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Volume 4 Issue 2 February 2014 `100


How it created the Universe - and you p22


contents Volume 4 Issue 2 February 2014 `100


Cover story 22 The Incredible Truth About Time

Time meets Science meets the Universe; and we reveal the truth about the origins of our beginnings

How it created the Universe - and you p30

features 28 Smarty Ants

Adam Hart comes off impressed with the societal behaviour of ants on the cover:; warner brothers, breitling, laboratory of neuro imaging ucla/, Science photo library x2, Igor Shpilenok, penguin india

34 Flying Solo


Fly with the birds with these new age jet packs

40 Portfolio: Kamchatka Winter

Igor Shpilenok, a photographer and conservationist captures the winter wildlife in Russia

50 Journey To The Stars

Scientists experiment with alternative tranport methods to propel rockets into space

54 A Beautiful Mind

We pick the brain apart and figure out the truth behind how the grey cells function

58 The Future Of Us

Find out how new science suggests that humans are still evolving

64 How To Survive A Space Disaster

We list the occupational hazards of a job located 370km above Earth

72 How Do We Know: The Theory Of Evolution

Ever wondered how we evolved? Rebecca Stott reveals the process


February 2014

regulars 6 Q&A Our panel of experts answer the questions you’ve always wanted to ask

12 Snapshot

Outstanding photographs to inform and engage you

18 Update

The latest intelligence - from making light from matter to discovering how sleeping helps clean up the brain

76 Inside The Pages

In an excerpt from Land of The Seven Rivers A Brief History of India's Geography, Sanjeev Sanyal traces the history of India

80 Resorce

Our picks offer the best of science, history and nature on the web

54 64 34

50 76

40 82 Principal Speak

Interview with Sathish Jayarajan, Principal of Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore

83 Games Review

We review the latest video games released in the market

84 Gadgets

The travel gadgets you can't do without on your next vacation

86 Puzzle Pit

A veritable buffet of brain teasers guaranteed to test your mind

90 In Focus

We look at J Robert Oppenheimer, the man who created the first atomic bomb


from the editor You know how time flies when you are having fun, and minutes seem like hours when you are knee deep in some kind of misery or the other? But did you know that many successful theories in physics prove that time does not exist? Do read The Incredible Truth About Time on page 22 and find out how, one way or another, time could be fundamental to the understanding of our existence. While we were putting this issue together, there was a piece of news in the papers about Japanese scientists finding “clearest evidence yet” that our universe could actually be a hologram. In simpler, though not very elegant terms, it means we could be living in a 3D version of a reality that has only two dimensions. So you can imagine the kind of exciting flux fundamental sciences is experiencing… There are more stories inside that reflect on the human condition – The Future of Us (pg 58) is a fascinating feature on humans and evolution. It talks about how our species are probably not a ‘work in progress’ anymore, but is definitely changing rapidly. There is talk about super humans, merging of man and machine…all the good stuff. Another is about the latest results of the Human Connectome Project (HCP), which much like the Human Genome Project (and genes), maps connections in our brains as precisely as have been possible till now. This month’s excerpt is from Sanjeev Sanyal’s book – Land of The Seven Rivers, A Brief History Of India’s Geography. It is fascinating read, condensed with riveting facts and theories. I highly recommend it. And from now on In Focus replaces The Last Word. Every month, we will bring you a quick guide to a world figure that raised the stakes. This month: J Robert Oppenheimer, also known as the father of the atom bomb. Enjoy.

experts this issue Adam Hart is professor of science communication and also delivers lectures and animal behaviour. He has a number of active research interests, including ant communication, flying ants and thermal biology of ants. In this issue, he talks about the societal behaviour of ants. See page 28 Igor Shpilenok is a wildlife photographer based in Russia and a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He has authored his memoir, The Stork's Nest: Life and Love in the Russian Countryside. In this issue, he captures different profiles of wildlife found during winter in the Bryansky Les Nature Reserve, Russia. See page 40 Kelly Oakes is a science editor, for BuzzFeed UK, a website, and contributes features and columns for Scientific American and UK-based BBC Focus magazine. She has also been shortlisted two years running for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize. In this issue, inspired by the movie Gravity, she talks about how to survive a disaster in space. See page 64

 Send us your letters Has something you’ve read in BBC Knowledge Magazine intrigued or excited you? Write in and share it with us. We’d love to hear from you and we’ll publish a selection of your comments in the forthcoming issues.

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We welcome your letters, while reserving the right to edit them for length and clarity. By sending us your letter you permit us to publish it in the magazine. We regret that we cannot always reply personally to letters.



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February 2014

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Your Questions Answered

How does an anti-snore pillow work? p8 Are humans the only species to commit suicide? p9 Why do voices change as we age? p10 Is social network changing the way our brains work? p11

Expert PANEL Stuart Blackman

A zoologist-turned-science writer, Stuart is a contributor to BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Susan Blackmore (SB)

A visiting professor at the University of Plymouth, UK, Susan is an expert on psychology and evolution.

Alastair Gunn

You can never escape the clutches of Earth’s gravity

Alastair is a radio astronomer at Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, UK.

Robert Matthews

Robert is a writer and researcher. He is a Visiting Reader in Science at Aston University, UK.

Gareth Mitchell

As well as lecturing at Imperial College London, Gareth is a presenter of Click on the BBC World Service.

Luis Villazon

Luis has a BSc in computing and an MSc in zoology from Oxford. His works include How Cows Reach The Ground.

Ask the Experts? Email our panel at We’re sorry, but we cannot reply to questions individually.

At what distance does the Earth no longer pull on an object? Strictly speaking, the Earth’s gravity will always pull on an object, no matter how distant. Gravity is a force that obeys an ‘inverse square law’. So, for example, put an object twice as far away and it will feel a quarter of the force. Put it four times further away and it will feel one-sixteenth the force. But, however far away the object is, it will always feel the pull of gravity, even though it might be vanishingly small. AG

The Monarch butterfly travels for thousands of kilometres, a journey that takes three or four generations of the insect

How do some butterflies know where to migrate? inherited. The Painted Lady, weighing less than a gramme, takes up to six generations to complete a 14,400km (9,000 mile) round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle, passing through Britain on the way. By way of comparison, many birds and mammals make the same journey many times in their lifetime. So migrating species may learn the way from travelling in flocks or herds and from learning geographical features of mountains. SB

What’s the highest energy food? The Ultimate Breakfast Platter, from Burger King’s menu in the US, has 1450 calories and topped a recent poll that compared calories per dollar for 10 US fast-food chains. However, for a single, unprocessed food it’s hard to top the almond. They are often cited as one of the highest-energy single foodstuffs. A report by the Institute of Food Technologists stated that foods with smaller particle sizes are absorbed better, so almond butter ought to have the most calories per hundred grammes. In fact, it’s about the same as peanut butter at 620kcal/100g. Ordinary butter is slightly higher (740kcal/100g), but pure sunflower oil beats both at 900kcal/100g. LV

In a nutshell, it’s high-energy food…

The greatest British athlete ever? Mo Farah knows what it’s like to win

Why do people like winning so much? Because, like other animals, we evolved through competition and natural selection. Early humans who had a strong desire to outcompete everyone else might have found better quality food or more desirable mates and so passed on their desire to win. In most societies men are more competitive than women, and this sex difference is seen as early as three years old. But there are some societies, such as the matriarchal Khasi of northeast India, in which women have more power and reveal greater competitiveness. Although the nature of winning has changed, the desire to show off, to be the best, or to belong to the top team, remains deeply embedded in human nature. Sadly, this desire does not necessarily make us happy. Losing is distressing and painful, but so can winning, and the stress of modern high-performance sports can lead to both mental and physical illness. SB

February 2014

getty, FLPA, press association, thinkstock

Butterflies know by instinct. As extraordinary as this seems, they are able to travel thousands of kilometres to find food, warmth or a mate, without ever having made the journey before or having any opportunity to learn the route. The famous Monarchs migrate annually between Mexico and Canada, each generation continuing the journey begun by their parents. So their ability to find the correct route north in summer and south in winter must be


Q&A How does an antisnore pillow work? Snoring is caused by the soft palate vibrating as it partially blocks the airway. Anti-snoring pillows tilt the head backwards as you lie on your back. It’s similar to the way that you tilt the patient’s head during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), helping to hold the airway open. LV The anti-snoring pillow could be a boon for marital relations

As the Universe expands, objects become Nuclear wastefurther has toand be further apart making it stored somewhere,

a growing problem

Why can’t we bury nuclear waste in a subduction zone? Subduction zones occur where one vast slab of the Earth’s crust slips below another and into the 2,000°C-plus regions below. As such, they sound ideal for disposal of radioactive waste, arguably the biggest problem facing the wider use of nuclear power. The idea is beset by a host of problems, however. The most obvious is that suitable subduction zones would be far from any land, deep below the sea, and thus tricky to access reliably. In any case, such ‘out of sight, out of mind’ disposal at sea is currently banned. The law could be changed if a strong enough scientific

case could be made, but this is unlikely. Subduction zones are geologically highly unstable, and are the site of some of the world’s most powerful earthquakes. This raises the possibility of the waste containers being damaged and driven back onto the sea-bed, rather than incinerated in the depths of the Earth. These risks, along with the problems of simply getting to the dumping sites, have been assessed by scientists from nations faced with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, including the UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. And to date all have ruled out the idea. RM

press association, stockbyte, alamy, thinkstock, getty

What is a black box recorder made of?

The ‘black box’ of an aircraft is built to be virtually indestructible




February 2014

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Let’s start by dispelling one myth. Flight data recorders are not black, but coloured bright orange so that they can be found easily after an aviation accident. Aircraft carry two black boxes. The flight data recorder continuously logs details like the plane’s speed, altitude, time of day and engine parameters. The other unit records the pilots’ voices in the cockpit. The units need to be resistant to fire and water and able to cope with the force of a major impact. They also need to withstand low air pressures at altitude should the aircraft suffer a sudden decompression. Likewise the recorder should be capable of bearing the crushing pressures down on the seafloor should the aircraft plunge into the ocean. As a result, black boxes require very strong casings. Earlier models were simply made from stainless steel, but now housings also incorporate titanium, as well as an inner layer of heat-resistant material. GM

Are humans the only species to commit suicide? If we define suicide as deliberately taking an action that will kill you, then there are plenty of examples. Bees will sting us even though it kills them; certain species of aphids will rupture themselves in a shower of sticky fluid that glues their body to a predatory ladybird larva – killing both. But these are examples of altruistic sacrifice to protect the colony. For it to count as suicide, the main motive of the animal should be simply to escape its own suffering, rather than to nobly assist some larger goal. That’s almost impossible for us to determine. Rats that are infected with the bacterium Toxoplasma gondii lose their fear of predators and so are more likely to be eaten by cats. The bacterium has evolved

Bees kill themselves when they sting you, but can it be called suicide? this effect because cats are its primary host and it benefits by ending up in a cat’s intestine. To call the behaviour of an infected rat suicidal appears to stretch the definition, because the rat isn’t acting entirely of its own free will. However, a 2013 study at Imperial College, London, found that there may also be a link between T. gondii infection in humans and schizophrenia. If we accept that mentally ill humans can commit suicide, then why not rats? Suicide can be difficult to distinguish from recklessness or accident, even in humans. But once we accept that some animals can suffer from depression and other mental illness, it seems reasonable to suppose that this could sometimes result in suicide. LV

What would happen to the weather if we chopped down all the trees? In the UK, there are about 150 million tonnes of carbon locked up in trees. Cutting them down and burning them would result in roughly the same amount of CO2 that the UK emits in a year. Deforestation globally currently contributes about 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Trees play an important role in taking water from the ground and releasing it into the atmosphere. Without trees, more rainwater would stay locked underground, or run off into the sea, reducing the amount of evaporation from the land. The soil erosion that occurs without tree roots to stabilise the ground would also lead to an expansion of the desert regions and overall, the climate would probably become windier, warmer and drier. The exact effect on the local climate in the UK could be hard to predict though. If weather systems like the Gulf Stream were disrupted, Britain could actually get much colder. LV

A pineapple is actually lots of little fruit squashed together

How do pineapples reproduce? Each of the diamond-shaped scales on a pineapple is formed by a different flower. Up to 200 of them grow together in the middle of the plant. The fruits that each one produces swell and fuse together to form a pineapple. Pineapples are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds and bats but they will produce fruit without being pollinated. In fact the seeds worsen the quality of the fruit, so commercial growers try to restrict pollination. Instead they are propagated using growths called ‘suckers’ that grow from the base, or by planting out the crown after it has been cut off the top of the pineapple. LV

Chopping down trees leads to 15 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions

KNOW SPOT The fastest camera takes images with an exposure of 1.7 trillionths of a second and is able to show the movement of light.

The rich tones of a seasoned choir are thanks to thinning membranes and weakening muscles

Q&A Why do bags form under our eyes? There hasn’t been much research to establish whether it’s caused by a lack of sleep or something else. The skin under our eyes is very thin and fluid retention there can cause it to sag. It’s possible that when we sleep this fluid has a chance to drain away, but diet may also play a part. Staying up late is often associated with drinking alcohol or coffee or eating salty junk food. Any of these could be the real cause of eye bags; we don’t really know for sure. LV Don’t go out drinking; stay in with the latest BBC Knowledge to avoid bags under your eyes

Why do voices change as we age? For several reasons. During childhood our voices change gradually as the larynx (voice box) grows larger, making a stronger sound, and the vocal cords mature. Then in boys a dramatic change occurs with puberty as changing hormones affect the size and shape of the larynx and the voice ‘breaks’. Most voices then remain relatively

Let’s hope that aliens don’t get any ideas by tuning into Independence Day

stable for many decades until in later life our voice becomes weaker and more tremulous as our muscles begin to shrink, membranes thin, and fine control weakens. Men’s voices tend to rise in pitch while women’s voices drop. Despite all these changes, though, our own voice can remain recognisable by our family and friends throughout a whole lifetime. SB

How far into space have radio signals travelled?

rex feature, thinkstock X2, alamy x3

We’ve been broadcasting our existence on Earth into deep space via radio ‘leakage’ for around 100 years. Travelling at the speed of light, that encompasses a sphere 200 light-years across – and dozens of planetary systems. But any aliens will need receiving antennae hundreds of kilometers across to pick up the signals. RM


February 2014


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Can eating burnt toast cause cancer?

Social networks are expanding our minds

Is social networking changing the way our brains work? Yes, and in many ways. In one study, researchers found that people with more Facebook friends had more grey matter in several important brain regions, although this might be because people who start with larger brains attract more friends. In another study, people who regularly used text messaging were asked to type strings of numbers. Although texting wasn’t mentioned, they preferred the number strings that would spell a nice word on a phone. So without realising it we associate number strings with meanings and this affects

the way we behave and feel. Of course our brains change all the time, but there are good reasons to believe that social networking can have profound effects. Our brains evolved when our ancestors lived in relatively small groups, probably no more than 150, and all interactions were face-to-face. To spend hours every day communicating fast and briefly with lots of people we cannot see needs a different kind of brain. Whether this is good, bad or just different remains very much an open question. SB

It’s long been known that just over-heating, let alone burning, some foods can lead to the formation of compounds linked to cancer. These include heterocyclic amines and socalled polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can lead to fried or smoked foods posing a health risk. In the case of burnt toast, most concern surrounds the risk from the formation of acrylamide, a compound that has been linked to cancer and nerve damage in animals. That said, the evidence of a direct link between cancer and acrylamide in food consumed by humans is far from compelling. While some studies have pointed to a doubling in risk of ovarian and uterine cancer among women consuming this compound in food, other studies have found nothing. Even so, in 2007, the European Union’s health advisors decided to take a precautionary approach, and recommended that people avoid eating burnt toast or golden-brown chips as they may contain unacceptably high levels of acrylamide. RM Burnt toast contains acrylamide – but the jury is still out on how much of a health risk it poses

How many photos are uploaded every day?

