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National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Magazine November 2012

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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fast-forward and replay

I first saw the explosion of speed on the Serengeti Plain 24 years ago. With astonishing swiftness, the cheetah closed the gap between predator and prey, then lay beside the struggling Thomson’s gazelle with her jaws around his throat. I wanted a slow-motion replay to document that speed. Thirteen years later I tried for one on a grassy flat in Namibia. Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund had raised a cheetah she’d named Chewbaaka. To keep him fit, she’d trained him to chase a lure. Photo engineer Kenji Yamaguchi and I set up a dozen cameras programmed to fire eight frames a second in sequence. For more than a week Chewbaaka chased the lure. The results were disappointing. The cat did his job, but we didn’t have the technology to…

easter island

If the moai could talk, they would probably talk about one of the most important guys on any construction team after the foreman: the halfway-intelligent lazy guy. After all the dragging, walking, skidding, and all the broken statues lying by the wayside, this guy would figure out an easier way. He would have seen they were on a hillside, so why not cut them into round cylinders and roll them down the hillside. Then the problem goes from moving them to just stopping them. And the carving guys could have finished them in place. JOE RIP Bellingham, Washington Last year we were on a cruise ship that stopped at Easter Island but couldn’t land its passengers because the waves were too high. We could see many buses lined up at the harbor and…


Saudi Arabia Flooded with light as dusk signals the near end of daylong fasting, Mecca’s Great Mosque brims with Muslims performing the umrah pilgrimage during Ramadan. As with the sacred hajj, they circle around the cube-shaped Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. Spain Heat engulfs a horse— dampened to prevent burning—as it races through a bonfire during Las Luminarias de San Antón in San Bartolomé de Pinares. The ritual, held the night before a festival for blessing animals, is thought to purify horses. Romania On a rural stretch near Odobeşti, a teenager sets off at dawn to saw logs at the homes and farms of local residents. Wintertime brings demand in the area for woodcutters’ help in preparing fuel for heating and cooking.…

your shot

EDITORS’ CHOICE Cesar Aristeiguieta Santa Monica, California Watching captive wolves on a ranch in Kalispell, Montana, Aristeiguieta witnessed a young male (left) challenge the alpha male. “Despite tense and dangerous moments, the handlers were able to separate them,” reports the photographer, 51, who’s also a physician. READERS’ CHOICE Colleen Pinski Peyton, Colorado Pinski, 28, and her husband drove several hundred miles to Albuquerque just to get a better view of an annular solar eclipse. “We’re avid adventurists, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” she says. A supertelephoto lens helped secure a largerthan-life image.…

the cataracts

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on a turbulent 60-mile stretch of the Lualaba River, a timeless ritual plays out. The Wagenia people use vines to lower wooden baskets from scaffolding and snare fish in the rapids of Boyoma Falls. It’s the same method used by their ancestors, the same one described by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1877. I’ve always been driven to photograph people whose unique way of life hasn’t been well documented. I learned about the Wagenia in 2008, when I saw a billboard in Kinshasa. Two years later I went to “the Cataracts” to watch them fish for food to sell at market. When the river is shallow, they use wood from the local forest to build stable structures over the falls. They cram tree trunks…

tapping the sun

What’s the best way to collect solar energy? Space technologist John Mankins suggests a three-mile-wide space cup, made up of 240,000 movable, self-assembling, replaceable parts. The big benefit of small parts is longevity: If one goes down, it won’t take the whole system with it. Send up spare parts, and the energy collector can fix itself. “Every single piece is smart”—a little robot, says Mankins—“so it can say, This is what’s wrong with me.” NASA, intrigued, accepted Mankins’s design into its Innovative Advanced Concepts program. The space system bypasses deficiencies of earthbound solar collectors. The rays-converted-to-microwaves can pass through any weather; there’s no storage problem, because it provides energy on demand; and in space sunlight is in steady supply. Plus the collector’s delivery method can reach areas with little energy infrastructure.…