Cosmos Magazine Issue 91

Global science, from a unique Australian perspective.

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4 Numeri

in questo numero

2 min
write a pi-ku to celebrate π

AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION OF AUSTRALIA, we’ve been celebrating that most special of numbers with the Cosmos Pi-ku 2021 competition. A haiku in English is generally accepted to be a poem of three lines and 17 syllables arranged in a 5–7–5 pattern. A Pi-ku (for our purposes) is a poem of six lines and 23 syllables arranged in a 3–1–4–1–5–9 pattern (Pi to five decimal places: 3.14159). Started on Pi Day – March 14 (3.14 to people in the US), we’ve had some delightful entries, which you can read at A couple to whet your appetite: Science Is A Candle in the Dark. It illuminates And Unchains a Demon-Haunted World. Sachin it sounds like a circular food but you cannot eat it. why can’t there be unique words for things? Tim The competition closes on…

1 min
our cover

The striking depiction of deep time on the cover of Cosmos 91 was created by world-renowned graphic designer, illustrator and artist Noma Bar. Bar has illustrated more than 100 magazine covers – for publications as diverse as The Economist, Esquire and Wallpaper* – published hundreds of illustrations and released three books of his work: Guess Who –The Many Faces of Noma Bar (in 2008), Negative Space (2009) and Bittersweet (2017). Among his many industry awards is a prestigious Gold Clio in 2016 for his work on a campaign to highlight new frontiers in cancer treatments, for the New York Presbyterian Hospital.…

1 min
about the royal institution of australia

The Royal Institution of Australia is an independent charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Through Cosmos magazine, our free daily science news site, our e-publication Cosmos Weekly and free educational resources, we aim to be an inspirational resource centre for the wonders and achievements of Australian and the world’s scientific discoveries. We want to spark in all people a desire to be science literate and to make informed decisions about their lives based on rigorously sought and tested evidence.…

2 min
from the editors

A STORY ABOUT geological time, another covering the intriguing search for an ancient human ancestor, and a third investigating the ESA’s Gaia space telescope wouldn’t appear to have much in common. In fact, they’re at the centre of this issue’s focus on deep time. Staff writer Lauren Fuge is our rock conductor, orchestrating a journey from the Ediacaran Period to the present, en route discovering as much about humanity as geology. Ella Finkel joins genetic detectives on the hunt to find the link between Denisovans and modern humans, and Rick Lovett gives us a look into the depths of deep space through Gaia’s clear, steady gaze. Staying in space, our series on Indigenous astronomy continues as Kirsten Banks and Duane Hamacher look at First Nations Peoples’ view of our near-neighbour planets, while…

3 min
oldest human burial in africa unearthed

About 78,000 years ago, at the mouth of a cave complex in modern-day Kenya, someone placed the body of a three-year-old child on its side in a purpose-dug grave and covered it with earth from the cave floor. This intentional act – described in a paper in Nature – is the oldest human burial ever uncovered in Africa. “It’s a first,” says Alison Crowther, co-author and archaeologist from the University of Queensland. “Africa is the cradle of our species, Homo sapiens, but we don’t really have much evidence of early burial practices from anywhere on the continent, and practically none from eastern Africa.” This discovery, she says, “gives us this extraordinary, unprecedented glimpse into how our species evolved, both culturally and anatomically”. The child – nicknamed Mtoto, meaning ‘child’ in Swahili – was found…

2 min
glaciers are shrinking faster

A study of nearly every glacier on Earth has confirmed they are losing more ice every year. The international research team, led by Roman Hugonnet from the Université de Toulouse in France, found that on average these icy rivers have lost 267 gigatonnes (Gt) of mass per year since 2000. A Gt is equal to the mass of a one-kilometre-sided cube of water, or about 400,000 Olympic swimming pools. It gets worse: the study, published in Nature, also found that the rate of ice loss is accelerating by an average of 48 Gt per year each decade. The paper highlights that this ice loss accounts for a significant amount (21%) of global sea level rise. As the research team warns, “200 million people live on land that is predicted to fall below…