More photos are uploaded to Facebook daily than any other website. Facebook’s latest figures report that it uploaded an average of 350 million photos per day in the fourth quarter of 2012. That dwarfs even specialist photo sharing sites like Flickr, which hosts over 8 billion pictures, about the same amount that Facebook uploads every 23 days. GM

Nature | Snapshot


White out This is the Rhone Glacier, primary contributor to Lake Geneva and source of the Rhone River. The white blankets seen in the foreground have been placed there by local business owners in an attempt to preserve their glacier-reliant tourist attraction – an ice tunnel. The tunnel is under threat because the glacier is melting. It is believed that 8000 years ago the Rhone Glacier was the largest in Europe, reaching all the way to Lyon, France. Now, there is a mere 9.6km (6 miles) of ice left. “These blankets mask the ice from sunlight, just like being under a parasol,” explains Dr Jez Everest of the Iceland Glacier Observatory, who is not involved with the tunnel preservation attempt. “It will work both by blocking solar radiation, which causes direct heating of the ice, and also by allowing an air gap to exist between the blankets and parts of the glacier, creating a cooler air barrier that slows the melting of the ice surface.”

February 2014


martin van duijn

ice blanket

Snapshot | Science

Full metal jacket gunshot

February 2014

martin van duijn

This 9mm bullet looks almost like an asteroid as it hurtles through a sheet of plastic glass. “The bullet’s comet-like tail shows that it has skid,” says ballistic forensics expert Dr Christopher Shepherd from the University of Kent. “This tells me the gun wasn’t fired perpendicular to the glass. With closer analysis you could get an idea of the angle it was fired from.” Look closely and you can also see that the ‘skid’ is made up of a series of fine lines, which Shepherd says would be another useful clue at a crime scene had a bullet been shot into a similarly dense material. “As a bullet travels down the barrel it picks up rifling marks, and they create a kind of negative on the glass. If the bullet is missing, this can help narrow down the type of ammunition fired, and the kind of gun it was fired from.”


Snapshot | Nature

Slimy swimming green spread

February 2014


You could be forgiven for mistaking this plush green blanket for a golf course. In fact, it is China’s largest ever algae bloom, which took place in July. The phenomenon has become something of a tourist attraction, with visitors bathing in the green growth. An influx of Enteromorpha prolifera algae occurs every summer, but the amount produced this year was exceptional, covering an area of 28,000km2. “There could be several causes of this,” says Dr Michele Stanley, an algae specialist at the Scottish Marine Institute. “Nitrate and phosphate run-off from agriculture is likely to play a part, as is increased water temperature. Some people have also blamed the seaweed industry. Further up the coast E. prolifera invades seaweed farms and the farmers just throw it into the sea.” Whatever the reason for the prolific bloom, Chinese officials duly set about removing the algae. Once collected, it was sent to processing plants that transform it into animal feed, medicinal supplements and fertiliser. E. prolifera is not toxic to humans – some areas in south China even enjoy the green growth known as sea lettuce as a delicacy, frying it up with peanuts.



the latest intelligence This complex arrangement of optics forges something thought to be impossible: molecules made of light

Making matter from light By making light behave as if it has mass, scientists have opened the door to the possibility of lightsabers


science photo library X2, lawrence livermore national laboratory x3


ight could be used to build three-dimensional structures, thanks to pioneering research that’s produced a new form of matter. It involves light interacting with itself to behave as if it has mass and raises the prospect of creating Star Wars-style lightsabers. For decades, scientists had thought that light didn’t interact with itself. Shine two laser beams directly at each other and they’ll just continue as if the other isn’t there. But researchers in the US have now managed to make light interact so strongly it binds together, a feat that was only believed to be possible in theory. Light consists of tiny photons: elementary particles that have no mass and zip around at 299,792,458 meters per second. To bind them together, the team – led by Professor Mikhail Lukin from Harvard University and Professor Vladan Vuletic from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – used a laser to fire photons into a gas of rubidium atoms. This was


February 2014

cooled to just a few degrees above absolute zero. When fired individually, each photon passed through the supercooled gas travelling at a much-reduced speed of around 1000 meters per second before leaving again as a single photon. But when the researchers fired two photons into the gas, they found that the photons emerged from the cloud bound in pairs – creating, in effect, a molecule of light. It’s thought this pairing occurs because of the way the two photons move through the gas. The first photon enters the cloud and excites atoms in its way. But those atoms can’t immediately be

excited to the same degree again, so the second photon can’t follow until the first has skipped further ahead. This results in the two photons travelling together. Indeed, the interaction between them is so strong that they begin to act like a ‘photonic molecule’. “No one has ever seen this new state of matter in light before,” says Vuletic. One possible future application of the work is to use light, instead of electrical pulses, as the building blocks for a quantum computer using photons as the ‘bits’ of information. Such systems are inefficient today as light pulses have to be converted to an

Professor Mikhail Lukin of Harvard University surveys his light-matter machine

electrical signal for processing before being converted back. However, making photons interact could make all-optical computation possible. “Until now photons have been seen as being a little boring, but we have now found a way to make them much more interesting,” adds Vuletic. “It is amazing what level of control we now have for photons.” Vuletic adds that the next step for the team is to attempt to bind three or four photons together. They also have plans to make the photons repel, rather than strongly attract each other. This could allow scientists to build photons into a structure to create, for example, a crystal of light. “There are certainly a lot more avenues for research based on this work,” says Vuletic. And what of the possibility of creating Star Wars weaponry? “It’s not an inapt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Lukin said. “The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”




Nuclear physics

Fusion power edges closer

Sleep helps your brain clean up

By-products of brain activity build up in the spaces between brain cells before being flushed out while you sleep

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York believe they’ve figured out why sleep clears the mind so well, a question that has long puzzled scientists. The brain is our most metabolically active organ but it’s not connected to the body’s normal waste removal network. Last year Maiken Nedergaard showed that the brain has its own cleaning system, and now she and her colleagues have discovered that this system is much more active while we sleep Active, wakeful brains accumulate metabolic waste in the spaces

between cells. The team measured the volume of this space and found that it expands in the brains of sleeping mice, allowing more fluid to flow through and clear out the waste. “The brain only has limited energy and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware, or asleep and cleaning up,” said Nedergaard. “You can think of it like having a party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up, but you can’t really do both at the same time.” Since some of these waste products also build up in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases, this research may also point the way to improved treatment.

An important break-even point in the effort to harness nuclear fusion has been reached, say US scientists. Fusion is a power source that could provide an unlimited supply of energy. The breakthrough occurred on 28 September 2013, at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California, where scientists focus powerful lasers on a small pellet of hydrogen in an effort to trigger fusion. For the first time, an experiment released more energy than was absorbed by the fuel. The idea is that the hydrogen nuclei will fuse into helium nuclei and ignite a self-sustaining reaction – the same process that powers the Sun. The news was revealed in an internal email sent by Dr Ed Moses, director of the NIF. Experts stress that the experiment is still far from achieving the energies needed to reach the goal of ‘ignition’ – the point when the reaction becomes self-sustaining. Nevertheless, it’s being recognised as a significant step on the road to a goal that has eluded science’s best efforts for a long time.

Tests carried out at the National Ignition Facility are working towards harnessing the power of nuclear fusion


Prosthetic limbs to get touchy-feely pattern of neural activity in the brains of macaque monkeys that occurs when their hands are touched. When this neural activity was then artificially generated, the monkeys responded as if their hands were actually feeling something. The research paves the way for sensors on a prosthesis to provide a ‘real’ sensation of touch.


We could soon have artificial limbs that enable us to get all touchy-feely

The next advance for prosthetic limbs will be to hook them up to the brain to provide a sense of touch. And now scientists are a step closer to giving real-time sensory feedback via linked neural implants. A team led by Sliman Bensmaia, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Chicago, identified the


Keeping abreast of the top science, history and nature research from around the world

round up

Skull tells a surprising story

News in Brief

Snakes on Mars

A snake-like robot is currently being designed to assist NASA’s Curiosity rover. Presently, many areas of Mars’s surface are inaccessible to Curiosity because of the rover’s large size. SINTEF, a Scandinavian research organisation, believes a detachable snake arm powered by the rover would improve manoeuvrability and also allow samples of soil to be collected and returned to Earth by future missions.

Biobots to the rescue

Emergency rescue services could soon have a new weapon in their life-saving arsenal: remote-control cockroaches. Software developed at North Carolina State University can track the movements of these ‘biobots’ as they alternate between unrestricted movement and following a series of commands, and use the data to map out an area such as the inside of a collapsed building.

Legless lizards Skull 5, one of five discovered in 2005, suggests there may have been fewer species of early man than was thought. Inset: how the skull’s owner might have looked

georgian national museum, pnas 2013


he scientist who discovered five ancient skulls says they could challenge many of our current assumptions about early humans. In 2005, palaeoanthropologist David Lordkipandize unearthed five skulls in Dmanisi, Georgia. The quintet all date from approximately 1.8 million years ago, but they display varied characteristics. One in particular, Skull 5 (seen above), had tentatively been given the new classification Homo erectus ergaster georgicus, as it shares qualities with two known species: Homo erectus and Homo habilis. Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, Lordkipandize argues that the five skulls exhibit no more variation than you’d expect to see in five modern humans picked at random. He suggests they’re more likely to be Homo erectus


February 2014

skulls of people of different ages and sexes. Prof Christoph Zollikofer of the University of Zurich’s Anthropological Institute and Museum, who co-authored the report, said the five “look quite different from one another, so it’s tempting to view them as different species. Yet we know they came from the same location and the same geological time, so they could represent a single population of a single species.” The Dmanisi findings suggest it’s possible that many existing theories about early humans could be wrong. These theories propose an array of Homo species including H. erectus, H. habilis, H. rudolfensis and others, based on the discovery of differently shaped skulls from different time periods in different places.

Four new species of reptile have been discovered by biologists in California. Adapted to living in loose, moist soil in sparsely inhabited areas, the legless lizards can be distinguished by the colour of their stomachs, the number of their vertebrae, and the number and arrangement of their scales. It’s thought that legless lizards lost their limbs to be able to burrow more quickly, wriggling like snakes to avoid predators. One of the new species of legless lizard discovered: Anniella grinnelli


Science | Physics of time

The incredible truth about time

Theories of science have ignored time... until now. A new idea reveals how it created the Universe – and you


illustrator: magictorch

ime: it rules our lives, and we all wish we had more of it. Businesses make money out of it, and scientists can measure it with astonishing accuracy. Earlier this year, American researchers unveiled an atomic clock accurate to better than one second since the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. But what, exactly, is time? Despite its familiarity, its ineffability has defied even the greatest thinkers. Over 1600 years ago the philosopher Augustine of Hippo admitted defeat with words that still resonate: “If no-one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”


February 2014

Science | Physics of time

Yet according to theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, the time has come to grapple with this ancient conundrum: “Understanding the nature of time is the single most important problem facing science,” he says. As one of the founders of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada, which specialises in tackling fundamental questions in physics, Professor Smolin has spent more time pondering deep questions than most. So why does he think the nature of time is so important? Because, says Smolin, it is central to the success of attempts to understand reality itself. To most people, this may sound a bit overblown. Since reality in all its forms, from the Big Bang to the Sunday roast, depends on time, isn’t it obvious that we should take time seriously? And didn’t scientists sort out its mysteries centuries ago? Timeless physics Prepare for a shock. Scientists have indeed tackled the mystery of time and reached an astounding conclusion. They insist that the most successful theories in physics prove that time does not exist.


But now Smolin has news for these scientists. He thinks they’ve been led to dismiss the reality of time by a mix of deepseated beliefs and esoteric mathematics. And in a controversial new book Time Reborn, he sets out the dangers of persisting with this folly, and the promise of accepting time’s fundamental importance. If he’s right, it means far from being irrelevant, time is of crucial importance to explaining how the Universe works and is even responsible for our very existence. Smolin is under no illusions about what he’s taking on. “The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable,” he says. “The core of the case against time relies on the way we understand what a law of physics is.” He isn’t saying the laws are wrong, just that scientists don’t understand their true origins. “According to the standard view, everything that happens in the Universe is determined by laws,” he says. “Laws are absolute – they don’t change with time”. It’s this attribute that makes laws so powerful in predicting the future: plug in the Earth’s position today into the law of gravity, and it’ll give a pretty accurate location for its position a million years from now. The laws also seem to reveal the true

Quantum conundrum In the mid-1960s, the American theorist John Wheeler and his collaborator Bryce DeWitt decided to see what insights might emerge from applying the most successful theory in all science – quantum theory – to the cosmos. Most often applied to the

A brief history of our changing understanding of time



Early Greek philosophers clash over the reality of flowing time. Heraclitus insists that permanence is an illusion, with everything in a state of flux. In contrast, Parmenides argues that existence demands an absence of change, making time an illusion.

Albert Einstein publishes his Special Theory of Relativity, according to which time is relative, not absolute. He predicts that time as measured by a clock moving relative to another will appear to pass more slowly when compared to the stationary clock.


Isaac Newton publishes his scientific masterwork, The Mathematical Principles Of Natural Philosophy, in which he makes the case for the existence of ‘absolute time’. This flows at precisely the same rate throughout the Universe, independently of any influences. February 2013

nature of time: “They suggest the flow of time is just a convenient illusion that can be replaced by computation,” says Smolin. In other words, time is just a trick that makes the equations spit out the right answers. Emboldened by the seemingly limitless power of their laws and concept of time, physicists have sought to understand the properties of everything – including the Universe as a whole, in all its infinite majesty. But time and again, when they’ve attempted this, they’ve run into problems. Over 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton tried to apply his law of universal gravity to the whole Universe, only to see it collapse when dealing with the infinite extent of space. A century ago, Albert Einstein applied his far more powerful theory of gravity, General Relativity, to the cosmos, but it broke down at the large scale – when explaining the Big Bang.


American theorist Bryce DeWitt, using ideas suggested by fellow theorist John Wheeler, combines quantum theory with relativity in an equation describing the state of the whole Universe. The eponymous equation appears to show that time is an illusion.

Time’s existence is written in the stars The Universe is efficient at producing black holes, which could give birth to new universes

When giant stars run out of nuclear fuel they collapse under their own gravity, triggering a supernova explosion. If the mass left over is relatively low, it will turn into a so-called neutron star. But if it’s heavy enough, nothing can stop gravity turning the remnant into a black hole – an object that is infinitely dense. American theoretical physicist Lee Smolin believes black holes spawn new universes, and that most of these ‘offspring’ – including our Universe - will be well-suited to creating more black holes. According to current theories of black hole formation, this means our Universe should allow supernova remnants of just twice the mass of the Sun to form black holes. And that leads to a prediction: if a remnant heavier than this is found to be merely a neutron star and not a black hole, it will be evidence that our Universe isn’t optimised for black hole creation - thus refuting Smolin’s theory. Astronomers have never found a neutron star breaking Smolin’s limit – at least, not yet.


British physicist and philosopher Julian Barbour publishes The End Of Time, which attempts to bridge the gap between the reality of a timeless Universe, as predicted by the Wheeler-DeWitt equation and our perception of time flowing from past to future.


