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interesting MAY/JUNE 2016 ISSUE 29

VERY

the quest for knowledge

the magazine that surprises Refresh your mind

SMART HOMES Bricks : that h

ea Robot vacuum l? cleane rs? p.52

p.60

Will we ever be able to see through walls?

39

IDEAS

ABOUT TO CHANGE

OUR WORLD

PART 2 p.30

Plus:

• Is it possible to delete a sent email? • Why isn’t everyone afraid of heights? • Do insects sleep? • Can computers learn like humans? • How did life on Earth begin? • What are the 10 smartest dog breeds? • How does gravity affect brain function?

In association with

SCIENCE WORLD VOL 06 ISSUE 03 MAY/JUNE 2016

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HOW DO WE KEEP THE

LIGHTS N? Coal, wind, solar, nuclear p.18 Body Worlds: What’s under our skin? p.54

SADC countries: R39.47 (Excl. TAX)

know more | refresh your mind

a new life on

MARS? Is it possible to survive on the Red Planet? p.62


Focus

Ignorance torpedoed

he Russian navy phased out the use of the last of its now obsolete Foxtrot class T diesel-electric patrol submarines between

1995 and 2000. One example of these vessels survived as a museum, docked in the Vytegra River in front of the historic ship-building town of Vytegra, where Peter the Great started a shipbuilding yard in 1715. The B-440 Soviet Foxtrot (641) submarine is open to the public, giving visitors a chance to experience life aboard. Much of the equipment is still in working order. 29/2016

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The whole point of Very Interesting is to celebrate knowledge, learning and innovation – we even changed the name of the magazine to keep you on your toes – and many of the men and women featured in these pages have had significant ‘light-bulb moments’ that have already changed – or will change, maybe, one day – our lives for the better. One area where inventors need to keep furiously at it if South Africa and the rest of the planet is to remain plugged in, lit up and fully charged is in the sustainable generation of electricity (with nuclear power an ever more important consideration). This massive challenge has implications on every level. Governments enter into controversial partnerships in order to monetise their own capacity for creating supply or as part of swop deals for other precious resources. Big business requires electricity for manufacturing, to keep its servers running and to keep the lift to the CEO’s office in operation. And you, if you’ve opened this magazine at night, need a working reading light if you’re going to make it to the end of this column without straining your eyes. Go to page 18 to read about ways that power – the kind that can be put to good use, not the kind that corrupts – might be kept in our collective cables. It’s big-picture stuff we’d do well to get our heads around. Elsewhere, we get beneath the skin (predictable pun entirely intended) of the Body Worlds phenomenon, with Dr Angela Whalley, whose husband, Dr Gunther von Hagens, invented the technology behind the plastination process, helping to explain both the fascinating medical concepts behind the idea and the creative vision that drives the mounting of the exhibitions (one of which is currently on display in South Africa). You can also learn about what would be needed to survive alone on the surface of Mars (Ridley Scott’s The Martian did a reasonable job of ticking the correct boxes) on page 62 and see how ingenious ideas and high-tech tools help conservationists track the critters they’re aiming to assist (page 36). Keep on loving learning,

Bruce Dennill Editor 2

The accident at Fukushima destroyed Japan’s faith in nuclear power.

Five years on from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, nuclear energy remains controversial. But with fossil fuels dwindling, can we afford to ignore nuclear energy forever?

O

n 11 March 2011, the future became the past. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake striking about 70km off the Pacific coast of Japan sent a huge surge of water towards the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The control room tried to shut it down, but water damage caused the diesel generators to fail, preventing coolant systems from operating. Three of the reactors in the plant suffered core meltdowns, with a series of accompanying explosions and the release of large amounts of radioactive material into the environment. It was a decisive moment in the history of energy, turning a generation against nuclear power. Five years on and the effects of the disaster are still apparent: small amounts of radiation continue to leak in

18

to the Pacific Ocean and tonnes of waste and debris remain to be cleared. Rewind to 1946: The Atomic Age. Following the development of nuclear energy alongside nuclear weapons in WWII, newspapers, magazines and research papers were filled with bold predictions about a utopian future powered by the energy of the atom. David Lilienthal, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, was among the most enthusiastic. “Atomic energy is not simply a search for new energy, but more significantly a beginning of human history in which faith in knowledge can vitalise man’s whole life,” he said. Slowly, however, public perception of nuclear energy began to change. During the 1960s and 1970 s, it gradually slipped in popularity. The 1979 nuclear meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile

Island, combined with the growing environmental movement and the arms race of the Cold War, turned more and more people against the technology. The wave of public opposition crested in 1986 following the Chernobyl accident. Less than 30 years after its grand arrival, the nuclear dream was on life support. “The Chernobyl accident almost brought to a halt the deployment of nuclear power plants,” explains Nikolaus Muellner, head of the International Nuclear Risk Assessment Group, an independent body of nuclear safety experts. “The first generation of plants was constructed and built in the ‘50s and ‘60s, then the second generation was built in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then you have a gap.” During that gap, researchers came up with a ‘third generation’

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inte the

Refresh your mind

7 TEXT: DUNCAN GEERE

p.60

Will we ever be able to see through walls?

39 IDEAS

19

ABOUT TO CHANGE

OUR WORLD

PART 2 p.30

Nature

Plus:

• Is it possible to delete a sent email? • Why isn’t everyone afraid of heights? • Do insects sleep? • Can computers learn like humans? • How did life on Earth begin? • What are the 10 smartest dog breeds? • How does gravity affect brain function?

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

SCIENCE WORLD

he high-resolution GigaPan camera was initially T developed for NASA’s Curiosity

7 TEXT: MATT SWAINE

29/2016

SPORT

6 The thrill of the throne

Outhouse racing – taken so seriously that there’s a World Championship this year! TECHNOLOGY

8 Self-driving car pulled over for driving too slowly Google is fast; its car, less so ... PSYCHOLOGY

10 Do you enjoy being high?

Not everyone is scared of having a long way to fall BODY

12 How does gravity affect brain function?

VOL 06 ISSUE 03 MAY/JUNE 2016

29/2016

Price R45.00 | € 4.00 | £3.00

SADC countries: R39.47 (Excl. TAX)

Mars Rover, to send back breathtaking panaromas of the Red Planet. Now, it’s finding a second life in conservation. A team at Carnegie Mellon University used a GigaPan to monitor 100 albatross nests in the Bass Strait in Tasmania, snapping two panoramic pics a day over a six-month period. The images are so detailed that researchers can zoom in to view each nest, enabling them to identify individual birds and study their breeding patterns. The photos can also be viewed in sequence as a time-lapse movie. See panoramas with your own eyes at Gigapan.com.

From DNA trackers to drone spies, the tech that zoologists use today would put James Bond to shame …

36

In association with

Cosmic cameras

Your behaviour changes when you’re not under pressure 29/2016

p.18

VERY

Light-bulb moment

Technology

PHOTO: ALISTAIR HOBDAY

VERY

thisissue

VI@panorama.co.za @V_I_mag

37

p.36

INNOVATION

14 Magmanimous architecture

Is it possible to build a house to withstand a volcanic eruption? PSYCHOLOGY

16 Why do humans feel disgust? Be protected by revulsion TECHNOLOGY

28 Did horses play a role in the design of the Space Shuttle?

You’d think the answer was ‘neigh’, wouldn’t you? INNOVATION

30 39 ideas about to change our world, part 2 The wonders of augmented reality surgery, shape-shifting batteries and Viagra for women are explored


Technology

All by myself

YOUR FUTURE SMART HOME Bricks that heal, paint that never stains and air-conditioned beds, let us show you around the home of the tomorrow you could build today ...

Surviving on Mars would require more than just sufficient air, food and water p.62

7 TEXT: LUKE EDWARDS ILLUSTRATION: DANIEL BRIGHT

eresting

A ENERGY Renewable energy sources are what the future is all about. They help homes become self-reliant and go off-grid. That’s great if you’re expecting the zombie apocalypse, but renewable energy is also practical, saves money, helps the environment and increases the value of a property. Some energy suppliers even pay you to pump juice back into the grid. The Smartflower POP is one of the most attractive and efficient examples of solar panels yet. Smartflower POP will ‘bloom’ open in the morning and close up at night. So it’s space-efficient, too. Best of all, you can take it with you when you move!

MAY/JUNE 2016 ISSUE 29

quest for knowledge

p.46

SMA HOMERST Bricks : that h

ea Robot vacu l? cleane um rs? p.52

A PAINT Self-cleaning paint is one development aimed at keeping houses looking new. One company, StoLotusan, has developed a paint that won’t let water adhere to it. Slap it on your property, then when it rains, any dirt will be lifted from the surfaces of the walls and washed away. Plus, as the paint doesn’t get damp, micro-organisms such as algae, fungi and bacteria can’t survive, so it’s cleaner and more hygienic than most normal walls. The fact that 46

it’s available in 500 colours is just a bonus.

A WALLS Self-healing is no longer reserved for video game characters: buildings can do it too. Scientists have created a coating that contains microcapsules. When a coated concrete surface becomes damaged, the capsules break open and release a solution, which fills the crack and turns into a water-resistant solid when exposed to sunlight.

The mower 1986 Remember mixing together diesel and oil for twostroke? Or pushing a heavy, noisy and smelly mower about? 2016 Autonomous mowers can charge themselves and stay within boundaries to keep the plants safe. 2036 Genetically modified grass that grows to a uniform length could eliminate the need for mowing.

A SECURITY Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, has announced he’ll be spending this year creating his own version of Iron Man’s artificially intelligent butler, Jarvis. Zuckerberg wants the butler to detect faces when people ring the doorbell, to determine whether or not to open the door. So if you’re busy and a Facebook friend shows up it can determine whether or not to open the door. Here’s hoping there aren’t too many evil doppelgangers out there ... If you don’t fancy giving Facebook access to your home, then there’s August, a smartphone-controlled lock that lets you share virtual ‘keys’ to your friends’ and family’s phone numbers. A LAWNMOWER A lawn takes a lot of time and effort to maintain … unless you employ the services of a robot lawnmower! Thanks to laser markers, the Husqvarna Automower 305 can sense boundaries in your garden, it recharges itself and it’ll never bring muddy boots in the house. Better yet – you could preorder an EcoMow, a robomower that turns the grass it cuts into biofuel pellets, which it can use as fuel.

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Bod yW Vita orlds l

Interview

Body Worlds: a modern Frankenstein story, art in motion, or a visionary teaching tool?

p.54

47

Beyond

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skin deep The Body Worlds phenomenon – of which the new show Body Worlds Vital is the latest chapter – is a spin-off (a creative, lucrative one) of something originally developed for academic rather than entertainment purposes. Dr Angela Whalley, curator of the various exhibitions, is also the wife of Dr Gunther von Hagens, who invented the plastination process that allows cadavers to be transformed into lifelike exhibits.

HOW DO WE KEEP THE

LIGHTS N?

7 TEXT: BRUCE DENNILL PHOTOGRAPHY: CATHERINE KOTZE

Coal, wind, solar, nuclear p.18 Body Worlds: What’s under our skin? p.54

54

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MARS? Is it possible to survive on the Red Planet? p.62

Crowded houses

Stadia in the spotlight ahead of Euro 2016 football and the Rio Olympics p.42 NATURE

58 What are the top 10 smartest dog breeds? Find out how precocious your pooch is NATURE

61 Why are scientists fitting insects with 3D glasses? Bug’s Life, the sequel ... HEALTH

72 The secret of a longer life

Is one of humanity’s eternal goals finally within reach? SPORT

74 Usain Bolt

29/2016

a new life on

Get up to speed on the world’s fastest man

PLUS

All the questions you didn’t know you wanted the answer to including:

■ Could we genetically engineer animals to be photosynthetic? ■ Where do seedless grapes come from? ■ How did life on Earth begin? ■ Can computers learn like humans? ■ Why do we never see video footage from Mars? ■ Do insects sleep? ■ How hard is tooth enamel compared to other materials? ■ Is new hydrogen being created in the universe? ■ Why is water colourless? ■ Is it possible to delete a sent email? ■ Why do earplugs amplify internal noises? ■ Why is your reflection upside-down in a spoon? ■ How often do large meteorites hit the moon? ■ How long is the largest animal intestine? ■ Will we ever be able to see through walls? ■ Can finger tracing improve children’s maths performance? 29/2016

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interesting VERY

the quest for knowledge

Refresh your mind

PUBLISHER Urs Honegger EDITOR Bruce Dennill SENIOR SUB EDITOR Vanessa Koekemoer SUB EDITOR Nicolette Els RESEARCHER Mandy Schroder VERY INTERESTING ACKNOWLEDGES THE FOLLOWING SOURCES: medicaldaily.com, nhs.uk, scientificamerican.com, sciencedaily.com, techtimes.com, huffingtonpost.com, mayoclinic.org, weather.com, psychologytoday.com, psychcentral.com, forbes.com, interestingengineering.com, nature.com, telegraph.co.uk, fastcoexist.com, materia.nl, topendsports.com, bbc.com, digitaltrends.com, livescience.com, britannica.com OPERATIONS AND PRODUCTION MANAGER Paul Kotze STUDIO MANAGER Cronjé du Toit TRAFFIC AND PRODUCTION Juanita Pattenden ADVERTISING Tel: 011 468 2090, sales@panorama.co.za SALES MANAGER Gillian Johnston gill@panorama.co.za SUBSCRIPTIONS subscriptions@panorama.co.za Tel: 011 468 2090 Fax: 011 468 2091 FINANCE accounts@panorama.co.za DISTRIBUTION Republican News Agency ISSN 2223-1447 PRINTERS BusinessPrint

July - Dec 2015 18347 (total)

Braintainment is printed on partially recycled

paper

Very Interesting is published alternate monthly; six issues per annum. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this magazine in whole or in part is prohibited without prior written permission of Panorama Media Corp (Pty) Ltd. Copyright © 1997-2016 Panorama Media Corp (Pty) Ltd. The views expressed in Very Interesting are not necessarily those of Panorama Media Corp and the acceptance and publication of editorial and advertising matter in Very Interesting does not imply any endorsement or warranty in respect of goods or services therein described, whether by Very Interesting or the publishers. Very Interesting will not be held responsible for the safe return of unsolicited editorial contributions. The Editor reserves the right to edit material submitted and in appropriate cases to translate into another language. Very Interesting reserves the right to reject any advertising or editorial material, which may not suit the standard of the publication, without reason given. The publisher, editor and contributors of Very Interesting accept no responsibility for any action taken by any reader based on their consideration of articles or opinions published in the magazine.

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PUBLISHED BY Panorama Media Corp (Pty) Ltd. Private Bag X4, Kyalami, 1684, South Africa. 92 Campolino Road, Kyalami. Tel: 011 468 2090 Fax: 011 468 2091/2 www.panorama.co.za

These rules apply to all competitions and giveaways in Very Interesting: 1: Email entries are restricted to one per person or email address. 2: Staff members of Panorama Media Corp, the sponsors of the prize, their advertising agencies as well as any immediate family may not enter. 3: Prizes are not transferable, and may not be converted into cash. 4: The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into. 5: Panorama Media Corp staff cannot be held liable for any prizes that go missing, or are damaged in the post, or may cause harm to the recipients. 6: Please note that by entering our competitions you are opting into the Panorama Media Corp database. Should you receive any unwelcome communications, you will be given the opportunity to unsubscribe. 7: Panorama Media Corp makes every effort to contact prize winners on either the email address or mobile number used to enter the competition. Prizes that are not claimed within 90 days of the winner being published, will be forfeited. Prizes returned by the post office as unclaimed will be forfeited.

