BBC Science Focus Magazine New Year 2020

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.

United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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from the editor

There’s a lot to say about 2020, but one moment sticks in my (mind like a splinter. Back in January, the BBC Science Focus team was sitting in a room going through ideas. We plan our issues months in advance and we were trying to decide what should go in the March edition. Someone piped up with: “What about this new virus in China?” “How big will that get?” I asked. “Will we still be talking about it in March?” Thankfully, we ran the piece and thus began our reporting on the biggest story of the year. But with 2021 about to begin, we all felt it was time to talk about something else for a bit. So, in this special issue we’ve cleared out the usual sections to take…

on the bbc this month…

A Perfect Planet The eagerly anticipated new show from Sir David Attenborough is due in early 2021. The five-part series will explore the different forces of nature shaping Earth: volcanoes, sunlight, weather, oceans and humans. BBC One, check Radio Times for details The Truth About… Getting Fit at Home Like many fitness enthusiasts, journalist Mehreen Baig has taken to online workouts this year. To find out whether her newvirtual regime is better or worse than hitting the gym, she talks to scientists at Liverpool John Moores University. BBC One, check Radio Times for details The Conversation: How to Be Happy Many of us will be putting a lot of pressure on 2021 to be a good year. How can the next 12 months live up to this expectation? Kim Chakanetsafinds answers in South Korea and Denmark. BBC World…


Tiny satellites are forming swarms in space → p68 JOCELYN TIMPERLEY Rewilding parts of the landscape improves its biodiversity, but should we go further and reintroduce predators like wolves to the UK? Jocelyn finds out. → p82 TOM IRELAND Bacteriophages, viruses that eat bacteria, could help solve the problem of antibioticresistant bugs. Tom looks into where they come from and how they work. → p56 LUCY MADDOX Lucy immerses herself in the world of virtual reality therapy and the ever greater role it’s playing in helping people deal with mental health issues. → p48 MARCUS CHOWN Marcus explains what cosmologists think might fill the puzzling gap that sits between our theories of the Universe and our observations of it. → p34 CONTACT US Advertising 0117 300 8145 Letters for publication Editorial enquiries 0117 300 8755 Subscriptions Other contacts…

2020 in images

The new normal NEW YORK, USA, 24 MAY A woman hugs her grandmother through a plastic sheet draped over a clothesline during Memorial Day weekend in New York. By May, the city had been in lockdown for around three months and the photographer caught the pair’s first meeting since it began. It’s thought the first case of COVID-19 was recorded on 17 November 2019, according to documents discovered by the South China Morning Post. The discovery of a novel virus was only announced a month later. Just over a year later, scientists are poised to deploy a range of vaccines to fight the disease. This incredible feat is testament to how vital the science sector and universities are to our collective future. Black summer BLUE MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA, 11 JANUARY Much of the Australian bush started the…

books of 2020

Drones: The Brilliant, the Bad and the Beautiful Andy Miah In this increasingly dynamic world, driven by rapid digital innovation and technological advances, drones are becoming prolific within society. Delving into philosophical discussions about the implications of drone technology, this book shines a light on their real-world applications, challenges and what they reveal about the human condition, when faced with a future of autonomous, intelligent robots. William Morgan: Eighteenth-Century Actuary, Mathematician and Radical Nicola Bruton Bennetts To meet William Morgan is to encounter the eighteenth-century world of finance, science and politics. His actuarial calculations underpin our present-day pensions; his scientific investigations are an early link in the chain of experiments leading to the discovery of X-ray; and his outspoken political writings, for which he risked imprisonment, call for universal suffrage and transparency in…

ancient megaflood hints at possibility of life on mars

If you were to travel back in time four billion years and headed to the surface of Mars, chances are you’d be greeted with scenes of flooding of biblical proportions, and maybe even some form of life. According to data collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover and analysed by scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii, a raging megaflood was triggered by a massive meteoritic impact that created Mars’s Gale Crater. Heat from the impact caused the mass melting of ice stored on the Martian surface around four billion years ago. The flooding was so severe that it caused significant changes to the geological structure of the Red Planet’s surface, carving out great ripples and waves in the sedimentary rock, the researchers say. “We identified…