Prof Lee Smolin publishes Time Reborn, which makes the case for time being real, flowing from past to future, as this allows the laws of nature to evolve into the form we observe today.

sub-atomic world, quantum theory can – in principle at least – be applied to everything, even the large-scale workings of the Universe. Wheeler and DeWitt succeed in producing a nightmarishly complex equation that, according to quantum theory, captures the true nature of the Universe. But the equation spawned a shocking insight. Of all the quantities it contained, one that everyone expected it to include had simply vanished: ‘t’ for time (see ‘The equation that killed time’, on p26). “According to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, the quantum state of the Universe is just frozen,” says Smolin. “The quantum Universe is a Universe without change. It just simply is.” The contrast with apparent reality could hardly be more stark. Astronomers insist the Universe began in a Big Bang and is still expanding. Stars are constantly being born and dying – along with ourselves. Clearly, something is wrong. Many theorists have tried to find ways of getting what we perceive to be time to emerge from the ‘timeless’ Universe described by the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. “I’ve pondered these approaches”, says Smolin, “and I remain convinced none of them work.” He believes only a fundamental re-think about time can solve the crisis. Not everyone agrees, however. Some

February 2014


corbis, science photo library, The University of Texas, science & Society, Getty

An artist’s impression of a supernova – these powerful blasts can result in the formation of black holes

Science | Physics of time

The equation that killed time Inside the Wheeler-DeWitt equation – can you spot a ‘t’? 1 5



1 According to quantum theory, the behavior of everything from a sub-atomic particle to the entire Universe can be extracted from knowing the wave function, Psi. And to do that, the Wheeler-DeWitt equation must be solved.


2 The cosmic scalefactor, or roughly speaking, the radius of the Universe. Bizarrely, while the Universe is known to expand, implying the scale-factor increases over time, the equation does not include any mention of time itself.

3 A quantity linked to the so-called Planck scale, around 100 billion billion times smaller even than a proton. At this scale even the ‘stitches’ making up the fabric of space itself would become detectable.

4 The scalar field, a mysterious ‘force field’ believed to have existed at the beginning of the Universe. Its origin is unknown, but it is thought to have played a key role during the Big Bang.

5 The scalar potential, which measures the strength of the scalar field – and thus its ability to drive the expansion of the Universe. Once believed to have decayed to zero after the Big Bang, it may still affect the cosmos today.

The endless cycle

If the laws of physics are a consequence of time, our Universe isn’t the first – and it won’t be the last

Black holes could give birth to other universes, part of an endless cycle of creation

According to Lee Smolin’s theory, time is the most fundamental feature of reality – so fundamental that its existence transcends that of our Universe. If correct, that means that – in contrast to conventional theory – time did not come into existence at the Big Bang. Instead, our Universe is just the latest of an endless sequence of cycles. The idea of cyclic universes is one of the oldest ideas in cosmology. Using Einstein’s theory of gravity, theorists initially believed that each universe would pass its heat on to its successor, making it ever hotter. Yet today’s Universe is incredibly cold. Most theorists saw this as proof that the cyclic theory was wrong. But the argument was flawed: Einstein’s theory breaks down at the moment of the birth of the Universe, making it useless for understanding cyclic

theories. By combining Einstein’s theory with the quantum laws of the sub-atomic world, theorists have now solved this problem – and found that the idea of cyclic universes is possible after all. Amazingly, the existence of previous universes may still be detectable today. In research published earlier this year, Sir Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford claimed that the gravity of galaxies in the previous Universe has produced detectable distortions in the heat generated by the last Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Penrose has been studying the most detailed-ever ‘map’ of this heat, produced by the European Space Agency’s Planck space observatory. The jury is still out on the claim, but it’s yet to be ruled out.

“The flow of time is just a convenient illusion that can be replaced by computation” Professor Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada

Radical thinking Smolin thinks he can do all this, and more. And to do it, he calls on the properties of the most extraordinary objects in the Universe today: black holes. Formed from the collapse of giant stars, black holes are notorious for having gravitational fields so strong not even light can escape them. Exactly what happens inside them isn’t known for sure, but there are hints from quantum theory that the centre of black holes may be the birthplaces of whole new universes, each with different laws of physics. Smolin points out that if this is correct, then a kind of cosmic version of Darwinian natural selection could apply, in which

An artist’s impression of a black hole, with stars and interstellar gas being sucked in. Could it give birth to another Universe?

the most common universes will be those most suitable for producing black holes. And this, he says, can be put to the test in our Universe. After countless aeons of cosmic evolution, our Universe should by now be ruled by laws of physics well-suited to producing black holes. According to Smolin, astrophysicists can check to see if this is actually true – and to date the evidence suggests it is (see ‘Evidence for time’s existence’ on p25). The most striking evidence, though, may be our own existence. Black holes are formed from the death of huge stars in supernova explosions. Intriguingly, these are the very same stars that produce the carbon, oxygen and other elements required for life. If there were no giant stars, there would be no universe-spawning black holes and no evolving laws of physics – and no us, either. Smolin is thus suggesting that our very existence may be evidence for cosmic evolution. And since evolution can only happen over time, that in turn suggests time is real. It’s an astonishing line of argument for the reality of time – and one that doesn’t convince everyone. “I find these ideas very speculative – to say the least,” says theorist Prof Claus Kiefer of

the University of Cologne in Germany. He doubts even the starting-point for Smolin’s argument for the reality of time: “There is no evidence whatsoever that new universes are born inside black holes.” A matter of time What everyone agrees on, however, is that time certainly seems real. And there can be no disputing the boldness of Smolin’s arguments. If he’s right, our Universe is just the latest in an endless series. Over time, over successive universes, the laws of physics have been evolving to the point where the conditions are just right to form not just black holes – the birth-places of new universes – but also the building blocks of life, including us. In other words, time explains the apparent fluke that our Universe has just the right combination of conditions to allow our existence. So is Smolin right about all this – or is time really an illusion, as most theorists insist? Only time will tell. Robert Matthews is a Visiting Reader in Science at Aston University, Birmingham, UK.

February 2014


corbis, science photo library, The University of Texas, science & Society, Getty

insist that the Wheeler-DeWitt equation reveals the truth about time – no matter how unpalatable we find it. Chief among them is the British theoretical physicist Dr Julian Barbour, Visiting Professor at Oxford University. He has spent decades wrestling with the meaning of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, and is renowned for his 1999 magnum opus The End Of Time. Unlike Smolin, Barbour insists the Wheeler-DeWitt equation’s implication for time cannot be dismissed. He argues that the Universe is really a vast, static array of ‘nows’, like frames on some cosmic moviereel. At any given moment, or ‘now’, time does not need to be factored in to explanations of how the Universe works. The sense of time passing comes from our minds processing each of these frames – or ‘time capsules’, as Barbour calls them. Time itself, however, doesn’t exist. Smolin greatly admires Barbour’s efforts: “It’s the best thought-through approach to making sense of quantum cosmology,” he says. He has even incorporated some of Barbour’s latest ideas into his own. But he believes it suffers from the same flaws as all ‘timeless’ theories of the Universe: it struggles to make testable predictions, and it can’t explain where the timeless laws of physics come from in the first place.

Science behaviour Science| Ant | Ant behaviour

science photo library



February 2014


Ant behaviour | Science

Compact satellites, faster plane boarding and quicker downloads – the humble ant has inspired all three. Adam Hart reveals what these six-legged marvels can teach us


Could ants one day build micro-mechanical motors for us? Probably not, but they’re clever in all sorts of other ways

o look inside an ant nest is to contemplate an alien civilisation. The boiling mass of worker ants beneath an upturned stone is both strangely reminiscent of human society and strikingly different. There is an industry and organisation that fascinates us and a long line of myrmecophiles (or ant lovers) leads back all the way to King Solomon, who in fact advised to “go to the ant, consider her ways and be wise”. Like us, ants build structures, find food, defend their societies and manage waste, and - also like us – they must be well organised. For example, the leaf-cutting ants of Planet Ant have special waste disposal areas for storing hazardous waste and a team of ‘waste-disposal ants’ dedicated to keeping the nest clean. But ants achieve this familiar end result in a very different way to humans. Human societies have centralised control. In other words, someone tells us what to do. Ants, on the other hand, have decentralised control and neither the queen nor any other ant directs work. Ant workers are the ultimate self-starters, following specific, but potentially flexible, rules in certain situations. Chemical trails underpin much of this selforganisation. Foragers lay a mix of chemicals known as trail pheromone behind them as they walk. Other ants follow the trail and if they find food they reinforce it, laying more pheromone as they return to the nest. Stronger trails are more likely to be followed, so trails leading to food become progressively reinforced, while trails with no food at the end evaporate away. This combination of positive feedback and evaporation produces an effective foraging system that is very good at finding the quickest routes to food. This simple guiding principle, and others like it, has provided some elegant solutions to the complex problems faced by engineers, computer scientists and businesses alike.

February 2014


Science | Ant behaviour

Getting your deliveries on time We’ve all waited for a package that didn’t turn up on time. And it seems that ants do a better job of delivering their parcels – or more specifically leafs – than your postman does. In finding the quickest way to food, ants are solving a routing problem. Businesses that need to deliver products while minimising costs must also solve routing problems. Scientists have discovered that we can borrow the principles of ant pheromone trails to assist with our own ‘foraging problems’. The best known routing conundrum is the ‘travelling salesman problem’ (TSP). The TSP seeks to find the shortest route between a number of different points and this becomes progressively harder as the number of points increases. However, simulations using the principles of pheromone foraging in ants, an approach dubbed Ant Colony Optimisation, have been very successful in solving TSPs. One example is Air Liquide, which supplies gas to a large number of customers across the USA, making this a particularly complex TSP. To solve it, the company uses a routing system based on Ant Colony Optimisation, with trucks laying ‘virtual pheromone’ standing in for ants. Computers run through the night to calculate the most efficient routing solution for the next day’s deliveries, saving fuel and time.

A vast distribution centre resembles the high organisation of an ant colony - studying how the insects make their deliveries could help us make ours more efficiently (seen above)

Cuban leaf-cutter ants do what they do best: shifting leaves. But to do so effectively they lay down a network of pheromones secreted from their abdomens


February 2014

Ant behaviour | Science When you hear a fire alarm, hopefully you won’t end up in a pile-up outside the building like this swarm of Harvester ants, which are, in fact, masters of organised chaos

Safer crowd control

February 2014

rex, alamy x2, jurgen & Christine Sohns/FLPA

Ant researchers studying leaf-cutting ants found that ‘crowds’ of ants contained in a space with two separate exits will tend to leave the space by both exits equally under normal conditions, but if a repellent chemical is added they will ‘panic’ and pile up around one exit, making it take longer to evacuate the area. Similar panic-induced escape patterns have been found in theoretical simulations of human behaviour. The architecture of ant nests that help ants move around could inspire architects to come up with novel solutions for our own crowd control.


Science | Ant behaviour

Quicker computer networks A foraging ant colony has a network of trails along which it sends foraging ants to collect food and bring it back to the nest. By following simple rules the ants are able to use foraging trails to selforganise food collection. But using this system is more than just following a trail of breadcrumbs. As well as finding food, the colony wants to ensure that it sends out the right number of foragers. If there are too many for the food available then the colony is wasting resources and risking lives. But too few means that the colony is not getting as much food as it could. To solve this problem, researchers working on desert ants found that workers can use a very simple rule: the rate that workers leave the nest to find food depends on the rate that workers return to the nest with food. If there isn’t much food out there, the return rate of successful foragers is low and very few new foragers will leave, but a torrent of successful foragers

signals a food-rich environment and the colony responds by sending out more workers. The ants’ foraging mechanism is almost identical to Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP – an algorithm used to avoid congestion on the internet. When a file is transferred it is broken into small packets and once each is received an acknowledgement (or ack) is sent back to the source. A high rate of acks shows that there is plenty of bandwidth and the transmission speed can be increased, much as a high rate of successful foragers returning to the nest means plentiful food. Given that there are more than 11,000 species of ants that have evolved in many different ecological situations, researchers are keen to understand more about how they run their network operations. The hope is that the study of ant foraging networks will reveal other useful mechanisms that can inspire us in our own network management.

Leave food out on a hot day and ants will be on it in minutes – an efficiency that scientists are trying to replicate

Smaller satellites Cubesats are miniature satellites measuring just 10cm along each edge and are a relatively inexpensive way to do space research. Clyde Space, a Glasgow-based CubeSat manufacturer, has been investigating ant-inspired methods to build better satellites. With weight and space both at a premium, CubeSats need to be designed with the minimum amount of cabling. Just as ants use pheromones to find food, computer programs based on virtual ants laying virtual pheromones through a simulated CubeSat have created the most space-saving wiring solution.

The bustling swarm of an African safari ant migration; internet data could be sent quicker thanks to studies into the way ants forage for food


February 2014

Ant behaviour | Science

Australian jumping jack ants feed on a leaf; the way they chose their path to reach the food could be used to create super-efficient routes for spacecraft

Voyager 1 has now left the Solar System having used gravitational assists

A spacecraft can use the gravity of large bodies like planets to provide a ‘gravity assist’. By travelling on the right trajectory, the planet’s gravity increases the craft’s speed and changes its direction in such a way that, if you have done the mathematics correctly, it propels the craft towards its final destination. Gravity assists save on fuel and these celestial slingshots have been used to propel space probes like Voyager immense distances through space. Voyager 1 has travelled so far using this technique that it has now officially left the Solar System. Although more complex than the traditional Earth-bound Travelling Salesman Problem, designing trajectories through space is still, at a fundamental level, a routing problem. However, to make use of gravity assists, the passage through space has to be combined with very accurate

timing, which also makes this a scheduling issue. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow have used the principles of pheromone foraging trails to construct a modified Ant Colony Optimisation algorithm (set of instructions) that predicts routes through space. The algorithm removes the need to check all possible routes (a very time consuming process) and instead compiles the route incrementally, with each additional trajectory building on those the model has already ‘foraged’. Using this ant-inspired approach, they can predict the schedule and trajectories required to take advantage of multiple gravity assists far more rapidly than traditional methods. Adam Hart is a presenter for BBC Four for his documentary on Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony.

February 2014


martin dohrn/, getty x2, superstock X2, nasa

“The ant-inspired approach has produced accurate trajectories far more rapidly”

Forging fuel-saving routes through outer space

Science | Aviation


From Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines to the jet pack at the LA Olympics, we’ve dreamed of flying like a bird. Now there’s a new breed of solo flying machines ready to take off

Yves Rossy has used his powered wing to fly alongside famous aircraft like a B-17 and Spitfires


February 2014

jetman Wing or daredevils looking for the thrill of speed and the freedom of unencumbered flight, nothing can beat a personal jetpack. Powered by four miniature jet engines, this wing unit developed by Swiss pilot and aviation enthusiast Yves Rossy fits the bill. It can hit speeds of up to 300km/h (186mph) and is manoeuvrable enough to pull off loops and rolls. Launched from a helicopter, the wings are guided entirely by the pilot’s body movements – there are no rudders, ailerons,

or flaps. A throttle attached to the right hand controls thrust; the only other instruments are an altimeter to report altitude and a timer to keep track of fuel. There’s enough fuel to fly for around 10 minutes, after which Rossy is able to land safely using a parachute. Protected from the engine exhaust by a heat-resistant suit, Rossy manoeuvres the carbon-fibre wings by tilting his head and angling his shoulders. It takes a lot of concentration to avoid an uncontrolled spin, “I stay relaxed, avoiding any fast movements, like a ski-jumper,” says Rossy. In the event of a spin, the wing unit can be

separated from the pilot, allowing both to independently parachute to safety. Rossy unveiled his invention to the world in a flight over the Swiss Alps in May 2008. Four months later, he made history by using the jet-powered wings to cross the English Channel 99 years after Louis Blériot’s famous flight. Last November he could be seen flying around Mount Fuji, circling the volcano nine times over the course of a week. Don’t expect to see this wing unit in stores anytime soon. Difficult to use and expensive to develop, it’s likely to remain one of a kind for the moment.

martin jetpack x3

Science | Aviation

The Martin Jetpack can hit a top speed of 74km/h (45mph) and operates at a recommended cruise height of 500ft (150m)


February 2014

A test pilot takes to the skies with a Martin Jetpack

Martin Jetpack hough its makers claim to have built ‘the world’s first practical jetpack’, the Martin Jetpack is actually powered by a pair of ducted fans, not a jet engine. Constructed from advanced lightweight composites, it’s the culmination of over 30 years of research by founder Glenn Martin, who started the project in his garage on a budget of just NZ $20 (£10) per month. The Martin Jetpack has been designed with an emphasis on safety and ease of use. It can cruise at 56km/h (35mph) for up to 30km, and includes a specially designed

parachute that is fired from a casing in case of failure. Protected by a Kevlar roll cage, the pilot controls pitch and roll with one hand and throttle and yaw with the other. “We are finding that even without flying experience, individuals are able to learn to fly the Jetpack in under five hours,” said Peter Coker, CEO of Martin Aircraft. The company is already accepting orders, with a target launch date of mid-2014 for police and other government agencies. Sales to private individuals are expected to start in 2015, though the US $100,000 price tag means that it will remain the preserve of the lucky few for a while yet.

