Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Mar-Apr-10

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
Read More

in this issue

1 min.
how snakes slither

BIOLOGYScientists have long been aware that snakes push off laterally against objects like rocks and branches to help them move. Their movement over surfaces such as sand and paved roads with no helpful objects has been more of a mystery. Now research from New York University and Georgia Tech is explaining how friction generated by a snake's scales, combined with almost imperceptible shifts in its body weight, helps the reptile move forward on flat ground, and possibly on any terrain. Researchers anesthetized snakes and then measured the resistance created by sliding them in different orientations on a tilted board. When the board was covered with a piece of fabric, sideways movement resulted in twice as much friction compared with forward sliding (friction was calculated based on the angle of the board).…

1 min.
cooler heads prevailed

Two recent studies are adding weight to a decade-old theory that global cooling played a big part in the evolution of our large brains. Human brain activity generates a tremendous amount of heat, which the body must release to prevent overheating. Ten years ago, biologists David Schwartzman and George Middendorf of Howard University hypothesized that prehistoric brain size was constrained by a hot climate. Humans probably weren't able to develop big brains until the environment was cool enough. The researchers posited that a cooling trend over the past 50 million years allowed for increases in human brain size. Recent work by climate researcher Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany supports a theory of temperature-restricted development. According to his climate models, both temperature and carbon dioxide levels can…

1 min.
who discovered oxygen?

Oxygen was first discovered in around 1772 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, although Joseph Priestly, an English chemist, independently discovered it in 1774 and published his findings before Scheele. Soon after, the French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier identified oxygen's role in respiration and combustion. Who invented the cannon? The Chinese concocted the recipe for early gunpowder in the 9th century and used it in the first crude cannons. By the late 14th century, Europeans were using powerful modern cannons, initially called bombards, as weapons.…

4 min.
the connectome takes shape

1How do the brain's connections form? Developmental neurobiologist Jeff Lichtman tracks how the brain's wiring changes during development. 2What do the brain's circuits look like? Neurobiologist Winfried Denk maps the activity and structure of the brain's neuronal circuits. 3How are the different regions of the brain networked? Imaging scientist Van Wedeen tracks the connections between different areas of the brain. Ever since individual nerve cells were first imaged in the late 1800s, biologists have tried to understand how these cells give the brain its incredible abilities. We now know quite a bit about nerve cells, or neurons, and how they generate and transmit signals. We can also pinpoint the roles played by many regions of the brain. But the more we learn, the clearer it becomes that the brain is more than just the sum of…

7 min.
a ghostly mystery

At the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the French port of Toulon, at a depth of just over 1.5 miles, sits a most unusual telescope. It is impossible to see daylight there, let alone anything in the night sky. Yet this is the home of a powerful optical device. Called ANTARES (Astronomy with a Neutrino Telescope and Abyss environmental RESearch), it studies the cosmos by staring down, not up. Its detectors face the center of the planet and scan for traces of some incredibly small and mysterious particles called neutrinos. Studying the data from these elusive cosmic visitors could give astronomers a new perspective on some of the most violent events in the universe. Neutrinos are tiny juggernauts, barreling through walls, mountains, planets and stars as if…

3 min.
four ways to manipulate genes

Genes are the instructions to make proteins, which are responsible for almost all of the processes that keep organisms alive. In 1973, biochemists Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco first transferred genes for antibiotic resistance into E. coli bacteria. These early pioneers of genetic engineering may not have imagined how influential their work would become. These days, genetic engineering techniques are used, for example, to insert genes from other organisms into bacteria, which then churn out proteins that produce hepatitis-B vaccine and insulin for diabetics. Botanists genetically modify crops to boost hardiness and nutritional value. Yet geneticists do more than bestow organisms with new characteristics. They also manipulate DNA to study the role of individual genes. Scientists add, delete, or modify…