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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine March 2018

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
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forget ‘eight days a week’—paul mccartney’s asking for just one

Susan Goldberg: Should I call you Paul or Sir Paul or … ? Paul McCartney: Paul. SG: OK. I wasn’t sure. I’m American, so I don’t know about these things. One thing I find so interesting about your Meat Free Monday campaign is that you’re just asking for one day a week. Why did you decide to ask for only that? PM: I think if you say to people, “I’m a vegetarian. I think it’s great. I’ve been this way for 40 years. Now you should be a vegetarian,” it’s too much for them to take in. That means they’ve got to change their whole lifestyle. So what we find is, if you say to people, “Well, try one day,” they can do that. And they’re kind of willing to do that. And then…


MICRONESIA The Pacific Ocean atoll named Pingelap—pictured here in infrared—is also known as the Island of the Colorblind, because as many as 10 percent of the residents are believed to carry the achromatopsia gene that causes complete colorblindness. A typhoon wiped out most of the island’s population in the 18th century, and a chief with the gene is said to have helped repopulate it. Order prints of select National Geographic photos online at NationalGeographicArt.com. Ottó Méhes Calgary, Alberta On a trip to Budapest, Méhes, an IT analyst, wandered the city with friends. Day’s end found them at the Széchenyi thermal baths. As his friends waded into the water, Méhes, shaking with cold, took the shot he’d envisioned all day. “I would call this image,” he says, “a calculated coincidence.” PHOTO: SANNE DE WILDE, NOOR…

mushrooming popularity

Mushrooms are everywhere—on forest floors, in gardens, in networks connecting below our feet. The largest organism on Earth is actually a honey mushroom, an underground web that covers more than 3.7 square miles in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. Yet mushrooms are poorly understood, and the field of medicinal mushrooms is still in its infancy. Fungi used to be overlooked as a low-calorie, low-nutrition food, but in fact many are full of nutrients. According to biochemist and herbalist Martin Powell, many produce compounds that show potential for improving treatment results for those suffering from ailments such as cancer and dementia. “Fungi are far more mysterious than plants,” says Robert Beelman, director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. He led a recent study showing that two common antioxidants in…

printing parts for a new you

What if you could press a button and a machine would make you a new nose or kidney? Scientists are exploring that futuristic vision by using special 3-D printers to make living body parts. Called bioprinters, these machines use human cells as “ink.” A standard 3-D printer layers plastic to create car parts, for example, or trinkets, but a bioprinter layers cells to form three-dimensional tissues and organs. To create an ear, the printer lays down a pliable, porous scaffold made of hydrogel, a kind of polymer. The scaffold is covered with skin cells and cartilage cells, which grow and fill in the ear-shaped form. The hydrogel eventually biodegrades; after about six months the ear is composed entirely of human cells. “We use the patient’s own cells,” says Anthony Atala, director of…

in search of a longer life

China is on the brink of a huge demographic shift. Over the next two decades, an unprecedented baby boom from the 1960s will age into “the largest number of elderly ever in the history of China,” says Yu Xie, a Princeton University sociologist who studies the country. While the government prepares for strains on the medical system, members of this older generation—more educated and mobile than those before—are taking health into their own hands. “They don’t see how they can count on government for health care and services,” says Xie, so “they turn to traditional methods.” Often this takes the form of widely accepted alternative medicine, such as acupuncture and herbal remedies. But sometimes, he warns, it leads people “to look for easy and quick solutions.” Increasingly, Chinese are leaving polluted cities and…

tipping the scales

Belts are loosening from Greece to China. A 2017 study in the medical journal the Lancet crunched the body mass index (BMI) trends of nearly 130 million people and calculated that the number of obese adults has increased nearly sevenfold since the 1970s, with the majority today in China and the United States. A similar study from 2016 found that adults have gained more than three pounds on average per decade over the same period. The ranks of obese kids and teenagers grew from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. The highest prevalence is in Polynesia and Micronesia, followed by Kuwait, the U.S., and Bermuda. At this rate, the world will have more obese children than underweight ones by 2022. The culprit? “A rapid change in lifestyles over the…