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Two singles, please

7Why are so many couples not sleeping together? Agatha Barnes, Centurion The Better Sleep Council, based in Virginia in the US, conducted a survey where 26% of the respondents stated that they sleep better alone. Conditions such as snoring, acid reflux and insomnia may lead to one partner being constantly disturbed through the night. Separate beds may mean peace of mind for all involved, leading to more sustainable affection – not less love, as some imagine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have even gone so far as to call

insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic”. Insufficient sleep can contribute to grumpiness, depression and weight gain. The Better Sleep Council published advice for getting a good night’s sleep: manage the environment – if your partner snores, reduce the noise with a pillow or ear plugs; if your partner tosses and turns, use a pillow as a buffer between you; or use separate blankets to ensure both partners stay warm when the ‘blanket hog’ rolls over.

Sick of the cold

7 Can you really be allergic to low temperatures? Graham Smith, Cape Town


Questions, suggestions or observations? Share them with us: A A

Editor, Very Interesting, Private Bag x4, Kyalami, 1684 A Twitter: @V_I_mag Email: VI@panorama.co.za

Please include your name and address. The editor reserves the right to shorten and edit letters.

Torque is a twisting force measured in kg/m.

@V_I_mag The brains trust Join our social media network today. 7 Zanell Janse Van Vuuren A change is as good as a holiday. Hope you go from strength to strength with your new name! 7 Linda Cibane Loved the stories about space in issue 28. So interesting to see where we’re going in the near future.

Making small torque

7If torque is how fast, in seconds, it takes an automobile to go from a steady 50km/h to a steady 120km/h, for example, measured in Newtons, then what is horsepower, which used to be feet and pounds? How do they relate? Does it have to do with the car’s weight? James and Sandy Turner, via email Torque is a twisting force, applied to rotate or turn something. It’s

Yes, you can. The condition is medically known as ‘cold urticaria’ and allergic reactions can be so severe as to require the administration of epinephrine. The Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms of cold urticaria in this way: “Skin that has been in contact with cold develops reddish, itchy welts (hives). The severity of cold urticaria symptoms varies widely. Some people have minor reactions to cold, while others have severe reactions. Swimming in cold water is the most common cause of a whole-body (systemic) reaction. This could lead to very low blood pressure, fainting, shock

measured by multiplying the amount of force applied (in pounds or kilograms) by the length of the lever used (in feet or metres). For instance, if you use a spanner that is 0.5m long and apply 25kg worth of force when trying to loosen a bolt, your torque will be 0.5 x 25 = 12.5kg/m. To figure out the relative horsepower, you need to use a formula that incorporates engine speed, measured in revolutions per minute (rpm): horsepower = (torque x rpm) ÷ 5,252. That will determine the

horsepower, which is, interestingly, a unit devised by James Watt, whose famous steam engine design helped drive the Industrial Revolution. In this example, then, 12.5kg/m x 3,500rpm ÷ 5,252 = 8.3hp (if the revs went up, so would that number). How heavy a car is does not determine how much horsepower an engine can produce, but obviously, the more a car weighs, the more horsepower is needed to get it moving and accelerating.

7 Dladla Mthombeni This mag gives me all the facts I need to know when I wanna have a good conversation with my friends. Thank you. 7 Henry Grey “Very Interesting” – good choice of title. Does what it says on the can. Like us on Facebook (Very Interesting), follow us on Twitter (@V_I_mag) and ask a question at VI@panorama.co.za.

and even death. Cold urticaria occurs most frequently in young adults. It generally clears up within a few years. If you think you have this condition, consult your doctor. Treatment for cold urticaria usually includes taking antihistamines and avoiding cold air and water.” For South Africans, it is unlikely that temperatures severe enough to trigger a dangerous allergic reaction will be experienced. For those in colder climates, managing the condition can be challenging and may require the carrying of EpiPens in order to administer emergency medication. 29/2016

5


Quickies The guys pulling the outhouses get a bum deal ...

7SPORT

A race where you don’t want to come in at number two ... O

uthouse racing is a recognised sport with its own World Championship. The 27th edition (yes, really) will be held on 1 and 2 October 2016 in Virginia City, Nevada. Outhouse races, held mostly across the western US, allow teams to compete using their own portable potties. Teams can range from three to five people who must push or pull their homemade outhouse down the street, with one lucky contestant getting to complete the race sitting on the ‘throne’. Outhouses

must comprise four sides, a roof, a toilet seat and a roll of toilet paper. The historical background is interesting – the event, according to a Virginia City tourism

website, “marks a moment in history when the townspeople [of Virginia City] took their outhouses to the streets and marched to city hall to protest new ordinances that

outlawed outdoor toilets. Since then, the event has become an annual tradition to relive history and honour the golden age of outdoor plumbing!”

7BODY

7TECHNOLOGY

Bacterium carrying a cloned gene could help get rid of roundworm

Smart guns moving into the mainstream 

oping with parasites is an ongoing problem. In developing countries, it can lead to malnutrition and developmental problems, especially where anthelmintic medication may not always be freely available or affordable. New research published in the American Society for Microbiology has found a way of using a gene from one type of the insecticidal protein Bt (crystal protein), which is naturally produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This protein is used in organic insecticides and also kills some nematodes. The gene from Bt was spliced into a plasmid (a short circular piece of DNA that can replicate independently). The plasmid was then inserted into the bacteria

S President Barack Obama called for technology to make guns safer when he increased gun control. The US has seen a spate of horrendous shootings, but the right to bear arms is so ingrained in the American culture that some people are hesitant to give it up. Could smart guns be the answer? Smart guns first appeared in the 1990s when you needed the right fingerprint (detected by an RFID chip) to fire certain weapons. Current smart guns offer the ‘Identilock’, a biometric gun lock that requires a fingerprint match before exposing the trigger (this is meant to take just under a second), and the ‘Armatix’ smart gun, which needs to be activated by the owner’s wristwatch and PIN, making it virtually useless if stolen. Gun fans are concerned that this integrated safety and

C

6

Ahead of Shorts the curve Lactococcus lactis, which ferments milk to produce yogurt, cheese and buttermilk (interestingly, L. lactis was also the first genetically modified organism to be used to treat human disease). The bacterium carrying the cloned gene was able to inhibit roundworm. Milk and milk products are used around the world, which means that the potential

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A More than a billion people are affected by intestinal nematodes and roundworms worldwide. A Resistance to existing dewormers is increasing.

for this method of controlling roundworm is huge, affordable and easy to administer to large groups.

U

lock feature is an added area where something could go wrong and create a misfire, saying it could be dangerous in a situation where you have pulled out your weapon because you need it. Manufacturers are saying that the chances of this happening are highly unlikely. There is also concern about security where a gun is coupled to any other electronic device for access, as hacking and digital theft and fraud can be devastating.


Zombies: faces only their undead mothers could love.

The Sonkran Water Festival is all about getting drenched – even by elephants!

7CULTURE

Festival fever around the world D

ifferent perspectives mean finding a wide range of reasons to celebrate an even wider range of subject matter in different countries. The Symington Side Lacer La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain The world’s biggest food fight is held on the last Wednesday of August each year, attracting thousands of people who throw tomatoes at one another (more than one hundred tonnes of overripe tomatoes are thrown).

The city becomes entirely covered with tomato paste. This year, the event is set for 31 August. Songkran Water Festival, Thailand ‘Songkran’ is a Sanskrit word that means the “entry of the sun into any sign of the zodiac”. The Thai New Year festival falls on some of the hottest days in Thailand around their traditional New Year in April. People celebrate by throwing water on

one another in whatever way they can. Even elephants have been known to share in the water spraying!

mampoer. If something can be made from peaches, you’ll find it in Tonteldoos in March or April each year.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico For nine days during the first full week of October, over 750 colourful balloons float above Albuquerque each morning. This is said to be the world’s most photographed event with mass ascensions, colourful and unusually shaped balloons, and exquisite night viewing as balloons are illuminated against the night sky.

Hantam Vleisfees, Calvinia, Northern Cape Calvinia is a tiny 19th century Northern Cape town at the foot of the Hantam Mountains – sheep farming country – and home to the Hantam Vleisfees. As the name suggests, this festival celebrates meat – braaied, stewed, curried; you name it, you can get it, including a festival delicacy – sheep’s head. The festival, at the end of August, also features a music concert, street party, vintage car rally and the Miss Vleisfees competition.

Halloween Festival of the Dead, Salem, Massachusetts Costume balls, vampire masquerades, psychic fairs and ghost hunting make Salem one of the top destinations around come Halloween on 31 October. If death fascinates you, then exploring the rituals, history and spiritual associations and beliefs surrounding the topic might appeal. Tonteldoos Country Festival, Tonteldoos, Mpumalanga This used to be known as the Peach Festival. The village of Tonteldoos is about 20km northwest of Dullstroom and just a few hours from Johannesburg. If you love peaches, get there to buy peaches, chutneys, jams and much more; including a South African favourite – peach

Ficksburg Cherry Festival, Ficksburg, Free State One of the oldest festivals in South Africa – first held in 1968 – the Ficksburg Cherry Festival now attracts around 30,000 visitors. Ficksburg is the gateway to Lesotho, nestled between the Imperani Mountain and the Caledon River. The festival offers cherry and asparagus tastings, tours, picnics, music, horse riding, helicopter rides and the Miss Cherry Blossom and Miss Cherry Pip competitions. 29/2016

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Quickies

7TECHNOLOGY

Google self-driving car gets pulled over for going too slowly A

police officer in Mountain View, California, near Google’s headquarters, stopped one of the company’s prototype vehicles because it was holding up traffic by driving at 24mph (38.6km/h) in a

35mph (56km/h) zone. On their blog, Google posted “Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often.” As per California law, there was a person inside the car, but not driving. A ticket wasn’t issued

7PSYCHOLOGY

Watching eyes prevent littering

R

esearchers at Newcastle University in the UK experimented by printing two leaflets, one featuring a prominent image of eyes and the same leaflet with the eyes obscured. They discovered that without discussing littering, the leaflets featuring the printed eyes were thrown away less frequently. During the tests, only 5% of people dropped the pamphlets that had eyes printed on them, whereas 16% of people dropped the pamphlets that did not have eyes printed on them. The study is based on the theory of ‘nudge psychology’, which suggests that people need a nudge to behave better by having the better or healthier option highlighted for them, while still leaving other options open. Littering is a massive problem around the world, resulting in problems for wildlife and natural ecosystems; in South Africa, there is an unhealthy attitude linking littering to job creation. 8

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because the law hadn’t actually been broken, although the officer did apparently discuss the hindering of traffic flow with the person in the Google car (who gets the ticket when a driverless car gets pulled over?).

Google Autonomous Vehicles are currently capped at 25mph (40km/h) and according to California law, it is legal for them to drive on roads with speed limits of 35mph (56km/h) or slower.


Shorts Google says, “After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that’s the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we’re proud to say we’ve never been ticketed!” (Only just, in this case.) A Self-driven cars are regularly hit by vehicles driven by people, including being rear-ended when the self-driving car has legally stopped at a red light. A According to Google, of the 14 accidents involving self-driving cars, 11 have been rear-enders where the Google vehicles were hit by human-operated cars. A

Shorts

7HEALTH

Teenager creates test that diagnoses Alzheimer’s

K

rtin Nithiyanandam of Epsom, Surrey (15 years old) has made history by creating a test to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s at least 10 years before people experience any symptoms. The test involves using a ‘Trojan horse’ antibody attached to fluorescent particles (to make it visible in the brain), which is able to bypass the body’s barriers and enter the brain. The antibody then attaches itself to the neurotoxic proteins that are present when Alzheimer’s begins to develop. His test is not only useful in being able to diagnose the disease,

but it may also be able to stop its development. This has huge implications for Alzheimer’s sufferers around the world. Krtin entered his test in the Google Science Fair and has been notified that he is a finalist in the competition. In his own words, “I chose Alzheimer’s disease because I am fascinated by neuroscience and the workings of the brain. Alzheimer’s kills more people each year than breast and prostate cancer combined, and Alzheimer’s is also considered to be one of the greatest medical challenges of the 21st century.”

Shorts

7ENVIRONMENT

Building bricks from ashes

A

team of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed the Eco BLAC Brick, made of boiler ash, which will reduce the amount of rubbish going into India’s landfills. The project was started in the MIT Tata Center to repurpose boiler ash, reduce landfills and improve the quality of life for people in Muzaffarnagar, an industrial city north of Delhi. The eco-friendly brick is cheap to manufacture and doesn’t cause pollution, meaning it could be the perfect alternative to the traditional clay

The fluorescent test particles show up in a brain scan, alerting doctors to the presence of the neurotoxic proteins. A This happens before physical symptoms of Alzheimer’s become present. A Recent lab tests show that the particles limit toxic proteins, stopping them from developing further, which could potentially help stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks. A

construction brick. The Eco BLAC brick consists of 70% boiler ash, a waste product from paper mills, mixed with sodium hydroxide, lime, and a small amount of clay. It cures at ambient temperature, relying on ‘alkali-activation technology’ to give it strength rather than the 1,000-degree temperatures required to fire clay bricks. The brick was formulated to assist with the massive demand for housing in India’s slums as well as to combat pollution and unsustainable consumption of fuel and valuable topsoil.

India’s brick industry alone utilises over 100,000 kilns and produces two billion bricks, creating a ‘brown smog’ that spreads for thousands of kilometres. A The production of Indian bricks strips large areas of arable topsoil. A The industry also uses massive amounts of coal and diesel. A

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Q&A Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

Why isn’t everyone afraid of heights?

French climber Alain Robert, aka SpiderMan, climbing a 448m-high building in 2007.

Minnette Chambers, Howick

W

Q&A

hen we’re up high, the lack of nearby visual anchors makes our bodies sway automatically – this contributes to the dizzying sensation of vertigo. But most people aren’t afraid of heights, not in the sense of having ‘acrophobia’, which is when the mere thought of falling can bring on a panic attack. The rest of us are either height intolerant, height tolerant or height enjoying. Members of the last group have got used to, or even find pleasure in, the sensations brought on by heights, and many also get a thrill from the associated risks.

FLASH

Acrophobia is the fear of heights, but you can work up to that via batophobia, which is a fear of being close to tall buildings. A Catapedaphobia is the fear of jumping from high or low places, which can be avoided by developing climacophobia, which is a fear of stairs and climbing.

GETTY

A

10

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Most reef-building corals contain photosynthetic algae, which provide the corals with glucose.

Could we genetically engineer animals to be photosynthetic? Lizzie Barker, Kimberley

T

here isn’t a single gene for photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to produce glucose from the sun’s energy. Plants can photosynthesise because their cells contain chloroplasts, which were originally free-living bacteria that entered into a symbiotic relationship with single-celled organisms about 1.5 billion years ago. Chloroplasts have their own DNA and reproduce inside plant cells, but they also need the plant to provide the right environment. In 2010, Harvard researchers tried injecting photosynthetic bacteria into the eggs of zebrafish. They found that the bacteria were still alive two weeks after the fish hatched. But the bacteria didn’t grow or reproduce and they didn’t generate much sugar. Some animals in nature have partially harnessed photosynthesis. For example, reef-building corals and giant clams contain photosynthetic algae. But photosynthesis only creates sugar. Plants can make all the other biochemical molecules they need, but animals must absorb additional nutrients from food, so photosynthesis could never be a complete replacement for eating.

Could two people who aren’t twins have the same DNA? Thomas Harrington, Durban

A

s a species, humans actually show remarkably little genetic diversity. The DNA of two unrelated people only differs by about one in every 1,000 base pairs; orangutans differ by more than double this amount. Even so, there are three billion base pairs in the human genome, so that’s an average of three million genetic differences between any two strangers. Most of these differences are ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’ (SNPs), in which a single letter of the genetic code is changed. There are about 20 million known SNPs in the human genome. This means that the odds of someone having the same DNA by chance is like having a deck of 20 million cards, all different, and then drawing the same hand of three million cards twice! 29/2016

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Q&A Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

How does gravity affect brain function? Finbar Murphy, Zambia

O

Just don’t come crying to us when you find a rogue grapefruit clogging up some vital equipment.

