Discover January/February 2021

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


hindsight is 2020

Unprecedented. It’s a word I’ve heard so often this year that it very nearly lost all meaning for me (maybe for you, too). But it certainly is apt when I look back on 2020 and try to describe the past 12 months in one word. (Actually, I have many other individual words to describe the year, but they’re all unprintable.) So, when it came time to begin work on our biggest issue of the year, our traditional round-up of the top science stories, we made the equally unprecedented decision to devote the lion’s share of space to one topic. We begin our coverage with a kind of handbook to the year of COVID-19 (page 22). How could we not? The virus has dominated virtually every aspect of our lives; science stories…


BEFORE BOLYAI (“Your Hyperbolic Mind,” July/August 2020) As a general relativist who is used to working in curved spaces, I found the article by Stephen Ornes quite fascinating, as I had no idea of the applications of hyperbolic geometry to the mind. Historically, however, one should note that a century before Gauss, Lobachevsky and Bolyai, an Italian Jesuit, Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri (1667–1733) published the book Euclid Freed of Every Flaw, in which he attempted to establish Euclid’s Fifth Postulate by ruling out the possibilities that the sum of the angles of a triangle was either greater or less than 180 degrees. After ruling out the case for greater than 180 degrees, he studied the case when the sum was less than 180 degrees, and went on to prove many theorems that are now…

the latest news and notes

MISSION: MARS SUPPORT NASA pilots Troy Asher and Stu Broce are masked up and mission ready as they step up to their next flight. Normally, they fly planes such as a modified Gulfstream jet, brimming with data-collection instruments for the agency’s airborne science research. But when COVID-19 grounded those missions, pilots like Asher and Broce got new orders: Shuttle personnel from California’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (above) to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, so they could ready the newest Mars rover, Perseverance, for launch. Those efforts paid off when the robotic explorer set out on its sevenmonth voyage to the Red Planet on July 30.…

do all galaxies have dark matter?

SOME 60 MILLION light-years from Earth — by the estimate of one team of researchers, anyway — a pair of strange galaxies is causing a cosmic stir. The bizarre galaxies, named NGC 1052-DF2 and NGC 1052-DF4 (or DF2 and DF4, for short), are the first known galaxies born without any significant amount of dark matter. If confirmed, their existence would throw a wrench into our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve. But, as Carl Sagan liked to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And, according to some researchers, the evidence for these dark-matter-deficient galaxies doesn’t hold up. THE CLAIM: NOTHING TO SEE HERE Astrophysicist Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University was certainly surprised when he first spotted DF2. After data from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Hubble…

once bitten

GERRY MARTIN is one of India’s most well-known herpetologists. In 2011, he traveled to a remote area in Arunachal Pradesh, considered India’s wildest frontier, to collect venom. During a nighttime outing, he came across a small, lime-green snake called Trimeresurus medoensis, commonly known as the Medo pit viper. The snake can be found in hilly areas of China, India and Myanmar. But key traits, like population size and venom toxicity, remain little understood. Martin grabbed the snake by the tail for collection, and quickly learned more than he ever hoped to know. IN HIS OWN WORDS: While I was readying the collection bag, the viper bit my pinky. My colleague made a sling out of his jacket and we walked over a kilometer back to the village. The finger began throbbing and…

seahorse paradise

THE FIRST TIME biologist Heather Masonjones heard about the seahorses on Eleuthera Island, she had trouble believing in a place where seahorses were as common as other fish. After 29 years studying the animals, the University of Tampa seahorse expert had never seen more than a handful together underwater in her whole career. But once she was immersed in the emerald waters of the mile-long Sweetings Pond, which sits on a narrow crescent of an island in the Bahamas, she started to believe the hype. “It was an absolutely magical moment,” she says, adding that she saw 16 of the animals in several dives during the first weekend in the water there — an enormous amount, given she had only ever seen three or four in a single dive or snorkel…