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The Boston Globe


Farah Stockman

The Cold War’s silver lining

Fear of the Soviets made the US invest in science

If you grew up in the shadow of the Cold War like me, you worried about nuclear Armageddon. You breathed a sigh of relief when the Berlin Wall fell. And you’re nervous now, with Russia’s recent return to “us vs. them” rhetoric.

But those bad old days had an upside: The existential threat pushed us to make massive federal investments in science and scientific education, aimed at keeping America one step ahead of those pesky Communists. Many of the technologies we rely on today — from cellphones to computers to the Internet — were a direct result of the Evil Empire breathing down our necks.

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