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NE W From the makers of

Sixth edition

Digital Edition

Revealing the truth behind life’s biggest mysteries The International Space Station weighs 420,000 kilograms

A male lion’s mane determines its strength

It’s possible to 3D print a car

There are 206 bones in the human body

Contents Science

10  There are 206 bones in the human body 14 Caffeine is an alkaloid 16  Identical twins do not have identical fingerprints 16  Cold feet are caused by reduced blood circulation 17  The more oxygen there is the hotter a Bunsen burner can burn 18  Your body is made of stardust 20  Some people are immune to mosquito bites 20  Eating spicy food kills off nerve endings 21  Smoke occurs when there isn’t enough oxygen for all components to burn


22  A lack of friction enables ice skaters to perform 24  Altitude sickness is caused by a lack of atmospheric pressure 25  It’s harder to heal at night 26  Dehydration causes hangovers 28  It is entirely possible for a singer to shatter glass 28  Mint makes water taste colder because of menthol 29  The secret to popping candy is in the recipe

Transport 30 It’s possible to 3D print a car

40 The Solar Impulse 2 can fly without fuel

32 Motorcyclists can defy gravity on the Wall of Death

42 The Martin Jetpack can fly for 30 minutes

33 The shape-shifting boat has six shapes

44 The Air Wheel can travel up to 45km without being charged

34 Flying cars are almost a reality 36 The Porsche 919 Hybrid produces 500 horsepower 38 Electric cars can be charged by the sun 39 Jet skis work in accordance to Newton’s third law

45  In the future cars will have force fields 46  An Audi RS7 can set a faster lap time without a driver 48  Smart helmets can predict accidents 49  Emergency vehicle lights don’t flash

Technology 52  Ashes can be turned into diamonds 53  Nanotechnology can make your smartphone water resistant 54  There is a camera that takes photos first and focuses later 56 Siri can be programmed to know who is in your family 56  QWERTY is more efficient to type with 57  Walkie-talkies have a 60km range

58  Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair was controlled with one button

64  The Wimbledon roof spans 5,200 square metres

60  You can listen to music through your skull

66  New fighter pilot helmets offer goggleless nightvision

62  You can check in on your pets while you’re at work

68 You can send data with light instead of radio

© Thinkstock; Rex Features; EHang

50  Adhesive gloves make it possible to climb walls



We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing which alcoholic drink we fancy. Different concentrations of ethanol are found in beers, wines and liquor, but packing more alcohol into a smaller volume isn’t the only factor that contributes to inducing a hangover. Some drinks also have higher levels of congeners – chemicals produced during fermentation – that have been shown to contribute to negative symptoms.

Party time

The liver metabolises alcohol arriving in the bloodstream by first converting it into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound related with feelings of nausea and vomiting. Acetaldehyde is eventually broken down, but the amount of time the compound remains in our system varies from person to person.


Dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume, reducing the flow of blood to the brain. The reduced oxygen supply can cause a headache; but this symptom may also be caused by cytokines, which can also inflict feelings of fatigue and nausea. Cytokines are usually at work within the immune system, but studies have shown that alcohol can trigger their release.


Dehydration causes bad hangovers

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Š Thinkstock

Ethanol is a diuretic, which means it causes us to pass more urine. The consumed alcohol acts on the brain’s pituitary gland, blocking the release of a chemical messenger called antidiuretic hormone. As its name describes, this hormone usually prevents us from feeling the urge to urinate so often, but we can become dehydrated in its absence.


The remaining 80 per cent of consumed ethanol is absorbed via the small intestine. Here, it enters the blood stream and travels to other organs in the body. But our intestines are also home to bacteria, which may metabolise some of the alcohol and convert it into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde.

Small intestine

As well as passing more water than normal when ethanol is present in our system, we also lose considerable amounts of important electrolytes such as potassium and sodium. These essential salts and minerals are lost in urine and in sweat, and their loss is linked with nausea, headaches and overall fatigue.


Around 20 per cent of consumed ethanol enters the bloodstream through the stomach, but the speed of this absorption can alter significantly depending on what we’re drinking and the last time we ate. Alcoholic drinks with much higher concentrations of ethanol will enter the bloodstream quicker, but a full stomach will slow down the absorption process.




