Ross Douthat at the Times passes on Boston and terrorists in favor of musing about extra terrestial worlds.
He finds optimism in the 1950's science fiction--we confidently expected to visit other worlds and other galaxies--which has faded today and hopes that some of that optimism can be refound.
I was a reader of the old-time science fiction: Clarke, Heinlein, Pohl, Asimov, et. al. I loved it. And I agree we were optimistic then, at least if we didn't blow ourselves up (see "A Canticle for Leibowitz). Remembering those times though I think we were more pessimistic about the fate of the "Third World", as we used to call the recently freed colonies, at least we were by the middle 60's when the first flush of enthusiasm about decolonization had passed. The feeling led into the gloom and doom of the running out of resources crowd, the fear that we'd never feed the booming population, etc.
So the passage of 50 years has produced surprises: we've not been to the moon for many years, humans have never visited Mars. On the other hand the progress made by developing nations is still startling to me.