Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Jan-13

Science Illustrated is an upbeat, visually spectacular gateway to cutting-edge science, which covers a tremendous range of subjects: from paleontology to space exploration, and medical breakthroughs to the latest environmental insights. Science Illustrated aims to report on the world of science in a way that's dynamic, engaging and accessible for all.

United States
Bonnier Corporation
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in this issue

1 min.
vessels at the bottom of the world

The Challenger Deep, located in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific near Guam, lies at a depth of 35,840 feet and could easily hold the 29,029-foot Mount Everest. The Deep was discovered in 1875, and people have been attempting to precisely measure its depth ever since. The first manned mission was made in 1960 by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh in the customized bathyscaph Trieste. After a descent lasting nearly five hours, they reached the bottom of the Deep, staying for 20 minutes. The next two vessels to reach the bottom of the world were unmanned, remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs): the Japanese submersible Kaiko, in 1995, and the U.S. vessel Nereus, which in 2009 collected samples of water and rocks from the bottom and brought…

1 min.
duration of year and day

Venus is the only planet in the solar system where a day lasts longer than a year: It takes 225 days to complete its orbit around the sun, but 243 days — 18 days longer — to rotate around its own axis. And unlike the other planets, Venus rotates clockwise, even though its orbit follows the same counterclockwise path that all of the solar system's planets make around the sun. The explanation for this most likely lies in the planet's very early history. When the solar system was young, it had many protoplanets, which often collided violently with each other. It's possible that Venus rotated more quickly and in a counterclockwise direction when it formed, but that the tremendous impact from a crash with another planet both slowed and reversed its…

1 min.
biological identification card

Hanging beneath the throat of a moose is a flap of skin covered with hair, which is called a bell. It has its own blood supply and is often equipped with a tail, which can be up to 12 inches long in young animals. Among older moose, the tail is much shorter or even nonexistent, while the rest of the bell is larger and shaggier. Since the appearance of the bell varies with gender and age, scientists think that moose identify each other by the shape of the bell. Among young moose, males and females are about the same size, so the bell can be used to estimate the animal's gender and maturity. The bell may also be used among moose for mating purposes. Researchers have observed male moose spraying urine on…

1 min.
an inevitable collision

The Milky Way is headed on a collision course with the larger Andromeda Galaxy — but they won't collide anytime soon. Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light-years away, is approaching us at a speed of 250,000 mph. Based in part on studies of our galactic neighbor using the Hubble space telescope, U.S. astronomers say that the spiral galaxies will crash together in about 4 billion years. After the big bang-up, the Milky Way and Andromeda will combine to form one gigantic galaxy. And although the billions of individual stars in the two galaxies will not collide, they will be completely rearranged, and the solar system will likely end up very far from the center of the newly formed galaxy. The gravitational pull between the Milky Way and Andromeda will cause them to…

1 min.
doomsday on the silver screen

We humans have been predicting our own demise as far back as the Roman Empire, when the Romans feared their city would fall into ruin in 634 BCE. Christopher Columbus determined that the apocalypse would occur in 1658, while the self-appointed prophet/poet Nostradamus predicted that it would take place in the seventh month of 1999. Even acclaimed scientist Isaac Newton put some thought into the matter, studying the Bible and concluding that our time would not run out until sometime after the year 2060. One of the most recent predictions about the end of Earth is due to culminate on Dec. 21, 2012, when the 13th B'ak'tun of the ancient Maya calendar concludes. Despite the theory's persistence, it's unlikely that the Maya believed that the world would end on that day. Scientists…

4 min.
our world will be replaced in 2012

During excavations in spring 2012 in the Maya city of La Corona in Guatemala, American archaeologists came across a battered stairway block that had been left behind by grave robbers. When scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans took a closer look at the barely perceptible inscriptions, they found a date: Dec. 21, 2012. Doomsday prophets had already marked this date — the end of the longest cycle of the Maya calendar — as the one on which life as we know it would come to an end. The discovery of the 1,300-year-old Guatemalan block seemed to bolster their claims, as it contains the second known reference to Dec. 21. (The first was identified in Mexico in 2004.) But even though the date of our supposed day of reckoning is based on…