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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine March 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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taking chances

Flip a coin. heads or tails? the odds are fifty-fifty either way. Make a bet and take your chances. a gamble is just that—a decision that has risk attached to it. someone wins. But someone loses. When it comes to fracking—the process of extracting otherwise unreachable oil and natural gas by driving fresh water mixed with other substances, some toxic, into layers of rock— the bets become less mathematically clear. In this month’s cover story, “the new oil Landscape,” writer Edwin dobb lays out the choices. on one side of the equation are abundant fossil fuels, less dependence on foreign sources, and the kind of economic prosperity that comes with jobs. on the other side is the possibility of con taminated groundwater, environmental degradation, and what dobb calls a loss of…

vikings and native americans

The disappearance of the Dorset people coincides with the late 14th-century decline of Viking settlement in Greenland. Deprived of the established Norse trade, might the Dorset simply have melted away and merged with surrounding local cultures? This would have left no trace or clue to their sudden disappearance. ALAN DEAN FOSTER Prescott, Arizona Heather Pringle writes of the research that Patricia Sutherland has undertaken in her digs on Baffin Island and elsewhere, but nowhere is credit given to the man who had the good sense to study samples of the odd pieces of string that he found when he was excavating abandoned Dorset sites. A Roman Catholic missionary who remains unnamed! What a terrible slight on his intelligence and sense. PETER MCDONOUGH Boston, Massachusetts The missionary’s name was Father Guy Mary-Rousselière. FEEDBACK Readers offered their theories on…

survival guide

The Sting We were working on the west coast of the sinai peninsula, where ancient Egyptians once processed copper (important for their finery). they smelted it in little pits, and we were trolling for evidence—ash, bits of copper slag— in foot-and-a-half-wide holes. Scorpions like holes. We had to put our arms in the holes to dig out the smelting residues. We always performed critter checks before an excavation, but one morning I put an arm in and felt a sharp pierce. When I brought my hand out, it was red and already swelling. here yellow-colored scorpions’ stings mean more or less instant death; about eight other local scorpion species’ stings are somewhat less lethal but excruciatingly painful. I’d just been stung, and there was no way to tell by what. I…


United States Startled fish scatter as Ironman athletes begin the triathlon’s first leg off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Competitors have up to 17 hours to finish the race: a 2.4-mile open-water swim, followed by 112 miles of bicycling and a 26.2-mile run. PHOTO: DONALD MIRALLE England Just four days old and 2.5 inches long, an abandoned hoglet—as baby hedgehogs are often called—snuggles up to a folded towel at a rescue center in royal tunbridge Wells, Kent. Warmth and cleanliness are vital to keeping the tiny animals healthy. PHOTO: PHIL YEOMANS, BOURNEMOUTH NEWS AND PICTURE SERVICE Israel at an ultra-orthodox Jewish wedding near tel aviv, viznitz Hasidim gather around the chief rabbi (center, in white) and the groom (center, left). Men and women stay on separate sides of the wedding hall during the…

visions 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 Harry Colquhoun Edmonton, Canada After taking macro photos of other edibles—nuts, berries, candy—Colquhoun, a software developer, was drawn to the colors of this moldy peach skin. “I’ll have a pretty good catalog of moldy stuff in a year or two,” he jokes. The photo is a composite of 30 highly focused images. READERS’ CHOICE Gerson de Oliveira São Leopoldo, Brazil With only a round-trip train ticket and his camera, de Oliveira traveled to a nearby festival marking the anniversary of Brazil’s 1835 Farroupilha Revolution. As part of the celebration, he says, “the rooster is a historical symbol and is considered a king.”…


SKYCAST Overhead this month in parts of the world March 14 Eta Virginids meteor shower Easier Being Green Some katydids might be mutants. Discovered in the 1770s, the oblong-winged species may have undergone a genetic change. although their ancestors apparently were green, a fraction have been found with bright colors, including yellow, orange, and hot pink. Geneticists aren’t sure what caused the muThation. entomologists have long thought the colors are symptoms of erythrism, an anomaly similar to albinism. ScienThists working with a related species at osaka preffecture University pointed to genetics over environmental factors as the cause. Last summer mating trials for the oblong-winged katydid (above) at New orleans’ audubon Insectarium followed up on an early 1900s study. the modern entomology team posited green as a recessive trait—good camouflage just makes them fittest for survival.…