Science Illustrated

Science Illustrated Nov-Dec-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

2 min.
machine taps energy from waves

The key to a successful wave-power device, say engineers at the renewable-energy company Aquamarine Power, is a sturdy and simple design. That's the concept behind the Oyster, their device that's about a year into its trial run at the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The Oyster looks like a waffle iron. It consists of a base anchored to the seafloor and a moving upper section that swings back and forth with each wave. Connected to the upper section are two hydraulic pistons, which, as the upper section swings, pump water to land, where it runs through a conventional hydroelectric turbine to create electricity. The engineers believe that because the Oyster has fewer moving parts than more-complex wave-power machines, it can better withstand…

1 min.
frozen in time

Ganymede and Callisto, two of Jupiter's 63 moons, formed at the same time and are nearly identical in size and composition. Yet Ganymede has two distinct layers: a rock core and an icy surface shaped by tectonic activity. Callisto, meanwhile, is a heterogeneous mixture of the two materials and hasn't changed for billions of years. Astronomers have attributed the dichotomy to a difference in temperature on the two moons, but they could never figure out why Ganymede is hotter. In March, scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado calculated that the energy from ancient lunar impacts could have transferred heat to the moons in different quantities. Nearly four billion years ago, asteroids and comets bombarded our solar system. Jupiter's powerful gravitational field pulled in objects zooming by. Because Ganymede is closer…

2 min.
the sun is a huge ball of gas

QIf there's no air in space, how does the sun burn? A Despite how it looks, the sun technically does not “burn”—at least not in the way a campfire or candle does. Fire is a chemical process in which oxygen reacts with another substance, such as the carbon in wood. The sun, on the other hand, smolders as a result of atoms smashing into each other, a process known as nuclear fusion. Hydrogen atoms, the sun's dominant element, zip around the star's plasma core. When these atoms collide with enough force, they form a larger atom. When four hydrogen nuclei fuse together, they create a single helium nucleus and a neutrino to spare. Every time this nuclear reaction occurs, a tiny bit of matter is lost in the process. This matter—nearly 4.5…

1 min.
dinosaurs' distinguishing characteristics

QHow many species of dinosaurs were there? A Pinning down exactly how many types of dinosaurs existed would require discovering at least one fossilized skeleton for every species—an unlikely scenario, says paleontologist Peter Dodson of the University of Pennsylvania. Factor in mistakes made while classifying species (scientists recently concluded, for example, that a dino they had called torosaurus is actually the adult form of triceratops), and an exact number becomes even more elusive. But this hasn't stopped researchers from trying to quantify dinosaur diversity from those species they have found. Working on the assumption that researchers will eventually unearth all the dinosaur skeletons buried in rock that is accessible to them, Dodson and Steve Wang, a paleo-statistician at Swarthmore College, used previous rates of discovery and distribution of these finds, as well…

1 min.
…invented the crossword puzzle?

British-born journalist Arthur Wynne is credited as the inventor of the modern crossword puzzle, which debuted in the December 21, 1913, edition of the New York World newspaper. Wynne supposedly based the puzzle on a popular children's word game played in England during the 19th century. …Discovered Blood Types? In 1901, Austrian biologist Karl Landsteiner observed that when he mixed blood from two people, the red blood cells in the mixture often clumped. He then categorized blood into types—A, B, AB and O—based on the antigens each contains that cause the reaction. Landsteiner won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research in 1930. …Was the First Woman in Space? Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963, when she piloted the Vostok 6 spacecraft…

1 min.
…do monarch butterflies navigate?

Eastern North American monarchs travel thousands of miles to the same stand of oyamel fir trees in central Mexico every year. Their guide is what's known as a time-compensated sun compass, in which they use the sun to map the journey. Photoreceptors in monarchs' antennae chart the sun's location, and the butterflies adjust their flight path accordingly. …Do Sinkholes Form? When groundwater penetrates material such as limestone, carbonate rock or salt beds, it dissolves the minerals as it moves. This creates empty pockets in the rock that can't support the weight of the land above it and cave in. …Do Scientists Measure Distance in Space? Each object requires its own method. Calculating the distance between stars, for example, is different from calculating distance between galaxies. For objects in our own solar system, astronomers use…