Discover May 2019

Discover Magazine will amaze you, enlighten you, and open your eyes to the awe and wonder of science and technology. Discover reveals secrets, solves mysteries, and debunks old myths. Discover shares new findings and shows you what makes our universe tick.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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spaced-out kids

OK, I realize I’m more than 20 years late to the party, but I’m finally catching up on Star Trek: Voyager. In it, Capt. Kathryn Janeway commands her crew as the far-flung starship claws its way back to Earth. Invariably, when you travel across star systems hundreds of years in the future, you’ll come across bizarre nebulas and Earth-like planets that make you homesick. But one factoid mentioned in passing in the show’s dialogue stuck in my brain: Earthlings had colonized Mars by 2100. Huh, I wonder how the Martian immigrants thrived? They must have cracked the mystery of how to have kids in space — not an easy feat. As you’ll read in one story in our special report on the future of fertility, we have a long way to go to…

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Alzheimer’s Annihilation (“Alzheimer’s Under Attack,” December 2018) Of all the subjects that you have covered, your article on Alzheimer’s is by the far the most important. Since I have a long family history of the disease, I probably would be in its throes if I hadn’t eliminated the risk factors as examined in the article. I can’t do anything about my genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. And that’s why, at 81, I only just retired from being a college adjunct and have kept my mind active and challenged. William C. Weckerly Minneola, Fla. The Clock Is Ticking (“The State of Science: Policy,” January/February 2019) You questioned the impact that the “right to try” bill would have, since the FDA already has a program called “expanded access,” which allows patients to request experimental drugs. When a patient is…

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The Biggest Step Yet Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, can be a touchy subject. People who champion the use of genetic engineering in produce argue that it can yield crops that are potentially more resistant to pests and droughts, and can boast better nutritional value. Others counter that genetic tinkering could introduce unintended, harmful consequences to the environment and humans. Now that the USDA will begin requiring food manufacturers to roll out GMO labeling in 2020, we asked our readers on Facebook for their thoughts on the polarizing subject. Windy Lee I’m against GMOs and fully support labeling. We have a right to know what we’re eating. Do you support GMO labeling requirements for food? YES 33% NO 67% Angela Christine Jones I support labeling only if we are going to label all breeding methods. If…

the crux

SOUND SENTINEL Perched high in a California redwood, engineer Topher White tests an audio recorder that could help stop illegal logging in the world’s threatened rainforests. His design uses discarded cellphones, reprogrammed to listen to the forest, allowing for the sonic detection of chain saws. Using cellular service that White says is surprisingly widespread in many rainforests, the solar-powered phones can connect officials, conservation groups and researchers to the real-time sounds made by logging crews. Rainforest Connection, the non-profit group that White leads, says it has installed more than 100 such devices on five continents.…

domestication 2.0

EARLY IN THE 20TH CENTURY, a strange tomato plant took root in the northeastern United States. Because of a random genetic mutation, the plant’s branches were shorter than normal. The result was a more compact crop that was easier to harvest. “Breeders started using it,” says Joyce Van Eck, a plant biologist with Boyce Thompson Institute in New York. “Over time, the trait revolutionized commercial tomato production.” Most other qualities we associate with tomatoes also arose by chance. Over millennia of selective breeding, the fruit grew from the size of a pea to that of an apple, and ripening was streamlined to ensure supermarket tomatoes were uniformly red. The farmers who had laid claim to these desirable traits inadvertently lost others, such as flavor, nutritional value and drought resistance — dropped…

martian oasis

Mars is a cold, dry place where liquid water appears only fleetingly. But caches of water ice exist: In the northern lowlands, Korolev Crater holds an enormous reservoir over a mile thick in places. This photograph from the European Space Agency combines five different images to reveal the 51-mile-wide crater and its ever-present ice. Unlike other, more temporary ice deposits on the planet, Korolev is expansive enough that the thin Martian air settles over it and creates a chilly layer that acts as a cooling shield, keeping the crater continuously icy. This photo comes from the Mars Express orbiter, which has been snapping pictures since it first started circling the Red Planet in 2003.…