Discover March/April 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


shame on me

Years ago, when the web was younger, Twitter wasn’t even a thing and blogging was the rage, I was playing around in the blogosphere and one day posted a few drawings made by my son, who was 5 or 6 at the time. Friends left enthusiastic comments, as you do. Then the grandparents got wind of this and they wanted to see ALL the drawings. So, I created a new blog exclusively devoted to my little artist. People told people and next thing you know, the adorable little art blog got a mention on one of the most popular websites of the day. Thousands — tens of thousands — of people flocked to the blog. Comments were kind, until one well-meaning someone suggested I put my son’s art on T-shirts and…


MANGROVE MOVES (“Man vs. Mangroves,” November 2020) Over the last 12,000 years, sea level has risen almost 400 feet. Mangroves have adjusted to that quite well, so I think another foot or two shouldn’t be a problem for mangroves. Steve Allexan Vero Beach, Fla. Author Allison Whitten responds: Great point, but mangroves and their ecosystems have actually been strongly impacted by sea-level rise in the last 12,000 years. That’s why the researchers in the Science study analyzed mangrove survival between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, when sea levels were rising even faster than today due to melting glaciers. They found that about a quarter of an inch of rise per year was the limit for mangroves before the forests were forced to move inland or risked drowning. And, a big problem today is that extensive human development…

inside the canine mind

AI’S FUTURE • DANCING SPIDERS • MINI RECYCLERS NANO DEFENSE AGAINST BACTERIA • BOOK REVIEWS It’s hard to look at this picture and not melt at these sweet faces. But would these dogs react the same way to a photo of your face? A team of researchers is using a fMRI machine to find out. The group, from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, screened 20 dogs and 30 humans. They showed the participants videos of pups and people alike — some faces, some the backs of heads — and scanned their brains to examine how each processed what they saw. Both species displayed similar brain patterns when it came to seeing their own species. But dogs responded the same to a face as they did to a head; only the…

embracing the singularity

Ever since computers took shape — first filling rooms, then office desks, then pockets — they have been designed by human minds. Over the years, plenty of people have asked: What would happen if computers designed themselves Someday soon, an intelligent computer might create a machine far more powerful than itself. That new computer would likely make another, even more powerful, and so on. Machine intelligence would ride an exponential upward curve, attaining heights of cognition inconceivable to humans. This, broadly speaking, is the singularity. The term dates back over 50 years, when scientists were just beginning to tinker with binary code and the circuitry that made basic computing possible. Even then, the singularity was a formidable proposition. Superintelligent computers might leap forward from nanotechnology to immersive virtual reality to superluminal space…

dream weaver

IN THE AUSTRALIAN spring of 2005, photographer Jürgen Otto encountered his first peacock spider. “I almost stepped on it,” he recalls. “It leapt off — but not before I snapped a photo.” It was a male Maratus volans, then just one of seven named species of peacock spider. Endemic to Australia, peacock spiders are part of the largest spider family, Salticidae (jumping spiders). And they are active predators — meaning they hunt their prey, rather than ensnaring it in a web. Jumping spiders are instantly recognizable by their quartet of forward-facing eyes, and peacock spiders, specifically, by their dramatic abdomens and courtship displays. What stunned Otto was the “strikingly colorful” abdomen, flattened and spread like a fan, which had been widely assumed — since the species was first described in 1874 —…

tiny trash factories

NOT ALL WASTE HAS TO GO TO WASTE. Most of the world’s 2.22 billion tons of annual trash ends up in landfills or open dumps. Veena Sahajwalla, a materials scientist and engineer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, has created a solution to our massive trash problem: waste microfactories. These little trash processors — some as small as 500 square feet — house a series of machines that recycle waste and transform it into new materials with thermal technology. The new all-inone approach could leave our current recycling processes in the dust. Sahajwalla launched the world’s first waste microfactory targeting electronic waste, or e-waste, in 2018 in Sydney. A second one began recycling plastics in 2019. Now, her lab group is working with university and industry partners…