Did life on Earth start at hydrothermal vents, or did it arrive on a comet?

Q&A

PHOTOS: NASA, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY, ISTOCK ILLUSTRATOR: SAM FALCONER

ur brains have obviously evolved to work in Earth’s gravity. Experiments on the International Space Station suggest that our brains have an internal model of how gravity works that we use to accurately predict where a ball will be when we move to catch it. In a weightless environment, the ball moves at a constant speed, instead of a constant acceleration, and so our reactions are slightly off. Gravity also affects the flow of blood through the brain; at accelerations beyond 5g, this begins to affect the brain’s electrical activity, producing patterns that resemble epileptic seizures.

FLASH

How did life on Earth begin? Greg Foggard, Harrismith

O

ne hypothesis is that the iron sulphide spewing from deep-sea volcanic vents precipitated into a solid mass with lots of tiny chambers where simple biological molecules could become concentrated and assemble, using energy from iron redox reactions. The ‘panspermia hypothesis’, on the other hand, suggests that living cells or spores may have 12

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arrived fully formed travelling on comets from outer space. Recent research by Prof John Sutherland at Cambridge University offers a possible compromise between the two: comet impacts may have delivered hydrogen cyanide, which reacted with the hydrogen sulphide already on Earth to form the earliest building block molecules. That then assembled to form RNA.

The standard gravity value of 9.80665m/s2 was adopted by the InternationalCommittee on Weights and Measures in 1901. A Gravitational theory allows astronomers to deduce weight of distant planets they have never visited. A


Where do seedless grapes come from? Myles Smith, Sandton

M

ost commercial fruit isn’t grown from seed. Even fruits that still have seeds, like apples and cherries, are grown from cuttings because this guarantees that the plant will be genetically identical to the parent plant from which they are cloned. Seedless grapes were originally a natural mutation that prevented the young seeds from maturing and developing a hard coat. And even seedless varieties do sometimes produce small numbers of seeds, which allows new varieties to be crossbred.

Does the temperature of the universe change with time? Simon Lennox, Parys here is a lot of variation in temperature throughout the universe. The coldest naturally occurring temperature was discovered inside the Boomerang Nebula and is only one degree above absolute zero. The hottest temperatures (not including the Big Bang itself) are likely to be generated in the interactions that create so-called gamma-ray bursts. But what about the average temperature of the universe? Astronomers often regard

T

the temperature of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) as the temperature of the universe. The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in the universe, imprinted on the sky when the universe was just 380,000 years old. It has a temperature of just 2.735 degrees above absolute zero. The Big Bang theory predicts that as the universe expands this temperature should drop. This is what astronomers have found by deducing the temperature of the CMB at various distances across the universe. 29/2016

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Q&A Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

Robots would definitely love Very Interesting.

Can computers learn like humans? Austin Toole, East London

T

o make computers learn, we use software that simulates neurons connected in networks like in a brain. These networks are trained with data until they can learn patterns or make predictions about what data might come next. Methods like these help computers understand speech or recognise car number

plates, so in this respect computers can learn a little bit like humans. But humans are still much better – we can learn complex concepts and a vast number of different ideas. As we still don’t fully understand how brains work, computers are unlikely to be as good at learning as humans for hundreds of years.

Could I build a house that would survive a volcanic eruption? PHOTOS: GETTY, DREAMSTIME ILLUSTRATION: SAM FALCONER

Mauray Wolff, North Riding

1. Lava flows

Hawaiian and Icelandic volcanoes produce slow-moving lava. Lava temperature is 700 to 1,200°C, so it melts or ignites most things. A house on stilts of titanium or tungsten might survive, if the stilts were strong enough to withstand the lava pushing against them. 14

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2. Airborne ash

Violent volcanoes, such as Vesuvius and Mount St Helens, tend to explode and throw up several cubic kilometres of ash and rock. A 30cm-thick ash layer can be heavy enough to cause roofs to collapse, so you’ll need a reinforced roof with a steep pitch to stop the ash building up too much.

3. Poisonous gas

After an eruption, pyroclastic flows can engulf a town in superheated steam and poisonous sulphur dioxide or asphyxiating carbon dioxide. To escape this, you’ll need an airtight home with an air supply – preferably underground. But ensure your access hatch doesn’t get blocked!


Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

Why do we never see video footage from Mars?

We can get brilliant images of Mars, but no video … yet.

Q&A

Q&A

FLASH

This year, NASA’s Voyager 2 probe is expected to enter interstellar space, from where it will relay data about the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma, which includes gas in ionic, atomic, and molecular form. A Human survival on Mars would require a very particular set of circumstances – see page 62 for our detailed feature All by myself. A

Richard O’Neill, Knysna

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ideo footage requires much higher data transmission rates than still images, and it can take several hours for NASA to receive just one highresolution colour image from Mars. Engineers are looking at switching from radio to infrared communication, because the much shorter wavelength offers far higher data rates. The next generation of Mars landers may then send back HD video imagery directly from the Red Planet.

Why do humans feel disgust?

“It’s the Kardashians! Turn it off, turn it off!”

Sam Ayling, Aukland Park

hen psychologists ask people around the world what they find most disgusting, the same things usually crop up. Mostly these are bodily fluids that have the potential to spread disease, such as vomit, mucus, excrement and blood. The implication, which makes a lot of intuitive sense, is that we’ve evolved the disgust reaction as a behavioural defence against contamination. What’s particularly intriguing is that this system seems to have been adopted by our moral instinct, which is newer in evolutionary terms. For example, many people say they’d refuse to wear a jumper owned by Hitler, as if they could somehow be contaminated by his evil. 16

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Why don’t living things rot? Alex Round, Acornhoek

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hey do, we just call it an infection. All living things are under continual attack from bacteria and fungi but they are mostly able to repel these invaders through a combination of the physical barrier of their skin and the cells of the immune system that attack anything that gets inside. If a micro-organism manages to gain a foothold somewhere, cells die and the body begins to decompose. It doesn’t look quite the same as a rotting corpse because the living cells of the body are constantly battling to repair the damage. Dead things don’t resist the invaders.

PHOTOS: NASA, KOBAL COLLECTION, ISTOCK

W


Do insects sleep? Caitlin Hall, Bethlehem

Y

es. They don’t have eyelids, so they don’t close their eyes like we do. Cockroaches, however, will fold down their antennae when they sleep, which has the similar purpose of protecting delicate sensory organs. When asleep, insects aren’t just resting – sleeping praying

mantises will droop downwards and sleeping bees are harder to startle than those that are having a rest. Laboratory experiments have shown that fruit flies that are forced to stay awake are slower at learning their way round simple mazes than fruit flies that are allowed sufficient sleep.

LASER

How does the ‘NIST-F2’ atomic fountain clock work? Bruce Clark, Christiana

PHOTOS: MATT COLE/FLPA ILLUSTRATION: SAM FALCONER

O

ne Mississippi, two Mississippi, three … though this way of counting seconds works pretty well for playing hide-and-seek, the atomic clock is vastly superior when it comes to accuracy. It could run for 300 million years and would not stray from perfect time by one second. Whereas counting using words relies on how fast you are speaking, the atomic clock gets its information from electrons jumping around in atoms. Such precision is needed for GPS systems and global telecommunication. Since 2014, The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s atomic clock ‘NIST-F2’ has set the standard time in the US. So how can atoms define a second? Atoms contain electrons, which change energy levels when hit with radiation at a certain frequency, causing them to emit light. The frequency at which electrons of caesium atoms will change state is 9,192,631,770Hz, and is known as the ‘natural resonance’ of the caesium atom.

In 1967, the second was defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two electron energy levels of the caesium-133 atom.

CAESIUM ATOMS Microwaves interact with the caesium atoms.

MICROWAVE CAVITY 3. DETECTOR Measures the light emitted by atoms.

2. PROBE LASER Excites the caesium atoms, causing them to absorb and re-emit light.

LASERS

The microwave frequencies are measured; the one that causes the caesium atoms to emit light is used to define a second.

LASER

1. Lasers cool caesium atoms and push them into a ball, which is sent upwards. When the ball of atoms reaches the top of the clock, it then falls back down like a fountain. 29/2016

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Technology

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The accident at Fukushima destroyed Japan’s faith in nuclear power.

Five years on from the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, nuclear energy remains controversial. But with fossil fuels dwindling, can we afford to ignore nuclear energy forever? 7 TEXT: DUNCAN GEERE

O

n 11 March 2011, the future became the past. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake striking about 70km off the Pacific coast of Japan sent a huge surge of water towards the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The control room tried to shut it down, but water damage caused the diesel generators to fail, preventing coolant systems from operating. Three of the reactors in the plant suffered core meltdowns, with a series of accompanying explosions and the release of large amounts of radioactive material into the environment. It was a decisive moment in the history of energy, turning a generation against nuclear power. Five years on and the effects of the disaster are still apparent: small amounts of radiation continue to leak in

to the Pacific Ocean and tonnes of waste and debris remain to be cleared. Rewind to 1946: The Atomic Age. Following the development of nuclear energy alongside nuclear weapons in WWII, newspapers, magazines and research papers were filled with bold predictions about a utopian future powered by the energy of the atom. David Lilienthal, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, was among the most enthusiastic. “Atomic energy is not simply a search for new energy, but more significantly a beginning of human history in which faith in knowledge can vitalise man’s whole life,” he said. Slowly, however, public perception of nuclear energy began to change. During the 1960s and 1970 s, it gradually slipped in popularity. The 1979 nuclear meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile

Island, combined with the growing environmental movement and the arms race of the Cold War, turned more and more people against the technology. The wave of public opposition crested in 1986 following the Chernobyl accident. Less than 30 years after its grand arrival, the nuclear dream was on life support. “The Chernobyl accident almost brought to a halt the deployment of nuclear power plants,” explains Nikolaus Muellner, head of the International Nuclear Risk Assessment Group, an independent body of nuclear safety experts. “The first generation of plants was constructed and built in the ‘50s and ‘60s, then the second generation was built in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Then you have a gap.” During that gap, researchers came up with a ‘third generation’ 29/2016

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Technology

SAFER THAN SOLAR? The remains of Chernobyl.

reactor design that was significantly safer – it could handle an accident like Chernobyl without releasing significant amounts of radioactive material into the environment. But in the face of widespread public opposition, it was impossible to build and test these plants. The nuclear industry was stuck in limbo – it couldn’t improve the safety of its plants 20

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without building new reactors, but public fears over safety meant that no new reactors could be built. Then the Fukushima disaster happened. Opposition to nuclear energy, which had faded somewhat over time, turned once more against the technology. Germany pledged to shutter all its reactors by 2022, while Italy held a referendum in which 94%

voted against a government plan to build new nuclear plants. In France, where nuclear was successfully sold to the public as a route to energy independence, the president François Hollande announced his intention to reduce the share of energy generated by nuclear. Meanwhile, here in the UK, no new nuclear power stations have been built since 1995,

and current plans for energy company EDF to build one at Hinkley Point in Somerset have been met with opposition. So where does that leave nuclear now? Over the last 20 years or so, most Western nations have merely maintained their existing reactors, making incremental safety upgrades to meet regulations. Countries that chose to retain their


Chernobyl cover-up nears completion

he New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure being constructed 180m west of Unit 4 of the damaged Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant will, T next year, be slid into place. It will cover the old ‘sarcophagus’ structure

hurriedly put in place by authorities in 1986 to contain the highly radioactive debris left behind after the initial explosion that wrecked the structure. The sarcophagus is rapidly deteriorating – not surprising, given that it houses an estimated 200 tonnes of radioactive corium, 30 tonnes of contaminated dust and 16 tonnes of uranium and plutonium. The giant new NSC has been designed to simply envelope its predecessor to first help confine the continuing radioactive fallout and then allow for deconstruction (a polite term for breaking down) of parts of the existing structure that are unstable. The NSC will also help contain the dust from any future collapses of any of the Unit 4 infrastructure. The huge edifice is 92,5m high, 245m wide and 150m long, with vertical walls to be added at either end once it is in place over the sarcophagus. It is being built by French consortium Novarka and should be completed by 2017, after several delays (initially, the target date was early 2008).

Protesters at Germany’s Gundremmingen nuclear power plant. The Three Mile Island accident was the worst in the history of US nuclear power.

nuclear plants extended their lifespans, in some cases well beyond their original design specifications. “The reactors were designed for a lifetime of 40 years, and then they got extended to 60 years,” says Muellner. “The [older] reactors are going to stay online for a long time, and they dominate the total risk of a nuclear accident.” Safety levels, while not necessarily dropping, were certainly not going up. “If you build new plants somewhere, that’s an event that will get attention,” says Muellner. “But lifespan extension is something which is not perceived.” Without building new plants, however, substantial leaps in technology were impossible, and the industry was forced to simply pray that there would never be another major nuclear accident. But when you look at the raw data, nuclear energy comes out ahead of other options. Futurist and energy researcher Brian Wang ran the numbers shortly after the Fukushima accident back in 2011. He found that when you compare

all power sources around the world in terms of energy output, coal and oil are by far the most dangerous, resulting in 100 and 36 deaths per terawatt-hour (TWh) respectively. This is mostly due to the significant air pollution they cause. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, results in just 0.04 deaths per TWh – lower even than renewables like wind and solar. This is because there are dangers involved with mining the materials needed for wind and solar, as well as risk associated with erecting wind turbines and solar panels in dangerous locations. Other studies show similar results. So is nuclear power safe? That’s a matter of definition, says Muellner: “There’s a set of rules, they differ around the world, so the word ‘safe’ means something different in different countries.” There are some conventions – almost all safety regulations are based on probability. A plant may, for example, need to be engineered to withstand an earthquake that occurs once every 100,000 years. 29/2016

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Technology 4

9

Finland

Sweden

28

2 1

15 UK

24

60

7

58

Lithuania

8

9 6

Germany

Belgium

8 5

6 Poland

Czech Rep

Switzerland

19

126

1

Netherlands

2 1

6 4

Slovenia

3 2

7

99

5 2

Romania

France

Canada

Belarus

Slovakia

Hungary

91

4

7 4

28

35

15

Russia

Ukraine

4

8

7 3

Israel Jordan Iran

2

Bangladesh

Pakistan

14

21

Saudi Arabia

UAE

India

5

58 43

24

China

2

87

16

Egypt

Mexico

1 36

30

10 1

2

1

4 2

N Korea

Armenia

Turkey USA

Kazakhstan

6 1

Bulgaria

Spain

230

S Korea

Japan*

10

Thailand

2

Vietnam

Malaysia

5

7 2

Indonesia

Brazil

4 Chile

10 2

8 3

993

South Africa

Argentina

THE WORLD’S NUCLEAR REACTORS AS OF JANUARY 2016

22

Combined operational, proposed and under construction

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PHOTO: MIT

Armenia: 2.3

Iran: 3.7

Netherlands: 3.9

Pakistan: 4.6

Argentina: 5.3

Slovenia: 6.1

Mexico: 9.3

Romania: 10.8

Slovakia: 14.4

Brazil: 14.5

Hungary: 14.8

South Africa: 14.8

Bulgaria: 15

Finland: 22.6

Switzerland: 26.5

Czech Republic: 28.6

Belgium: 32.1

India: 33.2

Spain: 54.9

UK: 57.9

Nuclear electricity generation in billion kilowatt hours in 2014 Sweden: 62.3

Ukraine: 83.1

Germany: 91.8

Canada: 98.6

World China: 123.8

S Korea: 149.2

* Following the Fukushima accident, Japan’s nuclear power stations were progressively closed Russia: 169.1

France: 418

USA: 798.6

Operational


NEW-LOOK NUCLEAR ▲ Reactors aboard floating nuclear power plants would be easy to cool, but there could be an added risk of sinking.