Science | Aviation

We’re not sure if this would qualify for use in a cycle lane…

reuters x3

The flying bike remains remote controlled for now - but human test flights are planned

If you’re not content with simply beating stationary traffic on your way to work, why not beat other bikes too… with a flying one?


February 2014

Flying bike he scene in the film E.T. when Elliott takes flight on his bike, iconically silhouetted in front of a full Moon, could become a reality. That is if a crack team of engineers have their way. Their flying bicycle uses six electrically powered propellers: two large pairs over the wheels providing lift, and smaller ones on either side for manoeuvring and balance. Inspired by science fiction novels, the Czech companies Duratec, Technodat and Evektor, assisted by French company Dassault, launched the project in 2011. The first prototype was unveiled in June 2012. Although the bicycle carried a dummy during its remotely controlled demo flight, the team is hoping to test it with a human

rider in 2014 and is working to add a control unit. Unfortunately, it only flies for five minutes before the battery runs dry. This limited prototype is just the first step towards the team’s lofty goal. Their aim is to build a unit that works like a normal bike but can also take off for short, low-altitude flights, hopping over traffic or other obstacles. “We are still considering major changes,” said Technodat engineer Jindrˇich Vítu˚, who stressed that the bike is “a proof of concept”. According to Vítu˚, a version that can be flown by a human will be ready in a year. If you’re impatient to fly something before then, check out the Flyke from Germany company Fresh Breeze, a recumbent tricycle equipped with a paragliding wing and a motor drive.

Sedeer El Showk is a blogger on fields of science, nature education, evolution and pursuing his PhD in plant biology.

portfolio From my first day exiled at the desk called ‘Kamchatka’, at the very back of my school classroom, I dreamed of visiting that faraway land. In 2005 my wish came true: I became a ranger in Kronotsky Nature Reserve, surrounded by brown bears, steaming geysers and fiery volcanoes. But each year, as I left my remote cabin for the winter, I felt like an absentee father, set to miss crucial milestones in the lives of my wild charges. So two years ago I chose to spend the entire seven-month winter in the reserve. These images give just a taste of what I experienced. 


February 2014

igloo with a view Igloos are warm and effective hides from which to watch wildlife – I can sit in them for hours, sipping hot tea from a flask. I built this igloo near my cabin with the aim of photographing a wary local wolverine. However, this curious fox kept getting in the way, sticking his snout right into the lens hood and interrupting my shoots.

Looking for trouble In Kronotsky, foxes are particularly bold. Habituated to the visits of scientists and rangers, they forage around the cabins for scraps of food – or, perhaps, company. Their main aim, though, seems to be to bring mischief. On one occasion, when four patrolling rangers spent the night at a neighbouring hut, a thieving fox targeted the boots left outside, making off with one from each pair; I found them months later, stashed in the tundra. This regular visitor, whom I named Kuzya, became known to tens of thousands of people when I recounted his antics on my blog. I shot this photo as he climbed a tree in a futile attempt to catch a spotted nutcracker mocking him from above.


February 2014

Portfolio | Nature

freeze Framed  I spotted this red fox in March, emerging from a temporary den it had excavated in a snow bank to escape an icy squall – a common tactic for both foxes and wolverines at this time of year, when drifts can lie several metres deep. On warmer days I often watched Kamchatka’s foxes, in their rich red winter pelage, basking in the sunshine or hunting in the meadows, by the lakes and on the seashores where rodents, which make up the majority of their prey, congregate at this time of year.

fish fight  Two young eagles jockey for the rights to a sockeye salmon pulled from the reserve’s icy waters. On the right, an immature Steller’s sea eagle – one of the world’s biggest, growing up to 9kg, with a wingspan as wide as 2.5m – shields the fish while glaring at its rival, a young golden eagle. The larger raptor boasts a massive bill with which it fillets fish swiftly and effectively, but golden eagles also enjoy salmon – particularly during the winter, when other food is scarce. Most such confrontations, however, end peacefully – one fish carries more than enough flesh to feed several eagles.

Nature | Portfolio

otter ambition


I had always wanted to photograph an otter. On paper, at least, Kamchatka is the place to do so: it’s otter heaven, thanks to the abundance of fish in its rivers and lakes. But though they are common in the reserve – I saw at least one every week – the wily creatures would never co-operate with my photographic ambitions. I explored the area around my cabin, and had no problem finding their fishing holes, trails and dens – but whenever I did encounter an otter, I always had a shovel or axe in my hand instead of my camera. At the end of that long winter I had captured only this one shot of an otter as it watched me from the edge of an ice floe in the River Kronotskaya.


February 2014

antisocial climber In December large numbers of coho salmon froze into the river ice; I watched several wolverines gnawing at the ice to get at the fish. However, they are essentially scavengers, covering hundreds of kilometres across the enormous reserve (spanning some 11,000km2) in search of carrion; their large paws, covered with thick fur, act like snowshoes, enabling them to traverse deep drifts. These elusive creatures can be playful: on several occasions I watched pairs romping in the tundra. They are also agile climbers – on spotting me, this one scampered away up the knotted trunk of an Erman’s birch.


February 2014


Portfolio | Nature

bear on a wire  This young she-bear earned the moniker ‘the electrician’ because of her curiosity about the electrical wires running from the generator shed to my cabin. Emerging from hibernation in April, she explored her surroundings to investigate the unfamiliar objects that had appeared during her slumber. Kronotsky Nature Reserve harbours the world’s largest protected population of brown bears – more than 700 of them. The Kamchatka subspecies is the biggest in Eurasia, reaching 650kg or more.

RIDE ON TIME  On seeing one of my photos of a bear, a jaded biologist cried: “Anyone can get bear pictures here! The real test is to capture a photo of a vole or a shrew.” Rising to the challenge, I took this shot of a Laxmann’s shrew investigating my watch. On autumn nights, dozens of shrews scampered around my cabin and even my bed, keeping me awake; in an attempt to get some sleep, I would scoop them up by the handful and carry them outside to release.

The photographer Igor Shpilenok a Russian conservationist and photographer, grew up in the Bryansk Forest in western Russia, where he works to preserve the habitat of the rare black stork.

find out more Admire more of Igor’s icily beautiful photos of his wild neighbours in Kamchatka at E

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Journey to the stars Introducing new propulsion technologies that will send rockets and satellites into space in the coming years


science photo library

hrought the space age, rockets have used chemical fuels to blast free of the Earth’s surface. Only they could produce the enormous thrust needed to achieve escape velocity and lift heavy spacecraft free of the planet. Once in space, however, such fuels are costly and wasteful for the return in speed gained. So space scientists have developed, or are investigating, fresh methods of propulsion. Some, like space lasers or the warp drive in Star Trek, remain science fiction. But the pull of the planets and the slow but steady acceleration from ion drive engines have shown their worth. Soon a NASA solar sail called Sunjammer will test yet another way to fly, harnessing winds from the Sun.


February 2014

Space propulsion | Science

Gravity assist Deep space missions use the pull of the planets to help propel spacecraft. Instead of flying directly to a target, a probe will be slung around the Solar System to gain or lose momentum. NASA’s Messenger probe could not have got to Mercury without Venus slowing it, while Voyager 1 (pictured) reached a record speed by fillips from Jupiter and Saturn.

Nuclear propulson The idea of nuclear-powered spacecraft, driven by the continual explosion of small bombs, has been considered since Project Orion in the 1950s but it is seen as a dirty fuel. A cleaner version, using nuclear fusion by detonating fuel pellets with a laser beam, is now mooted for a concept mission to the stars called Icarus. One snag is that no one has yet managed to harness fusion power.

Warp drive A spacecraft with the speed of Star Trek’s Enterprise remains science fiction, but experiments are being carried out at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to see if a warp drive can become reality. Shrouded in secrecy, it involves creating a force called negative energy to make a distortion in space-time. A spaceship would ride this like a wave, enabling it to reach stars in days rather than centuries.

Ion propulsion Ion engines use electricity to charge a gas such as xenon in a magnetic chamber. Positively charged atoms are forced from the engine. The thrust achieved is far less than a chemical rocket, but over time will accelerate a spacecraft to 10 times the speed. Three ion engines now power Dawn (pictured) on its mission to asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

Space propulsion | Science

Fast, faster, fastest Chemical rockets

Maximum or potential speeds (not to scale)

Conventional liquid and solidfuelled stages have been used to lift spacecraft into orbit. The fastest probe ever fired into space was NASA’s New Horizons, which was sent directly on a course for distant Pluto in 2006. A solidfuelled rocket accelerated it to Solar System escape velocity, with just a little help from Jupiter’s gravity to counter the Sun’s own pull. It will reach Pluto in 2015.


GRAVITY ASSIST 62,000 km/h

ION PROPULSION 320,000 km/h

Laser beams Directing a remote laser in orbit at a spacecraft could accelerate it through space, either by the pressure of photons or else by heating an on-board propellant to generate a jet of plasma. Such a thruster has been developed in the lab but not tested in space where ‘Star Wars’ tech is banned. The challenges are huge, not least how to avoid frying a probe’s electronics.

SOLAR SAIL 325,000 km/h

Journey to the stars | Science

LASER BEAM 2 million km/h

NUCLEAR 131,670,000 km/h (12.2% of the speed of light)

Solar sail

gest s impression), the big will Sunjammer (artists’ It ar. ye s thi h e to launc solar sail ever, is du size of a the ter nis ca a m unfurl in space fro n become an ultra-thi washing machine to after an d me Na s. ros ac m spacecraft 38 fly like ry, Sunjammer will Arthur C Clarke sto the by ng alo ed nd, push a kite in the solar wi t drives tha t gh nli su of m ea same flowing str er will into space. Sunjamm comets’ tails away ol ntr co ing us the Sun, actually fly towards nstrates mo de it as t ch ya a vanes to tack like . It will also carry UK lar solar sail technology or space weather. So m nit mo to experiments junk fro e ac sp e ov rem to sails could be used , the deep space mission orbit, but sent on a a spacecraft ch su ate ler ce ac solar wind could ds. to phenomenal spee

WARP DRIVE faster than light

Paul Sutherland is space correspondent for The Sun newspaper in the UK.

February 2014


laboratory of neuro imaging ucla/martinos center for biomedical imaging mgh/

A slice through the left hemisphere of the brain showing long-distance nerve fibres. Those in red are directed left-to-right in the brain, green fibres go from the front towards the back, while blue strands are from bottom to top

neuroscience | Science

A multi-million dollar project is revealing how our brains work in unprecedented detail. Rita Carter gets her mind round the first results


irst came the Human Genome Project – the catalogue of all the genes inside our cells. Now it’s our brains that are being unravelled in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a huge research effort that’s mapping connections and activity in our brains with greater precision than any other experiment. Launched back in 2009, the first detailed HCP results are now being released. They come in the form of kaleidoscopic images showing bursts of electrical activity in neurones, hazy colour washes charting electrical flow through the cerebrum and weird bundles of swirling, neon-lit fibres resembling some exotic light-emitting insect. As well as looking beautiful, these scans are providing intriguing insights into the inner workings of our minds. Part of the HCP’s work is to map the longdistance connections – the highways of nerve

fibre – that make up the white matter inside our brains. These neural pathways are covered in white myelin, a fatty, protective covering. Overlooked in the past by neuroscientists, these links are proving to be very significant. “What’s become apparent in the past few years is that the brain is this hugely connected system where activity in one area is propagated to others,” says Assistant Professor Jack Van Horn at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is part of the consortium that’s mapping the white matter. “It’s through this collective but spatially disparate pattern of activity that we generate our thoughts and actions.” Van Horn and his fellow neuroscientists have been tracing the long-distance links using ‘diffusion spectral imaging’. Here an MRI scanner is used to follow water as it naturally flows through the brain. “The water molecules diffuse more easily parallel to the fibres than across them,”

February 2014


laboratory of neuro imaging ucla/martinos center for biomedical imaging mgh/

says Van Horn. So following these paths of least resistance reveals the routes the nerve fibres take. This kind of scan isn’t new, but the HCP team, which also includes scientists at Harvard, has been super-charging its MRI scanner at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s the Porsche of MRI scanners – it’s high performance,” says Van Horn. “That means the resolution is much higher.” Detail matters, because it’s what makes us unique. Someone with relatively few pathways from their amygdala (the brain area that generates fear) to their prefrontal cortex (where fear is consciously experienced) is likely to be less nervous than someone whose neural wiring allows their forebrain to be deluged by subcortical doom alerts. A generous bandwidth from Wernicke’s area – the bit of the brain that ‘understands’ spoken language – to Boca’s area, where it is articulated, is likely to make an easy talker. The UCLA consortium aims to release its first batch of data to fellow neuroscientists over the coming months so they can begin to untangle what’s going on. By the end, they will have scanned the brains of 30-50 volunteers.

The long-distance connections in the brain create a kaleidoscope of colour

now there’s a thought While the UCLA/Harvard neuroscientists are plotting the highways, another consortium made up of scientists from Washington and Minnesota universities (WU-Minn) is studying the local roads – the disparate groups of neurones that fire when someone’s performing a specific task, such as listening to a story. And rather than following water, the WU-Minn team is plotting blood flow using an fMRI scanner, with areas of high flow revealing regions of high brain activity. The daydreaming mind is also being analysed by the WU-Minn team in its scanners. Conventional brain imaging depends on giving people specific things to do, then seeing which bits of brain are activated in response. Recently, though, more attention has swung to the complex pattern of activity known as the Default Mode Network (DMN), or resting state, which occurs when people are relaxing. Scans of this show how our brains keep a running commentary on ourselves, ruminating on past and present events and ‘anchoring’ us to our lives. “There’s a very characteristic pattern of brain areas that participate in the resting state,” says Van Horn. “This is probably the biggest, most concerted effort

The red and yellow areas are connected by neuronal ‘wiring’ (not shown here), which activates them when we are daydreaming. They include frontal ‘thinking’ modules and ones further back that create our sense of self in time and space. The pathways trace outwards from a starting point or ‘seed location’, shown here as a black dot

neuroscience | Science

“It’s the Porsche of MRI scanners – it’s high performance. That means much higher resolution”

The interconnected yellow and red areas activate when a person listens to a story. They include Broca’s and Wernicke’s language areas on the left side (top row, left). The equivalent areas on the right process tone and emotional impact.

Assistant Professor Jack Van Horn at the University of California, Los Angeles

dedicated to gathering data on this and looking at the genetic components of these patterns.” The WU-Minn team has just released its first batch of data – the brain scans of 68 volunteers – along with details of these volunteers’ personalities and cognitive capabilities. Its final target is 1,200 brains scanned. The end result of this five-year project, bankrolled to the tune of $40 million by the National Institutes of Health in the US, will be a multi-layered brain map showing how a person’s genes, behaviour, and neural ‘wiring’ relate to one another. It’ll not only give the clearest picture yet of how the healthy mind works but also help researchers spot what goes wrong in brain disorders. “This research will provide the baseline we can build upon and that baseline is fundamental,” says Van Horn.

