Fossils and molecular genetics are just some of the tools researchers have used to answer questions about the history of the human species
Today, it’s a widely accepted fact that humans originated in Africa. But less than a century ago, anthropologists assumed that Eurasia was the birthplace of humanity. And scientists held onto that mistaken belief until one man took a stand that rewrote history.
The Arctic’s permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. But as global temperatures rise, the frozen ground is melting fast and releasing greenhouse gases. Are we trapped in a deadly cycle?
One hundred thirty miles north of Nome, a small coastal village on Sarichef Island is feeling the effects of climate change. Shishmaref, Alaska, is falling into the sea. Rising temperatures are melting the permafrost, the layer of frozen ground beneath the surface. Without this firm base, waves have eroded the land on which Shishmaref’s villagers make their home. They must relocate their houses inland or start all over somewhere else.
The next big thing in alternative energy: your body. Wasted energy from your movements may not be enough to power your house, but it will be charging your cellphone and more within the next decade
The human body contains enormous quantities of energy. In fact, the average adult has as much energy stored in fat as a one-ton battery. That energy fuels our everyday activities, but what if those actions could in turn run the electronic devices we rely on? Today, innovators around the world are banking on our potential to do just that.
Genetic disorders may have caused ruler’s unusual physique
The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton’s voluptuous body shape and elongated head and neck, recorded in ancient depictions of the male ruler, have long perplexed historians. But now Irwin Braverman, a professor of dermatology and an expert on visual diagnosis at the Yale University School of Medicine, is offering a theory on the characteristics, which are not found in representations of other pharaohs: Akhenaton may have suffered from two genetic disorders that affect body shape.
Dangerous fumes from an African lake could be the fuel of tomorrow
To live on the banks of Africa’s Lake Kivu is to risk your life every day. Large amounts of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide gas are dissolved in various layers of the lake’s deep waters. Scientists warn that a disturbance such as a volcanic eruption or earthquake could cause a redistribution of the lake’s waters and the gases in them. This shuffling, known as an overturn, could unleash an invisible, suffocating cloud of these compounds—a rare event known as a limnic eruption—killing as many as two million people nearby.
Pigs are offering new possibilities for studying Alzheimer’s disease
This Little Piggie: The piglets rest after their delivery.
Henning Bagger/ ScanPix
In the search for disease treatments, the next best thing to human guinea pigs is, well, actual pigs. Believe it or not, their skin and cardiovascular, digestive, urinary and central nervous systems are all very similar to ours.
Beneath Saudi Arabia’s blazing sun, the largest greenhouse ever planned is taking shape. It will take visitors on a walk through Earth’s history—and into its future
A Stroll through Botanic History: The crescent-shaped greenhouse at King Abdullah International Botanical Gardens, rendered here, will be the size of 15 football fields, making it four times as big as the world’s current largest greenhouse.
It’s hard to imagine it raining in Riyadh. Less than five inches of water fall from the clouds above Saudi Arabia’s capital city each year. When the thermostat rises above 110°F, it’s not a heat wave—it’s midday. But it wasn’t always like this. A little over three million years ago, before climate-change cycles turned the area into a desert, the Arabian Peninsula’s empty riverbeds were overflowing valleys, and its dry expanses of shrubland were lush grasslands.
Stunning pictures of some of North America's most impressive animal camouflage
Animals use camouflage to hide from and confuse predators and prey. For some such animals, their natural appearance mimics, matches, and fades into their surroundings. Others actively shift shape, texture or color to blend in. This amazing ability to hide in plain sight has evolved in parallel across thousands of species, and each animal’s cloaking technique is unique.
Forget UFOs. The first circular aircraft could soon hit the market right here on Earth. They won’t take you to space, but they might just be worth the long—very long—wait
Fly Away: The first commercial flying-saucer line, the M200 series from Moller International, could go on sale next year.
John B. Carnett
It’s designed to seat two, take off and land vertically, fly 10 feet above the ground, and reach 75 miles an hour. It’s about the size of a car, but it’s round instead of boxy. Yup, it’s a flying saucer. Next year, California-based Moller International hopes to introduce the M200G personal recreation craft, the first of what the company expects to be a full line of “volanters”—vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft. The design is 300 years in the making.
An unusual grip keeps these fish clinging on for dear life
Stick to It: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
Colorful balloon lumpfish grip equally festive party balloons at Tokyo’s new Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium, home to more than 20,000 sea creatures in its aquarium.
Known to the Japanese as fûsen-uo, the Eumicrotremus pacificus is native to the cold waters off the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.
As the Large Hadron Collider readies to be fired up in Geneva, Physicist Brian Cox explains what it might reveal about the workings of the Universe—and why the grandest scientific
instrument ever built is well worth the $6 billion investment
Today’s most ambitious scientific instruments are modern-day cathedrals in their size and complexity, if not in their purpose—these are, after all, structures built to shatter worldviews, not to reinforce them. And the grandest of all, pictured on these pages and fired into action today, will take us on a journey to one of the least-accessible places imaginable: the realm of quantum particles, less than a billionth the size of a single atom.
New satellite images may answer our questions about the Red Planet. Could humans one day live here?
These detailed views of the red planet were transmitted to Earth by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). After a 72-million-mile trek through space, the craft reached Mars in March 2006, delivering some of the most advanced technology ever sent to another world.
Between massive swarms and habitat invasions, jellyfish are changing ecosystems, stinging beachgoers, and causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Using high-tech underwater gadgets, scientists are racing to understand one of the most common, mysterious—and destructive—sea creatures
Bad Catch: Increasing numbers of fishermen’s nets are filling with jellyfish, which slime, poison, and crush the intended catch. Asahi Shimbun
For most of us, jellyfish are nothing more than a nuisance. They drift toward beach shores and into our consciousness each summer near the end of their life cycle, making a refreshing dip in the water a bit less carefree for a few weeks. But that may be changing.
Last November, a 10-mile-wide and 42-foot-thick swarm of baby mauve stingers (Pelagia noctiluca) decimated Northern Ireland’s farmed-salmon population. Overnight,120,000 fish were reduced to a floating mass of carcasses by billions of the small jellies native to warmer waters thousands of miles to the south. The salmon, which were killed by stings and oxygen deprivation, had a market value of $2 million.
It’s a tremendously deadly weapon, refined over the course of more than 100 million years. It kills tens of thousands of people every year.
And thanks to new research, it may soon be the basis for cures that save the lives of many more.
As predators, snakes are missing a few key attributes. They have no legs to chase down their prey, no paws to knock down quarry, and no claws to hold their victims. But none of these deficiencies matters much, because evolution has handed snakes the ultimate weapon: venom. With it, the several hundred types of venomous snakes can kill or debilitate before their victims escape.
An astonishing look at some of the universe's most violent events: supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, collisions between galaxies and more
Enormous supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts from distant galaxies, the violent birth of stars, and the incredible consequences of collisions between galaxies or black holes: These are some of the most extreme and mysterious events in the universe, yet our largest telescopes and satellites glimpse only their dim afterglow.
Thats why astronomers use the worlds largest supercomputers to transform theories and formulas into animated 3-D simulations of explosions, collapses and collisions.