“But this doesn’t mean that an accident cannot happen,” says Muellner. “Weird accidents can happen – they have a small probability. But there is still a possibility that severe accidents, including releases, may happen in nuclear power plants.” Another problem with this approach is that the probabilities of severe weather events are changing because of climate change. “You can’t say for sure that the data you recorded in the last hundred years are going to be valid in the future,” Muellner explains. “Currently it’s not clear how to handle this. There is the requirement, from, for example, the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association, to take into account your safety analysis for climate change. But how to do that is currently still under discussion.” So, how much is nuclear energy contributing to climate

change? An operating nuclear reactor has near-zero carbon emissions, as its only outputs are heat and radioactive waste. Of course things change slightly when you factor in the construction and decommissioning of the plant, the mining, processing and transportation of its uranium fuel, and the storage of nuclear waste, but the technology still rates well in terms of emissions when compared to coal, oil and gas. “If you don’t replace the existing nuclear power stations that we have globally then it makes meeting the objective of having a low carbon power system much, much harder,” says Ben Caldecott, programme director of sustainable finance at the University of Oxford’s Smith School. There is much debate over the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change – in fact there’s a profound split in the environmental movement. A group of people who sometimes refer to themselves as ‘ecomodernists’ reject the environmentalist belief that nuclear power is bad. “Nuclear fission today represents the only present-day zero-carbon technology with the demonstrated ability to meet most, if not all, of the energy demands of a modern economy,” reads the Ecomodernist Manifesto, a document published by a group of researchers and activists in April 2015. “A new generation of nuclear technologies that are safer and cheaper will likely be necessary for nuclear energy to meet its full potential as a

critical climate mitigation technology.” While ecomodernists think that nuclear power could be a useful tool in slowing climate change, more traditional environmental organisations vehemently disagree. “Nuclear power already delivers less energy globally than renewable energy, and the share will continue to decrease in the coming years,” Greenpeace writes on its website. “Building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobylscale accident once every decade. Perhaps most significantly, it will squander the resources necessary to implement meaningful climate change solutions.” Those resources are significant. The centralised nature of nuclear power, compared to decentralised renewables, means that finding the cash to pay for new reactors is not easy. “The nuclear power industry is about really big engineering projects that take many years of planning, with designs that must be approved by regulators and take many years to get approval,” explains Caldecott. “It just can’t compete against decentralised renewable technologies that can be deployed quickly.” A number of new approaches to nuclear 29/2016

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Technology

BRIGHT FUTURE energy have been proposed that could solve some of those problems. Despite the scarcity of third-generation reactors around the world, a fourth generation is already on the drawing board. These are able to use far more of the available uranium, making them significantly more economical. Yet they still need major research and development before they can be built, which is a tall order in today’s nuclear-averse society. “I personally don’t think that we’re going to see a large-scale deployment of generation-four reactors any time in the future,” says Muellner. Another potential option is to build thorium-fuelled reactors.

“A combination of high upfront costs, stringent safety regulations, difficulties in getting financing, unpopularity with the public, risk of weapons proliferation and rapid development of competing renewables means that building new plants is almost impossible”

Thorium produces far less dangerous waste than conventional nuclear energy and is three times more abundant in the Earth’s crust than uranium, although it also has its downsides. It will require significant research and development investment before it could be rolled out, and processing the fuel involves extremely high radiation levels. In a 2012 report into the technology, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal wrote that thorium would “require too

China is keenly expanding its catalogue of nuclear power plants. 24

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?

great an investment and provide no clear payoff”. Yet there are still some researchers who believe thorium to be the way to go. Others have proposed that nuclear plants could be located several miles offshore on floating barges like those used in oil and gas drilling. This novel solution would solve three key problems for nuclear power: cooling the reactor; siting it away from residential areas; and resisting tidal waves like the one that submerged Fukushima. It could even be relocated in response to demand. Yet floating nuclear plants are not risk-free. They will be exposed to new problems such as boat collisions, terrorist attacks and sinking. There is an alternative concept of ‘small modular reactors’. These miniature, sealed units are similar to the ones used to power nuclear submarines. These reactors could be deployed and it would be easy to scale them up or down to suit cities of different sizes. These reactors don’t require such huge up-front costs, so are much easier to roll out, but aren’t significantly cheaper than the big reactors in terms of investment per installed kilowatt. “We may see some of these,” says Muellner, “but I’m not sure that they’re going to make a difference.”

So is nuclear energy likely to be a part of our future? It depends. In China and India, where public opinion plays less of a role in governmental decision-making, officials are aggressively expanding their nuclear output with new, safer, third-generation reactors. China has 29 operating nuclear plants and aims to more than double that figure by 2020, while India has a total of 21 reactors with more than 20 further units planned. “If it’s government policy to deploy nuclear power, then it’s going to be built,” says Muellner. But in the West, it’s not looking good for nuclear energy. A heady combination of high upfront costs, stringent safety regulations, difficulties in getting financing, unpopularity with the public, risk of weapons proliferation and rapid development of competing renewables means that building new plants is almost impossible. Nuclear power is getting squeezed out of the picture by alternative energy technologies that are cheaper, simpler and not so politically toxic. “Basically, everything is tilted in the favour of its [nuclear’s] competitors,” Caldecott says. “And that tilt will just get steeper and steeper.” 7

VI@panorama.co.za


Changjiang nuclear power plant, seen here under construction, became fully operational at the end of 2015.

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Focus

What’s mine is everyone’s

he Salina Turda salt mine in Cluj, Romania, is a brilliant example of the difference that innovation, T creativity and investment can make when dealing with ugly decommissioned industrial sites. The mine has existed for nearly a millennium (it was first mentioned in 1075) and produced table salt until 1932. Now, it is a cutting-edge design triumph and tourist attraction, offering everything from underground sports facilities to a Ferris wheel, an amphitheatre and perhaps its centrepiece – a beautiful underground lake on which you can row a hired boat. 26

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Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

Enamel

How hard is tooth enamel compared to other materials?

THE SPACE SHUTTLE WITH A HORSE’S BOTTOM?

1

The Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters were manufactured in Promontory, Utah. To get to the launch site in Florida, 3,862km away, each one had to make a seven-day train journey.

Ron Pirani, Massachusetts, Constantia

T

ooth enamel is mostly hydroxyapatite, which is a mineral form of calcium phosphate. The apatite group of minerals scores a five on the Mohs hardness scale; which makes enamel the hardest biological material. Tooth enamel is harder than steel, but a lot more brittle. So you can’t scratch your enamel on metal cutlery but you can chip it by trying to open a beer bottle with your teeth.

Q&A

2

FLASH

In order to fit through the railway tunnels along the route, the design of each booster segment was limited to a maximum diameter of just 3.66m.

The use of hydrogen in filling airships ended when the Hindenburg caught fire in 1937. A AntoineLaurent Lavoisier, a French chemist, gave hydrogen its name. He was a nobleman and public administrator before the French Revolution, during which he was executed. A

3

Is new hydrogen being created in the universe? Campbell Leckie, by email

T

here are very few hydrogen atoms being created afresh in the universe. But there are some. Occasionally, a type of radioactivity called ‘proton emission’ can produce a ‘new’ proton and this can form ‘new’ hydrogen by capturing an electron. Hawking radiation can also produce ‘new’ protons and hence ‘new’ 28

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hydrogen. Yet both of these processes are extremely rare and inefficient, so the amount of new hydrogen being created is insignificant compared to the amount created in the Big Bang. Since stars are destroying hydrogen in their interiors, the overall amount of hydrogen in the universe is decreasing over time.

The width of railway tunnels is determined by the gauge of the railway track. The US uses the standard track gauge of 1.44m.

4

Early trains were drawn by horses. The track gauge was chosen to allow two horses sideby-side to pull a cart. This standard was kept for steam railways, to allow the wagons to be reused.

PHOTOS: NASA, ISTOCK X2, DAVID BARTON, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Q&A


What is this? Jane Steward, Johannesburg

T

his cloud phenomenon was captured in Victoria, Australia. They occur when ice crystals form in supercooled water droplets. It is thought that they could be caused by aircraft – the low pressure behind the wings and propellers causes the air to rapidly cool.

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Innovation

From shape-shifting batteries to smart food labels, we bring you the incredible innovations that will shape our future

39

IDEAS

ABOUT TO

CHANGE

OUR WORLD

In our last issue, we considered the wonders of coffee power and space drones. Innovators continue to come up with fantastic new concepts that could change every aspect of what we do.

part 2

ILLUSTRATOR: ANDY POTTS / PHOTO: NEWSPRESS X2, ISTOCK

7 TEXT: SUPPLIED

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Augmented reality can be used to create a kind of sat-nav for neurosurgeons.

AUGMENTED REALITY SURGERY

Brain surgery can often be a step in the dark for surgeons, because the networked nature of the brain means the scalpel is never far from damaging vital areas. The solution could lie in augmented reality. Canadian company Synaptive Medical is working on the concept of augmented reality surgery, where images of the operation are overlaid with visuals that map out structures within the brain. While a surgeon is operating, a robot magnifies the region, displaying what it sees on a video screen. Combining this view with complex, colour-coded images from MRI scanners, the robot gives the surgeon a far YEARS AWAY more defined route into the area in which they intend to operate.

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CARBON CAPTURE FORESTS

A simple way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere is being pioneered by scientists at the University of Hohenheim, Germany. They’ve been carrying out trials of the jatropha plant, which absorbs and stores large amounts of CO2. Jatropha grows in arid environments, and the scientists YEARS AWAY now have permission to ‘carbon farm’ 10,000 hectares of a coastal region in Saudi Arabia.

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SLEEP IN A PETRI DISH

Up to 30% of us have trouble sleeping, but help may be at hand. A team at Washington State University has identified the smallest set of neurones in our brains responsible for sleeping, grown a tiny group of these cells in the lab and induced them to fall asleep YEARS AWAY and wake up. Their work could help to unravel the science of sleep disorders.

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SHAPE-SHIFTING BATTERIES

Experimental batteries are under test based on a very light foam made from tree cellulose, which could be shaped into almost any form. The foam is coated with thin layers of copper hexacyanoferrate and carbon nanotubes to form the battery’s electrodes. The YEARS AWAY approach could produce batteries that are flexible, malleable and have a high capacity.

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Innovation

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BREATHALYSER CARS

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed devices that can monitor alcohol levels by sniffing a driver’s breath or scanning the blood in their fingertips via the steering wheel, immobilising the car if levels are too high. YEARS AWAY Drivers using the system could be offered lower insurance premiums.

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PHOTOS: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY, CORBIS, THE GUARDIAN SYNDICATION, BBC

Swallowing seawater is part of surfing. But now the scientists behind a new initiative called Beach Bums want to swab the rectums of surfers, to see if this water contains the key to developing new antibiotics. They’re searching for antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs: by studying the samples from the surfers, they hope to learn more about these potentially dangerous organisms in the hope of producing new drugs to combat them. And this next generation of antibiotics could also come from a unlikely source. Drugs

From Dirt, a US citizen science project, is asking people to send in soil samples from their gardens. The DNA of microorganisms within the samples will then be sequenced to discover specific genes, and within them, proteins that could be used to create new antibiotics. Scientists hope to discover previously unknown biosynthetic systems that create antibiotic molecules, identify those molecules and use them to create new drugs. The project’s already underway, so a YEARS AWAY whole new class of antibiotics could be dug up tomorrow!

A NEW APPROACH TO DEMENTIA

Around 850,000 people in the UK live with dementia. Patients have trouble remembering recent events, despite recalling things that happened decades ago. Having this pointed out can be upsetting, so the Butterfly Household Model of Care takes a different approach: it lets patients act out their memories, even providing props and clothes that remind YEARS AWAY them of their younger selves. Over 100 care homes have already adopted the model.

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VIAGRA FOR WOMEN

Now approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, flibanserin looks set to become the first in a new class of drugs for improving female sexual desire. Though it’s been dubbed ‘the female Viagra’, flibanserin works rather differently: Viagra works by boosting blood supply to the penis, while flibanserin acts on serotonin receptors in the brain. Its makers say it increases sexual YEARS AWAY satisfaction, but critics question the drug’s safety and effectiveness.

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CROWD-SOURCED ANTIBIOTICS

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The next generation of antibiotics could be lurking behind the petunias in your garden.

What scientific or technological advance worries you the most? Although I’m sure that drones can do lots of exciting and useful things, I think it would be a huge shame to fill the sky with them. Even now, we really don’t appreciate the sky enough – it’s the last great expanse of free and open space in our society. Drones are a fairly insidious technology – their numbers will grow slowly until they’re everywhere. They’re also going to reflect the huge, ongoing battle between security and privacy. DR HELEN CZERSKI Experimental physicist and BBC presenter


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INTERNET FOR EVERYONE

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SMART FOOD LABELS

After Tesla and SpaceX, PayPal founder Elon Musk is turning his attention back to the internet: he’s awaiting permission to send almost 4,000 small satellites into low-Earth orbit that would beam back a high-speed wireless signal to everyone on the planet. And things are moving fast: Musk hopes to YEARS AWAY launch a series of test satellites in 2016, with a view to completing the project by 2020.

UK homes throw away 30 to 50% of what they buy from supermarkets, says a 2013 report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The report claimed they’re guided by ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates on food packaging, which are kept conservative because they are driven by shops’ desire to avoid legal action. An invention called ‘Bump Mark’ could change all that. Originally developed for blind people, it’s a label that starts out smooth to the touch but gets bumpier as food decays. And since it decays at the same rate as any protein-based food within, it’s far more accurate than printed dates. YEARS AWAY

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PERSONALITIES FOR ROBOTS

Google has obtained a patent on robot personalities, reminiscent of the ‘Genuine People Personalities’ of robots in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Owners could have a personality automatically chosen to match their needs, or select one based on a fictional character or even a loved one. Although the patent was announced suspiciously close to 1 April, it does exist (US Patent 8,996,429), and with our natural tendency to anthropomorphism it seems a likely development. YEARS AWAY

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VIRAL HISTORY BLOOD TEST

Every time you’re infected with a virus, your body dispatches antibodies to fight it, which remain in your bloodstream long after the virus has been defeated. Now, a device called VirScan is being trialled at Harvard Medical School. It can analyse a single drop of blood and detect antibodies for 1,000 virus strains, telling doctors of any virus you’ve ever had. It could YEARS AWAY transform diagnosis, as doctors currently have to test for specific viruses. 29/2016

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scienceza

SA scientists help to reveal new galaxies behind the Milky Way

An annotated artist’s impression showing radio waves travelling from the new galaxies, then passing through the Milky Way and arriving at the Parkes radio telescope on Earth (not to scale). Credit: ICRAR

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t is not only astronomers who are Iwondered fascinated by space – we have all at some point what lies beyond the

twinkling stars in the night sky. At long last we are starting to find answers – thanks to the dedication of two very determined ladies. Dr Anja Schröder of South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and Professor Renée Kraan-Korteweg, Chair of Astronomy at the University of Cape Town, are part of an international team of scientists who have discovered hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way. The team found 883 galaxies, “about half of which had never been seen before,” said Dr Schröder, who scrutinised all available multi-wavelength imaging data for possible counterparts.

Why is the discovery important?

The discovery may help to explain the Great Attractor region, which appears to be drawing the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards it. Our whole Milky Way is moving towards the Great Attractor at two million kilometres per hour. Professor Kraan-Korteweg said that the newly identified galaxies provide evidence that the Great Attractor is due to the existence of a major nearby supercluster – a large collection of galaxies and clusters of galaxies – that crosses the Milky Way diagonally. The research identified several new structures that could help to explain the movement of the Milky Way, including three galaxy concentrations (named NW1, NW2 and NW3) and two new clusters (named CW1 and CW2).