Outside left

Outside right

Inside left

Inside right

Myelin is a fatty covering that protects the nerve fibres and speeds electrical impulses like insulation around a wire. Regions of the brain that perform different tasks have different amounts of myelin. These dark areas have thin sheathing while the red and yellow areas – mainly regions concerned with sensation – have more.

Outside left

Outside right

Inside left

The fine structure of white matter fibres is clear - showing just how sensitive the diffusion spectral imaging (DSI) technique is

Inside right

Rita Carter is a neuroscience writer and author of Mapping The Mind.

February 2014


Science Science | |human humanevolution evolution


February 2014

Alfred Russel Wallace arrived at a theory of natural selection independently of Charles Darwin


volution the four billion-year journey that brought us from the primordial pond to civilization, picking up brains, a backbone and opposable thumbs along the way. An unimaginably long, slow journey that ends right here. Or does it? Isn’t it possible that the theory Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace conceived of in the 19th Century – the theory of natural selection – applies to humans today in the same way that it did to the ancestors we share with chimpanzees? Could evolution be happening under our very noses? To us? The knowledge and technology we have amassed in our short existence puts us in the unique position of being able to contemplate our origins, and our future, as a species. But could knowledge and technology also be driving our evolution faster than ever before? “I think the rate of human evolution is faster than perhaps at any other time in the past,” says Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. Genetic clues A 2007 study on the human genome shows our evolution sped up in the last 40,000 years (p60). 

alamy, illustrator: magictorch

On the 100th anniversary of the death of the pioneering biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, new science is revealing that evolution is far from finished when it comes to human beings

Science Science | |human humanevolution evolution

Are we evolving faster than ever before? Scientists aren’t sure if we’re still a work in progress and if we are, how rapidly we are changing



Technology has changed our world beyond recognition. If evolution is a process that translates change in our surroundings into physical change, the rate of our evolution should be off the chart.


A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences in 2007 suggests that we are more different from our ancestors who died 5000 years ago than they were from the Neanderthals, who died out 30,000 years ago.


There are more of us than ever before. The number of random genetic mutations that are generated is huge.



We’re more mobile than ever before, so we make babies with people from other cultures. Compare this to the selective breeding of dogs – perpetuating wrinkly faces or sausage bodies requires in-breeding. What we’re doing is the opposite.


Cultural adaptation has now become more important than genetic adaptation – we change because we learn from our parents, not because our genes change.


In the developed world, modern medicine keeps alive those who should not have survived under natural selection, perpetuating ‘defective’ genes. But it depends what you call evolution – simple changes in gene frequencies or survival of the fittest?

superstock, getty, science photo library, corbis

We’re more different from our ancient ancestors than they were from Neanderthals


February 2014

Bostrom argues the current acceleration is because our environment is changing so rapidly. In a changing environment, those individuals that are better-suited to the new conditions flourish, while others fail. This is the basic principle of evolution by natural selection. Whether it’s weather patterns, disease, or diet, anything that changes in our natural or man-made environment is a potential pressure that could determine the course of our evolution. We may think of evolution as something that happened to us in our distant past, while we were still working out how to make fire, but there are examples of genetic adaptations within the last 10,000 years – relatively recently in evolutionary terms. Take the genes that allow us to digest milk. Today, lactose intolerance is considered a condition, but until the advent of agriculture, it was the norm. As hunter gatherers turned to dairy-farming, being able to drink milk became a selective advantage. Those who had the favoured genes were provided with

a good source of nutrition and energy, and had more healthy children. Bostrom says this proves technology has already had an impact on our genes. “Agriculture is a kind of technology,” he says. “And I’m sure there are more subtle but pervasive influences throughout the human genome of having lived in civilisation for thousands of years.” Maybe. But 10,000 years is a pretty long time ago. The big question is: are we still evolving? And if so, how will the human race look and behave in 1000 years (see right), or 100,000 years? Even if we look much the same, our genes may tell a different story. Right now, diseases like HIV and malaria are creating pressures for humans to adapt. The genetic traces of survival are like scars in our genome, but they also make us stronger. One example is a gene variant that is helping us battle against the onslaught of malaria. If a child gets a copy from both parents, it inherits a blood disorder called sickle cell

human evolution | Science Ötzi the Iceman died around 5300 years ago; scientists have found that he was lactose intolerant, being from a time and place where agriculture hadn’t conditioned the body to digest milk

If ginger genes could somehow offer protection against a global pandemic, the future could be orange…

How WILL we have changed 1000 YEARS FROM NOW? With technology and our knowledge of how the human genome works, we could speed up the pace of evolution with radical results


anaemia, but a copy from just one parent offers protection from malaria, meaning this gene has spread rapidly in malaria-ravaged regions. In 2010, UK and Kenyan scientists mapped the spread of the sickle cell gene, confirming that areas of Africa where the gene is most common overlap with areas where malaria was rife. One key feature of natural selection is that it has an effect before or around reproductive age. So while technologies like transplants and medicines, more commonly used by older people, will have little impact on the genes we pass to future generations, diseases that kill at childbearing age or younger are powerful selectors. And in the arms race with these deadly pathogens, our immune systems are accumulating weapons. HIV resistance is the best example of this, says Martin Blaser, a microbiologist at the New York University School of Medicine in New York. “This is natural selection in action,” he says. He explains that some people’s immune systems are less susceptible

to the virus. They have a gene deletion called CCR5-delta 32, which stops HIV entering their cells – a deletion that should, by Blaser’s estimation, be spreading. So will geneticists of the future be able to track the spread of HIV-resistance through the 21st Century, just as we spotted the spread of milk-digesting genes? “It depends if we get a cure for HIV,” says Blaser. “If there were no cure, then you would expect that over time there would be selection for people who are immune. That’s what Darwin would have predicted.” Despite the value of these adaptations, they do seem rather subtle. Why not something more radical? Well, besides the fact these trophy traits took millions of years to evolve, there are plenty of arguments against such dramatic changes. One is that our ability to continent-hop and persist in just about every available space means we now make babies wherever we choose, with whoever we choose – we’re crossbreeding in a way that makes it difficult

Disease-resistant: Genes that offer protection from big killers such as HIV and malaria. These genes would only spread without good vaccines or cures. Super-intelligent: If we could work out the genetic basis of human intelligence, we could start screening fertilised eggs to make brainier babies. Ginger: What if genes for resistance to the next plague were associated with genes for red hair? Natural selection dictates that all the survivors would be ginger. Better-looking: In countries with good support for single parents, it’s a perfectly safe strategy to pick a mate with the best genes and forget about looking for a life partner. So why shouldn’t mums just pick the best-looking dads?

MAN AND MACHINE MERGE A life in silicon: If some futurists are right, then it could be possible to transfer human intellect to machines, by using detailed scans and models to produce a digital copy of a brain. Obsolescence: Once we create artificial intelligence that’s cleverer than us, who knows what could happen? Machine intelligence could mean that humans become obsolete.

Science Science | |human humanevolution evolution

Super-fast evolution

thinkstock, getty X3, shutterstock

The human body is able to quickly modify itself if the environment demands it It’s easy to forget that Darwin and Wallace never wrote about genes; they wrote about selection and adaptation. Our modern understanding means we attribute most examples of natural selection to genetic changes. But we are now learning that there is another layer of control – the epigenome – that could be driving human adaptations over much shorter time frames. The epigenome refers to how DNA is packaged and modified, in ways that can profoundly affect our physical character. It can turn off some sections of the genome completely. For instance, there are many genes encoding the olfactory system – our sense of smell – that we do not need. So they are set to ‘off’ by the epigenome, through heavy chemical modification. A 2013 study published in Genome Research suggests humans may use this mode of instant adaptation to produce rapid changes in skin pigmentation, as well as to protect themselves from diseases such as measles and Hepatitis B. “If an organism, an animal or a human, requires a quick change that confers an advantage to survive, it is more likely that an epigenetic modification takes place first,” says lead researcher Manel Esteller from the University of Barcelona. “In our study, we also show there is cross-talk between genetic and epigenetic variants in humans to create a fine-tuning of humans to excel in different habitats.”

The epigenetic code controls gene activity with chemical tags (purple diamonds, top)

for new mutations, and new traits, to get established. Isolation is a better way to direct evolution down a specific path, sometimes leading to new species altogether. Maybe we could evolve tea-sucking trunks and extendable umbrella arms? A slightly less far-fetched isolation scenario is the colonisation of other planets (see ‘Adapting To The Space Age’ p63), although it would be a forward-thinking group of space pioneers indeed who set out to start a new species. Man-made evolution There’s a way to speed up evolution though – circumvent natural selection and isolation, and make your selections artificially. When fertility doctors carrying out in vitro fertilisation are deciding which embryo to implant, they choose the healthiest-looking one. So what if we could choose the one with brains like Einstein, a face like Marilyn Monroe, or legs like Usain Bolt? The trouble is that these traits are controlled by many different genes, so we can’t just test for brains, beauty or athletic ability. But Bostrom believes that in the future, parents will be able to gene-screen. “I think that as we’re able to conduct genetic studies on much larger populations, we’ll be able to detect at least part of the genetic basis for traits like intelligence that depend on the combined effects of large numbers of genes,” says Bostrom. “Once we have that knowledge it can also be used to select which embryo to implant.” If the idea of picking out genetically superior children doesn’t appeal, perhaps we could wait around a few thousand years for the leisurely process of evolution to catch up? By then, we should all be cleverer and cuter, right? This is where things get complicated. Beauty is considered a product of natural selection’s dirty little sidekick, sexual selection, dictated by who mates with who. But natural selection and sexual selection often pull in opposite directions, as Steven Gaulin, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains. “Most sexually selected traits are bound by

From right to left, US astronaut Thomas Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield celebrate having spent half a year on the International Space station

the counterbalancing effect of natural selection,” he says. “Think about the peacock’s tail. Females prefer long tails, but only a small fraction of the long-tailed males will survive the ambushes of foxes or whatever is hunting them. The net effect will determine how long a tail can get.” So we humans should ponder the costs of becoming super-attractive to the opposite sex – what is it that natural selection is doing to prevent us all from becoming swimwear models? Meanwhile, our impatient pursuit of physical perfection continues in ways that transcend evolution altogether. Although Bostrom says he considers human genetic engineering to be a long way off, gene doping is another matter. Whispers of

How long before we bypass the natural pace of evolution to create designer babies?

We might soon be able to enhance complex body parts like the human eye

human evolution | Science

Adapting to the space age If we want to conquer the final frontier we may have to make some changes Let’s imagine for a minute that humans had to adapt to low-gravity conditions in space. Earlier in 2013, the crew aboard the International Space Station explained how the body adapts in the short-term. Balance and co-ordination takes a while to re-adjust and astronauts’ legs get thinner – mainly because gravity is not pulling fluid down into the lower regions of the body. Over time, space travellers can lose some of their bone strength and muscle mass. So although we really have no idea what would happen over many, many

concern began in the 1990s when scientists made ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’ mice with giant muscles. Attention soon turned to gene therapies. Rather than affecting the genes in embryos, gene therapies target DNA in adult cells, meaning they are ripe for abuse by drugs cheats. In 2007, a German athletics coach was accused of trying to buy an experimental gene therapy, Repoxygen, which ramps up production of red blood cells, therefore mimicking the effects of high-altitude training. Genes for muscle production and metabolism have been named as other potential targets for cheats. In years to come, we could even replace

feeble or damaged muscles with artificial ones. Smart materials called electroactive polymers have already been used as artificial muscles for focusing bio-inspired lenses, bringing to mind bionic eyes. They could also give movement to paralysed people – an idea tested by embedding the materials into the faces of gerbils. But could they drive artificial limbs or endow human biceps with superstrength? “The material performance today is not adequate,” says Federico Carpi, a biomedical engineer at Queen Mary University of London. “But that does not mean that the technology will not be able to meet the goal one day.” For now, at least, evolution has the upper hand. Whatever the future might hold, Bostrom

evolution in action

generations, we can imagine that these might be aspects of human physiology that could start to be affected. We also have to consider the ‘starter’ genes for a space colony – the first inhabitants would likely be chosen to make excellent breeding stock. Genome sequencing pioneer Craig Venter has suggested that we could start screening potential astronauts for genes that would make good space travellers. He has also floated the idea of incorporating DNA from radiation-resistant microbes into the human genome. This could help us withstand damage from cosmic rays.

thinks there’s good reason to speculate. “We base our decisions on expectations of what’s plausible and what’s crazy to believe about the future,” he says. “So one reason it’s important to think about the future is that if we have slightly better calibrated expectations we can make better decisions today.” And when you can speculate, why not imagine a future where humans have uploaded their brains to computers, effectively making evolution – and biology – obsolete? Nick Bostrom does. Hayley Birch is a science writer and author of The Big Questions In Science.

The map below shows how the genetic variant that bestows a resistance to malaria is spreading across Africa and India, the two regions most affected by the disease.

Predicted frequency (%) of haemoglobin S (the sickle cell gene)

0.18 0.15 0.12 0.09 0.06 0.03 0.00

February 2014


Science | Disaster in space

how to survive

warner brothers

a Space disaster 64

February 2014

disaster space| |Science Science Disaster in in space

With the film Gravity featuring two astronauts whose spacecraft is hit by debris, what are the real dangers posed by exploring the high frontier?


wo astronauts float in space, working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Suddenly, a rogue piece of satellite crashes into the Space Shuttle that got them there. Hubble is hit by a piece of debris, too, knocking it out of its orbit. As the Shuttle is destroyed, the robotic arm that astronaut Ryan Stone is tethered to begins spinning out of control. She frantically tries to detach from it, just managing to set herself free. The Shuttle falls and Dr Stone is left floating in space, along with astronaut Matt Kowalsky. Contact with Houston is lost – the two astronauts are alone. That’s the premise of the film called Gravity, which was released on 11 October 2013, starring Sandra Bullock as medical engineer Dr Ryan Stone and George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky.

