BBC Science Focus Magazine

BBC Science Focus Magazine December 2019

With accessible features illustrated with the world’s best photography, BBC Focus Magazine explains the theory behind scientific phenomena and really brings science to life. In every issue you’ll find news of the latest major scientific developments, a lively Q&A section plus exclusive and astonishing photographic reports that range from the breathtaking to the downright odd.

United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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13 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
from the editor

Venus was the first planet humans ever visited. In 1962 the Mariner 2 probe flew past one of our closest neighbours. The spacecraft discovered a hostile world, a place we came to learn was much hotter and more violently toxic than any other planet in our Solar System. A runaway greenhouse gas effect had heated the planet to an average temperature of 462°C, hot enough to melt lead. Venus’s punishing environment made return missions unlikely, especially when there was lower hanging fruit in the shape of the Red Planet. But today, interest in Earth’s toxic twin is resurgent. Current tech could support longer missions that get closer to the planet’s destructive surface and discover more about its story. For all of the similarities between Earth and Venus – their size and…

1 min.
on the bbc this month...

Meat: A Threat To Our Planet? Liz Bonnin investigates the environmental impact of meat. She becomes one of the first people in the world to try a lab-made chicken nugget in San Francisco, and meets the cattle farmers cutting down the Amazon rainforest. BBC One, 25 November CrowdScience This month the team discovers the impact of individuals buying products containing palm oil (22 November) and investigates whether humans could hibernate during interstellar travel (29 November). Fridays 8:30pm-9pm, BBC World Service and BBC Sounds Hardware, Software, Anywhere Producer Nick Baker is joined by Stephen Fry to discuss a 1909 warning about technology, and listens to reflections on the digital age from experts such as historian Mary Beard (pictured) and social psychologist Aleks Krotoski. Available now, BBC Sounds…

1 min.

ABIGAIL BEALL Venus had become something of a forgotten planet, but now space agencies are racing to return. Science writer Abigail finds out why. p56 CHRISTIAN JARRETT Could we ever find out what it’s like to die? Christian, senior editor for Psyche, explores a new field of research which uses hallucinogenic drugs to probe near-death experiences. p64 FAY DOWKER Expanding on her PhD supervisor Prof Stephen Hawking’s work, physicist Fay is trying to solve the problem of quantum gravity and find a theory of everything. p74 TOM IRELAND What happens when a potentially life-saving discovery comes from taboo research? Tom, editor of The Biologist, dives into the ethics of immoral science. p78…

1 min.
eye opener

Beat it TENNESSEE, USA This photo of a cardiomyocyte cell, taken by graduate student Abigail Neininger and Dr Dylan Burnette at Vanderbilt University, was an image of distinction in the Nikon Small World photo competition. These cells are located in heart muscle, and the visible strands are fibres called sarcomeres. Each contains filaments of actin and myosin proteins, which work together to contract the cardiomyocytes, causing the heart to beat. Neininger used a toxin called phalloidin to stain the cell and reveal its structure. The team hopes to discover how sarcomeres form, so they can one day rebuild cells that have been damaged by disease. “Cardiomyopathies, diseases of the heart muscle, affect sarcomeres,” says Neininger. “If we understand how those contractile systems form in the first place, we might be able to understand…

1 min.
letter of the month

Generation rage Since I started subscribing to Science Focus , as a 15th birthday present earlier this year, I’ve read a lot of articles relating to climate change. Recently, my friend’s mum complained that we were all looking at our phones while in the car. She launched into an attack, quickly finding a YouTube video as ammunition. She made us all listen to a venomous letter from an older person, criticising young people for striking against climate change, while commenting that we should all stop using technology 24/7 and go back to school! It really angered me as we weren’t the ones that invented all the technology today, any more than we were responsible for the enormous destruction of the Amazon rainforest that has already occurred. Older people should be sympathetic to…

2 min.

“SCIENCE ADVANCES BY LOOKING AT CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN DIFFERENT PIECES OF OUR UNDERSTANDING”PROF FAY DOWKER, p74 An educated population I would like to comment on the excellent article ‘Overpopulation: the debate’ (September, p74). When given a choice, most women would not have large families. My grandmother had 10 children. Two died in infancy, one never married and the rest went on to have between one and three children per family. This same pattern occurs in most countries: the number of children per family drops once women can be in charge of their reproductive options. Educating girls and family planning is important for tackling climate change, but also for eliminating poverty, abuse of women and child labour. My grandmother often complained that, “My whole life I was either pregnant or with baby at the…