Discover September/October 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


look to the evidence

Numbers are dispassionate. They represent a measurement, a tally, a price. As humans, however, we often attach interpretation, meaning and emotion to them. And that’s when things get complicated. In our cover story, frequent Discover contributor Russ Juskalian takes the numbers we’ve got and examines gun violence through them. He explores what it would look like to approach firearm injuries and deaths as a public health issue. What would it mean to study gun violence with a robust effort and solid research, as we now do with highway and workplace safety? The study of car safety, for example, hasn’t always been part of our societal lens. It took decades before we realized that, based on substantial (and continuing) science-driven research, we could figure out ways to save lives. Researchers have pushed for…

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Decoding CRISPR (“The State of Science: Genetics,” January/February 2019) I devoured Jessica McDonald’s story on genetics with such interest that I kept the pages open on my bedside table so that I could read it again. And, perhaps on the fourth or fifth read, I became somewhat concerned that people might be frustrated by the acronym CRISPR, which is referred to over and over again. Those of us with journalism, scientific and similar backgrounds might know the term, but a first-time reader might not. I don’t think a brief definition of the acronym would have taken up that much space. Richard V.H. BuellCochrane, Ontario, Canada Editor’s note: CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Embracing the Itch (“Tame the Pain,” March 2019) This article fit nicely into something I’ve been exploring lately. Whenever I had…

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To Test or Not to Test? DNA testing kits, like those from 23andMe, AncestryDNA and MyHeritage, are all the rage. In a time when personal information is already hard to protect, some people worry about shipping off their genetic information. Still, on top of breaking down your ancestry, many of the tests claim to be able to tell you if you have genetic markers linked to a range of medical issues — an appealing feature for many consumers. We asked our Facebook followers: Would you take a DNA test for ancestry or health reasons? YES 70% NO 30% John Richburg I already have. Twice. I now know I am genetically predisposed to macular degeneration. I can spend the rest of my life keeping that closely monitored and take steps to prevent it before any symptoms show up. My…

the crux

BIRDS OF A FEATHER Despite a spirograph-like appearance, these loops and twists actually represent the flight paths and wingbeats of a flock of jackdaws, members of the wily crow family that mate for life. Researchers had thought that each member of a flock flew independently of their mates, allowing them to pay close attention to others and rapidly communicate to evade predators. But new research in Cornwall, England, found that jackdaws stick with their mates as they fly, a sweet but ultimately dangerous act since it distracts the pair from the rest of the flock’s actions and sing of howlows the overall flow of information. This newly discovered behavior could change our understand avian flight patterns evolved.…

a look in the mirror

IN THE LATE 1940s, while a new library was being built at the future National University of Singapore, a young mathematics instructor named Derek John de Solla Price stored the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in his bedroom. When he placed the archives, starting with the first volume from 1665, into chronological stacks by decade, he was struck by what he saw: The height of each stack increased exponentially. Presenting his findings at the 1950 International Congress of the History of Science, Price theorized the growth was a characteristic of science itself. His insight was prescient, and not only in anticipating the ever-escalating onslaught of publications. Today, a growing number of researchers are studying the inner workings of science, trying to make future work more effective. “The science…

a whole new world?

GIANT SQUID are tough to find because they’re rare and live deep in the ocean. Similarly, if a giant planet lives deep in the solar system, telescopes will have a hard time spotting it. But despite no physical evidence, some scientists still believe such a hypothetical world lurks about 56 billion miles from the sun. The presence of this world, up to 10 times as massive as Earth and known as “Planet Nine,” would solve the orbital mysteries of other way-out objects. But is this “planet” just a gravitational illusion? In Science Smackdown, we let experts argue the evidence. The Claim PLANET NINE LIVES Centered about 3.7 billion miles from the sun, the Kuiper Belt — a doughnut of icy rocks and rocky ice past Neptune’s orbit — serves as a cosmic map boundary. “It’s…