Discover December 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


strange visitors

Growing up in New Hampshire, I had no problem supporting the idea of extraterrestrial intelligence. In my youth, my home state was a hotbed for sightings of unidentified flying objects and alleged encounters with strange visitors from other worlds. We didn’t need Area 51—we had an area of our own, a patch of meadow on the family farm where my own father claimed to see mysterious lights in a triangular pattern hovering above him, then peeling off into the starry night faster than any airplane. Now, the old man was a famous teller of tall tales, but he wasn’t the only one with such stories. And given that we lived in an era when humans themselves were launching spacecraft into the heavens with some regularity, it didn’t seem so far-fetched that…


WHAT ROBOTS CAN’T DO (“Will A.I. Make Medicine More Human?” June 2020) I am a real fan of Dr. Topol and often listen to his well-informed opinion pieces on Medscape, but his views on mental health treatment expose a serious misunderstanding of how it actually works. While Dr. Topol waxes almost poetic about the relationship between the medical fellow and his patients, he somehow does not think that this pertains to mental health. Years of research into why and how psychotherapy works underscore that it is the relationship between the patient and the doctor that is healing. That people may be comfortable disclosing their “innermost secrets” to an avatar in no way suggests that disclosure and diagnosis are curative. It is analogous to suggesting that because an X-ray can see deep into a…

crystal colony

Sometimes nature mimics nature — even if it’s not a conscious effort. Such is the case with a genus of stingless bees called Tetragonula, native to Southeast Asia and Australia. Their mesmerizing spiral or target-shaped hives follow the mathematical principles that shape crystals: The way these bees stack pockets of wax to form the familiar hexagonal cells in their comb is surprisingly similar to how atoms and molecules grow layer by layer to form a terraced crystal structure. Humans have even copied these design principles for their own building projects, such as in spiral ramps or multi-story parking garages.…

is the universe infinite?

When Galileo Galilei pointed his first telescope to the heavens in 1610, he discovered “congeries of innumerable stars” hidden in the band of light called the Milky Way. Our cosmos grew exponentially that day. Roughly three centuries later, the cosmic bounds exploded once again when astronomers built telescopes big enough to show the Milky Way is just one of many “island universes.” Soon they learned the universe was expanding, too, with galaxies retreating from each other at ever-accelerating speeds. Since then, ever-larger telescopes have shown the observable universe spans an incomprehensible 92 billion light-years across and contains perhaps 2 trillion galaxies. And yet, astronomers are still left wondering how much more universe is out there, beyond what they observe. “The universe has always been slightly larger than what we can see,” says…

aged to perfection

GLOBAL WHISKEY production is at an all-time high. The American whiskey industry — known for its bourbon, rye and Tennessee whiskey — reported U.S. sales spiked more than 72 percent over the past decade, generating nearly $4 billion in revenue in 2019 alone. But few whiskey drinkers could likely name what they’re actually tasting in that shot glass or tumbler. So, in the name of science, we turned to the experts. Whiskeys are made from grain — single-malt Scotch from malted barley, for instance, while bourbon is made with a minimum of 51 percent corn — and undergo an aging period in a wooden barrel. It’s this wood, some say, that imparts as much as 70 percent of the spirit’s flavor. All wood is made of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. These large…

the only exercise you need

TO WALK IS TO BE HUMAN. We’re the only primate that gets around by standing up and putting one foot in front of the other. In the more than 4 million years that humanity’s ancestors have been bipedal, our ability to walk upright has allowed humankind to travel great distances and survive changing climates, environments and landscapes. But walking is more than just transportation. It also happens to be really good for us. Countless scientific studies have found that this simple act can provide a number of health benefits and help people live longer. In fact, a walking routine — if done properly — might be the only aerobic exercise people need. How much walking should one aim for? You’ve likely heard we need 10,000 steps a day. That’s about 5 miles.…