BBC Science Focus Magazine August 2021

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

The first detection of a gravitational wave; the discovery of the first Earth-like exoplanet; the confirmation of the Higgs boson. I’ve been lucky enough to report on all these and more in the last decade. But in terms of significance, the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 overshadows them all. No other breakthrough this side of the century has greater potential to shape our future. If you’re not familiar with it, CRISPR-Cas9 is a genetic toolkit that lets biologists remove a snippet of DNA, and potentially insert something new. The act of genetic editing itself is not new, but CRISPR-Cas9 is accurate, quick and cheap, and for the last decade or so scientists have been using it to try to solve some of our biggest problems. There are research groups out there using CRISPR…

1 min
on the bbc this month…

Human Error This new podcast, presented by comedian Olga Koch and journalist Hussein Kesvani, explores the biggest most interesting and surprising tech stories of 2021. BBC Sounds, available now The Life Scientific Jim Al-Khalili’s fantastic radio programme returns in September. He’ll be joined by a range of expert guests, including neuroscientist David Eagleman, mathematician Hannah Fry and psychologist Alice Gregory. BBC Radio 4, starts 7 September Our Lives Returning for a fourth series, Our Lives shares the stories of 12 ordinary people doing extraordinary things around the UK. BBC One, 11 August, check Radio Times for details COVER: ANDY POTTS THIS PAGE: BBC X2, GETTY IMAGES, JONATHAN GOLDBERG, VANITY STUDIOS, DANIEL BRIGHT…

1 min

DR ALBERT HALDEMANN We’ve never brought a piece of another planet back to Earth. Albert, from the ExoMars programme, reveals how we might do it. →p66 HAYLEY BENNETT Science journalist and regular contributor Hayley is fascinated by the perfectly preserved brains of the long-dead. Discover what we can learn from them. →p70 DR EMMA BYRNE Emma, an “honest-to goodness robot scientist”, took a break from building intelligent machines to work out what makes a functioning human child. →p86 JULES HOWARD Life usually begins with an egg. Zoologist and science writer Jules reveals the mind-blowing ways nature can springboard life into existence. →p44 CONTACT US →Advertising 0117 300 8287 →Letters for publication →Editorial enquiries 0117 300 8755 →Subscriptions 03330 162 113* →Other contacts *UK calls will cost the same as other standard fixed line numbers (starting 01 or 02) and…

1 min
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2 min
eye opener

Head in the stars TELESCOPE LIVE, EL SAUCE OBSERVATORY, CHILE We often make analogies between deep space and the ocean – the word ‘astronaut’ is derived from ‘star sailor’ – but we don’t usually expect to find a marine mammal in the sky. The Dolphin Head Nebula, located 4,530 light-years away, is a bubble of gas and dust that has been blown into this shape by the interstellar winds of the turbulent, dying star in the centre of the image. It was imaged using data from Chile’s Telescope Live. “We can track what’s happening in distant nebulae by looking for light signatures. When a gas gets heated, it becomes ionised – meaning an electron gets knocked off the atom – and emits light with a specific colour or wavelength known as a spectral line,”…

3 min
conversation BBC Science Focus, Eagle House, Bristol, BS1 4ST @sciencefocus @bbcsciencefocus “[WITH CRISPR] THERE CAN BE MISCONCEPTIONS EMBEDDED IN THE PUBLIC MINDSET THAT CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON WHAT I THINK SHOULD BE POSITIVE ADVANCES”DR JENNIFER DOUDNA, P52 LETTER OF THE MONTH A new unit of area We often read articles in which a certain area, say a plantation of bananas, would be said to cover Belgium, Cornwall, India, the City of London, and so on. This is not very helpful except as a rough guide, and even then you would need to have an atlas or relevant map with you to complete the comparison. There are standard units of area, such as the acre and the hectare, but how many of us can relate to them? The same applies to the square metre, square kilometre, square…