Letters to the Editors; April 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s)
Readers had strong opinions about our December 1999 issue on "What Science Will Know in 2050," and none more forceful than the protests that this "End-of-the-Millennium Special Issue" came a year early. We sympathize with their point of view, but in answer: It may be more mathematically rigorous and precise to start the 21st century in 2001, but it is a meaningless precision given the caprices with which calendars have been modified over the years. Moreover, when people refer to periods like "the 20th century" or "the next millennium," our understanding is that they are typically less concerned with the precise demarcations than with the overall historical character and significance.
As such, "the 20th century" is a label akin to "the Renaissance" or "the Victorian era." The bottom line is that if most of the world thinks that a new millennium has begun, then for all practical purposes, it has. Additional reader comments concerning articles in the December issue are featured.