What led to the discovery?

“We’ve used a range of techniques, including telescopes at the SAAO, but only radio observations have really succeeded in allowing us to see through the thickest foreground layer of dust and stars in the inner Milky Way,” said Professor Kraan-Korteweg. She mentions that such systematic surveys with radio telescopes are in a sense precursors to the much deeper surveys for neutral gas planned with the Square Kilometre Array precursors, such as MeerKAT. Both Professor Kraan-Korteweg and Dr Schröder have been involved in this project since its inception in 1997. This included regular observing runs over many years with the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, data reduction, the actual search for signatures of the galaxies in the data, and presenting preliminary results at international conferences. They are also among the lead authors of ‘The Parkes HI Zone of Avoidance Survey’. The paper was published in the Astronomical Journal on Tuesday, 9 February 2016. 7

Biomarker promises breakthrough in TB diagnoses

T

uberculosis diagnostics has received a boost with the clinical trials of a TB biomarker that will enable doctors to predict whether a patient is at risk of developing the disease. A simple prognostic blood test based on the human immune response will be able to determine the likelihood of TB infection more than 12 months in advance. This is an important step in TB diagnostics, particularly in South Africa, which according to the World Health Organisation is rated third highest in the world for TB infection numbers and which has seen its TB infection numbers rocket by 400% in the last 15 years. Approximately 1%, or 450,000 people, develop active TB every year in the country. The ability to predict infection will enable health professionals to take preventive steps in the fight against the disease. The project has taken nearly a decade to reach the clinical trial stage and is a collaboration among the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research at Stellenbosch University; the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI); the University of Cape Town; the Aurum Institute; the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre. The clinical trial is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and will run until 2018. Should the clinical trials prove successful, South Africa will roll out a mass ‘screen and treat’ strategy.


Nature

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE From DNA trackers to drone spies, the tech that zoologists use today would put James Bond to shame … 7 TEXT: MATT SWAINE

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Cosmic cameras

PHOTO: ALISTAIR HOBDAY

he high-resolution GigaPan camera was initially T developed for NASA’s Curiosity

Mars Rover, to send back breathtaking panaromas of the Red Planet. Now, it’s finding a second life in conservation. A team at Carnegie Mellon University used a GigaPan to monitor 100 albatross nests in the Bass Strait in Tasmania, snapping two panoramic pics a day over a six-month period. The images are so detailed that researchers can zoom in to view each nest, enabling them to identify individual birds and study their breeding patterns. The photos can also be viewed in sequence as a time-lapse movie. See panoramas with your own eyes at Gigapan.com.

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Nature

Snot at sea

rones armed with an array of high-tech sensors and cameras are increasingly being D used to monitor wildlife. However, a team of

researchers from Ocean Alliance are finding out more than ever about whales by fitting their drones with a simple perspex dish. When whales breathe out through their blowhole, Ocean Alliance’s so-called SnotBot can fly through the cloud of mucus and expelled air to gather biological material on its dish. This is less invasive than the traditional technique of collecting a tissue biopsy with a dart. A ‘snot’ sample can provide genetic material, as well as data on microbiomes, pregnancy hormones and even traces of pollutants in the water.

The rhino is sedated before the RAPID device is mounted into its horn.

“An individual whale may only surface for a matter of minutes,” explains Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr. “We might see 30 whales in a day and we would [previously] have been happy if we’d just collected five or six samples. With the drone we can get on the whale much more quickly and that count could go up to 15 samples a day.” The drone also carries a camera, so the scientists can study the whales without spooking them. “We can see whales behaving in ways that we wouldn’t get otherwise,” Kerr says. “Only recently, we recorded a mother and calf together in an incredibly intimate moment. With a boat, the calf would immediately go underneath the mother and you wouldn’t see it at all.”

RAPID response

South Africa a rhino is killed every eight With poaching rates increasing by Imorenhours. than 9,000% since 2007, the species

are being driven towards extinction. Trying to monitor poachers across the vast areas of rhino habitat is a mammoth undertaking, but help may be on hand in the form of a combined tracker and security system designed by Chester University’s Paul O’Donoghue. Dubbed the Real-time Antipoaching Device (RAPID), the tracker combines GPS, a heart monitor and video camera mounted in a small hole bored in the rhino’s horn. If an animal is killed, the heart rate monitor triggers an alarm alerting rangers to the incident, while the GPS provides them with its exact location. A team of rangers can then be dispatched to the scene by helicopter, leaving poachers little time to harvest the horn.

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Simian sounds

hanks to their speed and general habit of T monkeying around, accurately

monitoring primate behaviour can be a tall order. The use of camera traps has made things significantly easier, but one team in the rainforest of Taï National Park in Côte d’Ivoire are taking a different tack: they are using acoustic sensors to record the primates’ calls. The researchers developed an algorithm that automatically identifies the calls of three monkey species. They were then able to estimate how many animals were in a given area. It is hoped that the system can be used to allow conservationists to monitor population changes in real time.


Tiny RFID tags fitted to tropical wasps have revealed intriguing insect behaviour.

Card-carrying wasps

he same RFID technology used in Oyster Cards is being employed by researchers T from Bristol University to study the social PHOTOS: GETTY, CORBIS, ZOLTAN TAKACS

PHOTOS: OCEAN ALLIANCE, PATRICK KENNEDY/UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL X2, FLPA, RAPID

“Bizarrely, these wasps don’t just work for their own colony, but also for numerous neighbouring colonies”

behaviour of tropical paper wasps. The insects were each fitted with a small RFID tag weighing just 18mg. A tag reader in each colony then monitored when they entered or left the nest. “Bizarrely, these wasps don’t just work for their own colony, but also for numerous neighbouring colonies,” says researcher Patrick Kennedy. “So we rig up a population of colonies with RFID-antennae and work out social networks showing their movements. My main experiment involves plucking out the queen from certain nests to see if the vagrant wasps take up the sudden opportunity to try and become queen.”

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Nature

Going underground

onventional methods of C tracking, such as GPS, rely on radio waves to transmit signals. This works well above the ground but as radio waves are absorbed by soil and moisture they cannot be used to monitor animals that live in burrows. A team from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit has created a magnetoinductive (MI) tracking system that takes advantage of low frequency magnetic fields’ ability to travel through dense materials such as soil. They positioned an array of transmitting magnetic coils above a badgers’ sett in Oxfordshire and fitted the animals with lightweight magnetic tracking collars. The system was able to pinpoint the badgers’ positions in three dimensions to a resolution of 30cm. Also, by monitoring the badgers’ movements over three months they were able to piece together an accurate 3D map of the sett’s structure.

Something in the water

he fantastically named ‘hellbender’ is a giant T salamander found in North America. Once abundant, it is now estimated that only 1,100 survive in the wild. With so few animals left, tracking them down can be particularly difficult. Now, a team from the Smithsonian Institute is using DNA-gathering techniques to keep tabs on them. The method, dubbed Environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring, is so sensitive that it can

Rare hellbender salamanders once stalked the waters of North America in great numbers – so where have they all gone? identify specific molecular markers belonging to the animals in as little as one cup of river water. The team hopes it will help them identify causes for the salamanders’ dramatic decline and then develop a conservation plan. With the hellbender facing a predicted 96% chance of extinction in the next 75 years, eDNA could be a vital tool to help save a creature that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.

Titanic migration

ith numbers falling a staggering 96% since 1970, turtledoves are the UK’s fastest declining migratory bird species. The race is on to identify the causes of this decline so that conservation W efforts can be put in place to potentially save the birds from extinction. Satellite tracking technology being trialled by the RSPB may provide the answer. While regular tags need to be recovered before the data they record can be downloaded, satellite tags allow researchers to follow the birds’ migrations Satellite trackers could in real time. reveal why turtledove In 2014, the RSPB fitted a tag weighing just numbers are declining. 4.7g to a turtledove they named Titan, allowing them to track the bird on its 5,600km migration route from Suffolk to Mali. “We know there are issues on their breeding grounds here in the UK but we suspect there are also problems on their migration route, as large numbers from Europe and West Africa are hunted in the Mediterranean,” explains the RSPB’s principal research manager Guy Anderson.

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PHOTOS: STEVEN DAVID JOHNSON GETTY, JOSEPH WOODGATE, TOM CHURCHYARD/RSPB IMAGES, ISTOCK

Sweet sat-nav

hen it comes to finding W their way around, bees are up there with the best of them. To

put the insects’ skills to the test, researchers at Queen Mary University devised a study based on the Travelling Salesman Problem, a mathematical puzzle concerned with finding the shortest possible route around a number of different destinations. They set up a series of feeding stations around a hive, then used a radar and transponder system to track the bees’ movements. “We set up two radar dishes: one that emits a signal and a second that collects it. A tiny transponder on the back of the bee bounces that signal back at a different frequency so that we can locate its position,” explains study lead Lars Chittka. Once the bees had snacked on all of the food sources, they gradually began to develop faster routes between them. After a few dozen trips, they found the optimal route without fail.

The radio and transponder setup is lighter than a traditional radio transmitter system.

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Visual

Crowded houses With the Euro 2016 football championship in June and the Rio Olympics kicking off in August, stadia – cathedrals of sport and pillars of passion – are back in the news.

7 TEXT: BRUCE DENNILL PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK

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Known as the Bird’s Nest for its distinctive design, the National Stadium in Beijing, China, is a legacy of the 2008 Olympic Games, and it will return to the international spotlight in 2022, when the country hosts the Winter Olympics. Ongoing development to ensure that the site continues to draw visitors includes a mall and hotel with rooms that overlook the field.

Outside of the US, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Louisiana may be most recognisable as one of the landmarks stricken citizens headed toward to find shelter in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For sports fans, though, it’s a wonderland, hosting everything from basketball and boxing to gymnastics and even motocross.

At an altitude of 3,637m above sea level, the Estadio Hernando Siles is one of the highest stadia for professional sport on Earth – something that visiting teams discover to their discomfort when they’re struggling to breathe after 15 minutes of their game against the locals. A number of football clubs use the structure as their home ground, including brilliantly named outfit The Strongest.

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Visual Though not nearly the biggest, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, home of the New York Yankees baseball team and the New York City FC football club, is the most expensive ever built. Part of that was due to controversial administrative practices during construction, but the building’s high-end amenities, including 365km of wired Ethernet cable, place it ahead of similar structures elsewhere.

Berlin’s Olympiastadion was originally built for the now infamous 1936 Olympics. Because of its association with Hitler and the Nazis, there was talk of tearing the structure down when Germany was unified. Ultimately, however, it was decided to renovate the stadium, which is now regarded as one of the world’s elite sporting and entertainment venues.

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The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens has been around since antiquity, having had a major overhaul in 329BC, during which it was rebuilt entirely of marble – making it the only stadium on the planet to be constructed of that material. It is still used regularly and is the site where the Olympic flame begins its journey to each new host city before every edition of the Games.

The site of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Maracana Stadium is all about big numbers. Its updated, allseated design holds ‘only’ 87,000 people, but in its manic heyday, it hosted 199,874 (the official figure – estimates suggest there could have been as many as 210,000) fans for a match between Brazil and Uruguay during the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Both Tina Turner (in 1988) and Paul McCartney (in 1990) played to crowds of 182,000 in the venue. 29/2016

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Technology

YOUR FUTURE SMART HOME Bricks that heal, paint that never stains and air-conditioned beds, let us show you around the home of the tomorrow you could build today ... 7 TEXT: LUKE EDWARDS ILLUSTRATION: DANIEL BRIGHT

A ENERGY Renewable energy sources are what the future is all about. They help homes become self-reliant and go off-grid. That’s great if you’re expecting the zombie apocalypse, but renewable energy is also practical, saves money, helps the environment and increases the value of a property. Some energy suppliers even pay you to pump juice back into the grid. The Smartflower POP is one of the most attractive and efficient examples of solar panels yet. Smartflower POP will ‘bloom’ open in the morning and close up at night. So it’s space-efficient, too. Best of all, you can take it with you when you move! A PAINT Self-cleaning paint is one development aimed at keeping houses looking new. One company, StoLotusan, has developed a paint that won’t let water adhere to it. Slap it on your property, then when it rains, any dirt will be lifted from the surfaces of the walls and washed away. Plus, as the paint doesn’t get damp, micro-organisms such as algae, fungi and bacteria can’t survive, so it’s cleaner and more hygienic than most normal walls. The fact that 46

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it’s available in 500 colours is just a bonus.

A WALLS Self-healing is no longer reserved for video game characters: buildings can do it too. Scientists have created a coating that contains microcapsules. When a coated concrete surface becomes damaged, the capsules break open and release a solution, which fills the crack and turns into a water-resistant solid when exposed to sunlight.

The mower 1986 Remember mixing together diesel and oil for twostroke? Or pushing a heavy, noisy and smelly mower about? 2016 Autonomous mowers can charge themselves and stay within boundaries to keep the plants safe. 2036 Genetically modified grass that grows to a uniform length could eliminate the need for mowing.

A SECURITY Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, has announced he’ll be spending this year creating his own version of Iron Man’s artificially intelligent butler, Jarvis. Zuckerberg wants the butler to detect faces when people ring the doorbell, to determine whether or not to open the door. So if you’re busy and a Facebook friend shows up it can determine whether or not to open the door. Here’s hoping there aren’t too many evil doppelgangers out there ... If you don’t fancy giving Facebook access to your home, then there’s August, a smartphone-controlled lock that lets you share virtual ‘keys’ to your friends’ and family’s phone numbers. A LAWNMOWER A lawn takes a lot of time and effort to maintain … unless you employ the services of a robot lawnmower! Thanks to laser markers, the Husqvarna Automower 305 can sense boundaries in your garden, it recharges itself and it’ll never bring muddy boots in the house. Better yet – you could preorder an EcoMow, a robomower that turns the grass it cuts into biofuel pellets, which it can use as fuel.


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Technology LG’s flexible screen can be rolled up and popped in a cupboard until needed.

LIVING ROOM

A TELEVISION LG has now introduced OLED screens that can be rolled up like a newspaper. Panasonic, on the other hand, has released a prototype of a television screen that’s transparent when not in use. Soon we could see improved integration into our living rooms, where our television screens double up as windows or walls. A LIGHTING Why just switch the lights on when you could create an immersive mood instead? Philips Hue is a wireless lighting system that lets you control light colour and intensity from a smartphone app, but Mipow’s Playbulb goes one better. As well as being a pretty nifty light bulb, it’s also a wireless speaker. When you’re putting the kids to bed, use it as a nightlight and get it to play their favourite lullaby. More of a party animal? Set it to pulse in technicolour. A minimalist’s dream. A CLEANING While Hoover may have once been synonymous with vacuum cleaners, Dyson is fast becoming the staple for the task. The company has come to the autonomous robot vacuum market late, because it wanted to get it perfect. The Dyson 360 Eye uses “complex mathematics, probability theory, geometry and trigonometry to map and navigate a room,” says the company. The 360 Eye will self-charge, too. The next step? One that will empty itself so human hands never need touch the smart robo-servant at all. A PRINTING 3D printing is still a fairly specialist hobby, but soon we’ll see an advanced printer in every home. Imagine raw materials being piped to your home, and a room-sized printer where nearly anything you can image can be printed. For now, fans of 3D printing can use sites like Thingiverse and Shapeways to create custom furnishings, but in the future, their repertoire could expand to include many more materials. A WI-FI Wi-Fi is everywhere, and so is Bluetooth. Wi-Fi once operated at frequencies of 2.5GHz, but now works at 5GHz for a slightly shorter range but higher bandwidth. Now it’s gone the other way with HaLow, a low-power, long-range Wi-Fi. This is a bit like Bluetooth and will allow devices such as sensors and wearables to talk to each other without guzzling power. The result should be easily installable smart home upgrades with less reliance on mains power connections. 48

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THE TV 1986 Cathode ray tube TVs dominated living rooms in the 1980s and often had a video recorder nestled underneath. Satellite services arrived on the scene a few years later. 2016 Large flatscreen LCD TVs are the norm today, often equipped with ‘smart TV’ features and linked up to a recording device, streaming box, or games console. 2036 Expect high-definition televisions of the future to be pretty much invisible until you turn them on, masquerading the rest of the time as a wall or window.

