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Science
National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine

October 2020

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Frequency:
Monthly
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12 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
we hope this story horrifies you

” BEFORE THEY WERE SOLD to the same brothel, Sayeda and Anjali were typical teenagers, growing up in similar circumstances a few hundred miles apart.” That is the understated opening of a story that I hope shocks and alarms every person who reads it, and moves readers to action. “Stolen Lives,” by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, is a revelatory investigation of a human rights tragedy: the sexual enslavement of children for profit. A multibillion-dollar industry, sex trafficking of minors spans the globe and ensnares millions of children—most fleeing grinding poverty, illiteracy, and an utter lack of opportunity. Most of its victims are girls. Virtually no country is untouched by this scourge, but some parts of the world are especially hard-hit. Among them: the Indian state of West Bengal and its neighbor Bangladesh, which once were…

4 min.
every mother’s son

THERE IS A DEMAND put upon you with “Stranger Fruit.” That much is clear. The photographs of mothers and sons, of Black bodies—whole and unpierced, yet still Christ-like in death—do not gently plead with viewers any more than street protesters merely invite police to change. These are Black mothers, sitting, standing, kneeling with their lifeless sons, staring straight at the camera, straight at the viewer, straight at the nation, commanding your attention, and it costs you dearly to see them. But it costs more to look away. “What we’re experiencing now is just this series of reliving these traumas as far as the African-American community,” says Brooklyn-based visual artist Jon Henry. His “Stranger Fruit” exhibition is based on police killings of Black people. It draws on the song “Strange Fruit,” Nina…

10 min.
earth or bust! a map for aliens

A HALF CENTURY AGO astronomers designed a map that would point to Earth from anywhere in the galaxy. Then they sent it into space, reasoning that any aliens smart enough to intercept a spacecraft could decode the map and uncover its origin. Many movies and TV shows have used variations on this theme as a plot point, but we didn’t borrow it from science fiction. It’s reality. Truth is, this tale has been part of my family’s lore since before I was born. Growing up, I’d heard stories about the map and seen its depiction on multiple interstellar spacecraft, and several years ago, I found the original, penciled-in pathway to Earth where my parents had stashed it. (More on this later.) That was an exciting find! Then came the buzzkill: This original…

1 min.
03 how they grew

HOW THEY GREW HOT BODIES, COOL HEADS SMALLER AND COOLER Small dinosaurs had a high surface-area-to-volume ratio that maximized their ability to shed heat without special adaptations. Most dinosaur species grew larger over time, but paravian theropods—the precursors of birds—grew smaller over time, which was eventually helpful for flight. BIGGER AND HOTTER Giant sauropods, the largest animals to walk the Earth, could top 110,000 pounds. How to get so big? Grow slowly over a long life, like crocodiles, or grow fast, which these dinosaurs did. Reaching full size within 20 years, sauropods’ low surface-area-to-volume ratio supported a fast metabolism but required special adaptations to shed heat. A NOVEL APPROACH Non-avian theropods had a special way to keep cool. When they opened their mouth, the jaw muscles pulled on a unique pair of balloon-like sinuses, expanding them…

1 min.
05 how they socialized

HOW THEY SOCIALIZED DINO BRAINS CONSTRUCTIVE CRESTS Studies of the inner ear of lambeosaurs find that they were the right size to have heard frequencies created by the nasal cavities in this group’s crests. This supports the hypothesis that the crests were used for making sounds, as opposed to disproved theories including that they worked like snorkels for underwater dives. HOW OUR THINKING HAS CHANGED Scientists long wondered what purpose the bizarre, bony crests of lambeosaurs served. It was once thought the convoluted nasal passages enhanced smell; it’s now believed the crests were a vocalization instrument similar to the elongated trachea of today’s trumpeter swans. WHAT’S NEW Advances in 3D technology allow researchers to reconstruct detailed dinosaur anatomy, including inner ears, brain regions, and other soft-tissue structures. This is shedding new light on the mental and…

10 min.
saving the amazon’s giant raptors

It was supposed to be a shortcut. Now, waist-high in latte brown water, I find myself stumbling over submerged logs, ducking under ant-teeming briars, and pushing through sticky curtains of spiderwebs—following a trail blazed by Brazilian biologist Everton Miranda. One expensive camera has already gone belly-up after field assistant Edson Oliveira face-planted into an engorged puddle, and a wasp sting on photographer Karine Aigner’s forearm has ballooned into a welt the size and color of a plump tomato. But if turning back is on anyone’s mind, they keep the thought to themselves. Our mission is too important. We’re here to find an elusive harpy eagle nest, rumored to be about a mile inside this patch of Amazon rainforest in Mato Grosso, a state more than three times the size of Arizona. With…