Discover July/August 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


lessons learned

Every week we receive and review lots of interesting story ideas from science writers around the world. Although it’s sometimes a time-consuming process, it’s one I’ve enjoyed for years: sitting down with my editors to evaluate the merits of each idea and deciding which stories we’ll assign from across the broad range of scientific endeavor. Since the beginning of 2019, however, it won’t surprise you to learn that a very great many of the story ideas we’ve received (and generated on staff) have been related in some way to COVID-19. The ideas were good, the stories important, but the subject matter was getting to be wearisome. I’ll admit it. When our editorial team first talked about assigning “COVID Lessons” (page 36) by regular Discover contributor Elizabeth Svoboda, my knee-jerk reaction was, “I…


SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS “When Shame Goes Viral,” Mar/Apr 2021 I have been a subscriber to Discover for a few decades, and notice a distinct drop in “hard” science reporting of late. While cyberbullying is real, you needed to have sociologists formulate studies on how to counteract this. Soft news reporting and editorialization is not good enough for Discover. Tejas Godiwala Metairie, LA I’M SORRY, DAVE. I’M AFRAID I CAN’T DO THAT. “Big Idea: Embracing the Singularity,” Mar/Apr 2021 I suggest when Nick Bostrom, et al., teach “human morality” to a nascent superintelligence, they make sure that this new sentient entity is NEVER given access to any of our history or any current news media. Human treatment of fellow humans has never been very moral. Tucker Spolter I think that concept of having a single AI to deal with all…

from the web

36% WE CONTROL TECHNOLOGY 64 % TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS US We asked our Facebook followers: Do we still have control over technology or is it already controlling us? Sally Harding: I think we are giving control to technology. How many of us remember phone numbers anymore, rather than relying on phones? How many of us can go a full 24 hours without the internet? How many of us can look in the mirror with brutal honesty and saw we did not develop one or more opinions based entirely on something read on social media? I don’t think it’s all bad, but I think we need to teach critical thinking in schools. Lesley Mcgilvary: The rich and powerful people who own and control technology are using technology to try to control us, as they have…

the latest news and notes

COLORFUL COMMUNICATION Iridescent colors in animals, like the shimmering hues of this hummingbird’s feathers, have long entranced humans. The colors we see partly depend on the angle they’re viewed from, though, which is why some species have developed unique adaptations to get the right message across. According to a March study in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, researchers at the University of Melbourne suggest that animals with iridescent color patches can only use them as reliable signals by pairing them with certain structures or behaviors. For example, male Anna’s hummingbirds position their opalescent throat patches during courtship rituals so that females perceive them as bright pink. Vibrant rose-red head feathers, meanwhile, may show rival males that they enjoy protein-rich diets. — MOLLY GLICK; IMAGE BY WADE TREGASKIS…

plumbing the depths

On a rainy day in July 2019, Michael Prior-Jones spent eight hours slip-sliding across a Greenland glacier. To help a colleague test the conditions deep beneath the ice’s surface, he played an intricate game of cat’s cradle with over 3,000 feet of wire cable. Pacing back and forth, he placed the cable on the ice to smooth out tangles and attach sensors that help indicate the speed at which the glacier is melting and moving toward open water. By the end, he was cold and soggy, but the wire was snarl-free and prepped for its descent into the glacier. For decades, researchers like Prior-Jones have affixed instruments to cables, dropped them down cracks and boreholes, and analyzed the data that streams back through the wires. By extracting secrets from the depths…

dissecting decaf

For many of us, a cup of coffee is the first thing on our minds in the morning. It’s such a ritual that we’ll still down a mug of joe even when that coffee is missing the thing it’s known for: caffeine. Decaf coffee has been around for over a hundred years, and the process for making it has been roughly the same the whole time. Caffeine is locked inside coffee beans alongside the complex blend of compounds that give roasted coffee its distinctive taste; removing one of its most notable molecules is, naturally, a labor-intensive process. Some techniques take the caffeine directly out of the beans themselves, leaving flavor compounds behind. That procedure starts with steaming or boiling green, unroasted coffee beans to free up the caffeine in their interiors. Then,…