BBC Science Focus Magazine December 2021

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

This year has been a bit of a blur. It’s been eventful but, like many people, I’ve spent large chunks of it sat at my desk, working in my living room and spending too much time raiding the fridge. Sure, there are upsides to working from home, like when the weather’s bad (as it is today), there’s a joy in rolling out of bed, putting on something cosy and sitting at my desk with a hot drink. But the monotony of it all has wreaked havoc with my memory. It seems I’m not alone. Recent research carried out at the University of California, Irvine, documented how those with previously brilliant autobiographical memories found that they became forgetful during the pandemic. Like drab wallpaper in a waiting room, a featureless year that’s…

on the bbc this month...

Steelheads A new fictional radio drama inspired by true events sees Jessica Barden’s terminally ill character cryogenically frozen, but she doesn’t wake up to the cure she was hoping for. Radio 4 and BBC Sounds From 31 December Winter Walks Experience breathtakingly beautiful walks across Yorkshire and Cumbria accompanied by some famous faces, including broadcaster Alastair Campbell and the Yorkshire shepherdess Amanda Owen (pictured). Now available on BBC iPlayer The Forum: Algae A celebration of these wonderfully slimy, life-creating organisms. Algae are all around us, Rajan Datar learns, and their evolution has implications for all life on Earth. BBC World Service 9 December, 10am COVER: DANIEL BRIGHT THIS PAGE: BBC, GETTY IMAGES, SHUTTERSTOCK, DANIEL BRIGHT…


LIAM O’DELL Deaf journalist and disability campaigner Liam digs into whether the new colourful road crossings popping up in our cities will make the streets safer for all. →p34 DR JEREMY ROSSMAN Virologist Jeremy looks at whether cold and flu viruses might hit us harder after a year of social distancing and lockdowns. →p32 HAYLEY BENNETT Christmas doesn’t need to be a time of overconsumption and consumerism. Hayley takes a look at how people around the world mark the winter solstice. →p46 DR STU FARRIMOND As a doctor turned TV presenter for the BBC’s Inside The Factory, Stu loves to experiment with food. This month we asked him if we could cook our turkey by dropping it from space. →p58 CONTACT US → Advertising 0117 300 8140 → Letters for publication → Editorial enquiries 0117 300 8755 → Subscriptions 03330 162 113* →…

eye opener

Galaxy smash-up NGC 5953 & NGC 5954 Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, these two galaxies are caught in a dangerous dance that will culminate – at some point in the very, very distant future – in their merging. They’re likely to have been dancing for the last billion years and it could be another billion before they become one. “These are two galaxies having a bad day,” says Prof Chris Lintott, astronomer at the University of Oxford and presenter for BBC Four’s The Sky At Night. “Named NGC 5953 and NGC 5954, these two spiral galaxies are colliding, and you can see material from NGC 5954 being twisted and distorted by the gravitational pull of its neighbour.” While these collisions are common between smaller galaxies in the Universe, a merger of this size…

a deep message

Thank you for consistently combining the innovative, dynamic worlds of science and technology together exceptionally. Personally, I have been truly inspired, amazed and enthused by your magazine since I was a young engineer. The inspiration, knowledge and forward-thinking dynamics of the magazine have allowed me to achieve many great things so far, in a career that is flourishing every day and expanding to new levels. I trained in the Royal Navy as an engineer, in the field of reactor physics and nuclear chemistry, and then embarked on an eight-year journey, exploring the world of submarines. Having spent a collective time of one full year under the waves of the planet’s oceans, I always had BBC Science Focus magazines to keep me thoroughly absorbed and motivated. Whether or not this email will reach…

conversation BBC Science Focus, Eagle House, Bristol, BS1 4ST @sciencefocus @bbcsciencefocus “SEEING YOURSELF WHILE ON A CONFERENCE CALL IS DISTRACTING AND TIRING. STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT WHEN YOU CAN SEE YOURSELF YOU BECOME MUCH MORE SELF-CRITICAL”DR MICHAEL MOSLEY, P55 Units of confusion The Eye Opener covering the International Space Station’s new solar arrays (November, p6) conflated power and energy when describing the power boost to 215kW (peak) power the arrays would deliver. Assuming that the ISS spends half its orbit in sunshine, the combined power means that the solar arrays could produce around 2,500kWh of energy each day. This is not far short of the annual electricity consumption of an average home. Robin Morris Bugging me I enjoyed the insect apocalypse interview with Prof Dave Goulson (October, p68). However, the reason that car windscreens do not get covered in dead…