Dyson’s 360 Eye uses complex calculations to clean your house.


A COOKING Sous-vide is one of the best ways to cook food to perfection, but until now it’s been expensive and reserved for chefs. Mellow is a smart sous-vide device that will be able to store food in a refrigerated state, weigh it and cook it ready for when you want it. It even has a smart chef that’ll learn what foods you like to offer the perfect meal or make suggestions in the future. The next step? Something that will grow and harvest the food, too.

FOOD PREP 1986 All hail the microwave. While they were first introduced in 1967, it was in the 1980s that they became small and powerful enough to bear the load of cooking. 2016 Sous-vide is the new hassle-free cooker. Set the bagged food in the water-filled unit and it’ll do the rest. 2036 You’ll be able to 3D print and cook your food. Scientists are already showing off 3D printed hamburgers. By 2036 we may no longer grow food but will instead cultivate the right cells to print off our meals.

A COFFEE Even making hot drinks is more intelligently handled now. Smarter Coffee, as the name suggests, offers a clever way to make coffee via your smartphone and an app. Select what drink you want, how strong and for how many people; the machine will do the rest, and you’ll be notified when it’s ready to collect from the kitchen. If you want it for when you wake or arrive home, it can do that, too. More of a tea person? The iKettle heats water to particular temperatures to suit your chosen brew, while its Formula mode will boil water as soon as it hears your baby crying, then keeps it at the perfect temperature for bottles.

Even novices can cook to perfection with a smart sous-vide.

KITCHEN

A POWER Wireless is the future, but even juicing up a smartphone via a charging plate will be old news soon. Companies are already showing off long-range, over-the-air power solutions. Energous WattUp claims to power devices from 6m away. This will mean never charging a gadget again.

A FOOD MANAGEMENT Never run low on food again thanks to Smart Fridge Cam and Smarter Mat. The camera sticks to the inside of your fridge door with suction pads and lets you look inside when you’re out shopping. The Smarter Mat can be placed under items like milk in the fridge or rice in the cupboard, and will detect the weight to alert you when you’re running low. A GROWING Growing fresh herbs no longer requires a garden, green fingers or even effort – the Smart Herb Garden automates it all. Just load in plant capsules, fill the tank with water and plug it in, and the Smart Soil and system’s sensors will keep water, oxygen and nutrients at optimal levels for perfect growth. You just have to make sure it gets some light, which hopefully isn’t too much to ask. 29/2016

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Technology

Sleep better with the Eight tracker.

BEDROOM

A SLEEP A decent night’s kip is something everyone would like, but at the moment sleep tracking is all that most people can hope for. But a new wave of smart mattresses and covers can not only track sleep, but help improve it too. The Eight is a cover that slips over your mattress. It tracks 15 factors and then warms or cools the bed accordingly to optimise comfort. Thanks to dual zones, Eight is able to track you and your partner’s sleep individually, and improves as it learns. A STORAGE With space at a premium, storage becomes an art form. Understairs cupboards that slide out are currently a popular option. The future could be even more inventive. Imagine drawers that automatically vacuumseal your clothes to save on space, or antigravity shelves that move up and down as needed. A SURVEILLANCE Smart homes aren’t complete without some sort of camera that can be monitored from a smartphone app. So far we’ve got Nest Cam, 50

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SLEEP HABITS 1986 Good sleep was attained from drinking a nightcap and shutting the curtains. 2016 Smart lights can gently ease a person off to the land of nod, while tracking tells them how well they’ve slept. 2036 Smart mattresses, clever lighting and noise-cancelling devices will create a perfect snoozing environment.

Logi Cam and more. These let parents be alerted to noise or movement in a child’s bedroom, or allow residents to add security to their properties without an expensive system. Cameras are already able to recognise faces and can be set to allow or deny access. The future should go beyond facial recognition with doors able to recognise a combination of gait, smartphone and scents from a person. The result will be a far more trustworthy security system, without the need for keys or even handles.

A FURNITURE With rumours that the next iPhone will be port-free, and wireless charging as standard in lots of smartphones, it’s time for furniture to catch up. Ikea sells tables and lamps with built-in wireless chargers, while Starbucks offers a similar feature on its tables: drop your phone in the right spot and it’ll juice up. Ease of use and reduced clutter make this a winner, so expect plenty of smart designer furniture to start appearing this year, too.


BATHROOM

A MIRROR Other than your phone, the one place you look every morning is the bathroom mirror. Wouldn’t it be nice for that mirror to have all your morning alerts from social media, news and email? Samsung has shown off just this with its smart mirrors. They’re touch-sensitive, and will display everything you need in one hub while you’re brushing your teeth. They even contain cameras so you can virtually try on clothes. A SHOWER Water falling from a shower is so last century! The future is Nebia. This shower head atomises water to create a cloud of smaller water droplets, which is more immersive than a regular shower. It saves 70% on the amount of water needed and is 13 times more thermally efficient. A TOILET Toilets are not just for waste – they are wasteful too. Bill Gates is throwing megabucks at cracking the problem of finding a perfect toilet. The solution should be one that saves water,

THE LOO 1986 A basic porcelain toilet with a flush and perhaps a frilly toilet seat cover was all we could hope for. 2016 Now, in Japan at least, your toilet can sing to you, heat the seat, flush, open, close and even wash you automatically. 2036 Toilets will be able to harvest your waste for water and power. They’ll probably be comfier too, which can’t be difficult since we’re still stuck on plastic seats right now.

increases recycled drinking water supplies, creates energy from human waste and is cheap to maintain. Good luck, Bill.

A WINDOWS Windows that change their tint automatically aren’t new, but a team at the University of Texas has developed glass that’s able to block the heat-producing part of light. Thanks to a framework of electrically conductive nanocrystals embedded in a glassy material, near-infrared light can be blocked by adding an electronic charge. Up to 90% of near-infrared light and 80% of visible light can be blocked. This could mean huge energy savings in buildings of the near future. 7 VI@panorama.co.za

Smart mirrors let you stay up-to-date with the latest news while getting ready in the morning.

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Focus

A-head of the competition

eld in late January in India, the Kumbhal Garh festival celebrates traditional Rajasthan culture. Kumbhal Garh is an imposing fort, H built in the 15th century, which lords it over the surrounding area from its perch on a hill in the Rajsamand district. The festival pays tribute to King Maharana Kumbha, the ruler of the region at the time the fort was built and a significant supporter of Indian architecture, design and fine art. One of the regular features of the event is a turban-tying contest, open to all visitors. Given that a turban can be anything from 3.5 to 6m in length, this competition requires its winner to have a certain amount of skill and practice.

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Interview

Body Worlds: a modern Frankenstein story, art in motion, or a visionary teaching tool?

Beyond skin deep The Body Worlds phenomenon – of which the new show Body Worlds Vital is the latest chapter – is a spin-off (a creative, lucrative one) of something originally developed for academic rather than entertainment purposes. Dr Angela Whalley, curator of the various exhibitions, is also the wife of Dr Gunther von Hagens, who invented the plastination process that allows cadavers to be transformed into lifelike exhibits. 7 TEXT: BRUCE DENNILL PHOTOGRAPHY: CATHERINE KOTZE

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Interview What were the original plans for plastination? When he was working as a young scientist, Gunther came up with the idea. And when he had the first piece of plastinated tissue in his hand, he said, “This will change the study of anatomy forever,” – even though that piece was black and shrunken. He hadn’t perfected the science then: the refractive index of the polymers used at the time was too low, so everything looked black, and they dried too quickly and made the tissue contract. He’s still working to improve the process now, even though he’s ill with Parkinson’s disease. Originally, plastination was developed as a teaching tool in the 1970s. Public display was not even an idea at that time. The first time we thought about doing something like that was in the late 1980s, when we thought it might be useful to show people what various organs – healthy and diseased – looked like. There were no full-body exhibits then. We were based at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and the first exhibit was held in a town near there with a population of around 80,000 people – and 14,000 people came to see it. But at the university, ethical concerns about using full bodies were raised, so we lost momentum there. Then in 1995, the Tokyo National Science Museum invited us to exhibit there and we had incredible success. The show was attended by 450,000 people – there were huge queues to get into the venue! It was very interesting, too, that in a country like Japan, where people are usually quite reserved, people were incredibly enthusiastic and sometimes really emotional. We had one woman who started crying and then told us about her various attempts to commit suicide. She said the exhibition had finally helped her to accept the value of what was inside her, and so she was inspired to change her perspective going forward. 56

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In general, though, we present these exhibitions to allow lay people to understand what is under their skin in a way they might never otherwise be able to do. The process of mounting a Body Worlds exhibition begins with sourcing cadavers and ends in museums, galleries and other venues all over the world. At least part of that process will likely see observers reference Frankenstein and other macabre works of fiction. We initiated a donor programme in the early ‘80s,

long before the first exhibition. Because the tissue is preserved and there is no burial or other traditional means of closure, we knew that part of the process required special handling. If you want to become a donor, there is a 40-page brochure you need to go through that includes detailed information, pictures and questions about whether we can put the specimen on display after plastination. About 5% of people want their bodies used only for scientific purposes. When

someone who has done all that paperwork passes away, we are informed by the family. If the person is in Germany, we arrange for pick-up, but if the body is in another country, the family must handle the expenses. We took our programme out of the University of Heidelberg and started the Institute for Plastination. Now, in the town of Guben, which is about two hours from Berlin, we have huge 33,000m 2 facilities where the process takes place, and where visitors can watch us


Specimens posed as ice skaters reveal the mechanics behind the athleticism.

several exhibits touring at the same time, including one that features only animals. So we don’t have much in storage. Does the conceptual side of putting together a show begin with a grand theme or a specific design idea? The content is always going to overlap because of the nature of the specimens, but the themes do vary quite a lot, so we start there. We had one focused on ageing, one looking at happiness, and one focusing just on the heart, which is important, given that cardiovascular disease is such a killer. It’s possible to tell a number of different stories using a single body. What’s the vision behind the latest show, Body Worlds Vital? We all want to stay healthy and get old, but not necessarily feel old. We tend to take our bodies for granted though, and I wanted to show people the treasure they have inside and to influence them to look after themselves.

work. We call it the Plastinarium. The first step is fixing the body with formaldehyde. It is then dissected. Plastination only begins after that. It’s a vacuum process, allowing us to replace water in the body with a silicone polymer. There’s a middle step involving acetone, which evaporates easily out of the muscles, creating pressure that sucks the silicone in. That takes about six weeks for an average-sized human body, with additional time needed if extra polymers

must be used. Then we begin the posing, using auxiliary materials – string, needles, Styrofoam ... When we’re happy with that, we cure the polymer with a special gas and the tissue starts to assume holding properties, maintaining its shape without assistance.

what should be done with a specimen. A body with great musculature lends itself to a dynamic sports pose, such as the basketball player in Body Worlds Vital. We always try to make sure that the anatomy of the person and the pose of the specimen are in harmony.

Is that where the story behind the next exhibition begins? Gunther is responsible for the poses – that’s his passion. I take what is available and curate it, putting together a narrative. Sometimes it’s clear

The collection of specimens must be growing substantially as time passes. To write a story for each show, I need a range of specimens, both healthy and sick. And we always have

With the concept being so successful, future shows need to be fresh and exciting to keep people coming back. How difficult is it to come up with new ideas that add interest, not controversy? When we go back to a particular market, we always try to have different specimens. It’s important to listen to both visitors and potential visitors and to hear what they want to see and talk about – in medical terms and otherwise. The human body is so complex that we can always find things to explore in a new show. One thing I want to look at now is how our bodies are becoming more and more useless as technology moves forward – you don’t even need to leave home to see your friends now. And another interesting trend is the way that people are accentuating their bodies now – removing fat, taking supplements to add muscle tone and so on. 7

VI@panorama.co.za 29/2016

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Q&A Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

What are the top 10 smartest dog breeds?

Kelly McIllrath, Benoni

1. BORDER COLLIE Bred for: herding sheep

2. POODLE Bred for: duck hunting

3. GERMAN SHEPHERD Bred for: herding sheep 4. GOLDEN RETRIEVER Bred for: retrieving waterfowl

Why is water colourless?

Dominique Nel, Duduza ab measurements show that water does have a colour: pale blue. Given the blue colour of the sea, that may come as little surprise. But according to Dr Martin Chaplin, an expert on the properties of water, its colour has a specific cause. Its origins lie in the way the H20 molecule interacts with incoming light. The molecule’s two hydrogen atoms sit at the ends of two spring-like ‘legs’ joined midway by the oxygen atom. The resulting V-shaped combination can vibrate in various ways, mopping up different wavelengths of light. But it’s particularly effective at absorbing longer, redder wavelengths, while leaving shorter, bluer wavelengths fairly untouched. The result is a pale blue colour. According to Chaplin, while this absorption contributes to the sea’s colour, there’s scattering at work too. Water scatters shorter wavelengths more effectively, leading to more of the blue component of sunlight reaching our eyes.

L

5. DOBERMANN Bred for: guarding

Q&A

6. SHETLAND SHEEPDOG Bred for: herding

FLASH

7. LABRADOR RETRIEVER Bred for: retrieving waterfowl

The word ‘spam’, in the unsolicited annoyance sense, is often though to have originated with Monty Python’s 1970 Spam sketch. A The most common email password is ‘123456’.

8. PAPILLON Bred for: companionship

9. ROTTWEILER Bred for: driving cattle and guarding

10. AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG Bred for: driving cattle

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Is it possible to delete a sent email? S Claire Jacob, Illovo

adly not. Once sent, the message is out of your control. Although some email software may have a recall or undo, these functions are not doing what you think. Recall will only work if the receiver uses the same email software as you – otherwise the receiver just receives the email followed by a second rather embarrassing email saying ‘the sender

wishes to recall the previous message’. Undo usually works by delaying the sending of your email for a few seconds, giving you a chance to change your mind before it is sent. There’s a Chinese saying: once spoken, even the fastest horse cannot catch your words. The same applies to emails – so be careful what you send.

PHOTOS: ISTOCK X11, ALAMY X2, GETTY, ESO

A


Why is your reflection upside-down in a spoon?

Why do earplugs amplify internal noises? David Mellish, Grahamstown

T

his is called the occlusion effect. Normally, the sounds of your own breathing, chewing and swallowing are mostly transmitted through the bones of your jaw and skull. These vibrations, especially the lower frequency ones, are dissipated outwards by the shape of your ear. But if

Ella Scott, Middelberg

you block your ears with your fingers or earplugs, you create a resonating chamber between your eardrum and the blockage. It’s not just that inside noises sound louder by comparison with the muffled sounds from outside, there is a real, measurable amplification of up to 20 decibels.

U

nlike a flat mirror, the curved surface of the spoon’s bowl bounces incoming rays back towards a central focus point lying between your face and the centre of the spoon. In passing through this point, rays from the upper part of your face are reflected downward, while those from the lower part are reflected upward. The result is an upside-down image of your face.

How much closer to the sun could Earth’s orbit get and still be habitable? Andrew Moss, Kokstad

I

t is difficult to be precise about the size of the sun’s ‘habitable zone’ because it depends on many complicated factors, including solar irradiance, atmospheric composition, cloud and weather patterns, the

reflectivity (or ‘albedo’) of the Earth’s surface, and so on. But the latest research actually suggests that the inner edge of the solar system’s habitable zone is between 0.95 and 0.99 astronomical units. That

means the Earth would become uninhabitable if its average distance from the sun was reduced by as little as 1.5 million km – which is only about four times the moon’s distance from Earth!

