Historical Overview and Introduction
The first post-Cold War decade was in many ways a period of progress and global growth. The world's population grew 10 percent to six billion people. The American economy enjoyed its longest peacetime expansion ever, with the Dow Jones industrial average rocketing from 2,600 to almost 12,000. Many other economies also prospered, as Asian countries expanded, crashed, and rebounded. Not coincidentally, the world's nations now spend 30 to 40 percent less on defense than they did during the Cold War, despite several major regional conflicts. Computers increased exponentially in speed, cell phones multiplied even faster, and the Internet grew from a backup system for nuclear war to an indispensable global network linking students, experts, and nations. It was a remarkable decade for the sciences, particularly astronomy, as space-and ground-based instruments extended our vision closer to the far edges of the universe and the beginning of time.