February 2014


Science | Disaster in space

ESA, warner brothers

Fact or fiction? This scenario may be fiction, but how close to reality is it? Astronauts who go to space today don’t travel on the Shuttle, and it’s the International Space Station (ISS) rather than Hubble that’s the setting for today’s space walks. A satellite roughly the size of a football field, orbiting 370km (230 miles) above our heads, it would seem that the chances of a collision with a piece of space debris would be high. Earlier this year, a meeting on space debris organised by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), made up of representatives from space agencies around the world, concluded that the number of catastrophic collisions with spacecraft could soon increase to as many as one every five years. A catastrophic collision is one that results in the total breakup of the spacecraft the debris hits. “A catastrophic collision involving the ISS is unlikely,” says Dr Hugh Lewis, an aerospace engineer at the University of Southampton and the UK Space Agency’s representative at the IADC space debris meeting. That’s because the debris would need to be huge to impart enough energy to destroy something as large as the ISS. Although the ISS is unlikely to be destroyed by space junk, if a debris collision did leave an astronaut stranded outside the ISS on a space walk, how long they could survive “depends on

“Spacesuits usually have about seven hours of oxygen, but that gets used up more quickly if you panic” the resources of the suit”, says Dr David Green of King’s College London. Spacesuits usually have about seven hours of oxygen, but that gets used up more quickly if you panic – and not panicking would be a big ask for someone stranded in the blackness of space. In Gravity, the stranded astronauts are wearing a version of NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit used in 1984 Shuttle missions to zip around the outside of the spacecraft. But these days, astronauts on space walks wear a smaller propulsion system that is designed for emergencies and has enough propellant for only one ‘self-rescue’ of about 13 minutes. Evasive manoeuvres If space debris is spotted on a collision course with the ISS, there is something that can be done. So United States Strategic Command, part of the US Department of Defense, keeps a close eye on it. It tracks all debris larger than 10cm using radar. If anything looks

like it’s going to enter the area around the station, Strategic Command alerts flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. If the piece of space debris has a greater than 1 in 100,000 chance of colliding with the station, Houston sends instructions to the ISS computers to alter its path. The ISS has a set of four gyroscopes and thrusters that allow it to change altitude, rotate and move side to side. Its typical speed during an avoidance manoeuvre is between 0.5 and 1m/s. If something is spotted too late to make a move, the astronauts hunker down in the Soyuz escape craft and prepare to return to Earth if necessary. The last time that happened was in 2012 – luckily, the debris, a small fragment of the Russian Kosmos2251 satellite, missed the ISS by over 10km (6 miles). But chunks of metal hurtling through space are not the only threat to astronauts on space walks. Given how much they rely on equipment

Sandra Bullock repairs the Hubble Space Telescope with George Clooney in Gravity


February 2014

Space is getting crowded, as this illustration showing the number of satellites in orbit reveals

February 2014


Science | Disaster in space

Greg Chamitoff enters an airlock on the ISS – he might have to do this in a hurry if an incoming piece of space junk is detected

the three biggest threats aboard the ISS It’s not just about keeping calm…

Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev takes part in fire training


nasa x2, science photo library, alamy

Space stations are confined spaces with a limited oxygen supply. As missions become longer in duration, rubbish – things like food packaging, disposable clothing and paper towels – will start to build up inside the spacecraft, increasing the risk of fire. A fire on the Mir space station started with the ignition of an oxygen canister, but other culprits could be overheating electronics or batteries.

such as spacesuits while they are outside the Earth’s protective atmosphere, malfunctions can spell big trouble. A space walk in July this year had to be cut short when water started leaking into Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s spacesuit helmet. “There is some in my eyes, and some in my nose. It’s a lot of water,” Parmitano said at the time. In space, this could be deadly. Floating water droplets could have caused Parmitano to drown. He was not hurt, but NASA convened a ‘Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board’ to look into what happened. Early indications suggest that water from the suit’s coolant system might have been leaking out through its ventilation system. In 2001 there was a different kind of leak. Ammonia from the Space Station’s cooling system leaked out of a valve while two astronauts were on a space walk. As he struggled to close the valve, US astronaut Robert Curbeam’s spacesuit and helmet accumulated a layer of toxic ammonia crystals an inch thick. His colleague had to brush off as much as he could, before Curbeam waited outside the Space Station for the rest to evaporate. When they returned inside, the crew wore oxygen masks while the life support system purged any remaining ammonia from the air. Threats don’t disappear once an astronaut is safely inside the


February 2014

station, either. Possibly the biggest danger is fire, which behaves differently in space. “In zero gravity, the hot gases don’t go up anymore,” says Professor José Torero, an expert in fire safety aboard spacecraft at the University of Queensland. “They become a semi-sphere and they get bigger and bigger, but they don’t go anywhere.” In 1997, a fire broke out on the Mir space station after a cosmonaut routinely ignited a canister to add oxygen to the air supply. Because of the oxygen it contained, the canister acted like a blow torch. Eventually, the fire burnt out, but not before filling the station with smoke. “They were lucky that the flames didn’t touch anything else,” says Torero. Rather than trying to actively extinguish a fire, the trick is to make sure it runs out of fuel. These days, NASA rigorously tests all materials that go up to the Space Station. If something is flammable, astronauts know to treat it with care – their life may depend on it. So while missions in space are now commonplace, the dangers have not subsided, and with the ever-growing threat of space junk, astronauts will need to be more vigilant than ever. Kelly Oakes is a science journalist and the writer of the ‘Click here’ section for Focus magazine, UK.

Cosmic rays strike Earth


On the International Space Station, astronauts are exposed to much higher levels of radiation than on Earth – up to 160 millisieverts for a six-month stay, compared to the two we receive per year on Earth. As we begin to undertake longer missions, radiation will become even more of a problem. “We’ll be exposed to all kinds of cosmic radiation,” says Dr David Green of King’s College London. Even something as small as a nut could spell disaster for the ISS

Space debris

While a lot is done to mitigate the risk, even a tiny piece of debris can cause huge problems if it hits. A fleck of titanium oxide paint, travelling at 4km/s, hit Space Shuttle Challenger’s windscreen in 1983 causing a chip. But though a piece of junk moving fast enough could destroy the ISS, it would be less of a problem on a trip to Mars, for instance, since we haven’t begun littering further than low Earth orbit.

Children’s Day Contest Hooraay! Congratulations Jigyasa Kumari (VII D) of Ryan International School, Bangalore, for winning the BBC Knowledge sweet treat box as part of the Children’s Day contest. Her entry was chosen based on the creativity of her letter design. Enjoy your prize courtesy of Food Of The Gods ( Jigyasa’s winning entry “I should win the BBC Knowledge sweet treat box for my classmates because I want to give, share and enjoy this festive and joyous occasion of Children’s Day with them”.

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Announcing winners BBC Knowledge magazine in association with Ravine Trek conducted the Pixels Student Photo Contest along with education partner Manav Rachna Vidyanatariksha. The theme of the contest was ‘Adventure of your life’.


Here are the winners as judged by our Facebook fans, selected from two categories: 11-15 yrs & 16-21 yrs. The first placed winners in both categories win a trek to Manali sponsored by Ravine Trek. The second and third placed winners receive exciting goodies bags.

Student Photo Contest

11-15 years

In association with


This photo was taken at Masai Mara near Nairobi in Kenya. We were on a safari jeep when I spotted this hot air balloon flying over the tree and took the perfect shot. Nayan Saxena, 13 years, Bhopal.

2nd I climbed the Mathang Hill to see the remains of what was once the Vijayanagar Empire. Ruins of buildings along with almond coloured boulders of myriad shapes lay amidst lush green plantations. This picture was taken at Hampi, Karnataka. Esha Dhanesh Volvoikar, 13 years, Panaji.


I took this photo while trekking in Solang Valley. I enjoyed the adventurous activities like taroleen travel, rappelling and flying fox. It was a great place to witness the beauty of nature and also have fun. Ish Jain, 14 years, Ghaziabad.

ers winn ed by ct sele ebook c fa s like

16-21 years


On a trip to Kashmir, our car got stuck at 11,000ft. We had the soldiers of the Indian Army come to our aid and rescue us. Abhishek, 18 years, New Delhi.

2nd It was a pure adrenaline rush that I felt when I was flying between the sky and the water. M.Praveen Kumar, 20 years, Chennai.


Driving in the desert (Rub’al Khali - The Empty Quarters) on the way to the Lost City of Ubar was really adventerous. There was no sign of life, and the visibility was low because of the sand blowing onto the roads. And above all, there was the risk of being stranded. Aseem Gujar, 16 years, Mumbai.

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Science | how do we know

How Do We Know?

The theory of

evolution By Rebecca Stott

Charles Darwin put the pieces together, but he wasn’t the only radical thinker when it came to evolution. Alfred Russel Wallace, who died 100 years ago, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck were also pioneers


ike us, the ancient Greeks failed to agree about the origins of life. Their cosmologies were profoundly different from our own and were wildly variant: some believed that life had been shaped by gods; others that it had come into being through atoms colliding chaotically. Empedocles – poet, healer, magician and controller of storms as well as a philosopher – produced a surreal foreshadowing of natural selection two and a half thousand years ago on the island that we now call Sicily. He proposed that life had started out as random body parts – eyes, necks, arms, teeth – suspended in a primeval soup. Collisions had produced random combinations – men with the heads of cattle; animals with branches for limbs. Some of these combinations had proved viable, others not. An evolving idea A hundred years later, Aristotle declared Empedocles’s theory absurd and unverifiable. Nature was not random and chaotic, he declared; it was eternal and deeply, perfectly patterned. He was no evolutionist but his stress on close observation above speculation makes him integral to this long history of evolution; he is considered the father of biology.


February 2014

In 9th-Century Baghdad, Al-Jahiz, an Arab philosopher working at the heart of the Abbasid Empire, having been inspired by Aristotle’s recently translated volumes, set out to write his own compendium of zoological knowledge. In his sevenvolume work Living Beings, he described the natural world in terms similar to the modern concept of ecosystems; he also saw everywhere what we would call the adaptation and diversification of species. In 15th-Century Milan, the painter, inventor and polymath Leonardo da Vinci read Arabic and Greek philosophy and natural sciences. One of the natural philosophical questions that vexed him was how fossilised oyster beds had got themselves into the tops of mountains. But though he asked questions that would lead 19th-Century geologists to evolutionary conclusions, he was not much interested in questions of species. In the summer of 1740, Abraham Trembley, a young Swiss tutor educating the sons of the Count of Bentinck in The Hague, sent his young charges to collect pond water for the microscope. He proposed that they do some experiments on the creatures (he called them polyps; we know them as Hydra) they found in the

estate’s ornamental ponds. Trembley was astonished to discover that when he cut the organisms in half, they regenerated themselves. Such a phenomenon appeared to violate the prevailing understanding of natural laws: plants re-grow after cutting; animals don’t. But the polyp did. Freedom of thought By the 18th Century, Paris and Amsterdam had become hubs of intellectual subversion, part of a network that stretched across Europe; anti-clerical books, atheism and books on natural science or free thought travelled down the same routes. In Paris, the newly formed secret police, led by Joseph D’Hémery, kept unorthodox philosophers under surveillance. The playwright, philosopher and encyclopaedist Denis Diderot was one of the dangerous subversives according to the police files. Diderot was updated on most new papers and books on the natural sciences. In his plays, philosophical speculations and encyclopaedias, he proposed that the Earth was inconceivably old, that species had mutated through time, and that man would one day become extinct.

IN a nutshell

Finches that Darwin used as evidence for a theory of evolution rest on his masterwork: The Origin Of Species


Many theories have a long history, but few are as rich as evolution. Even the ancient Greeks touched on evolution before the great thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries bore it out with a remarkable idea: natural selection.

Science | how do we know

A few decades later the French Revolution produced the conditions in which evolutionary ideas flourished most rapidly. Napoleon had brought the largest collection of natural history specimens in history into the Museum of Natural History in Paris, specimens looted from European palaces. He appointed 12 professors to the Jardin des Plantes to work on a number of natural philosophical problems, alongside students from all over Europe. From 1801 until his death in 1829, the Parisian Professor of Invertebrates and Worms, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, proposed that nature had worked to transform species over unimaginable tracts of time from single-celled to complex organisms. His ideas were both mocked and refuted by his more powerful and influential colleague in the Jardin, the great comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier. Great minds think alike Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin reached similar conclusions about the evolution of species at about the same point without knowing each other and by different routes. Darwin, who was a poet and inventor as well as a doctor, proposed that all organisms had once been aquatic filaments in a universal ocean. In 1825, when a 16-year-old Charles Darwin arrived in Edinburgh to study at the medical school, he was befriended by a

physician who had studied with Lamarck. Robert Grant, Darwin remembered, explained Lamarck’s ideas to him and reminded him of how remarkable his grandfather Erasmus’s ideas had been. When he set off on the Beagle reading Lyell’s Principles Of Geology he opened a notebook that he titled the Transmutation Notebook. His hunt for proof of the mutation of species had begun. In Scotland in the late 1830s, as Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage with an embryonic theory of natural selection, a young publisher called Robert Chambers found himself converted to transmutationism by reading accounts of Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin’s ideas. His sensational book Vestiges Of The Natural History Of Creation, published anonymously in 1844, fused together new discoveries in zoology, botany, and geology to give an account of the history of the Earth and of the evolution of species. A remarkable young land surveyor called Alfred Russel Wallace read Vestiges in the Leicester public library in the late 1840s. A few weeks later he read Malthus’s Essay On The Principle Of Population. Vestiges, Wallace told friends, was the book he’d been waiting for all his life: a coherent account of the history of the Earth. But Wallace was also frustrated at the lack of proof Vestiges provided. When he set off with his friend Edward Bates to collect natural history specimens in Brazil, he

photo: corbis x2, science photo library x2, science and society x2, alamy


February 2014

Rebecca Stott is the author of Darwin’s Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists.

Natural selection was the most important milestone in the long history of evolution, because it provided a mechanism to explain how the theory worked

An illustration from The Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace (1874); the work described Wallace’s ideas that led up to the idea of natural selection and a theory of evolution


determined to bring back the evidence. Ten years later an exhausted Wallace, sweating and hallucinating his way through a malaria attack on a remote island in the Malay Archipelago, suddenly saw how evolution might work: ‘It occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live?’ he wrote. ‘And the answer was clear, that on the whole the best fitted survive…’ Back in Britain, Darwin already knew this. He’d begun to put his theory of natural selection together in his notebooks of the 1830s and developed it into an unpublished essay in 1844; that essay was still locked away in a drawer. Busy working on the Beagle collection, distracted by an eight-year project on barnacles, and alarmed at the vitriol Vestiges had drawn from the establishment, he’d determined to bide his time. When Wallace wrote to him in 1858 and sent him his essay on natural selection, Darwin was devastated. He brought in his friends to adjudicate: What was the gentlemanly way to behave? The Linnaean Society gathered; they made their judgement: Darwin had drafted the idea 10 years before Wallace. Wallace gracefully conceded. He’d never claimed priority, he said. He was honoured to be associated with the idea and with the great Charles Darwin.

The crucial breakthrough in the history of evolution should be regarded as a ‘convergent’ one. In 1858 while suffering from malaria fever in the Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russel Wallace discovered natural selection under his own steam: the reason why some species survive and others die out is that the fittest survive. Charles Darwin had already found this during his travels around South America on the Beagle - reading Malthus’s book on population in 1838 provided the final piece of the jigsaw. He understood that evolution worked through a ‘struggle for existence’: favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species’. From this point on, Darwin committed himself to gathering evidence. This is one of the reasons why it took him so long to publish his species book. When Wallace sent him his still-unpublished essay on natural selection in 1858, Darwin finished his book in a matter of weeks and rushed it to press. The Linnaean Society declared Darwin the first to have discovered natural selection because he was able to submit evidence that he had defined the idea - though not published it - many years before Wallace.

cast of characters 1731-1802

A roll-call of scientists who discovered the missing elements



G Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), was a British collector and naturalist who in 1858 co-discovered natural selection while out in the Malay Archipelago.

G Robert Chambers (1802-1871), was a Scottish publisher and encyclopaedist, who published Vestiges Of The Natural History Of Creation in 1844. It was an attempt to marry together all the recent discoveries in the sciences to propose that the Earth had evolved from a nebulous fire mist and that all the species on it had transmuted from simple organisms.

G Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), was a Derbyshire inventor, poet and doctor who proposed in Zoonomia (1794-6) that all living beings had evolved from simple aquatic organisms. He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin.


 Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the British naturalist published On The Origin of Species By Natural Selection in 1859. It proposed that natural selection - the survival of the fittest - was the mechanism by which evolution worked.

 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), was a French professor of invertebrates. He proposed that all species had evolved through great lengths of time from simple to complex organisms through the inheritance of acquired characteristics.



The foundations of thought upon which the theory of evolution rests took many people over a century to develop





A professor of Invertebrates in Paris, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (below), gives a lecture in which he proposes that all species have evolved through great lengths of time and that they have evolved through the need to adapt to the environment.

The Telliamed, written by Benoît de Maillet (below) between 1722 and 1732, is published posthumously. Maillet proposes that humans have evolved from aquatic organisms and that intermediate half-animal half-fish creatures survive. Erasmus Darwin publishes Zoonomia, or the Laws Of Organic Life, a two-volume medical treatise containing a chapter called ‘Generation’ in which he proposes that all living beings have evolved from aquatic filaments.

1859 Charles Darwin publishes On The Origin Of Species By Natural Selection in which he provides detailed evidence for natural selection as well as a carefully extended argument for this being the mechanism by which evolution works.

