The Science Mindset List

It's nearly time for classes to resume, which means it's time for a zillion stories about Beloit College's annual Kids These Days List, listing off a bunch of things that this year's entering college class, who were mostly born in 1992, have always taken for granted. A sample:

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. "Go West, Young College Grad" has always implied "and don't stop until you get to Asia...and learn Chinese along the way."

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

Of course, what's missing from this list is what's usually missing from lists composed by academics: Science. It occurs to me that it ought to be possible to construct a list of important scientific discoveries from 1992 or thereabouts that the entering class of 2014 has always taken for granted. Possible items include:

Putting an arbitrary limits of -1/+4 years (so we're talking about things that happened before the class of 2014 was of school age) on this, I'm sure we could come up with a good list of cool science things that this new generation of college students take for granted, but that their older siblings might remember as news. So, what do you think are the big science and technology developments between 1991 and 1996 that kids these days have no first-hand knowledge of?

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Exoplanets! Wasn't the first found in 1995 or so? I remember being in the last years of primary school. Good times for wee geeks.

The truth is, I suspect a very small number of the incoming students today at Beloit know about the CMB, BE condensates, or carbon nanotubes....

Of course, they also probably don't know anything about Los Angelinos trying to get along.

The Beloit College list is pretty bad. It's a good idea to remind teachers of some of the ways in which new students will have a different set of assumptions about the furniture of the world, but that list doesn't do it.
"Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine. " Yes
"The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy." the what?
"Potato has always ended in an âeâ in New Jersey per vice presidential edict. " would more usefully be "Nobody knows or cares who Dan Quayle was" (especially given how low the bar has fallen for GOP VP nominees)
and so on.

The wide acceptance of the theory that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

By d'Herblay (not verified) on 20 Aug 2010 #permalink

There has always been Super Nintendo.
They've always had a Disneyland in Paris.
There has always been Microsoft Windows 3.1 running slowly on someone's PC.
Church of England has always had female priests.
John Cage has always been history.

By just some guy (not verified) on 20 Aug 2010 #permalink

We've always been sequencing genomes (of freeliving organisms).

It's always been possible to analyze human gene expression.

There has always been PCR, and it's always been performed in specially designed thermocyclers.

End-users of computers never needed to learn programming inputs (the true mindset-change aspect of Windows).

We have always had widely usable pharmaceutical treatments for depression (aka we've always been a Prozac nation).

We've always known we've been causing global warming (aka the IPCC has always been "certain that emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface")

We've always known new neurons grow in adults.

There have always been three domains of life (eukaryotes, prokaryotes, and archaea)

HIV has never been a death sentence (aka there has always been HAART).

To be fair, the list does include one science item, at number 20: "DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed." There are also several technology items on the list. I'll go ahead and add a few anyway:

-There have always been more than two countries with the ability to launch satellites into space. (One of the Soviet launch facilities was Baikonur, which is in what became Kazakhstan after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.)

-We have always known that radiation belts can be created during intense geomagnetic storms. (Discovered with the CRRES satellite, which operated in 1991-2.)

-We have always used Web browsers to access data over the internet. (Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML in 1991. The first version of Netscape came out around 1994 and quickly became a killer app; until then there were many competing protocols such as gopher and archie in widespread use.)

-Entering computer instructions on a command line has always been for power users only. (Windows 95 was adopted to an extent that earlier versions never were, MacOS was always a GUI, and by the time Linux made inroads in the popular market there were already GUIs available for it.)

Ray @3 is right that some of the entries on that list are pretty lame. The Mostar bridge would only be significant to children from Bosnia. The Apple II was already long obsolete by the time these kids were born. Et cetera.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Aug 2010 #permalink

The wide acceptance of the theory that an asteroid collision caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Correction: the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. Everyone knows that some dinosaurs survived the K-T extinction event.

Cold fusion by Ponz and Fleishman has been debunked and the scientific method defended.

Apoptosis in cells is understood.

The cell cycle is generally understood.