Earth

Habitable zone Sun

Distance from sun (AU)

0.1

1.0

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Q&A Questions & Answers

Got questions you’ve been carrying around for years? Very Interesting answers them! Mail your questions to VI@panorama.co.za

How often do large meteorites hit the moon? T Jenny Smith, Midrand

he moon is constantly being bombarded with meteorites, but most of them are no bigger than specks of dust. Larger impacts have been observed regularly over the years. In February 2014, Spanish astronomers recorded the impact of a meteorite weighing about 400kg. It was travelling at about 64,374km/h and probably resulted in a crater 40m wide. Just six months earlier a NASA telescope spotted the impact of a 40kg object. However, the actual yearly rate of these impacts is unclear because astronomers have not yet observed enough of them.

Will we ever be able to see through walls? T

he idea of ‘X-ray goggles’ that allow us to see through solid walls has been around for decades, but they’re a nonstarter – not least because X-rays are surprisingly easily absorbed by brick and concrete. A cheaper, safer and more effective approach has now been developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using wireless signals. We’ve all experienced the annoyance of radio reception

changing as we move around a room. But Prof Dina Katabi and colleagues at MIT have found a way of exploiting this effect using software that converts the changing strength of wireless signals into images. Because the wavelength of the signals is relatively large, the resolution is poor, so it’s not possible to create realistic images of people. But the team claim the technique is good enough to distinguish individuals based on their physical shape.

PHOTOS: REINHARD DIRSCHERL/FLPA, GETTY

How long is the largest animal intestine? Harry Burke, Randburg

I

t’s a fairly close contest between the sperm whale and the blue whale. For most whale and dolphin species, the length of 60

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their intestines works out as: (body length0.762) x 17.02. That comes to more than 150m of intestine in the case of a large

sperm whale and possibly as much as 220m for a blue whale. While this sounds enormous, it’s actually only seven or eight times the

ILLUSTRATION: SAM FALCONER

Tom Willis, Pinetown

whale’s body length. In contrast, a cow has intestines that are 20 times as long as its body – that’s 40m for a 2m-long cow!


Is the ‘five-second rule’ valid?

Can finger tracing improve children’s maths performance?

ccording to NASA, in a test conducted in February 2016, yes it is – most of the time. The Discovery Science Channel show, The Quick and the Curious, hosted NASA engineer Mark Rober, who decided to put the infamous rule to the test. The old five-second rule has now been dubbed the ‘30-second moisture-andsurface rule’ as part of allowing for more accurate testing. Small amounts of bacteria do jump onto the food, but the surface they land on and the texture of the food are big factors. Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria are everywhere in our environment for most of us the bulk of the time, but they usually don’t cause a problem unless conditions are right for them to do so. Researchers from the Aston University School of

ccording to University of Sydney educational psychologist Paul Ginns, yes it can. Ginns and other researchers found that tracing mathematical figures while reading the mathematical problem enabled students to do the work more quickly and with greater understanding. The problems solved were geometry and algebra problems the students had never seen before. Teachers have used finger tracing as a teaching tool since the early 1900s, when Maria Montessori – founder of the Montessori schools – encouraged young children to trace over letters of the alphabet made from

Esther Morgensen, Port Edward

FLASH A

Q&A

A

Mandy Bighorne, Tzaneen

Moist food left on the floor or ground for more than 30 seconds picks up more than 10 times the bacteria of moist food that is picked up after three seconds (as you’d expect). A Linoleum, tiles and laminated surfaces transfer more germs more quickly. A Carpets transfer less, thanks to their weave reducing foodsurface contact. A

Life and Health Sciences discovered in a recent study that 87% of people who took part would eat food that they dropped on the floor, without fear of germs.

sandpaper with their index fingers. Some 275 Sydney schoolchildren between the ages of nine and 13 were monitored during this study and all showed better results in geometry and algebra when using the technique. Ginns and

co-researchers Professor Janette Bobis, Dr Fang-Tzu Hu and Erin Byrne theorise that this may reduce the strain on the brain’s working memory. This research was published in Learning and Instruction and Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Getting bug-eyed in the name of robotics

Why are scientists fitting insects with 3D glasses? Stefan Elliott, Pietermaritzburg

S NASA is on your side, lady ...

cientists have used praying mantises in a study aimed at furthering the development of three-dimensional technologies. Jenny Read, the co-ordinator of the study and Professor of Vision Science at Newcastle University in England, says that the efficiency with which praying mantises attack their prey

marks them as sophisticated visual hunters. Understanding the insect’s simple processing abilities has helped the scientists to understand the evolution of 3D vision. Researchers attached 3D glasses to the mantises’ heads using beeswax and then showed the insects clips in 2D and 3D.

When shown the 2D images, the subjects did not react at all, but when watching the 3D clip, they reacted to potential prey or threats on the screens as they would in nature. Scientists are hoping to use the insight and knowledge gained during the study to develop artificial 3D vision for robotics. 29/2016

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Space

All by myself Ridley Scott’s film The Martian explores whether the Red Planet could ever support human life. But Chris Hall says it’s not just food, air and water that astronauts will have to worry about. 7 TEXT: CHRIS HALL

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PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX/PICSELECT.COM

*(In case you’re wondering, a sol is a Martian day)


M

ark Watney is having a pretty bad sol*. After his team’s living habitat and vehicles endured several hours of intense buffeting from a 110mph sandstorm, NASA gave the order to abort their mission and return to Earth. In the process, a communications array shattered, sending an aerial spearing into Watney’s side, ripping out his bio-monitor in the process. Knocked unconscious by the fall, he has just awoken with a gasp. Within minutes, he will realise the staggering and unthinkable truth. He has been left for dead; the only man on Mars. He has at least four years until a rescue mission could arrive, and only has facilities designed to last 31 days. So begins The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space survival thriller. Understandably, the film focuses heavily on the practical elements to Watney’s survival. But he must also combat a far more insidious danger: extreme isolation. The psychological hazards of his situation are tremendous. “So what? This is unrealistic Hollywood sci-fi,” you might think. But the truth is, any Mars mission opens up the possibility of exposing men and women to psychological effects beyond anything ever experienced, even in Earth’s most inhospitable conditions.

A All alone The damaging effects of spending extended periods of time cut off from society, isolated from necessities and enduring levels of sensory deprivation have been recognised for centuries, if not fully understood. It was said of St Anthony the Great, a monk and hermit, that “the devil fought [him] by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women.” These days, we have a slightly better understanding of the human mind, but reliable, consistent data on the way people react to the stressors of isolation can still be hard to come by. Those who have spent large amounts of time

On one trip, Valeri Polyakov stayed on board the Mir space station for over 14 months. alone involuntarily, be they prisoners on death row, castaways, or victims of circumstances, are rarely representative of society. And astronauts, who do give us reliable information, are rigorously selected from an already minuscule crop of resilient and capable high achievers. If humans are to travel to Mars – a journey that, at the best estimates, would take at least seven months in each direction – we need to be sure that the first crew can cope with what’s ahead. British expedition medic Dr Alexander Kumar has seen first-hand, and experienced, the effects that extreme isolation can have on the mind, spending 11 months at Concordia research station in Antarctica. His findings are being used by the European Space Agency (ESA) as it plans manned Mars missions. “One of the first things to think about is adapting to

“No one has ever experienced what it’s like to look on the Earth as a tiny blue speck in the sky” Prof Nick Kanas, psychologist and NASA adviser

your new surroundings. If I’m on a country walk in England and I drop my glove, I pick it up again. If my glove comes off in Antarctica, I could lose my hand. It’s the sort of weather where your iPhone headphone cables snap in half.” It’s not just the obvious harshness of the polar environment, but the knock-on effects that weigh on the mind. Throughout the winter months, Antarctica’s research stations are unreachable by any means. This subjects the team, which was 13 members strong during Kumar’s stay,

to what researchers in the field call ‘high levels of autonomy’; when communication off-base might be limited, and problems must be tackled with whatever materials are at hand. Kumar expresses it starkly: “If I get appendicitis during the winter, I have two choices. I either cut myself open and take it out, or I give up and die.” There are other physical stressors in Antarctica that are detrimental to one’s psychological well-being. Unlike the Arctic, it is a high-altitude desert, 3,800m above sea level. 29/2016

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Space

PHOTOS: ESA X2, NASA/VISIBLE EARTH X2, NASA/JPL X2, 20TH CENTURY FOX/PICSELECT.COM X3

Residents at the research stations are exposed to chronic hypobaric hypoxia – the same low levels of oxygen that athletes actively seek out at high-altitude training camps.

Dr Alex Kumar near Antarctica’s Concordia base.

A Lose your mind “It can be good and bad for you; good in the short term, like for athletes,” explains Kumar. “But mountaineers regularly report trouble sleeping. That’s not great on an expedition, but it’s shortlived. You try struggling to sleep for a year and it’s very simple. You lose sleep, you lose your mind.” Throw in the permanent darkness of a winter at the South Pole, and you have a powerful set of circumstances acting on the mind. “It puts you through a washing machine of time. Your circadian rhythms are freewheeling,” Kumar says. Even hearing about the effects is frightening. People become depressed, and exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia. They lose awareness of who they are, and hear and see things that aren’t there. “I had terrible nightmares,” Kumar admits. “Your dreams muddle things.

COULD YOU SURVIVE?

EA

M

H

S

RT

AR

Compare the conditions across our planet and Mars

) VG (A

AVERAGE SURFACE TEMP TEMPERATURE RANGE ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE MAX WIND SPEED ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION GRAVITY LENGTH OF YEAR 64

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-63°C

14.6°C

20°C TO -153°C

58°C TO -89.2°C

6 MILLIBARS

1,013 MILLIBARS AT SEA LEVEL

402KM/H

320KM/H

96% CARBON DIOXIDE, 1.9% ARGON, 1.9% NITROGEN

78% NITROGEN, 21% OXYGEN, 0.9% ARGON, 0.04% CARBON DIOXIDE

3.0M/S2

9.8M/S2

1.88 EARTH YEARS

1


It’s easy to become disorientated. Time becomes jumbled – your concepts of past, present and future can become confusing.” Darkness can also distort your short-term sense of time. French speleologist (cave expert) Michel Siffre spent two months living in darkness under an alpine glacier; when he emerged, it took him five minutes to count what he thought was 120 seconds. Others have reported an adjustment in circadian rhythms to a 36-hour period of activity followed by 12 hours of sleep. “You are experiencing chronic sensory deprivation,” says Kumar. “fMRI tests have shown that people who have undergone this kind of extended isolation experience significant shrinking of the brain’s hippocampal area.” What does the hippocampus do? It controls memory, among other things. According to Kumar, you find yourself recalling things you have no right to be able to remember – the look of a stranger’s face that you walked past on the street, years ago. “We don’t yet know whether these changes are reversible or not –

no one’s had long enough to find out. We need another 20 to 30 years,” adds Kumar.

A Unknown dangers The bad news for any would-be Watneys is that these are just the dangers we know about. Certain elements of a Mars voyage, even if you could remove the obvious psychological stress of knowing there is no way to return to Earth, would be completely new to the human psyche. Valeri Polyakov spent 438 days in space, which is the longest time of any astronaut or cosmonaut so far. His mood and cognitive abilities were monitored throughout. The results showed that, aside from periods of adjustment at the beginning and end of the mission, his moods remained stable. However, certain skills were affected more than others, notably visual-motor skills, which were tested by his ability to line up a randomly unstable cross-hair with a marked target using a joystick. But even Polyakov’s experience is incomparable in several ways. Psychologist and NASA adviser Prof Nick

Kanas says one of the major unknowns is ‘Earth-out-ofsight’ syndrome. “No one has ever experienced what it’s like to look on the Earth as a tiny blue speck in the sky. We don’t know what it will do to people to be deprived of that connection with all that’s important to them, to have that sensation of immense distance.” So what can be done to prepare for spending time in isolation? And how can we get to a point where we’re comfortable sending people into the unknown? Preparation isn’t the key,

Antarctica’s Concordia research base regularly experiences temperatures below -80°C in winter.

In The Martian, Mark Watney has to try to stay alive in a harsh and isolated environment.

SO CA

A

RI

IC

AF

CT

H

R TA

UT

AN -47°C

14°C

17.5°C TO -89.2°C

42°C TO -2°C

1,000 MILLIBARS AT SEA LEVEL

1,013 MILLIBARS AT SEA LEVEL

320KM/H

186KM/H

78% NITROGEN, 21% OXYGEN, 0.9% ARGON, 0.04% CARBON DIOXIDE

78% NITROGEN, 21% OXYGEN, 0.9% ARGON, 0.04% CARBON DIOXIDE

9.85M/S2 (INCREASE CLAIMED AT SOUTH POLE)

9.8M/S2

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Space

PHOTOS: ESA X3, GETTY X3

Ernest Shackleton’s team dine together during the Endurance mission in June 1915. says Kumar. “You can’t really train for it. But you need to be the right kind of person: you just have to get on with it. You want people who are sociable introverts – happy working alone but able to get along with each other. Some people are more hardy than others, psychologically, and it’s not always connected to physiological toughness. We’re still working out what makes the ideal astronaut – there is no gold standard psychiatric test.” Mars One aims to put people on the Red Planet by 2025. 66

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Prof Raye Kass, from the project’s advisory team, highlights the importance of teamwork and leadership, citing the example of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. “Shackleton chose a wide selection of people and realised the importance of keeping them functioning as a team throughout; sometimes doing odd things like organising a haircut for everyone during a difficult spell. His crew never dispersed like Scott’s when things got hard. And at the end, after they’d had to walk

from the abandoned Endurance, he asked if anyone wanted to go back. They all did!” According to Kanas, at least one major orbital preparation would be necessary before feeling confident in launching a Mars mission. “My advice would be that we need to put people into a space station orbiting the Earth and simulate the seven-month journey. You would artificially delay their communications and accurately mimic their level of autonomy and activities.

Members of the Endurance mission worked well as a team, thanks in part to Shackleton’s leadership skills.


Mars500 simulated a mission to Mars, isolating the six-member crew for 520 days. Then you launch them from orbit to the moon, get them to land, poke around at some rocks, and return to the orbital module. Then you gradually phase them back into Earth time.” This would also be a chance to observe return trip behaviour, which Kanas believes is potentially the most dangerous time of the trip. “If people’s work is done, and they’re waiting to get home to analyse samples,

During the Mars500 experiment, the crew walked on simulated Martian terrain and conducted experiments.

the boredom factor could be huge on that return leg.” Earth-based projects like Mars500 have had their critics, but they are a good start. And our awareness of these issues speaks to a willingness to treat psychological factors as seriously as the physiological and the technological in the run-up to a Mars launch. In the words of Kanas, “By the time we’ve figured out how to get to Mars, we will have figured this out. It’s absolutely doable.” 7

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Exploration

HOW SPACE TRAVEL AFFECTS YOUR BODY

Astronauts can suffer from serious health issues.

HEAD

Extended time living in microgravity can impair balance, and can even alter your vision. Emotional isolation has been shown to be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

UPPER TORSO

Vertebrae separate slightly without gravity to compress them. Astronauts can gain up to 5cm in height, and report back pain as a result.

LIMBS

Relieved of the need to walk around, the muscles in the legs can waste away. In turn, this affects balance and increases the risk of tendonitis.

LOWER TORSO

Astronauts experience motion sickness, nausea and dizziness in the early days of spaceflight.

WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM

Isolation and sleep deprivation have been shown to result in a weaker t-lymphocyte system. Astronauts are more prone to infection by common viruses and micro-organisms.