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An Audi RS7 can go faster without a driver

It’s the age-old debate: is technology better than the talents of humans? In the automotive world, this argument is fast rearing to a head, with driverless cars now being fully tested on public roads around the world. However, while driverless cars are primarily aiming to be safer than those piloted by a human being, German manufacturer Audi wanted to find out if they are faster, too. The answer to this is the Audi RS7 driverless car prototype, a pumped-up sports car that’s been specially adapted with driverless technology. The RS7 driverless concept works in much the same way as a conventional driverless car currently being developed by other manufacturers, including Toyota and Google. As well as an advanced GPS system with pinpoint accuracy, cameras are placed around the vehicle that ‘read’ signs and the layout of the road or track ahead. These work in tandem with sensors and radars dotted around the vehicle, which constantly monitor the proximity of the car to the road and other objects. All this information is fed to a central computer, which processes the information and operates the car accordingly. Where the Audi RS7 triumphs over other driverless cars, though, is not only in the speediness of this entire process, but also in its intelligence. On a track, a ‘racing line’ is taken by drivers to get around the track in the quickest time. 46

Mapping programmes

Different mapping programmes are available, but at its limit it can travel at up to 240km/h (149mph) and position itself to within 1cm (0.4in) of the edge of the track

Front-mounted camera

This reads road signs and, on a track, the projection of the next corner for the ECU

This involves using the entire width of the track, braking at the last possible moment before a corner, and keeping the car perfectly balanced throughout. As a thrash around the Hockenheim circuit demonstrated, the driverless RS7 prototype was found to take a very precise racing line on the track, nearly identical to that of a seasoned racing driver. The technology isn’t without merit, either: a driverless RS7 actually beat a lap time around the Ascari circuit (by two whole seconds) set by a human being in an identical car.


Differential GPS

This improved GPS system is accurate to within 10cm (4in), far better than the 15m (50ft) accuracy of a conventional GPS system

Car controls

The ECU sends inputs to the car’s controls, such as steering or throttle input

Central ECU

This constantly processes all the data from cameras, sensors and GPS, and decides how to control the car as a result

Ultrasonic sensors

Infrared camera

An infrared camera is fitted to enable the car to be driven in darkness thanks to night vision

Dotted all around the car, these constantly monitor the proximity of the car to the edge of the track

© Rex Features

The evolution of the driverless car The driverless car industry is fast evolving within the automotive industry. Interestingly, it’s not car manufacturers themselves that are at the forefront of the technology either: that accolade goes to technology giant Google, which has developed a unique pod-like vehicle. Materials used on the Google car are also ground-breaking, with a bendy facia and plastic windscreen implemented to help cushion the blow to a human in the unlikely event of a collision. Other companies such as Toyota or Volvo have been busy adapting their own conventional passenger vehicles to accommodate driverless tech, but the roof-mounted radar and bigger computers have often proved unsightly and impractical. But there’s more: rumours are also gathering pace that Apple is developing its own autonomous vehicle, so watch this space…


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Plants can communicate

Just as we have many different methods for staying in touch with friends, plants have their own ways of communicating with each other. The main purpose for this is to help each other out, warning nearby plants of approaching dangers, such as insects, infections or drought, so that they can take appropriate action. One method they use to do this is to emit invisible volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Other plants can then detect these compounds and know to defend themselves, or signal for help. Another method happens below ground, and enlists the help of fungi. Beneath the mushrooms on the surface is a mass of thin threads called mycelium. These threads link the roots of different plants, allowing them to transfer compounds and communicate a specific message. The final way plants talk to each other is by secreting chemicals through their root systems, which diffuse through the soil and are picked up by other plants, alerting them to danger. This complex plant communication network has been named the ‘wood wide web’ by biologists, but like our own version of the internet, it has a dark side. Some plants use mycelium to steal carbon from each other, while others use it as a method of attack, delivering toxic chemicals along the fungal threads to inhibit the growth of their competition.

The internet of plants

How do plants warn each other of impending dangers?

Herbivore attacks Insects called aphids feed on the sap of many different plant species, which can destroy the plant in the process


Plant diseases such as blight cause plant tissue to die and can spread rapidly between organisms

Drought Plants can warn each other about invasions of destructive insects, such as aphids


A lack of moisture in the soil acts as a stressor for the plant, as it signifies that it may be in danger


Defence response

Upon receiving the signal, the plants emit defence VOCs that repel aphids and attract aphid-hunting wasps

Warning signal

Plants under attack emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, warning their neighbours of danger

Closed stoma

The chemicals warn the plant to close its stomata, small openings in its leaves, to prevent water escaping

The stressed plants secrete soluble chemicals from their roots, which are then absorbed by the roots of neighbouring plants

Fungi network

Plants also transmit warning signals via the thin thread of fungi that connect their roots in the soil

Pass it on

Plants can then relay the message to their own neighbours, helping to spread the warning far and wide

Š Thinkstock; Illustration by Logan Parsons

Chemical communication


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Two rovers are now patrolling Mars Sending probes to other worlds is no mean feat, yet since the 1960s we have launched more than 40 missions to Mars. While the majority of these missions were failures, that hasn’t stopped space agencies from trying. Thanks to technological advancements and years of trial and error, we’re getting better at it. There are currently six probes orbiting Mars and two rovers patrolling its surface, with more missions in the pipeline. But why do we keep going back to the Red Planet? It’s an inhospitable planet, with a tenuous atmosphere, maybe no magnetic field, and surface temperatures regularly well below freezing. Despite this, it does have similarities to our own planet: it has a near 24-hour day and is tilted on its axis so experiences seasons. The most interesting thing, though, is that water may still exist there. Images of Mars’ surface taken by orbiters show the remnants of seas, lakes and riverbeds, indicating that the Red Planet was once a habitable place. In 2015, the Curiosity rover discovered evidence that briny water does still flow just beneath the Martian surface, which potentially means that some form of life could still exist there. Future missions will continue to search for these signs of life and uncover more about Mars’ habitable past.


