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“THE world has entered a phase of spectacular technological advances.” So The New Scientist wrote on 22 November 1956 when introducing its mission. Nuclear bombs had fallen on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a little over a decade before, the digital computer was in its infancy and the space race was just beginning.

The desire to “publish news of scientific progress in language as free as possible from technicalities” was the spur of this magazine’s foundation, but right from the outset we were clear about the need to look further. “For a branch of research which, today, appears as a purely abstract quest for knowledge, may turn …

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