Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Mar-Apr-11

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.
lucy's species used tools

A team of researchers working in the Afar region of Ethiopia has found tool marks on two 3.39-million-year-old antelope bone fragments, upending the long-standing theory that tools originated 800,000 years later with Homo habilis, nicknamed Handyman. Australopithecus afarensis, the hominin species to which the famous fossil “Lucy” belonged, populated the region at the time the bones were butchered. A member of this group most likely scraped the bones with sharp-edged stones and smashed them with blunt rocks to get at the marrow, says lead researcher Zeresenay Alemseged, a paleoanthropologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. According to Alemseged, most researchers have accepted the marks on the bones as evidence of butchery. Skeptics of such early tool use, however, claim that the sharp teeth of prehistoric crocodiles could have created…

1 min.
radiation unleashes electricity

QHow do Geiger counters work? AGeiger counters measure the level of radiation emitted by radioactive materials. In the sensor, known as the Geiger-Müller tube, incoming radiation particles ionize noble gases such as argon, neon or helium, generating an electrical signal. The tube contains two electrodes: a negatively charged cathode running along the outer wall and a positively charged anode running through the center. A noble gas (used because of its low reactivity) fills the space between the two. When the Geiger counter is pointed toward a radioactive material, radiation such as alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays enters the tube and strikes the gaseous atoms, knocking electrons loose. The gas is thus ionized. The liberated electrons accelerate toward the anode in the center of the tube, knocking loose more electrons along…

4 min.
hollowing out the earth

Within the vast cave systems of the Gunung Mulu National Park on the Malaysian island of Borneo, mysteries await. Mineral structures such as stalagmites and crystal needles litter the landscape. Millions of bats and tropical birds called cave swiftlets nest in the caverns. More than 200 species of insects, amphibians and arachnids thrive in pitch-dark passages. Despite its plentiful natural wonders, research on the 2.5-million-year-old subterranean ecosystem has been limited by its remoteness and challenging environment. But a more-than-30-year commitment by a group of British cave explorers and the scientists who tag along on their journeys has provided researchers with enough data to slowly piece together a fuller biological and geological picture of the caves. Nearly 215 miles of passages have been discovered in Borneo's remarkable Mulu cave network so far,…

1 min.
getting there

Gunung Mulu National Park is a mountainous rainforest region that offers adventures both above and below ground. Caves are open for park visitors to explore, but only when they are accompanied by a licensed guide. MASwings, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airline Services, has daily flights from Miri into Gunung Mulu; $30 each way. Where to Stay The park headquarters doubles as a hotel, with rates from $58 to $13 per night. The park also operates several camps and huts for $10 and $3 per night, respectively. Three-day packages at the luxury Royal Mulu Resort start at $300 per person (mulupark.com).…

10 min.
from the ground up

It's hot and crowded in the elevator of One World Trade Center. As it slowly rises up the side of the building, now 26 stories tall, the rest of the construction site—the eventual home of five skyscrapers and a memorial plaza—comes into view through the steel cage. We are over Ground Zero on the southern tip of Manhattan in the summer of 2010. A handful of construction workers wearing hard hats, fluorescent-green vests and heavy boots make small talk over the noise from the countless machines. The elevator stops and the doors open. Three sweating workers back in carrying a couple of thick planks, and the elevator continues. We stop with a jolt on the 12th floor. The noise is even more intense, but we can hear the workers shouting through…

1 min.
getting there:

Want to see the new World Trade Center for yourself? You can head to New York City to catch a peek of the construction site. The New York metropolitan area is served by three major airports: LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International, both located in the borough of Queens, and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey. Train, bus and taxi service to Manhattan are available from all three. Once in Manhattan, you can take the subway—the A, C and E lines—directly to the World Trade Center. Where to Stay: There's no shortage of hotels in New York, but if Ground Zero is your main destination, the World Center Hotel and Millenium Hilton offer rooms overlooking the site. Keep in Mind: The ceremonial opening for the memorial plaza is scheduled for this September 11, but the…