BONE LOSS

Living in a zero-g environment causes the body to excrete calcium and phosphorus, depleting bone strength and causing osteoporosis. A Mars mission would equate to a lifetime’s worth of bone depletion.

NERVE DAMAGE

Prolonged exposure to ionising radiation can harm the central nervous system, cause cataracts, and can even increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and brain damage.

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BRAIN CANDY Bigger is better Smartphones can capture and stream just about any footage nowadays, but enjoyment of that footage can be limited by the size of the screen of your phone. Your daughter’s first successful bike ride, for instance, seems somewhat insignificant when played back in dubious 5 x 3-inch glory. The Smartphone Screen Magnifier, which can be folded into convenient tininess and is compatible with all smartphones, enlarges

your view by between three and five times. Price: R289 Info: www.itoys.co.za

Riddle me this A quick quiz to spark your synapses. (Tip: The answers are in the stories you’ve just read). ■ In which city were the 1936 Olympic

Games held?

■ Who invented the process of plastination? ■ Where was the nuclear power plant destroyed by a

tsunami in March 2011?

■ Which sport holds its world championships in Virginia City,

Nevada later this year?

■ How many gold medals did Jamaican sprinters collectively

win at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics?

Send your answers to VI@panorama.co.za and you could win an IcoSoKu puzzle (pictured) valued at R400.

Dimension data

Nap-ster Listening to music while about to drift off – it’s a combination office workers dream about all day. The Bluetooth iMusic Pillow allows users to combine these estimable activities as efficiently as possible, and removes those awkward rolling-ontoyour-headphones moments. Connect your phone or MP3 player with the pillow’s onboard Bluetooth receiver, lie down, and enjoy. Price: R1,050 Info: www.yuppiegadgets.com

With 3D printing very much still in its first flush of youth, prices for hardware remain high, but so-called ‘entry-level’ options are starting to emerge. Wanhao’s new machine doesn’t require users to build anything from a kit and includes a single print-head with a cooling fan, a print area of 200 x 200 x 180mm and a maximum print speed of 100mm/sec. It may take a bit of practice before you can print yourself all the other gadgets on this page, but there’s no time like the present to get a head start. Price: R8,500 Info: www.takealot.com

Books Sorting the Beef from the Bull by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple ‘Food fraud’ is a phenomenon that’s far more prevalent than most of us would like to believe. To a large degree, it’s driven by greed, with big business wanting to squeeze extra profit out of the complicated delivery 70

29/2016

process involved in getting food from its source – fields, farms, fisheries and so on – to consumers’ fridges and tables. Has your olive oil been diluted? Was your valuable vintage wine bottled last month? And how does your horse lasagne taste? Informative and easy to read, even if the facts stick in your craw ... The Aliens Are Coming! by Ben Miller Shout out the title of this book in a public

place and men in white coats will materialise and lead you gently into a padded room. But science writer Ben Miller – who’s also a comedian, which shows in his funny, accessible style – knows that there are some undisputed facts behind life emerging on Earth and the possibility of that happening


DVDs

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1 4 elsewhere. He presents an entertaining, concise 8 9 take on what can be an overcomplicated, bewildering topic, persuading readers to keep 1 going because soaking up the details of life, the 9a7 universe and everything is made to feel like joy, not a school-style chore. 8 1 The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African 9 2 Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon 5

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reliance on CGI, the film effectively communicates 25 hardships 11 the the men on the destroyed ship endured, and the drama involved in whaling in 13 general and being attacked by a gargantuan beast with3 malicious intent in particular. A solid epic with 11 a strong cast, including Chris 26 Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Ben Whishaw.

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Quickies 7ENVIRONMENT

7HEALTH

Thirsty Earth slows sea level rise

The secret of longer life

C

limate change is turning the Earth into a giant sponge. NASA scientists have found that while glaciers and ice sheets are continuing to melt, changes in climate over the past decade have caused the Earth to soak up an extra 3.2 trillion tonnes of water, slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20%. The discovery was made with NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), two satellites which can detect changes in Earth’s gravitational pull due to

changes in the amount of water on the planet’s surface. Vast amounts of water continually evaporate from the oceans, fall as rain or snow, and then run back into the oceans. “We always assumed that our increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,” said lead researcher JT Reager. “What we didn’t realise is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred.”

Sea level rise is occurring more slowly than was predicted.

I

t seems having a bit of a spring clean can leave you feeling like a spring chicken. Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota have found that flushing old cells out of mice extended their lifespans by 17 to 35%, the equivalent of extending a human life from 80 to more than 100 years. The treated mice also looked younger and showed less age-related damage in their muscles and kidneys. The technique is based on removing so-called senescent cells – cells that have stopped dividing and are no longer needed by the body – using an otherwise harmless drug. “Senescent cells that accumulate with ageing are largely bad, do bad things to your organs and tissues, and therefore shorten your life but also the healthy phase of your life,” said researcher Jan van Deursen. “Since you can eliminate the cells without negative side effects, it seems like therapies that will mimic our findings, either the genetic method that we used to eliminate the cells or drugs or other compounds that can eliminate senescent cells, would be useful for therapies against age-related disabilities, diseases or conditions.”

7IN NUMBERS

80

MILLION The number of microbes transferred during a 10-second kiss, as measured by Dutch researchers.

1

Petabyte That’s a 1 followed by 15 zeroes. The Salk Institute in California reckons that’s how much information the human brain can store. It’s the equivalent of 212,765 DVDs.

Shorts According to NASA, March 2016 was the hottest March in history. A All 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

PHOTOS: GETTY, ISTOCK

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“I’m three years old, you know … and I’ve still got all my own teeth!”


What did they do? Scientists investigating animal cognition at the University of Vienna encouraged ravens to hide food next to a box with a peephole in it, linked up to a speaker playing the calls of other ravens.

7SCIENCE

‘Paranoia’ triggered in ravens

Corvids – crows, ravens, magpies and jays – are believed to be the most intelligent bird family.

Why did they do that? The team is trying to determine whether ravens possess a ‘theory of mind’. If so, this means that they are able to imagine experiencing thoughts and emotions felt by other animals – a skill that is widely regarded as a sign of higher levels of intelligence.

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ILLUSTRATION: JAMES OLSTEIN

What did they find? When the peephole was open, the ravens believed other birds could see their actions and would go to greater lengths to stash their food, even though they couldn’t actually see another bird watching them. When the peephole was closed they’d hide the food in a more casual manner.


Quickies 7SPORT

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The world’s fastest man – Usain Bolt

N

icknamed ‘Lightning Bolt’ and dubbed ‘the fastest man on Earth’, Usain Bolt was born on 21 August 1986 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Bolt, now 6.5ft (1.96m), won the 200m sprint at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, becoming the youngest junior world gold medallist ever at the age of 15. He was the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100m and 200m races in world record times in 2008. Four years later, at the London Olympics, he became the first man to win gold medals in both the 100m and 200m at consecutive Olympic Games and the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. He has been awarded the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year on two occasions, in 2009 and again in 2010. He was also named the IAAF Male Athlete of the Year five times (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013). He has his own clothing line in conjunction with Puma, his own headphone range, his own Hublot watch design, his own charity foundation, and a restaurant called ‘Tracks & Records’ in Kingston, Jamaica.

7PSYCHOLOGY

Eye contact is necessary for socialisation

W

e’ve all heard that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and now new research shows that eye contact is necessary for social interaction. Researchers from the National Institute of Physiological Science (NIPS) studied what happens inside the brain as one person gazes into the eyes of another. Scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the brain activities and patterns of the 96 participants. The study’s co-author Takahiko Koike, a researcher at NIPS, said: “We expected that eye-blink synchronisation would be a sign of shared attention when performing a task requiring joint attention, and the shared attention would be retained as a social

memory.” Instead, the participants began to blink in sync because of their mutual gaze, not because they were mimicking each other. The fMRI scans showed that a region in the brain called the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) lit up in response to direct eye contact. When participants held one another’s gaze, the IFG lit up at the same time and the brains synchronised, which suggested to scientists that mutual eye contact is the key to developing social interactions. In another study conducted by a research team from Leiden University, researchers discovered that once eye contact is made and pupil size synchronised between two people, their brains unconsciously built trust bonds.

7HISTORY

New fossil sheds light on duck-billed dinosaur

T

he most complete primitive duck-billed dinosaur fossil ever found was recently unearthed in Alabama. The skeletal remains – a complete skull, dozens of backbones, a partial hip bone and a few bones from the legs – were found by amateur fossil hunters alongside the Colville River in Montgomery County. A paper published in

January 2016 concluded that the fossilised bones were from a new species of hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur. This species lived 83 million years ago and was primarily a plant eater. The dinosaur has been named Eotrachodon orientalis,

which means ‘dawn rough tooth from the east’. Scientists have known that the creature lived in what we know as Asia, Europe and North America, and this find has confirmed that the species originated in the eastern United States.


This human-sized ear was 3D-printed and then implanted under the skin of a mouse.

Shorts

Doctors implant 3D-printed ‘living’ body parts into rats G

entlemen, we can rebuild him! A team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina has printed living body parts and implanted them into host animals. Dubbed ITOP, or Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing, the system has been used successfully to print ear, bone and muscle structures that matured into functioning tissue after being implanted in rats and mice. Although the technology has so far only been tested in

animals, the tissues created were of an appropriate size and structure to be used in human subjects, the researchers say. “This novel tissue and organ printer is an important advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients,” said Anthony Atala, director of the Institute and senior author of the paper detailing the research, which appeared in the journal Nature Biotechnology in February. “It can be used to fabricate stable, human-scale tissue of any shape. With further

development, this technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation.” The system uses 3D-printing technology to deposit layers of biodegradable, plastic-like materials to form the basic framework of the desired tissue. It then fills this in with waterbased gels containing living cells that develop into functioning tissue. So far the team has printed human-sized ears and implanted them under the skin of mice, as

well as muscle tissue and human jawbone fragments which they implanted in rats. In all cases, the implants were successfully integrated into the host animals and quickly began to develop networks of nerves and blood vessels. The ITOP system may one day be able to use data from CT and MRI scans to tailor-make tissue for implant. For example, if a patient was missing an ear the system could be used to print and implant an exact replica of the original. 29/2016

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PHOTO: WAKE FOREST INSTITUTE ILLUSTRATION: JAMES OLSTEIN

7INNOVATION

A Engineers at General Motors used 3D printing to speed up the process when designing prototype parts for the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu. A The ‘Liberator’, designed by Defense Distributed, is the first fully open-sourced 3D-printed gun.


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1 8 Kakuro #1 6x6 Kakuro Puzzles by KrazyDad, Kakuro 6 9Book 7 1 1 8 #2 1 2 3 9 Kakuro puzzles are like a cross between a crossword and a Sudoku Instead of letters, each 2 6 5puzzle. 9 block contains the digits 1 through 9. The same digit will never repeat within 1 3 4 1 2 a word. If you add the 1 digits in a word, the sum will be the number shown in the clue. Clues are3shown on the left and right 9

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Small bridges

SMALL SMALLBRIDGES BRIDGESBY BYKRAZYDAD, KRAZYDAD,BOOK BOOK11

Connect these islands with bridges until each island can be reached from any other island, and each island has as many outgoing bridges as its are likemay a cross between a crossword and a Sudoku number. You may only connect islands vertically or horizontallyKakuro andpuzzles bridges not cross. There maypuzzle. be one or two bridges connecting pairs of Instead of letters, each block contains the digits 1 through 9. The same digit will never repeat withinbe a word. If you add the digits inmaking a word, the sum islands, but no more than two. Each puzzle has a unique solution that can found without guesses. Bridges Bridges#1#1 Bridges Bridges#2#2will Solutions on page 71.

Kakuro puzzles are like a cross between a crossword and a Sudoku puzzle. Instead of letters, each block contains the digits 1 through 9. The same digit will never repeat within a word. If you add the digits in a word, the sum will be the number shown in the clue. Clues are shown on the left and right sides of “across” words, and on the top and bottom sides of “down” words.

be the number shown in the clue. Clues are shown on the left and right sides of “across” words, and on the top and bottom sides of “down” words.

Need some help? visit krazydad.com/kakuro

Need some help? visit krazydad.com/kakuro

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2 "Love and desire are the spirit's wings to great deeds." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Focus

Blue through and through

alling something ‘The Famous Blue Glass Sculpture Display’ suggests both a lack C of inspiration during the naming process and

a healthy ego on the part of artist Simone Cenedes, who created the work. The sculpture stands in the Campo Santo Stefano on the main island in Murano, just across the water from Venice and famous for its many glass factories and their highly collectible designs. Its bright colours stand out against the old buildings around it, creating a contrast that every visitor wants to include in their holiday snaps.

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very interesting

ag·o·ra·pho·bi·a /ˌaɡərəˈfōbēə/

noun Extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places.

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Next issue

7 PSYCHOLOGY 7NATURE

DO PLANTS HAVE IMMUNE SYSTEMS? Well – we never see them blow their noses, do we?

Can meditation physically change your brain? Perhaps it’s like training a muscle – more exercise means more power? We find out.

7 HISTORY

How loud was the Big Bang? If a universe begins in a vacuum and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Discover the truth!

7 FOOD

If you are allergic to penicillin, can you eat Stilton cheese? Hunger versus common sense: discover the facts you need to know.

ALSO IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF VERY INTERESTING: Much more about matters technological, psychological, historical, natural and scientific. Plus all your questions answered … What do you want to know? Mail VI@panorama.co.za 29/2016

79


Outlook ON ONE S T H IG L H IG H ’S THIS ISSUE

PAGE

Feel the power

The responsibility for keeping the lights on is in our hands. p.18

INDEX Archaeology .................................74 Architecture ................................ 42 Body......................6, 11, 12, 28, 54 Books .......................................... 70 Culture..................7, 26, 52, 61, 77 DVDs.............................................71 Environment..................... 9, 58, 72 Gadgets....................................... 70 Health..................................4, 9, 72 History ....................................1, 12, Innovation.........14, 30, 58, 60, 61, ................................................73, 75 Nature................11, 13, 16, 17, 29, ...............................................36, 60 Pets ............................................ 58, Puzzles .........................................76 Psychology.......4, 8, 10, 16, 61, 74 Space.................13, 28, 59, 60, 62 Sport ...................................... 6, 74 Technology...4, 6, 8, 16, 17, 18, 46

Find your favourite festival Around the world – throwing tomatoes, drenching your friend and taking a balloon ride. p.7

Wired for life The smart home of the future is already here. p.46

Creatures and contraptions

Cutting-edge technology is being used to research animal populations. p.36

Plus

Why don’t living things rot? Does the temperature of the universe change with time? What is a fallstreak hole? How much closer to the sun could the Earth get and still be habitable? Is the ‘five-second rule’ true? 80

29/2016


Address No. 1 – 8th Avenue Rivonia. | Postal PO Box 4220, Rivonia, 2128 | Tel 011 234 4045 | Fax 011 803 0094 Peter Ramaite Cell 082 552 4529 | Web www.ramagale.co.za | Skype ramaitep A Contracting & A Board Member of the Power Line Association of South Africa CIDB: Level 7 EP, PE 1 GP, PE | BBBEE: QSE Level 2


KEEPING THE

very interesting

MAY/JUNE 2016 ISSUE 29

p.18

LIGHTS N Coal, wind, solar, nuclear

know more | refresh your mind

Stadia: the cathedrals of sport?

p.42

Plus:

• Is it possible to delete a sent email? • Why isn’t everyone afraid of heights? • Do insects sleep? • Can computers learn like humans? • How did life on Earth begin? • What are the 10 smartest dog breeds? • How does gravity affect brain function?

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MARS? Is it possible to survive on p.62 the Red Planet?

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ABOUT TO CHANGE

OUR WORLD PART 2


▼The Quest For Knowledge - How Do We Keep The Lightson