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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine February 2013

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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fatal attraction

There’s another side to this deadly beauty. Among words you never want to hear, I’d suggest that “There’s a black mamba under your bed” ranks fairly high on the list. About ten years ago my guide and friend Dave Hammon and I were staying in a tree house while on assignment near the Mozambique border. Night was falling; it was getting darker in the room with our uninvited reptilian guest, which had slithered into our midst. The mamba is one of the world’s deadliest snakes. I grew up with rattlesnakes, but a mamba makes a rattlesnake seem like an earthworm by comparison. If we didn’t deal with the problem, no one would be getting any sleep. Fortunately the mamba was lured out of hiding and dispatched. Crisis averted. In addition to being…


Blood Ivory Your article on the slaughter of elephants for ivory by turns upset me, angered me, and baffled me. Obviously the only course of action is to make the ivory unavailable or unworthy to the poachers. Is there something that can be fed to the animal that can change the color of the ivory from the inside—or can the tusks be deeply stained from the outside—to make it permanently unusable for the ivory trade without harming the animal? STEVEN F. GRAVER Columbus, Georgia I hope that the ignoramus ivory collector in your story who said, “I don’t see the elephant. I see the Lord,” received a copy of the magazine. Maybe the photographs will improve his vision. BRENDA PETRUZZELLA Columbus, Ohio I find Kenya’s stockpiling of ivory yet burning of 5.5 tons of other…

dodging locusts

Iain Couzin National Geographic Emerging Explorer EXPERTISE Swarm behaviorist LOCATION Mauritania Locust swarms eat all the vegetation in their path, seeking protein, salt, and water. When that runs out—sometimes even before—they turn cannibal. Locusts hate to be around each other. They change color and behavior when in groups, and start to form swarms. They’re the Jekyll and Hyde of the insect world. Imagine hopping masses of millions of bugs, each trying to eat the ones in front of it. Mauritania suffers countrywide outbreaks of these swarms. My team and I, studying the outbreaks there, wanted to know more. When I picked up one locust to examine it more closely, my hands swelled up. Toxic chemicals on the insect had reacted in sunlight when they touched my skin. To make matters worse, we were a two-day drive…


China Frigid festivities abound at the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in northeastern China. Here a swimmer pumps up enthusiasm before plunging into a pool carved out of the frozen Songhua River. England Sporting feathery gills, a mexican axolotl, about six inches long, paddles around a West Sussex fish tank. the unusual salamander species, whose numbers are dwindling in the wild, retains its larval features as an adult. Italy A plastic swordfish head—possibly a cast replica—makes a curious companion for fish enthusiast maria agnese Cornaro, of Canelli. She received the head as a gift years ago, after hosting a town exhibition of people’s aquariums.…

your shot

This page features two photographs: one chosen by our editors and one chosen by our readers via online voting. For more information, go to ngm.com/yourshot. EDITORS’ CHOICE Natela Grigalashvili Tbilisi, Georgia While visiting a fishing village in southern Georgia, Grigalashvili couldn’t speak with this Armenian boy. “But he made me understand that he wanted a photo with the fish,” she says. As the shutter snapped, the boy kissed and fondled the fish. READERS’ CHOICE Indranil Mukhopadhyay Woodland Hills, California Clouds added drama as the sun rose over Utah’s Canyonlands National Park one morning last summer. Mukhopadhyay, a software engineer, saw how the rays would enrich the view. “Landscape art,” he says, “is simply being in the right place with the right light.”…

coat d’azure

Oregon state University researchers were thrilled in 2009 to discover the formula for a new blue pigment, the first new inorganic blue created in more than two centuries. It was a bonus when they realized the compound was also unusually good at reflecting heat, making it an ideal color to paint energy-efficient roofs and cars of the future. made at 2350°f, the pigment is extremely stable. Its recipe—a mix of yttrium, manganese, and indium oxides—isn’t too complicated either. Unlike dyes, which are made easily using organic compounds, it won’t fade over time. Building companies and car manufacturers are clamoring for various shades of the new pigment, eyeing lower energy costs. White still reigns as the most efficient reflector of solar radiation but is hard to maintain. plus, says mas subramanian, a…