Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated May-Jun-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
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in this issue

1 min.
dragons have six venom glands

A There's recent proof that they are. This refutes the long-standing theory that bacteria in the lizards' saliva kill prey. Komodo dragons, native to a few Indonesian islands, are the world's largest living lizards. Although they do eat carrion, they are also notoriously aggressive predators that will take down and consume prey much larger than themselves, such as deer and cattle. The lizards also display cannibalistic behavior, which includes eating hatchlings that hide in trees for several months after their birth. In 2008, biologist Brian Fry of the University of Melbourne in Australia used an MRI scanner to image the head of a preserved Komodo dragon. The scans revealed six venom glands on each side of the lizard's lower jaw. Fry and his colleagues then removed the glands from a Komodo dragon…

1 min.
who first used the word “yahoo”?

Irish novelist Jonathan Swift coined the word in his 1726 satire Gulliver's Travels. Yahoos were a race of vicious and repulsive creatures on an island Gulliver visited. Who invented contact lenses? English astronomer John Herschel, more famous for having discovered the planet Uranus, first published the idea of placing a refractive lens on the cornea to correct vision in 1845. But it wasn't until 1888 that Adolf E. Fick, Eugene Kalt and August Mueller each independently created the first contact lenses, which were made of glass. Today's soft plastic lenses, developed by Czech chemist Otto Wichterle, were introduced in the 1970s. Who first described cells? English scientist Robert Hooke first used the word “cell” in his 1665 publication Micrographia to refer to structures in a drawing of cork as seen through a microscope.…

1 min.
ice presses the earth's surface down

A Although the planet's landmasses are concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere, Earth's mass is kept in balance by a phenomenon called isostasy. According to isostasy, a mass on the outermost layer of the Earth's crust, the lithosphere, is balanced by the movement of molten rocks 60 to 450 miles below the surface in the asthenosphere. The total weight of the lithosphere and asthenosphere over any cross-section of the Earth's crust is assumed to be equal. Thus the Northern Hemisphere, which has a greater landmass in the lithosphere, must have less mass in the asthenosphere, and the reverse must be true for the Southern Hemisphere. Because of constant tectonic changes, the Earth's mass never achieves a perfect balance, and some deep ocean trenches and high plateaus cannot be compensated for isostatically. During the…

1 min.
what's the origin of the word “malaria”?

The ancient Romans believed that vapors rising from swamps caused the disease and thus dubbed it mal aria for “bad air.” Today we know malaria is caused by the parasite plasmodium and transmitted by anopheles mosquitoes. What was the first movie? American photographer Eadweard Muybridge shot the first motion picture, of a galloping horse, in 1877. Muybridge used 12 cameras whose shutters were triggered by wires stretched across a racetrack. The film showed for the first time that a horse lifted all four hooves off the ground at once while galloping. What causes a wave to break? Gravity. In shallow water, the crests of waves gradually become steeper, and waves usually break when the water depth is 1.3 times their height. Wind increases the height of waves, and gravity brings them back to the…

2 min.
science fiction's intelligent nebula

A Water is considered essential, but one can imagine that under different conditions other liquids might also be able to support the chemical reactions necessary for life. NASA has a mantra for its search for extraterrestrial life: Follow the water. According to Carl Pilcher, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, there are two reasons that current strategies in the search for life elsewhere focus on water. First, it is the only liquid that we are sure can support life. Second, water is composed of the most abundant element in the universe—hydrogen—combined with the third most plentiful element, oxygen. As such, it is likely to be extremely abundant throughout the universe. “Because we expect to find water in many places, it's a reasonable starting point in our search for habitable environments…

1 min.
how do microwaves heat food?

Microwave ovens use high-frequency electromagnetic waves to vibrate water molecules in food, increasing its temperature. How does a gun silencer work? When a gun is fired, hot gases produced by exploding gun-powder come out under high pressure, resulting in a loud noise. To muffle the gunshot, a sound suppressor, as silencers are more accurately called, attaches to the gun barrel and traps the gases, allowing them to expand and slow down before they're released. How do dogs smell cancer? Some studies have shown that dogs are able to sniff out cancers of the lungs and breasts, among other types. Cancer cells produce distinct organic compounds, which may appear in breath, sweat and urine. Dogs seem to be able to detect and identify trace amounts of these compounds.…