Past Phobos-Grunt 8 November 2011

Phoenix 4 August 2007

Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 3 January 1999 Mars Climate Orbiter 11 December 1998

Mars 96


16 November 1996

4 July 1998

Mars Global Surveyor Mars Observer 7 November 1996

25 September 1992

Viking 1 and 2 Phobos 1 and 2

20 August; 9 September 1975

7, 12 July 1988

Kosmos 419 and Mars 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 10, 19, 28 May 1971; 21, 25 July; 5, 9 August 1973

Mariner 8 and 9 9, 30 May 1971

Mariner 6 and 7 24 February; 27 March 1969

Mars 1969 A and B 27 March; 2 April 1969

Korabl 4 and 5 10, 14 October 1960

Mariner 3 and 4 Zond 2 30 November 1964

5, 28 November 1964

Korabl 11, Mars 1 and Korabl 13 24 October; 1, 4 November 1962


The past, present and future of Martian exploration present

2001 Mars Odyssey 7 April 2001

Mars Express 2 June 2003

Flybys Orbiters

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 12 August 2005


Mars Orbiter Mission


5 November 2013



7 July 2003

26 November 2011

MAVEN 18 November 2013

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Spirit 10 June 2003

14 March 2016

Mars 2020 2020

future Mars Pathfinder


4 December 1996




March 2018



Mangalyaan 2 2018-2020

Success Failure Dates are launch dates

Mars Orbiter 2022

Hope 2020




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HMS Dreadnought kick-started a new era of ship development As the figurehead of the Royal Navy, HMS Dreadnought kick-started a new era of ship development. Although it wasn’t the first ‘big-gun’ ship in production – that honour is bestowed on Imperial Japan, who unsuccessfully attempted to build the IJN Satsuma in 1904 – its design sent shock waves across the naval world. Built in direct response to German efforts to challenge British supremacy on the sea, HMS Dreadnought was the first truly modern warship, combining a revolutionary armament supply, an electronic rangefinding weapons system and advanced speed technology. Its iconic status is secured despite never sinking another battleship.

Modern optical rangefinders

It was the most accurate battleship of its time. It was fitted with an electrical rangefinder developed exclusively by Barr and Stroud

Constructed in 366 days

Dumaresq mechanical computer

Pounder guns

Its pounder guns acted as a form of defence against torpedo boats. Placed either at the top of the turrets or on the side of the ship, these 76mm guns had a range of 5.3 miles

Transmitting station A new Vickers Range Clock was used for continuously calculating the changing range between the target vessel and an enemy ship. Corrections could be made to update the clock at any time, so the ship was always one step ahead

Strategic man power

It housed its men forward, much closer to the bridge, in an effort to ensure that everybody on board was as close to their action stations as possible

Krupp cemented armour Krupp armour, which carbonised steel for greater hardness, was replaced at the turn of the 20th century by Krupp cemented armour and used to make Dreadnought. Its composition promoted greater elasticity, reducing the chances of cracking


Quicker than the rest Reduced waterline belt

It was the first ship to use an experimental steam turbine engine rather than the triple-expansion engine. It was the quickest ship ever, reaching a speed of 21 knots (39 kilometres per hour) despite its extra, weighty firepower


Attacking firepower

Dreadnought was the world’s most feared battleship because of its astonishing firepower. It was built to shine in combat situations thanks to its five 12-inch twin-gun turrets that had a range of up to 14.2 miles

Three central turrets for weight stabilization Torpedo control tower

Superior fire control

All 12-inch guns on board had identical ballistic characteristics, which simplified adjusting fire in battle. This was previously not possible because guns of a different calibre created different splashes and observers would not be able to guide effectively

23,000 shaft horse power

Fire doors

A major improvement on what came before, it removed longitudinal passageways between compartments below deck. Taking cues from submarines, its connecting doors were to be kept shut to prevent the spread of fire and flooding

Fuel supply

At full capacity, Dreadnought could steam for 6,620 nautical miles (12,260 kilometres) at ten knots (19 kilometres per hour). It carried 2,914 tons of coal and 1,140 tons of fuel oil that was sprayed on to increase its burn rate

INFO Crew members: 773 Length: 527ft (160.6m) Beam: 82ft (25m) Draught: 26ft (7.9m) Displacement: 18,420 tons Top Surface speed: 21 kts (39 km/h) Range: 6,620 nautical miles (12,260 km)



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