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BBC Science Focus MagazineBBC Science Focus Magazine

BBC Science Focus Magazine

August 2019

With accessible features illustrated with the world’s best photography, BBC Focus Magazine explains the theory behind scientific phenomena and really brings science to life. In every issue you’ll find news of the latest major scientific developments, a lively Q&A section plus exclusive and astonishing photographic reports that range from the breathtaking to the downright odd.

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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13 Issues

IN THIS ISSUE

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from the editor

In the 3.5 billion years that life has existed on this planet, it’s nearly been wiped out five times. On each occasion, the complex web that supports life on Earth has been stretched to breaking point, killing more than 75 per cent of the species present. Now it looks like it’s happening again. In the last few years, a number of reports have sounded the alarm for another extinction event. They point to the global weirding of our climate and an extinction rate that’s 1,000 times faster than we would expect naturally. It’s grim reading. But there is one difference this time. Us. We have the means to make a difference, not just to save our own skins, but the other species around us. The tricky part is knowing which part of…

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on the bbc this month...

Television The affable Jim Al-Khalili makes a long overdue return to BBC Four this month for his new six-part series Revolutions,which looks at the inventions that shaped our world. bit.ly/bbc_revolutions iPlayer The Horizonteam goes behind the scenes at the NHS as they build a proton beam therapy clinic – one of the most technologically advanced cancer treatments in the world. bit.ly/horizon_cancer_cure Radio What makes someone good at predicting the future? In a world of uncertainty, the CrowdScienceteam discovers the world of super-forecasters. bit.ly/crowd_forecast COVER: TIDY DESIGNS THIS PAGE: BBC X2, GETTY IMAGES…

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contributors

SALEYHA AHSAN On 9 August almost four million Muslims are set to journey to Mecca for the Hajj – the annual Islamic pilgrimage. Trust Me, I’m A Doctor presenter and Hajj veteran Saleyha gives us the lowdown on getting there safely. p24 BEN HOARE Liberace has nothing on nature’s most flamboyant animals. BBC Wildlife Magazine’s Ben unravels the science of showing off. p40 HAYLEY BENNETT This summer, researchers in Utah deliberately set fire to an area of woodland in an attempt to discover how wildfires spread. Science writer and editor Hayley tells us what they found. p64 MIĆO TATALOVIĆ With the discovery of Earth-like planets and missions gearing up to spot life on other planets, Mićo asks some of the world’s leading biologists what we might expect to find out there. p70…

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virtually there

Here, the audience at Roncalli Circus Theatre experiences the first holographic circus animals. Roncalli’s founder and director Bernhard Paul, and chief digital officer Markus Strobl, led a team of 15 people to create life-sized elephants, stampeding horses, and a huge, swimming goldfish. Bernhard wanted to include the technology in the circus after he watched a hologram of the late singer Prince during Justin Timberlake’s 2018 Superbowl performance. “I was so impressed by the holographic technique,” says Paul. “As a circus, the audience is our boss, and when you feel the audience does not approve of something then you have to change it.” The 360° holograms are made by projecting 11 different laser beams onto a nylon-based screen that is set up around the ring. The projectors are connected via a cloud computer that…

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berry smart

The world’s first raspberry-picking robot earns its keep at a West Sussex farm. The autonomous machine is a variable-stiffness robot arm that’s able to replicate the movements of a human arm. The tech was developed by Fieldwork Robotics, a team from the University of Plymouth headed by Dr Martin Stoelen. “Currently, manual harvesting represents a large portion of producers’ total costs,” says Stoelen. While human workers can pick around 15,000 raspberries in one eight-hour shift, Fieldwork’s robot can collect more than 25,000 in a day. Stoelen is certain that there will always be jobs for people associated with agriculture. “But it might be that in a decade’s time, instead of spending hours in the cab of a tractor, your role is managing robots such as those we are developing.” VISIT US FOR…

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letter of the month

Old wives’ tales You managed effectively to dismiss the old wives’ tale about cows lying down before rain (July, p82) but when I turned the page, I found you are perpetuating another old wives’ tale: that earwigs have ear-shaped wings. An old wife would never have seen an earwig’s wings, as common earwigs never, if ever, fly. To see the wing, you must dissect the insect. Earwigs do get into ears – as someone who has experienced an insect-infested ear, I feel I can talk with some authority on the subject! I suggest that the ‘wig’ part of the word was not derived from ‘wing’ but is the colloquial verb ‘to wig’. Kim Taylor,Guildford, via email The word ‘earwig’ comes from the Old English ēare wicga, which means ‘ear beetle’. There is no…

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