Whilst in a delirious malaria fever in the Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russel Wallace (above) discovers natural selection.

inside the pages X4, penguin india

In this excerpt, author Sanjeev Sanyal traces the early geographic beginnings of India, which led to the formation of its famed mountains and the Deccan plateaus


February 2014


An excerpt from a book you should read


map of Pangea would show the Indian craton wedged between Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica and Australia. It was on Pangea that the dinosaurs appeared 230 million years ago. However, the earth remained restless and Pangea began to break up around 175 million years ago during the Jurassic era. It first spilt into a northern continent called Laurasia (consisting of North America, Europe and Asia) and a southern continent called Gondwana (Africa, South America, Antarctica, Australia and India). Note that the name Gondwana is itself derived from the Gond tribe of central India. We now see a sequence of rifts that separate India from its neighbours. First, India and Madagascar separated from Africa around 158 million years ago and then, 130 million years ago, they separated from Antarctica. Around 90 million years ago India separated from Madagascar and drifted steadily northwards. A large number of dinosaur remains have been found in Raioli village of Balasinor taluka, Gujarat. The site was identified in 1981 and appears to have been a popular hatchery as thousands of fossilized dinosaur eggs have been found there. Fossilized bones have also been found including those of a previously unknown predator that was 2530 feet long and two-thirds the size of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The animal has since been named Rajasaurus Narmadsensis (means Lizard King of the Narmada). The site is now protected and is being converted into a Dinosaur Park. As the Indian craton drifted northwards towards Asia, it passed over the Renuion ‘hotspot’, which caused an outburst of volcanic activity. Most of these eruptions happened in the Western Ghats near Mumbai and created the Deccan Traps. This is not the type of volcanic eruption that one associates with the perfectly conical Mount Fuji in Japan. Rather, it was more like a layer-by-layer oozing that created the stepped, flat-topped outcrops that geologists call Traps. The term is apt for, in the late seventeenth century, Shivaji and his band of Maratha guerillas would use this unique

terrain to trap and wear down the armies of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The volcanic episode did not last very long–perhaps just thirty thousand years–but it was a dramatic phenomenon and there are some scholars who feel that it may have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. Looking out from Lord Point at the hill station of Matheran, one can clearly see the geological impact of all the volcanic activity. Meanwhile, India kept up its relentless northward journey and, 55-60 million years ago, it collided with the Eurasian plate. This collision pushed up the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. What are now tall mountains were once under the sea, which is why marine fossils are quite common high up in the mountains. The process is not over–the Indian plate is still pushing into Asia. As a result the Himalayas are still rising by around 5 mm every year (although erosion reduces the actual increase in height). The actual line of collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates is called the Indus-Yarlung-Tsangpo Suture zone. The holy Mansarovar Lake sits in a trough along this zone. Overlooking the lake is Mount Kailash, home of Lord Shiva according to the Hindu tradition. Not surprisingly, intense tectonic pressures make the Himalayas seismically unstable and prone to frequent and powerful earthquakes. Given the lack of vegetation, Ladakh is a good place to visually appreciate the impact of all these geological processes. The broad contours of the above narrative of India’s geological history are generally accepted. However, there remain many unresolved issues and several findings that do not neatly fit into the story. One puzzle relates to the discovery of a large number of insects preserved in amber

the name Gondwana is itself derived from the Gond tribe of central India


found in Vastan, 30 km north of Surat, a geological zone called Cambay Shale. It is a big finding that includes 700 species, representing 55 families. These insects are not unique to India, but very similar to those found in other continents and as far away as Spain. The problem is that the currently accepted view about northward drift of the Indian craton would mean that the subcontinent would have been an isolated island for tens of millions of years at the time when there insects emerged. So, how did these insects get to India? It is possible that there were islands that allowed them to hop across to the subcontinent. Perhaps, the date of the Indo-Asian collision was earlier than generally accepted. Frankly, we really don’t know? Nonetheless, India’s relentless push into Asia continues, making the subcontinent tectonically very active. As we shall see in the next chapter, it is very likely that a tectonic event diverted the course of a major river and, with it, the course of Indian civilization. The danger still lurks. The 2005 earthquake in North Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir registered a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale and claimed eighty thousand lives. However, much more powerful earthquakes have been recorded along the mountain range. The Assam earthquake of 1950 registered a magnitude of 8.6; it is one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. Fortunately, the epicenter was in an area that was then relatively sparsely populated and so it killed only 1500 people. A similar earthquake in a densely populated area today would kill hundreds of thousands if not millions. Given tectonic pressures, it is only a matter of time before this happens. This is why the Himalayan range is one of the most dangerous places to build dams. X3

We know that the Ganga repeatedly changed its course and shifted southward leaving behind oxbow lakes that can still be seen


February 2014

With the Indian plate wedged into Asia along the Himalayas, the stage was set for the formation of the youngest of India’s geological features – the Gangetic plains. They started out as a marshy depression running between the Himalayas and an older mountain range called the Vindhyas. Silt brought down by the Ganga and its tributaries slowly began to fill up this hollow to create a fertile alluvial plain. Note that this process is so recent that early humans would have witnessed it. We know that the Ganga repeatedly changed its course and shifted sounthward leaving behind oxbow lakes that can still be seen. The Ganga’s southward drift was arrested only when it nudged into the Vindhyas near Chunar (close to Varanasi). It is the only place in the plains where a hill commands such a view over the river, making Chunar fort a coveted strategic location. It was once said that he who controlled Chunar fort India's also controlled relentless push the destiny of India. A into Asia continues, walk through making the the fort is a subcontinent walk through Indian tectonically history. The very active walls resonate with tales of the legendary King Vikramaditya, the Mughals, Sher Shah Suri and GovernorGeneral Warren Hastings. There are remains here from each era including an eighteenthcentury sundial. Do not miss the neglected British graves below the walls. Their headstones make for interesting reading. Just south-west of the fort are the quarries that, in the third century BC, supplied the stone used by the Mauyans to carve the lions of Sarnath, now the national symbol. We will return to them in Chapter 3. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from the book Land of The Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal (Penguin Viking).

Promotional Feature

LearnShift India - Mumbai Chapter, was held on 13 November 2013, at Hotel JW Marriott. The event was curated by Avnita Bir, Principal, R N Podar School along with Simon Breakspear, Gates scholar of University of Cambridge and education innovation expert. The annual conclave has been uniquely designed for a meeting of minds that are deeply immersed in the subject of education. The conclave saw around 60 participants gathered for a day-long deep engagement with innovative thoughts, ideas and actions in line with the overarching theme “Words to Action.” BBC

Knowledge Magazine was excited to be on board for the event as its associate partner. The discussions encompassed three main education pillars, namely Shift in Access, Pedagogy and Educators. What set the LearnShift India (LSI) conclave apart from other conferences was the involvement of students as important stakeholders. The LSI Young Change Agent competition for students and the participation of students at the discussion tables was highly appreciated by educators and learners themselves. To know more, visit The Curators

“We all recognise global shifts in learning but the discussions have to be beyond incremental change.”

“The possibilities that this gathering of minds throws up for educational change are immense. That such passion exists and that people are willing to participate in these conversations is encouraging.”

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LearnShift India - Mumbai Chapter 2013 (@learnshift)


the latest science books reviewed


The Accidental Species

Do Dogs Dream?

The Neuroscience Of Fantasies, Fears And Convictions

Misunderstandings Of Human Evolution

Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know

Henry Gee University of Chicago Press `1,690

Stanley Coren WW Norton & Co `1,037

K In Believing, Dr Michael McGuire tries to explain the biological origins and mechanisms that underpin how humans develop and sustain beliefs. It’s undoubtedly an important topic, but unfortunately the diffuse nature of the subject often defeats his attempts. Despite what the subtitle implies, McGuire delves into areas like evolution, psychology, and philosophy as well as neuroscience. He does so in a straightforward manner, but there are also many times when claims about beliefs are questionable For instance, McGuire discusses the dominance structure among male primates and how submissive and aggressive behaviour demonstrates how the animals ‘believe’ in the outcomes of actions. However, behavioural neuroscientists may interpret this differently – perhaps trial and error teaches them, which behaviours elicit the desired reaction. The need for ‘belief ’ isn’t required. It would be unfair to say McGuire has bitten off more than he can chew; he has made a decent attempt of it. Belief is interesting and readable despite its flaws.

K Over 25 years the evolutionary biologist Henry Gee has worked at the journal Nature and he uses his insider’s knowledge to explore popular misunderstandings about evolution in general and human evolution in particular. Although his jaunty style will not be to everyone’s taste (Gee does funny voices, including Yoda), The Accidental Species is an excellent guide to our current knowledge of how we got where we are. The book ranges over more than a century of the study of human evolution, but focuses on the palaeontological and genetic discoveries of the last decade, in particular Homo floresiensis, aka The Hobbit, and the interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals. At its heart is the idea that the evolution of humans was not inevitable and that we are not the pinnacle of evolution. He emphasises the poverty of the fossil record – there are no fossil traces of gorillas for example – and the role of random events in shaping life on Earth. The final chapter, on the deep evolutionary roots of consciousness, is challenging, thought-provoking and highly recommended.

K The literature on dogs has advanced rapidly since humourist Ogden Nash (1902-1971) wrote that, “The dog is man’s best friend. He has a tail on one end. Up in front he has teeth. And four legs underneath.” Today’s bookstores have more books on dogs than you could throw a bone at. This one noses ahead of the pack in that the author is an academic psychologist (of people as well as dogs) and knows his stuff. The book is made up of 75 questions people ask about dogs (‘do dogs dream?’, ‘what do dogs see?’, and so on), each with a pithy yet considered response. If, like me, you have dogs, you’ll know a lot of this already, but I still learned things about my dogs I didn’t know, such as how dogs interpret the human voice. This has already paid dividends in my relationship with my furry companions. As a handy practical guide it excels, though it’s a little too fragmented for a long, leisurely read. An important message is that dogs are sensitive, intelligent creatures with mentalities similar to those of human toddlers. Understand this, and your relationship with your dog will be that much richer.

Dean Burnett is a doctor of neuroscience and stand-up comedian. He tutors and lectures at Cardiff University, UK.

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, UK.

Henry Gee is an evolutionary biologist and a senior editor of the UK-based journal Nature.

K How important were invasions in the early history of Britain? Migration has long been debated on the evidence of material culture and similarities between languages. Recently, DNA analysis has begun to clarify the issues. Ancestral Journeys is a dense history of Europe up to the period of the Vikings. It’s based on Manco’s wide-ranging survey of the latest genetic analysis of ancient and modern human and animal DNA. For example,Y-DNA (found only in males) was taken from two groups of British men in the Wirral peninsula and west Lancashire. The first group could prove two generations of residence, the second went back much further. Their

surnames were recorded in the region in medieval times and had greater Scandinavian ancestry than the first, similar to that found today in Norway and the Isle of Man. This makes sense because Viking warriors, after their expulsion from Dublin in 902, seized the Isle of Man and also populated the Wirral and west Lancashire. Manco is strong on research, less so on making her findings accessible. Nonetheless, this is an important work.

Michael McGuire Prometheus Books `1,297

Ancestral Journeys The Peopling Of Europe From The First Venturers To The Vikings Jean Manco Thames & Hudson `2,093


February 2014

Andrew Robinson is the author of Cracking The Egyptian Code.

Our pick of internet highlights to explore

get your clicks H WEBSITE



Voyager’s Sounds of Interstellar Space

3D Fossils

Project Quicksilver

You might not be able to hear someone scream in space, but it isn’t silent. The Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 and finally reached a region beyond the influence of the Sun’s magnetic field last year. NASA recently released this recording of what it heard.

If you’ve ever picked up a fossil on the beach and not known what it was, this site will be a great addition to your bookmarks. Type in the suspected name or time period of your find and it’ll bring up a high-resolution, 3D image of any specimen in the British Geological Survey’s archived collection so you can see how your fossil compares.

This is a real-time map of global temperatures. You can zoom out to get an overview of the whole world, or zoom in to specific countries if you want more detailed information. It also enables you to rewind through history so you can go back and download high-resolution images of the world’s temperature patterns at specific points in time.





Chris hadfield

Nature Graphics

Fancy being the first person to discover Life on the International Space Station isn’t all Exactly how do you go about drawing an gravitational waves? With Einstein@Home, you non-stop excitement. Hear some of the more invisibility cloak? Go behind the scenes with could be. Launched eight years ago, this mundane noises recorded by Canadian the graphics team at the journal Nature as they long-running citizen science project is still astronaut Chris Hadfield during his time in orbit visualise difficult scientific concepts and make making waves. Its volunteers have recently – including the sounds of the space station them understandable. If you like your science discovered 24 new dense, spinning stars, toilet – and find out how the guitar he used to presented visually, you’ll enjoy learning about known as pulsars. But the project’s ultimate cover Bowie’s Space Oddity got into space in the effort and thought that goes into making goal – to find gravitational waves – has yet to the first place. such images. be achieved. If you have a favourite website, blog or podcast that you’d like to share with other readers, please email

principal speak Being able to think critically is what good education is all about, says Principal Sathish Jayarajan of Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore

What sets Mallya Aditi International School (Aditi) apart from the others? I am not particularly interested in being “set apart from others” We, at Aditi, are just continually striving to be a meaningful school. We are a single school with just one campus. We have eschewed invitations to make the school bigger. I think to have a school where the teachers know each student personally makes an enormous difference on the way children are educated. In all our endeavours, we look at each student as an individual and try to be as flexible as we possibly can so that the child will be able to flourish.

you make sense of so much information coming at you? The only way you can negotiate all of this is by teaching students to think with a critical mind. Sensitivity to the context in which technology is located and deployed is for me the essential issue when we talk about technology in education. How do you encourage critical thinking in a classroom? I consider myself fundamentally a teacher and I teach Political Science and Economics. The way to teach critical thinking in Political Science is

teachers. This is something, which needs to be looked at very closely. There is, however, room for some optimism. I have had fresh graduates from India’s top colleges contact me and ask me if they could come and work at Aditi to get a sense of what working in a school is all about. Some of these young people are deeply interested in teaching and want to make a difference.

Any challenges you wish you didn’t have? There are many challenges common to schools in urban India. Some students feel a sense of angst and disquiet about the world and about themselves. What is good education? They feel disconnected from Good education consists of their context. Some students both small and big things; it feel a sense of entitlement. They flourishes in a place where sometimes articulate these in ‘Good education... exists where everyone knows your name destructive ways. These are there is a culture of conversation, and everyone knows a little issues that deeply concern us. I bit about you, your interest am continually in dialogue with of questioning’ and what you do. It exists students, teachers and parents where there is a culture of about these issues. I have talked conversation, of questioning about getting students to step – this you can see in any out of the secure world they live classroom you walk into here. in and engage with our larger What a good discussion does for me is that it context We have had some success in getting to ask questions and to build the class around gets into the heart of things and education is the questions you ask. I teach the 11th and 12th students to do this. This is a major area that I about making sense of things. Making sense want to continue to reflect about and act in. graders and what I expect students to be able of things involves interrogation, involves to do is think in the abstract, which might not conversation in certain areas, it also involves What would you tell a child who doesn’t yet be the way you would teach critical thinking in genuinely seeing to every student’s needs and have wisdom about the world? elementary school or in another subject. This trying to create avenues for the students to may make or involve more tangible engagement Children are not without wisdom! But I would flourish. Children need to flourish. Flourishing with objects, but I think ultimately in both we are say that you need to make some mistakes by involves not just being productive (in a narrow trying to do the same thing. We are trying to get yourself and as a teacher I can’t be there all sense) but in finding a niche. That’s what we’ve students to interrogate an issue, to make sense the time. You also have a heritage of tried to do here in Aditi and that’s what good understanding and insight that you can draw of it and to understand that there can be many education should always strive to do. upon. I am very invested in the idea (a biblical ways of looking at it. Teaching is ultimately one but I am deploying it here in a secular about both thought and praxis. How important is the role of technology? sense) that ‘to whom much is given, much will Students today are way ahead of us in be expected’; that we must deploy our talents One crisis you would like to see averted? technology so what we need to teach them is All schools, including Aditi, are facing a shortage to be a light in the world. not the technology they already know. I’m more With dreams come responsibilities: towards of teachers. The solution is to find people who interested in how to teach students to negotiate your country, your friends and your family. I are inspired to teach. Some of the people that with it meaningfully and how they make sense think education is significantly about teaching are coming into teaching are teaching because of it. The making sense of information is children this. And it really does take a village they have no other option. So, people who are ultimately what education is all about. How do to teach a child! completely unfit to be teachers are becoming


February 2014

games review Beyond: Two Souls

also out Battlefield 4 PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, `2,999-`4,499

Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe star in Beyond: Two Souls, the latest disconcertingly movie-like epic from renowned games designer David Cage

The month of the Annual First Person Shooter Derby, in which Call Of Duty squares off with Battlefield while jaded older gamers sigh into their memories of Operation Wolf. This year’s CoD has an attack dog in it, while Battlefield 4’s multiplayer brings back Commander Mode, where select players get to boss everyone else about. Battlefield 4 also boasts a mechanic called ‘Levolution’ - a portmanteau so hideous, we won’t stoop to explain it here.

