EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
Science
The Big Book of Why?

The Big Book of Why?

The Big Book of Why?

If you are thirsty for answers about the world around us, then you need this brand-new special edition – The Big Book Of Why? Aimed at curious readers aged anywhere between 9 and 90, The Big Book Of Why? solves a wide range of scientific questions and conundrums about how life works. With answers provided by the crack team of experts behind BBC Focus Magazine, every page offers enlightenment and revelation. Why do we have wisdom teeth? Why do tigers have stripes? And why is it safer to sit backwards on a plane? Also, a special How It Works section reveals the cutting-edge thinking and engineering behind the latest technology – from Formula E racing cars to robot exoskeletons

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
Frequency:
One-off
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in this issue

2 min.
welcome...

Our minds seemingly have an infinite ability to question. Some of these ponderings seem daft at first, but once you start to think about it, you realise there really is no such thing as a stupid question. For example, outside our offices is a beautiful horse chestnut tree. While writing this, I’m watching some birds hopping through their branches. But why do some birds hop, while others run? Find out on page 56. Or maybe you’re reading this as you stand in the magazine aisle at the supermarket. Is there a delicious smell wafting from the bakery? So how does your brain know it’s delicious? All is revealed on page 12. Or maybe you’ve bought the magazine already and are now enjoying it with a glass of cola. But could you…

1 min.
how green is my valley?

The buildings of Gouqi Island are slowly being consumed by a thick blanket of green. The island is located a few hours east of Hangzhou Bay in eastern China and was once home to a thriving fishing community. But as the shipbuilding and tourism industries grew, the village became deserted. With nobody left to maintain them, the buildings were soon reclaimed by the natural world. “These buildings are covered with Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a relative of the grape vine and Virginia creeper,” explains Dr Alastair Culham, Curator of the University of Reading’s herbarium. ‘It’s native to China but is also widely cultivated as an ornamental climber for its red autumn foliage and was probably already planted there to decorate the houses. It’s equivalent to ivy in the UK, which will soon cover…

13 min.
the human body

WHY DO SOME PEOPLE GET MIGRAINES? Amazingly, the precise cause of migraines is still unknown. These intense headaches – often on one side and accompanied by nausea and sometimes visions of zigzag lines and extreme sensitivity to light and noise – must be caused by abnormal brain activity. But we just don’t know what kind or whether there are many different causes. Hormonal fluctuations, especially in oestrogen, can trigger migraines, so some women suffer more during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. Certain foods and additives can also cause migraines, while people who diet, skip meals or consume a lot of caffeine can suffer. Disturbed sleep and jetlag can also cause them. One rare inherited type called familial hemiplegic migraine is caused by four specific gene mutations. More common types are also associated with many…

1 min.
talk to the han

Say hi to Han, a state-of-the-art robotic head made by Hanson Robotics. His skin has been created using a high-tech flexible material called Frubber (aka flesh rubber) and it’s even dotted with pores to give it a more human appearance. But Han doesn’t just look human; he can act the part too. Cameras hidden within his eyes and chest allow him to recognise faces and make eye contact with those around him. Once locked onto a subject, he can respond to their actions by altering his expressions and even engaging them in banter. “The growing number of elderly in our societies and our everincreasing life expectancies are adding pressure to social services,” explains Angelo Cangelosi, Director of Plymouth University’s Centre of Robotics and Neural Systems. “Robot companions, both in care homes…

14 min.
space

WHAT CAUSED THE BIG BANG? The Big Bang is the moment that space and time (or ‘space-time’) came into existence. Before the Big Bang there was no space or time. So, it is actually meaningless to ask what caused the Big Bang to happen – there was no universe in which that cause could have existed. This might seem like a bit of a cheat, but there are other good reasons to suppose a cause for the Big Bang might not exist. Quantum physics has shown us that some events have no cause at all. Things can happen randomly, spontaneously, and for no particular reason. This unpredictable and ‘causeless’ nature of the Universe is experimentally verified but has nothing to do with our inability to observe correctly – it is a…

1 min.
over and out

This giant hunk of gleaming ice is the underside of a recently overturned iceberg. When icebergs are irregularly shaped or melting, they can become imbalanced and flip over, releasing energies comparable to that of an atomic bomb. “An iceberg will flip depending on its geometry as well as its density,’ explains Justin Burton, Assistant Professor of Physics at Emory University, Atlanta. “If it is tall and skinny, it will tip over.” While iceberg flips rarely occur, increases in temperature due to climate change are making it more common. The newly exposed underbelly of the iceberg has not been sullied by snow, debris or weathering, so light can shine through it more easily, giving it a vibrant, aquamarine hue. “The blue colour means it came from de “The blue colour means it came from…