Discover June 2019

Discover Magazine will amaze you, enlighten you, and open your eyes to the awe and wonder of science and technology. Discover reveals secrets, solves mysteries, and debunks old myths. Discover shares new findings and shows you what makes our universe tick.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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10 期号


keep dreaming

I’ve got this red pencil at my desk, with a pithy little saying printed in all caps: “Less dreaming more ass kicking.” I bring it up not to be crude, but to point out that the two actions aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s been on my mind because that saying could be applied directly to the adventures of three astronauts in the summer of 1969. Millions watched as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon, part of an Apollo program that clipped along over 12 years and a series of successful flights. Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the teams supporting them wouldn’t have made it without a decent dose of dreaming, a pile of hard work and a lot of science. We devote dozens of pages in this issue to the…

the crux

TOXIC GREEN WAVE Fish-killing algae blooms have become a growing problem on Lake Erie, and the summer of 2017 was particularly bad. A research plane caught this bright green bloom that August, looming near the lake’s western shore. High-flying, high-tech cameras detect different types of algae, while researchers on the water collect samples, backing up the camera’s readings and giving water engineers timely data for treatment strategies. (A boat wake is visible at bottom center.) The blooms — which thrive in sunshine, warm water and still air — typically feed on fertilizer runoff, but scientists don’t know why only some algal blooms, like this one, produce toxins that are fatal to fish.…

are the oldest fossils merely rocks?

IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE OR NO LIFE. In a 2016 Nature study, researchers reported finding fossils in 3.7 billion-year-old rocks in Greenland, pushing the timeline for Earth’s first preserved organisms back 200 million years. But a 2018 paper, also in Nature, contended that the rock outcrop preserves no signs of life. The dispute concerns inch-high layers of cones and domes embedded in a section of rock recently exposed by melting snow. The original team interpreted them as stromatolites, fossils formed in shallow seas when mats of microbes accumulate sediment and minerals. Elsewhere on Earth, stromatolites provide proof of bacterial communities as old as 3.5 billion years. But the Greenland humps are ambiguous. In Science Smackdown, we let researchers debate the evidence. The Claim FOSSIL-FREE ROCKS Leading the 2018 challenge is Abigail Allwood, who identified the…

velvet death trap

Using nozzlelike extensions on the side of its head, a tropical velvet worm shoots streams of sticky slime when hunting or defending itself. Within the fluid are “nanoglobules,” tiny balls made of lipids and proteins. Once the slime hits the target, it’s over fast: The movement of the struggling prey, such as beetles and termites, causes the globules to harden into fibers as strong as nylon, creating a netlike trap that immobilizes the unlucky insect. Remarkably, the ball-to-fiber process appears reversible, but researchers at the University of Kassel in Germany are still working to understand it. If they succeed, the sticky secretions could inspire future polymer fabrication.…

top picks

The Smart Neanderthal: Bird Catching, Cave Art & the Cognitive Revolution By Clive Finlayson What can birds tell us about our extinct evolutionary cousins? Quite a lot, explains Finlayson, who has long argued for modern humans to give Neanderthals their due. From Gibraltar’s swelter to a frigid Norwegian fjord, the evolutionary biologist takes readers on an adventure in unexpected revelations about this lost lineage of humans. The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild By Thomas D. Seeley Cornell University biologist Seeley is one of the most beloved authors in the beekeeping community, and with good reason: His writing elucidates the lives of honeybees with clear science and a sense of joyous discovery. Seeley employs that approach here; even non-keepers will appreciate his bee’s-eye view of life outside managed apiaries. PLUS THE WAY…

quick takes

Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition By Patricia Churchland MacArthur fellow Churchland melds evolutionary biology, neurology, philosophy and genetics into an accessible, provocative look at how each of us tells right from wrong — including how different brains can reach very different conclusions. Cosmological Koans: A Journey to the Heart of Physical Reality By Anthony Aguirre This is not your average hard science book. Physicist Aguirre borrows from the Zen Buddhist tradition of koans, or contemplative riddles, to present some of his field’s most esoteric concepts. Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything By Robert M. Hazen It’s everywhere — including inside us — but carbon’s importance is rarely appreciated. Earth scientist Hazen sets the record straight in this thoughtful love letter to the element.…