Gone Home PC, `1,250

PlayStation 3, `3,199

An uneasy gulf lies between the land of video games and the land of cinema. Every so often someone tries to bridge the gap, and the results are usually controversial - not least thanks to purists on either side of the chasm, keen to maintain the isolation of their respective provinces. Three years ago David Cage and Quantic Dream released Heavy Rain, perhaps the most divisive success story of the PS3 era. A pitch-dark tale of child abduction, serial killers and desperate fathers, it largely resembled an interactive movie. Now Cage has returned with the similarly filmic Beyond:Two Souls - a mysteriously disjointed ghost story focusing on a young runaway, Jodie, and her poltergeist companion, Aiden.

Like Heavy Rain, Beyond uses a system that sees players guide the movements of the principal characters, rather than controlling them in the traditional sense. The action unfolds via a series of self-contained scenes, and while it’s impossible to ‘fail’ a stage, your choices within a given scenario determine the overall course of the narrative, which hops back and forth through time to major events in Jodie’s turbulent life.You’re given free rein to play as Jodie - human, physical and vulnerable - or as Aiden, whose fearsome powers can wreack havoc on the people and objects around him. For example, one scene finds Jodie on a train that’s been boarded by the police.You can help Jodie quietly slip away, or you can have Aiden destroy the authorities in a destructive outburst that recalls Steven King’s Carrie. With Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe voicing the lead roles, Beyond has a high budget sheen, yet it’s hard to shake the suspicion that this may be an uneven effort from Cage, whose work tends to be as ramshackle as it is risky and provocative. Even so, in a month of military shooters-by-numbers, it’s bound to be worth a gander.

After a year of travelling around Europe, you return home to find an empty house. As rain drums down on the windows, you pick through familial minutiae in an attempt to discover where everyone is, and in particular what has happened to your 17-year-old sister. As with Beyond: Two Souls (see right), Gone Home is an exercise in interactive fiction, but here we remain firmly rooted in reality, uncovering a genuinely mature story that will leave you with much to think about.

Shelter PC, `750

Shelter is an eye-wateringly effective slice of emotional manipulation, dressed up as a particularly attractive indie game – think classic kids’ cartoon The Animals Of Farthing Wood reborn in a minimalist style. As a maternal badger, it’s your responsibility to shepherd your five cubs to a new home, gathering food for your family and guiding them past the dangers of predatory birds, forest fires and plain old starvation. It’s a slender and linear affair, but that won’t stop your heart from shattering when one of your babies is lost to the dark.

February 2014



Travel will never be the same

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 is a camera designed to withstand elements of nature; it is water, shock and rust proof camera inbuilt with a 5X wide zoom, a 2.7” LCD viewing screen. And it also lets you take still photographs while you’re in motion. With a GPS and geo-tagging facility you can pin down your picture anywhere in the world. Oh yeah, and it is pocket-size friendly. Price: `12, 338 •

SteriPEN Ever wondered if the water that you are drinking in a restaurant or from a stream at the foot of a hill is safe? Do away with your worries, as the Hydro-Photon steriPEN treats up to half a litre of water destroying all the germs and bacteria in less than 50 seconds with the touch of a button. Price: `7,440 •

Suunto Core All good things come in small packages and this one is packed tight with travel essentials for the adventure junkies. The Suunto Core, a multi-functional outdoors watch is equipped with compass weather information, an altimeter, a barometer and comes with waterproof buttons for snorkeling and shallow diving, and an easy to use interface screen. And since it is a watch, it does tell time. Price: `31,000 •

Reef Stash sandals One of the biggest pet peeves we have about heading out to the beach, or even the local pool, is the fact that we never have anywhere to put our keys and cards. Reef, a sandal company, put an end to this age-old problem with the introduction of their aptly named Stash sandals. Featuring a hidden compartment within the heel of the sandal, it lets you pack your keys, credit card and some money sneakily in your footwear. Ever wonder if James bond would wear these on holiday? Price: `2,480 •

Narrative clip Well, one can never have enough pictures. Taking the idea of capturing every moment of a vacation to an extreme, the Narrative Clip camera, takes 30,000 images automatically every 30 seconds! This small, paperweight digital camera with its 8GB worth of storage comes with a battery, which lasts up to 2 days. You can also connect the clip to your phone and share them with your friends over any preferred social media platform. Price: `17, 298 •

LG Pocket Photo LG’s Pocket Photo is a fun portable printer designed to fit in your palm of your hand. Small and convenient, the pocket photo not only lets you take crystal clear pictures from your smartphones and laptops but also lets you edit your photographs before you print them. Price: `12, 204 •,,,,,,,

Vitorinox traveller lite The Victorinox Traveller Lite Swiss Army Knife is so much more than just a knife. It now comes equipped with a LED light, built-in alarm clock, altimeter, thermometer, barometer, and equipped with the usual array of blades, and a useful selection of screwdrivers to help you plan and track your expedition. The appropriately named Lite weighs a modest 112g and measures around 9cm end to end. Price: `6,960 •

Samsonite Micro scooter Lugging luggage around is no fun! But thanks to Samsonite, you can now ride it. In collaboration with Micro Mobility, the good people at Samsonite have created a Micro scooter. This clever little suitcase, which can be converted into a rucksack or a carry-on bag has its own inbuilt scooter. After you’re finished riding the scooter it neatly folds up into a normal bag. Layovers will now be fun. Price: `25,460 •

Have suggestions for any gadget/application? email February 2014


puzzle pit r Find you

way out.

Questions and challenges guaranteed to give your brain a workout

The operators: ÷

Q2 Go Figure Place the four numbers in the first, third, fifth, and seventh boxes and whatever operators you care to use in the second, fourth, and sixth boxes in the correct order to get the answer. Use the numbers only once




=8 3





=5 3



9 =17

Hard 4




Q3 Chain words Form a continuous path of words from START to FINISH by connecting the word parts given in the boxes. There are two parts to each word and the second part of one word is the first part of the next. You won’t necessarily need to visit every box to achieve your aim.








Q1 Enigma Code Each colour in our code represents a letter. When you have cracked the code you will be able to make up seven words. The clue to the first word is given to help you get started. The Clue: Mum and Dad




Q4 Pick and Choose Solve the six clues by choosing the right combination of letter sets given below. Each of the letter set can be used only once and only in the order given. The number at the end of the clues specifies how many sets of letters are used in the solution.


1. Capital of Indonesia (3)


2. Fit to live in (4)




3. Orchestra leader (3) 4. Current Formula One World Champion (2)


5. Pertaining to the stomach (4) X23

N N 86

February 2014


6. Distressed (2) con


















Q7 Double Barrelled

Q5 PICTURE SEARCH In the jumble below, the words represented by each of the 16 pictures are hidden either horizontally, vertically or diagonally forward or backwards but always in a straight line. See how many of them you can find? Look out for descriptive names.

What word can be placed in front of the five words shown to form in each case another word?




Q8 Deduction You are given a 9-letter word. Your job is to break up this word into 9 separate letters and place them on the dashes to spell a 7-letter word, a 5-letter word, and a 3-letter word. You can use each letter only once. MEMORABLE O S S C H V

Q6 Head and Tail

Q9 Mensa Puzzle

Look at the clue to solve the answer in the form of a compound word. The second part of the next answer is the first part of the next answer.

Which number is the odd one out?

628 Diluted



Advance money


325 549

606 410

Check-writing schedule attack

Q1 Enigma Code: Parents, Entraps, Manners, Pendant, Spanner, Smarten, Remnant Solutions:

Q7 Double Barrelled: Hand Q6 Head & Tail: Watered-Down-Payment-Plan-Of-Time-Off-Key Q5 Picture Search: Broccoli, Chocolate, Club, Crown, Dynamite, Europe, Ginger, Kennel, Matchbox, Palm, Slide, Sofa, Stretcher, Wallet, Whistle, Zebra


Q2 Go Figure: Easy: 5 – 4 x 5 + 3 = 8 Medium: 7+3–9+4=5 Hard: 7 + 9 – 4 + 5 = 17

Q8 Deduction: Blossom, Charm, Eve

Out of tune

Q3 Chain Words: Network, Workday, Daybreak, Breakfast, Fastball, Ballcock, Cockpit, Pitcher, Chervil, Villas, Lasting, Tingled, Ledger, German, Mantra, Trader, Dermis, Mistake, Takeoff, Offside, Sidecar, Carton, Tonsure, Surefire

Q9 Mensa Puzzle: 410. In all the other numbers, the first two digits added together give the third.

Vacation from work

Q4 Pick and Choose: Jakarta, Habitable, Conductor, Vettel, Abdominal, Upset


puzzle pit Q10 Today's Teaser

Q13 scramble

1) A little pool with two layers of wall around it. One white and soft and the other dark and hard, amidst a light brown grassy lawn with an outline of a green grass. What am I?

Solve the four anagrams and move one letter to each square to form four ordinary words. Now arrange the letters marked with an asterisk (*) to form the answer to the riddle or to fill in the missing words as indicated.

2) Read me from left to right and I maybe a tiger. Read me from right to left and I am a layer. What am I?


3) A clock takes five seconds when striking 6. How long will it take when striking 12?






What has six faces, But does not wear makeup. It also has twenty-one eyes, But cannot see?





* *

Scientists may have sophisticated laboratories, but never forget ‘eureka’ was inspired in a __ (7)

5) A man is trapped in a room. The room has only two possible exits: two doors. Through the first door there is a room constructed from magnifying glass. The blazing hot sun instantly fries anything or anyone that enters. Through the second door there is a fire-breathing dragon. How does the man escape?

Q11 One letter cross word Use the pictures due to fill in the pizzles.

Q14 Hidato

Q12 Suspended sentence Each of the words at the top of the columns has to be placed in one of the boxes directly below, but not necessarily in the same order as they appear. When you’ve got them correctly arranged, they will form a quotation, which can be read line by line from left to right.

Q13 Scramble: Match, Snout, Bought, Beheld – Scientists may have sophisticated laboratories, but never forget ‘eureka’ was inspired in a bathtub


Q12 Suspended Sentences: I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work. Q11 One Letter Crossword: Bat, Bone, Bean, Egg, Tyre, Fish, Fan Q10 Today's Teaser: 1) I'm a Coconut! 2) Animal/Lamina (Tiger is an animal; lamina means a layer), 3) There is 1 second between 2 strikes. Therefore, it will take 11 seconds for the clock to strike 12 times, 4) A sixsided die. (Die: singular of dice.), 5) He waits until night time and then goes through the first door


Q14 Hidato:

Solutions: 88

February 2014

Think n Win

Solve & Win exciting prizes!

Crossword NO.19 Across

1 The famous warrior caste of Rajasthan (6) 4 Demises (6) 9 Eons or epochs (4) 10 Gallant, knightly (10) 11 State, assert or affirm (6) 12 Hat maker (8) 13 Cowardly, in a craven manner (9) 15 Currency unit of Thailand (4) 16 Suffer, render or tolerate (4) 17 Vijay or Sanjay of Indian cricket (9) 21 It's a ___ : it's a task that's easily accomplished? (8) 22 Walk very quietly (6) 24 Menu (4,2,4) 25 __ __ cost : free? (2,2) 26 ___ of Eden : Adam and Eve's locale? (6) 27 They escort you to your seat in a theatre? (6) Down

1 Royal emblems? (7) 2 New Zealand batsman Ryder (5) 3 Not precise, dim or vague (7) 5 Give power or capacity to (6) 6 End or conclude (9) 7 One going to school, you will agree? (7) 8 Late shehnai maestro from Varanasi (9,4) 14 Tourist (9) 16 Censuring, charging or condemning (7) 18 It gives me the ___ : it makes me feel extremely nervous? (7) 19 Quantities or measures? (7) 20 Astound or bewilder (6) 23 Stage in development (5)

Your Details Name: Age: Address:

PinCode: Tel:



✂ How to enter for the crossword: Post your entries to BBC Knowledge Editorial, Crossword No.18 Worldwide Media, The Times of India Bldg, 4th floor, Dr Dadabhai Navroji Road, Mumbai 400001 or email bbcknowledge@ by 10 February 2014. Entrants must supply their name, address and phone number. How it’s done: The puzzle will be familiar to crossword enthusiasts already, although the British style may be unusual as crossword grids vary in appearance from

country to country. Novices should note that the idea is to fill the white squares with letters to make words determined by the sometimes cryptic clues to the right. The numbers after each clue tell you how many letters are in the answer. All spellings are UK. Good luck! Terms and conditions: Only residents of India are eligible to participate. Employees of Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. are not eligible to participate. The winners will be selected in a lucky draw. The decision of the judges will be final.

Announcing the winners of Crossword No. 18

Soumya Bhatnagar, Madhya Pradesh • Ayush Kumaria, Maharashtra • Ankur Mahajan, Jammu & Kashmir • Ayushi Gupta, Jammu & Kashmir • Shreya Bhattacharjya, Assam

Solution of crossword NO. 18

in focus “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” – Oppenheimer remarked upon observing the controlled detonation of the first atomic bomb - Trinity on 16 July 1945 in New Mexico.

University of Leicester, j p rodrig

Julius Robert Oppenheimer



Did you know

Julius Robert Oppenheimer (1904 – 1967) is known as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’ for leading the Manhattan Project, the programme that created the first nuclear warfare weapon during World War II. Oppenheimer was selected to administer the Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, and under his direction, the joint work of 3000 scientists at Los Alamos worked to create the first atomic bomb. The first successful controlled nuclear explosion occurred at Alamagordo, New Mexico on 16 July 1945, which Oppenheimer named ‘Trinity’. Following this, on August 6, 1945 Allied forces dropped the first nuclear weapon over Hiroshima named Little Boy and three days later dropped another bomb on Nagasaki named Fat Man, effectively signaling the end of World War II.

After seeing the destruction the bombs caused, Oppenheimer resigned from his post as the Director of the Manhattan Project and became a strong proponent of banning the usage of nuclear weapons in warfare. He became the Chairman of the General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), serving from 1947 to 1952.

February 2014

• When at Cambridge University, Oppenheimer tried to harm his tutor by placing a posioned apple on his desk. • He claimed that the initial J, which is stated as Julius as part of his name, stood for nothing The Trinity test fireball (right) and Little Boy, the nuclear bomb dropped over Hiroshima (above)

• He read the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit and quoted a passage from the book after observing the success of the Trinity atom bomb.


Bbc knowledge india 2014 02 bak