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How It WorksHow It Works

How It Works No. 120

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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“How did these predators go from feral to friendly modern-day pets?” The World of Wildcats David Attenborough created quite a stir in 2017’s Blue Planet II with that iconic shot of a sperm whale with a large piece of plastic stuck in its mouth, and not a moment too soon. Find out on page 22 how we’re choking the oceans with the wonder material/environmental disaster that is plastic, and what we’re doing to solve the problem. This issue we also explore a possible future of medicine in the form of electroceuticals, the electronic pharmaceutical alternative. Then it’s off to wander the many rooms of Russia’s Winter Palace, discover the many reasons why humans and animals lie, and learn how telerobotics allow scientists to explore the surface of new worlds. Also new…

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meet the team…

Charlie G Production Editor I’ve always been fascinated by Russia’s blood-soaked past, so I thoroughly enjoyed the Winter Palace feature. Head to page 72 comrades! Baljeet Research Editor Discover how robotic avatars will revolutionise our future exploration of other planets and space on page 58. Charlie E Staff Writer Explorers have circumnavigated the world using bicycles, ships, planes and even submarines! Find out more on page 64. Scott Staff Writer From forest perimeters to the deep desert, wild cats can be found across the globe. Discover the diversity of these felines on page 42. Duncan Senior Art Editor Getting a prescription from a robot and then swallowing a small microchip to cure ailments might be in our near future. Find out on page 32. FOLLOW US… How It Works magazine @HowItWorksmag…

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scientists are ‘99 per cent’ sure there’s a huge exoplanet very close to our solar system

Sitting about six lightyears away from our Sun, the red dwarf named Barnard’s Star is the nearest solitary star to our Solar System and the fastest-moving star in our night sky. It’s also really, really wobbly. It may be that the wobbles can be chalked up to old age: the star may have been born some 10 billion years ago – making it more than twice the age of our Sun – and it has only 16 per cent of the Sun’s mass. But astronomers prefer a different explanation. A new paper published in the journal Nature combines 20 years of research to conclude “with 99 per cent confidence” that Barnard’s Star is being tugged about its orbit by a nearby exoplanet – a world that’s roughly three times the size…

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these ancient termite mounds are as old as the egyptian pyramids – and they’re visible from space

Around the same time the ancient Egyptians were building their mighty pyramids, tiny termites were digging through the earth, creating giant mounds in Brazil that still exist today and are so massive they’re visible from space. The roughly 4,000-year-old termite mounds – there are about 200 million of them – are so immense that each has nearly 50 cubic metres of soil in it. Taken together, these termites have excavated more than ten cubic kilometres of earth, equivalent to the volume of about 4,000 Great Pyramids of Giza, researchers have said. In other words, this is to date the “greatest known example of ecosystem engineering by a single insect species,” the researchers wrote in the study. The termite-crafted mounds are located in northeastern Brazil and span an area about the size of the…

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are these earth’s oldest fossils of life? row has huge implications

Scientists will gather in a remote and snowy part of southwestern Greenland next summer to try to determine if rocks from 3.7 billion years ago contain some of the oldest fossils of life on Earth — with implications for the search for evidence of life on Mars. Tiny, triangular structures found in these rocks have been a source of controversy, with some scientists saying they are not evidence of early life on Earth, while the scientists who first reported that they were fossilised evidence of life are defending their claims. In a paper published online on 17 October in the journal Nature, planetary scientist Abigail Allwood and colleagues, who examined the ancient rocks in Greenland, reported that purely geological processes could explain the triangular rock formations, and that while they might still…

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north america’s oldest mummy sheds light on ancient migrations

Dressed in moccasins and a rabbit-skin shroud, a man was laid to rest in a cave in Nevada about 10,600 years ago. Now, his mummy is helping scientists fill in the picture of how humans first migrated into the Americas. Scientists have sequenced the genome of the Spirit Cave Mummy – the oldest human mummy found in North America – along with 14 other ancient individuals from the Americas. The genome revealed the mummy’s Native American ancestry, which has allowed his living descendants to properly bury him. The similarities in the DNA from people who lived as far north as Alaska and as far south as Patagonia suggest the continent's first settlers spread out quickly, according to the study published on 8 November in the journal Science. “These findings imply that the first…