow physicists to accelerate particles faster and observe more collisions. The Hadron Collider allows scientists to study the behavior and physics of particles, pushing the boundaries of science at the subatomic level.
In contrast, several expeditions are underway to expand mankind’s understanding of the universe at a planetary and galactic level. After traveling for eight years, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres in April after already making history in 2011 as the first spacecraft to visit the protoplanet Vesta. In July, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto and Charon, reach the Kuiper belt, and eventually escape the Solar System.
Though we may look forward to advances in technology and science which propel science forward, we must also acknowledge some of the tragedies and victories of the past. This year, June 18th will mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon Bonaparte was finally and decisively defeated following his return from exile. To commemorate the anniversary, works of art belonging to the Duke of Wellington will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London in March. Additionally, a government-sponsored organization called Waterloo 200 will give away 500,000 bronze replicas of the medal that was originally presented to the British soldiers who served at Waterloo.
Even as we study history, this year promises to make history. In October, bishops from around the world will convene to discuss marriage reforms that, if adopted, would change the Vatican’s position on marriage and divorce. And finally, signing member countries of the 1980s Montreal Protocol will meet in Paris this fall, where many scientists expect a full report showing that efforts to mitigate environmental impacts are working and that the hole in the ozone layer has gotten significantly smaller. That bodes well for polar bears and penguins.
By the end of the year we will have visited a dwarf planet 257 million miles away from Earth, it will be possible to display 3D holograms, and there will be more penguins in the world. 2015 is going to be pretty awesome.
(Sources: PopularMechanics, Guardian, NY Times)