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Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Issue 65

Science Illustrated delivers natural science, break through discoveries and an understanding of the world for the entire family. Packed with stunning photography and in-depth editorial it’s a visually spectacular gateway to the world looking into the beginning of life to distant objects in the universe.

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8 Numéros

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4 min.
the real winner here is measles morbillivirus

One of the surprising things I learned while researching around the recent measles cases in NSW (and the even bigger outbreak in the US), is that measles is a relatively new threat to humans. In evolutionary terms, that is. We’re pretty sure that the current form of the virus evolved between 1908 and 1943, but the organism itself - Measles morbillivirus - appeared in the 11th or 12th century. Or maybe the seventh century, if the limited records we have from then are actually describing measles and not something else. Measles split off from the rinderpest virus, which itself causes an even more devastating disease in cattle. Some rinderprest outbreaks killed 100 per cent of infected animals - that’s pretty extraordinary. We started a global campaign to eradicate rinderpest in 1900, and…

1 min.
artificial insemination

Mice with two mothers are still fertile Chinese scientists have fertilised an egg cell with a stem cell from another female mouse and bred healthy offspring. These babies have now had offspring of their own: the first time that mice with same sex parents have developed normally and become parents themselves. Many non-mammalian species can have offspring with themselves, but mammal reproduction requires different sex parents. The scientists deactivated specific parts of the DNA of the one cell, and they think this is the key to allowing two women, or men, to have children in the future. Floating barrier clears ocean of plastic waste Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, and ocean currents trap a major part of it in an area of the North Pacific three…

10 min.
science update

Asteroids brought us the building blocks of life The backbone of the DNA molecule might have formed in space. Subsequently, asteroids brought the compounds to Earth – and perhaps many other worlds. BIOCHEMISTRY The element of phosphorus is vital for life on Earth. Phosphorus is included in the make-up of our cell membranes, helps keep all cells alive, and is the backbone of the formula of life itself, DNA. Without phosphorus, life as we know it would not exist. Phosphorus can only be used in the building blocks of life, if it is included in water-soluble compounds such as phosphate and phosphoric acid, but scientists used to have no idea where Earth’s water-soluble phosphorus compounds originally came from. Now, scientists from the University of Hawaii, USA, have shown that the vital phosphorus molecules…

1 min.
faeces activates maternal instinct

ZOOLOGY The East African naked mole-rat is a unique mammal. It lives in colonies under the ground, and the colony hierarchies are organised in a way that we only observe among insects such as ants, bees, and termites. At the top, you will find the queen, who is the only one to give birth to offspring. They are all siblings or halfsiblings and have different, specialised tasks. Part of the colony functions as nannies. They take an interest in raising the queen’s offspring, as they share their genes. Nevertheless, biologists have wondered why they carry out parental care, that is otherwise activated by hormones from the oviducts of a pregnant female, as the ordinary females do not have complete oviducts. Now, scientists from the Azabu University in Japan have found out. The…

1 min.
sick algae cause rain

METEOROLOGY The local weather report depends on tiny ocean algae known as phytoplankton. Israeli scientists have demonstrated this by means of computer models of what happens, when Emiliania huxleyi algae are infected by virus. The algae can become so numerous and make up such dense formations that they can be observed from space. Often, they are infected by the EhV virus, which makes them disintegrate. The shells of the algae consist of small plates of calcium carbonate known as coccolites. Their diameters are only about 0.002 mm, i.e. they are smaller than 1/10 of the diameter of a hair, and they will consequently quickly rise. Higher up, coccolites function as aerosols, i.e. the particles around which water molecules collect to form clouds. The scientists entered data about the coccolites’ shapes and structures…

10 min.
ask us

How can divers hold their breath for so long? Humans breathe many times a minute. How can freedivers hold their breath for so long under the water? HUMAN BODY The average person breathes about every four seconds, yet freedivers can hold their breath for 10+ minutes and so skip about 150 breaths. This makes heavy demands on the body, which must not only make do with very small quantities of oxygen, but also endure the lactic acid produced by the muscles as they work without oxygen. The mind is also very much put to the test, resisting the fear of drowning, and if the freediver does not relax, stress hormones will make his heart beat faster, quickly consuming the oxygen. Apart from ordinary physical and mental training, freedivers simply practice holding their breath.…