In 1954, the color TV had not yet been invented and the iPhone did not yet exist in the mind of man.
Jeffrey Kluger, a senior editor of Time magazine, spoke Tuesday evening on the changes he has seen and covered in the 58 years since "back then" in 1954, detailing a lifetime of science experience that provided the platform of 2013's installment of the Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture series on science, society and the mass media.
Speaking on the role of science as humanity's civilizer, Kluger addressed an attentive audience of students, faculty and community members in the McClung Museum Auditorium. He focused on the duty of educated science journalism to expose and uncover truths about the human experience.
Towards the end of his lecture, Kluger imagined the things aliens might think if they were to discover Voyager I and II. He suggested that the sentient beings might listen to the records aboard the crafts and understand the world humanity has built.
"This is who we are," he said. "This is where we live ... This is what we sing. There's a deep thrill in being able to convey that message."
He would know; since joining Time in 1996, Kluger has conveyed messages in more than 40 cover stories. He has written six science-intensive books, including "Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13," a text that translated into the 1995 film, "Apollo 13." Kluger also has two young adult novels to his name.
As part of his visit, the accomplished editor offered a master class Tuesday afternoon on the art of science writing. He argued that, unlike other fields, science legitimately needs people who can explain it to the masses. The key, he said, was making the complex just easy enough that everyone can get it and just hard enough that everyone feels proud of themselves for doing so.
After Kluger finished, the master class peppered him with questions on the logistics of international reporting, the future of online journalism and the place of sensationalism in hard science writing.
Rachael MacLean, freshman double majoring in English and history, attended the master class and said she especially enjoyed his advice on creating intrigue in science journalism.
"You don't bog people down too much with the facts, but you still do honest reporting, interesting reporting," she said, summing up his lesson.
During the class, Kluger's proficiency with language amazed MacLean, who said she particularly admired his eloquent metaphors. After reading a few chapters of his 2011 book, "The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us," MacLean said his eloquence as a speaker translates well to the page.
"It was a lot like how he spoke, really witty," MacLean said. "It had a good deal of humor in it even though it was really factual, in-depth reporting."
The Hill Lecture Series was founded in 1989 by Tom Hill and Mary Frances Hill Holton in honor and memory of their parents. Tom Hill, the former publisher of The Oak Ridger, was in attendance Tuesday night for the 21st installment of a lecture series he dreamed up with his sister.
"Unfortunately my sister passed away several years ago, and she was firmly in favor of doing what we did," Hill said, adding that the program would not be possible without Mark Littmann, the current Hill Chair of Excellence in Science Writing.
"He's not only doing a great job with that chair. He's the one that finds the speaker and works out the details of getting him here ... He's remarkable."