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BBC Science Focus Magazine

BBC Science Focus Magazine July 2020

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With accessible features illustrated with the world’s best photography, BBC Focus Magazine explains the theory behind scientific phenomena and really brings science to life. In every issue you’ll find news of the latest major scientific developments, a lively Q&A section plus exclusive and astonishing photographic reports that range from the breathtaking to the downright odd.

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United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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from the editor

After six months of reporting on the global pandemic, we felt it was time for something different: welcome to the feel-good issue. Put a brew on, put your feet up and enjoy some uplifting long-reads. Up first there’s the hugely ambitious, mega project to test and analyse hundreds of thousands of pet dogs in the US to discover what makes some people age faster than others (p54). It might sound like an odd way to look at human ageing, but the fact that our four-legged companions share our lifestyles, our homes and sometimes even our diets means that the study will give us an unprecedented look at the changes we can all make to age well. And of course, it might just help a few good boys and girls enjoy…

on the bbc this month...

Ambulance The BAFTA-winning documentary has returned to our screens, this time following the North West Ambulance Service. BBC One Thursdays at 9pm, catch up on iPlayer The Salisbury Poisonings In 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury. This three-part drama tells their story and the city’s response to the subsequent public health crisis. Available on BBC iPlayer CrowdScience: What’s The Point Of Blood Groups? The team finds out why animals have different blood types and if cross-species transfusions could ever save a human’s life. BBC World Service Available on BBC Sounds. COVER: GETTY IMAGES THIS PAGE: BBC X2, GETTY IMAGES…


DR HELEN PILCHER Science writer Helen reveals the processes that create some of the most colourful natural phenomena on Earth. p46 PROF MIKE TIPTON Could cold water swimming help stave off stress and depression? Mike is one of the scientists who’s looking into its potential. p74 DR DANIEL MACARTHUR The gnomAD database is now live. It’s a collection of the genetic variation in thousands of genomes. Daniel reveals what it might tell us about disease. p24 PROF BRENDAN WALKER Self-proclaimed thrill-seeker and engineer Brendan reveals the psychology and physiology of rollercoaster riders. p70…

eye opener

Splash light CALIFORNIA, USA In May, the waves crashing onto this Californian beach were transformed to bright blue, thanks to bioluminescent, microscopic plankton. Huge algal blooms like this occur every few years, when the conditions of the water and the nutrients available are just right. It’s thought that the organisms normally produce light in response to agitation in the water from a predator, explains David Caron, professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California. “It would be the same if you were hunting in the dark and somebody put a bright flashlight in your eyes – it startles the predator, and in doing so, it gives a little bit of time to get away.” This light is the result of a chemical reaction. “The algae are mechanically stimulated to produce a molecule,…

letter of the month

The ethics of research I have mixed feelings about the article on the effects of ocean plastic on turtles (April, p17). I’ve seen the damage that plastic is causing to our oceans myself – while diving in the Red Sea in Aqaba, Jordan I found a moray eel choked to death on the seabed with plastic tightly wrapped around its neck. But the article raised some questions. How ethical is it to take turtles captive to conduct research? Aren’t we restricting the very freedom we’re trying to give them, even in the name of science? What are we doing to help turtles we find with plastic in their system? Lynn Muldrew Science offers the opportunity for us to try and prevent further damage to the marine environment. We need to understand why turtles…


WRITE IN AND WIN! The writer of next issue’s Letter Of The Month wins a Q800 Pro dashcam from Thinkware. It has a QHD wide-angle forward-facing camera, HD rear-facing camera and night vision. It also comes with cloud connectivity, where you can locate the vehicle, and alert others in case of impact. thinkwaredashcam.store A pointless vaccine? In ‘The race to create a vaccine’ article (May, p52) you say it can take “10 years or more” to get a vaccine ready. Does that mean that the flu jab I get every year won’t protect me from any new strain that has arisen in the last 10 years? Doesn’t that make the flu vaccination almost useless? Henry Parr, Frome It can take 10 years or more to develop an entirely new vaccine, but the annual flu vaccine is…