Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Issue 71

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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1 min.
colour-coding a galaxy: stars, dust and supernovas

Stars shine in different colours, depending on the phase of life they are in. In this image of the NGC 300 galaxy, the blue spots are dying giant stars that are exploding into supernovas. Green indicates stars that are in the middle of their lives. The red dots are dust clouds collecting to form new stars. NGC 300 is relatively close to us, and is a spiral galaxy just like our own Milky Way. So these latest observations of stars in NGC 300 offer astronomers new information that may be useful in mapping out the development of our own galaxy. MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL PHYSICS/ESA/NASA; Photo // Stefania Carpano…

1 min.
mutual benefits: tarantula and frog live in harmony

This little-studied Pamphobeteus tarantula, also known as a chicken spider, lives in the forests of Peru. Frogs are among the spider’s prey, but one specific frog, Chiasmocleis royi, is excluded from the hunt and is instead allowed to live with the eight-legged predator. According to scientists, the frog helps the spider by consuming ants and fly larvae which might otherwise harm the spider or its offspring. In return, the tarantula protects the little frog from other spiders and small snakes. NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY; Photo // Emanuele Biggi…

3 min.
hole in atmosphere drains mars of water

ASTRONOMY Until 3.8 billion years ago, Mars was almost as wet as the Earth, with lakes, rivers and a large ocean that covered around a third of the planet. It has long been a mystery to scientists where all the water went, but German and Russian astronomers have now found an explanation. The Red Planet has been drained of its water by dust storms and warm summers. Mars has seasons just like Earth, but on the Red Planet they are much more extreme. The Sun is not perfectly at the centre of Mars’ orbit, so the planet is much closer to the Sun during its southern hemisphere’s summer than during the rest of the year. The atmosphere of the southern hemisphere is heated, causing a hole to appear, through which the planet’s…

1 min.
driverless cars to learn the meaning of fear

TECHNOLOGY Computers with artificial intelligence are taking on ever more tasks for us, and the prospect of autonomous driving, with a computer in control of our car, is fast becoming a reality. Self-learning systems could make computers safer, better motorists than humans if they can adequately sense the car’s surroundings and observe traffic regulations and speed limits. But according to Microsoft researchers, the computers still lack a crucial quality: they do not feel fear. The researchers aim to change that. In an experiment they had a computer monitor a series of test subjects in a car simulator. The subjects wore pulse meters, using the pulse as a simple indication of the mental state of alarm. By allowing the artificial intelligence to link individual events such as near-crashes with the subjects’ fear, the…

1 min.
neanderthals held their heads high

The Neanderthal is often portrayed as a stooping caveman, but that is a myth. Based on a well-preserved skeleton, Swiss scientists have made accurate reconstructions of a Neanderthal’s spine and pelvis, demonstrating that the vertebrae formed an S-shape which would deliver the same sway of the back as for Homo sapiens. This indicates that Neanderthals shared our balance and body posture. AND TALKING OF NEANDERTHALS … NEANDERTHAL SPEARS KILLED FROM A DISTANCE Neanderthals killed large prey such as mammoths, and scientists used to think that hunters got close to prey, using their spears as stabbing weapons. But javelin throwers have now tested copies of 300,000-year-old spears, finding that they could also be used effectively from distances up to 20 metres. CLIMATE CRISIS ENDED IN CANNIBALISM Bones from at least six Neanderthals who had been killed…

2 min.
mysterious star reemerged from the dead

ASTRONOMY German astronomers have discovered a very unusual star in the Cassiopeia constellation. It shines 40,000 times more brightly than the Sun from the centre of a star nebula, but there is no indication that the radiation is produced by the fusion of hydrogen and helium, as in other stars. It also ejects charged particles in the form of a solar wind so intense that it should derive from two stars, not one. According to astronomers from the University of Bonn, the reason may be that this star was indeed once two stars – not living, bright stars like our own Sun, but burnt-out dead stars: white dwarfs. If the astronomers are correct, the strange star is the result of a very rare phenomenon in which two white dwarfs orbit each other ever…