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How It WorksHow It Works

How It Works No. 119

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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Science is all about curiosity. By asking questions about the world around us we increase our understanding of the universe and our place within it. Sometimes even the questions we think are silly prove to be valuable thought experiments that teach us something new. This month we seek to answer some of your curious questions, from the purely hypothetical (what if you fell into a black hole?) to some more urgent concerns (what if all our antibiotics stop working?) Also in this issue, we’re getting festive with snowflake chemistry, reindeer anatomy, tinsel, chocolate factories, teddy bears and Christmas markets. Plus find out how to make your own decorative wreath in our How To on page 94. Enjoy the issue – and happy holidays! “The real answer to saving the planet’s wildlife is…

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meet the team…

Charlie G Production Editor How many popes can you fit in a Ford D-series? 16! OK, forget the jokes and head to page 68 to learn about the Vatican (and Popemobiles). Baljeet Research Editor Could the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn hold the key to alien life in subsurface oceans? Find out more on page 58. Charlie E Staff Writer This month we go behind the scenes at Lilongwe National Park to learn how wildlife rescue, rehab and research is saving Malawi’s animals. Scott Staff Writer As the doors of advent calendars swing open we take a closer look at how the chocolaty treats behind them are made on page 48. Duncan Senior Art Editor Reading the What If...? feature got me wondering – what would life have been like if Jaws had never been filmed? It doesn’t bear thinking about! FOLLOW US… How It…

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kepler the planet hunter retires

On 30 October 2018 NASA announced the retirement of its Kepler Space Telescope after it ran out of fuel. During its two missions – conducted over the course of nine years and seven months – Kepler found over 2,660 confirmed exoplanets, observed over 530,500 stars, documented over 60 supernovae and collected over 670 gigabytes of data. Kepler was NASA’s first dedicated planet-hunting mission, and the data that it has collected has revolutionised our understanding of the Milky Way. William Borucki, Kepler’s founding principal investigator (now retired), explains. “When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our Solar System. Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our…

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kepler’s greatest hits

There are more planets than stars Just a few decades ago we didn’t know of any planets beyond those in our Solar System. We now know that almost every star in the galaxy is orbited by a planet or, in most cases, multiple planets. Small planets are common Based on Kepler data, it’s estimated that between 20 and 50 per cent of the stars visible to us are likely to have small, Earth-sized worlds orbiting in their habitable zones. Exoplanets are varied A diverse range of exoplanets have been discovered during Kepler’s missions. The most common types of planets in our galaxy are somewhere between the size of Earth and Neptune – something that does not exist anywhere in our Solar System. Many systems are compact Many exoplanets orbit their parent stars closely, unlike in our Solar…

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llamas could help us beat flu

The influenza virus infects millions of people every year and can cause as many as 650,000 deaths globally. The virus constantly mutates, changing its structure so it can evade our bodies’ natural defences as well as the vaccines we use to help boost our natural immunity. This is what makes it so hard to eradicate the flu and why new vaccines are required each year. However, scientists have discovered an unlikely new weapon against the shape-shifting virus – llama antibodies. Antibodies are small proteins produced by the immune system that bind to the proteins on the surface of viruses to neutralise them. Human antibodies only bind to the tips of the virus’ surface proteins – parts that can be changed easily through mutations. But llama antibodies are much smaller than ours…

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screen time could affect students surgery ’ dexterity

Surgery professor Roger Kneebone from Imperial College London has described how new students seem to struggle with practical tasks such as threading a needle and sewing – crucial skills for surgeons. The worrying decline in manual dexterity may be related to our increased dependence on touchscreen technology rather than learning how to use our hands through basic craft skills. “It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case,” explained Professor Kneebone. “A lot of things are reduced to swiping on a two-dimensional flat screen… We have students who have very high exam grades but lack tactile…