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How It WorksHow It Works

How It Works No. 121

Welcome to How It Works, the magazine that explains everything you never knew you wanted to know about the world we live in. Loaded with fully illustrated guides and expert knowledge, and with sections dedicated to science, technology, transportation, space, history and the environment, no subject is too big or small for How It Works to explain.

United Kingdom
Future Publishing Ltd
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13 Issues


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The sheer scale of the machines that humans have been able to build since the late-20th century is astonishing. The Bagger 293, which spearheads a by no means exhaustive list of vehicles in our cover feature seems impossibly massive – so big it makes me question not just how they built it, but why. I like to think that part of the reason that all 14,200 tons of this giant bucket-wheel excavator was assembled was because its manufacturer simply loved big machines! Also this issue, we delve into the world of airborne predators and what makes raptors the perfect hunters, find out how close we are to realising the technology of the android theme park in HBO’s Westworld, learn how Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo and explore the science of…

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meet the team…

Charlie G Production Editor Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was a critical moment in history. Turn to page 74 to find out how close he came to victory. Baljeet Research Editor From destroying space junk to monitoring Earth, space lasers have many functions. Learn more over on page 66. Charlie E Staff Writer Are you getting ready to start spring cleaning the house? Find out about the science behind the products you will be using on page 40. Scott Staff Writer Birds of prey are prolific predators. Discover how these feathered hunters are perfectly adapted to take down their prey on page 44. Duncan Senior Art Editor As a Westworld fan I was fascinated to read about the technology that could make it possible to build a real-life Westworld park one day. FOLLOW US… How It Works magazine @HowItWorksmag…

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‘tunnelbot’ could seek out life on europa

A group of scientists want to send a nuclear-powered ‘tunnelbot’ to Europa to blaze a path through the Jovian moon’s thick shell of ice and search for evidence of life below. Europa, the fourth largest of Jupiter’s 53 named moons, is one of the best candidates in the Solar System for hosting alien life. Researchers believe that its icy crust hides a liquid-water ocean and that vents through that crust might deliver the necessary heat and chemical ingredients for life into that ocean. To peek beneath that thick veil of ice researchers on the NASA Glenn Research COMPASS team think they have come up with the solution: the tunnelbot. At the 14 December 2018 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the researchers presented a proposal for a tunnelbot that would use nuclear…

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giant prehistoric shark was too hot to avoid extinction

New research suggests the megalodon's body temperature may have played a part in its demise. A giant prehistoric predator that still fuels nightmares and fascinates scientists today, this massive fish could grow to up to 21 metres long, and it took down prey with a terrifying mouthful of teeth measuring up to 18 centimetres. Fearsome though this giant hunter was, it disappeared from the oceans about 2.6 million years ago. Scientists have now turned to the body temperature of Otodus megalodon to offer an explanation as to why it died out. The megalodon is thought to have been able to thermoregulate (adjust) its body temperature in response to cooler or warmer water, enabling it to hunt in a broad range of habitats. But was megalodon’s body temperature similar to that of modern…

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saturn is losing its rings

Chances are, you wouldn’t recognise Saturn without its trademark thick band of rings. But if you could travel 300 million years into the future, you would need to, because by then it's likely those rings would be gone – and they could disappear even faster. That’s the conclusion of a recent investigation into a phenomenon called ‘ring rain’, which pulls water out of Saturn’s rings and into the planet’s midlatitude regions. Combined with research from last year using Cassini data to look at a different type of inflow from the rings to the planet, that find means the stunning structures could be gone in as little as 100 million years, a brief time in universal terms. The new research relies on ground-based observations gathered over a couple of hours in 2011 from…

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bubbles can be a bacteria-spreading menace

Innocent-looking bubbles can serve as a launching pad to spread bacteria from water into the air, according to a new study. Published in the journal Physical Review Letters, it found that bacteria can manipulate the physics of bubbles in a way that enhances the microbes’ spread. For example, bacteria-covered bubbles can last for a much longer time than clean bubbles, even though the bubble’s surface thins out over time. Then, once they burst, these thinner bubbles create many more droplets, which are launched into the air at a faster rate compared with clean bubbles. They found that when bubbles were contaminated with E. coli they lasted ten-times longer than clean bubbles before bursting. This means the contaminated bubbles lasted for minutes as opposed to seconds. Further investigations revealed that the…