Cosmos Magazine

Cosmos Magazine Issue 84

Global science, from a unique Australian perspective.

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The Royal Institution of Australia Inc
3,29 €(VAT inclusa)
19,72 €(VAT inclusa)
4 Numeri

in questo numero

1 min
from the lead scientist

AUSTRALIA WAS ONCE a leader in space. In 1967, we put WRESAT into orbit, becoming just the third nation in history – after the US and the then USSR – to launch a satellite from its own soil. Two years later, as Apollo 11 made history, it was our technicians, at Honeysuckle Creek and the Parkes Radio Telescope, who recorded Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon for the world to see. It’s time to take a leadership role again. We find ourselves in a new era, and investing in new technologies such as cubesats or 3D printing in orbit will allow us to play a key role in what I think of as Space 2.0. We at The Royal Institution of Australia believe there is a lot to get excited about. We have explored…

1 min

LAUREN FUGE Lauren is an Australian author and science communicator now living and working in Canada, where she spends as much time as possible in the great outdoors. She also has a particular interest in the intersection between astronomy and art. PAUL BIEGLER After many years working as an emergency doctor, Paul switched tracks to become a bioethicist and writer. As well as contributing to Cosmos, he writes for major newspapers and is an adjunct research fellow at Monash University. KATIE MACK Katie is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies a range of questions in cosmology. She is an Assistant Professor of physics at North Carolina State University, in the US. DYANI LEWIS Dyani is a freelance science journalist based in Melbourne. She writes on a variety of scientific and environmental topics, but finds herself particularly drawn to…

2 min
from the publisher

WELCOME to issue 84 of Cosmos magazine. I hope you find it as entertaining and informative as the team here did putting it together. I’d also like to let you know about a few changes that have taken place over the past couple of months. For starters, our former Editor Andrew Masterson has moved on to new challenges, and I’d like to thank him for the contribution he has made. He has been a wonderful asset for The Royal Institution of Australia, looking after both the magazine and With his departure I would like to welcome a new editorial team who will be fully in place for the next issue. Ian Connellan will take over as Editor. He has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Australian Geographic Group Publications and editor of Australian…

1 min
lightsail away

A small non-profit organisation has achieved a space-travel feat dreamed about for more than 40 years: proving that it is possible to manoeuvre a spacecraft in Earth orbit using only the power of sunbeams. In late June, The Planetary Society, which has 50,000 members in 109 countries, launched a tiny, five-kilogram spacecraft into orbit, aboard a SpaceX Heavy Falcon rocket that also carried two dozen spacecraft for the US Air Force. From there, the spacecraft, called LightSail 2, was delivered to an orbit about 720 kilometres above the Earth. Seven weeks later, after preliminary tests, it deployed a boxing-ring-sized sheet of reflective Mylar film, which it used to “sail” on the pressure of sunlight. The spacecraft’s small size makes it easy to manoeuvre, which is important because its operations require the orientation of its…

1 min
soap bubbles form natural snowdomes

Under the right conditions, soap bubbles freeze in a way that converts them, temporarily, into tiny snowdomes. The phenomenon was discovered by researchers led by biomechanical engineer Jonathan Boreyko from Virginia Tech in the US as they probed the physics of freezing. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists report finding that the way soap bubbles froze was determined by the temperature of the air surrounding them. In circumstances where bubbles resting on a cold substrate were surrounded by equally cold air, they started to freeze from the bottom. However, during the early stage of this process, ice crystals formed, detached from the freeze-front and floated around in the remaining liquid, evoking a snow-dome. After a while the number of crystals reached a critical density at which they were in contact with each other. At…

1 min
spider silk is 10 times stronger than kevlar

Spider silk is extremely tough and flexible, but Madagascar’s Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) takes this to another level. Its dragline silk is twice as strong as any other thus far tested, and an astonishing 10 times stronger than the synthetic fibre Kevlar. This property was long ago noticed by researchers in the field of biomechanical design, but the exact biological processes that result in the super-strong fibre remained a mystery. Now, scientists led by Jessica Garb from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the US might have found the answer. In a paper published in the journal Communications Biology, they report that the silk is the result of “a suite of novel traits from the level of genes to spinning physiology to silk biomechanics”. All orb spiders produce silk containing two distinct…