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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine May 2017

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.

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National Geographic Society
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Order prints of select National Geographic photos online at NationalGeographicArt.com. Madagascar A cloud of hungry migratory locusts descends on a tree near Isalo National Park. Swarms like this one— the result of a robust rainy season, when the insect’s population swells dramatically— appear once or twice a decade. CL IMATE CHANGE: IN FOCUS ASSIGNMENT Melting glaciers. Rising seas. Mass extinction. These are the terms. We asked to see what climate change looks like. Arka Dutta Kolkata, India Dutta visited India’s Ganges River Delta last summer to see conditions that could possibly be attributed to climate change. Rising water is encroaching on islands and eroding homes, in some cases forcing people to relocate. This woman stands where her house once was. Kira Morris Wichita, Kansas One winter when Morris was working at the U.S.’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica, ice took much…

digitized menagerie

Capturing a three-dimensional image of an animal is tricky. “If it blinks or breathes or twitches its leg, you have to start over,” says Duncan Irschick. The University of Massachusetts biologist was lucky with a cane toad he encountered in the Philippines: It didn’t stray from its leaf while he took some 30 shots, from all angles, with a handheld camera—enough to stitch together the 3-D version of the image below. Now Irschick uses a technology called the Beastcam, a portable and adaptable multi-camera setup similar to what videogame designers use to create lifelike images of humans. The cameras, arrayed around the animal, capture images simultaneously—insurance against fidgets. “Not a lot of people have tried this in the animal world,” says colleague Christine Shepard, a photographer. Irschick and Shepard employ the Beastcam for…

sustaining our cities

Today’s cities are finding it hard to be both livable and economically strong. Not one has truly balanced people, profit, and the planet, according to a new report on an index that ranks cities by sustainability. The index, from global design firm Arcadis and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, ranks cities’ success based on social, environmental, and economic factors. Rapidly urbanizing places, such as Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, tend to prioritize fiscal growth over environmental or health matters—at least at first, says Arcadis’s global director of cities, John Batten. For example, only after it had built a robust economy did Dubai begin investing in mass transit projects that would cut pollution and improve pedestrian safety. Increasingly, city leaders are seeing the value of raising the quality of life.…

fashioning food waste

If today’s sustainability mantra is “from farm to fork,” tomorrow’s could be “from farm to fashion.” That’s because, for a growing cadre of eco-minded designers, food waste is the new black. Sacha Laurin’s medium of choice is the bacterial “colony” left after brewing the tart, fermented tea known as kombucha. Once dried, the material becomes a rather pungent faux leather, which the California designer sews into haute couture dresses (right), jackets, skirts, and more. In Sicily, a start-up is working with discarded citrus peels, seeds, and other juicing by-products to produce a silky yarn. And a London company is helping support Filipino pineapple farmers by turning the plants’ unused leaves into a textile that can be crafted into shoes, bags, and laptop computer cases. More than a billion tons of food is…

records of rebellion

Many forms of music were forbidden in the Soviet Union, especially in the first years of the Cold War. Western jazz and rock-and-roll were deemed the music of the enemy; Russian-émigré pop, the music of traitors. The Soviets banned “any music with a sort of swing to it,” says Stephen Coates, a British musician who founded the X-Ray Audio Project to chronicle one effort to evade state control. In 1946 two enterprising music lovers in Leningrad, Ruslan Bugaslovski and Boris Taigin, figured out a way to copy records. The original music was smuggled into the country, often by sailors. Because materials in the U.S.S.R. were scarce, the two men scavenged parts from tools, such as drills, and old gramophones to build a recording machine. For the records themselves, they turned to…

the softer side of robotics

Banish your preconceptions of robots as stiff, herky-jerky metal machines. An “octobot” less than three inches wide is changing the robotics landscape. The octobot is the world’s first completely soft, autonomous, and untethered robot. It is free of wires, batteries, and any hard material—like its namesake, the octopus, which has no internal skeleton. A Harvard University research team led by engineering professors Robert Wood and Jennifer Lewis tried more than 300 designs before they came up with one that worked. And now the octobot could revolutionize the use of robots. Traditional robots are “fantastic for what they do in terms of automation, but they’re not geared toward human interaction,” Wood says. Soft robots provide a safer solution: “If they run into something, it’d be like bumping into a basketball. It won’t hurt…