Discover July/August 2020

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
8 期号


a user’s guide to us

One thing about a pandemic: It has us all taking a crash course in epidemiology. Public health experts and epidemiologists live in a world of numbers and cellular mechanics, from case counts and droplet size to RNA strands and the viral load of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. As we’re all stuck at home, we’re drawn to the daily data and watch for that magic 14-day decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in our communities. And while health and safety dominate our thoughts, it’s interesting to step back a degree and consider how our bodies even function. Before we entered this “new normal,” the staff at Discover began working on this special issue on Everything Worth Knowing about The Body. We’ve broken it down into five larger systems — consider it a sort…


A Word of Warning (“Riding in Cars With Dogs,” Mar./Apr. 2020) I was interested to read the piece about dogs in cars, but I would like to offer a word of caution. About a year ago we had a scary moment when our Maremma, Dante, got his head trapped when he managed to hit the window button with his paw. We happened to be stopped at a traffic light at the time, so I was able to race around and wrench the door open to free him. If you are going to let your dog put his or her head out of the window, please be sure to engage the window lock on your vehicle. Mark Haviland, Belgrave, Australia You’ve Entered the Twilight Zone (“Seeking Binary Sunsets,” Mar./Apr. 2020) As I was reading this article, I…

you said

The thought of bringing animals and creatures back from extinction isn’t new: Movies, books and TV shows have pondered the idea many times. But as technology improves, scientists are getting closer to being able to bring back species we thought were gone forever. WE ASKED SOME OF OUR FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: “DO YOU THINK SCIENTISTS SHOULD BRING BACK EXTINCT SPECIES?” YES 57% NO 43% John Carlo Primo: We should bring back animals that just recently went extinct. I’m unsure about bringing back animals from 10,000 years ago and beyond. Pamela Parfitt: We are struggling to keep existing species alive, so why bring back a creature that has already become extinct? Mick Hanson: Certain species should be brought back if there is no danger to existing flora and fauna. I don’t think we should be bringing back prehistoric…

the crux

SQUISHED SKULL Can’t quite make out what you’re seeing here? Look closer. This blur of beige is actually the flattened skull of a Neanderthal, compressed by millennia of sediment and falling rocks. The skull was part of a skeleton unearthed by a team of researchers at Iraq’s Shanidar Cave in 2017 — more than half a century after the skeletal remains of 10 other Neanderthals were found at the site. Those first finds gave scientists a rare glimpse at how our ancient ancestors lived. Among the finds: pollen near the bodies, which led archaeologists to conclude that Neanderthals had burial rites, like putting flowers on their dead. Now, researchers have used modern archaeological techniques to identify rocks placed with the remains, showing that this new find is yet another example of…

the learning curve

WE WERE FLYING BLIND. The red alerts flashed from Wuhan to Lombardy to Seattle, yet the first COVID-19 cases in early March in New York City prompted an official reaction that suggested the virus had traveled by asteroid, not by human daisy chain. None of the patients in our emergency department had traveled to China or been around someone diagnosed with COVID-19. There was no clamor to broaden testing, no rush to rethink the model of contagion, no clarion to immediately shut down. Reality hit in stages, like a plane lurching through air pockets. First lurch: Coming onto a shift in mid-March, a colleague informed me, “Yesterday we had a middle-aged guy. Looked pretty good, decent oxygen saturation of 96 percent, then a few hours later, crumped [rapidly declined]. Crash intubation. Then another.…


Impaired Gas Exchange When the immune system attacks the area of infection, it also kills healthy alveolar cells. This results in three things that hinder gas exchange: 1) The alveoli collapse due to loss of surfactant from Type II cells.2) Less oxygen enters the bloodstream.3) More fluid enters the alveolus. Gas Exchange Each sac of air, or alveolus, is wrapped with capillaries where red blood cells release carbon dioxide (CO2) and pick up oxygen (O2). Two types of alveolar cells facilitate gas exchange: Type I cells are thin enough that the oxygen passes right through, and Type II cells secrete surfactant — a substance that lines the alveolus and prevents it from collapsing. Viral Infection The spike proteins covering the coronavirus likely bind to ACE2 receptors on Type II alveolar cells, allowing the virus to enter…