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    Discover magazine usa_2013-09 Discover magazine usa_2013-09 Document Transcript

    • ➤ Flexible electronics that could change the shape of medicine forever p.30 techon the Brain Doorway to a cure Grassroots eforts are beating cystic fbrosis p.42 inside the mind oF a hero p.26 citizen scientists Try THIS in your own backyard p.52 elysium hollywood goes transhuman p.64 Discover Secret origin of the UniverSe revealed? p.36 coming one day to a brain near you: Flexible sensor arrays to thwart seizures latest research September 2013 science for the curious ® BonUS online content code p. 3
    • Features 30 cover story Stretchy, Flexy Future University of Illinois researcher John Rogers is designing a brave new bendy world of devices that could do for medicine what spandex did for bike shorts (in a good way). By Ed yong and ValEriE ross 36 Starting Point The Big Bang kicked things off for our uni- verse, but what came before that? Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin thinks he’s found the answer. By stEVE nadis 42 Doorway to a Cure More than a decade after families affected by cystic fbrosis began a grassroots funding project to tackle the disease, some sufferers are breathing easier. By Bijal P. triVEdi 52 The Urban Bestiary Neither exotic nor rare, our nearest furred and feathered neighbors too often escape our notice — and appreciation. Here’s a guide to what we’re missing, in a nutshell. By lyanda lynn HauPt FLEX TECH university of Illinois technicians show off the stretch and flex of a rechargeable lithium ion battery. such innovations may one day power bionic eyes and other medical implants. September 2013 Contents september 2013 DISCOVER 3 UniversityofillinoisandBeckmaninstitUte Online Content Code: DSD1309 Enter this code at: www.DiscoverMagazine.com/code to gain access to exclusive subscriber content.
    • EXCHANGE 4 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM TOPTOBOTTOM:NASA;MARJORIETAYLOR,COURTESYOFJIMANDREONI;ADRIANGLOVER/THENATURALHISTORYMUSEUM,LONDON;AARONBECK/SONYPICTURES COLUMNS & DEPARTMENTS 22 Big idea Save Our Satellites An ambitious robotic servicing mission could lead to cost-effective repairs for satellites in orbit — we just hope they’re better at scheduling than the cable guy. By Michael leMonick 26 mind over matter What Makes a Hero? Are some of us hardwired for hero- ism? Are we a generally generous spe- cies? New research into what’s behind acts of altruism fnds some surprising answers. By elizaBeth SvoBoda 58 notes from earth Deep-Sea Secrets Ocean-foor CSI: Mysterious ecosystems that live off the bodies of dead whales may date back to the time of the dinosaurs. By Brian Switek 60 out there Hunting Season for Asteroids Catch them if you can, NASA: A growing number of privately funded projects aren’t waiting for the government to fnd the next asteroid with Earth in its crosshairs. By corey S. Powell 74 20 things You didn't know aBout ... Failure Next time you face the F-word, remember you’re in good company: Alfred Nobel, Henry Ford, the Large Hadron Collider and SETI have all suffered stumbles. By Jonathon keatS 63 HOt Science Elysium writer and director Neill Blomkamp talks transhumanist haves and have-nots, phase change materi- als go green, a citizen scientist takes to the cyberseas and much more, in- cluding your science-centric calendar for the month and Urban Skygazer. 6 inbox Readers weigh in on shark-fnning and pack their bags for Mars. 8 editor's note Welcome to the upgraded DISCOVER. on the Cover is this the brain implant of tomorrow? illustration: sciepro/getty images and Jay smith/discover. 9 tHe crux A slick solution to preserving historic buildings, renewable energy with a twist, seeing something fshy, a taste of a new cosmic recipe, the man who hunts killer mushrooms and more. p.64 p.26 p.58 p.22
    • “We used to cut everything by hand and had a lot of trouble. Now our PlasmaCAM does it all, attaining levels of production not thought possible before. It’s run 40-50 hours a week for the past three years. It attains incredible detail, is very easy and cost efficient to operate, and requires little maintenance. The bottom line is: this machine makes me money!” -Jon Restaurant Lighting & Fixtures • Make Artistic Projects and Mechanical Parts • Cut Detailed Custom Work or Mass Production • Includes Industry-Leading Software • Simple to Operate - Runs Off Your Computer (719) 676-2700 • www.plasmacam.com PO Box 19818 • Colorado City, CO 81019-0818
    • 6 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM that we must focus on our students’ strengths, and not hold them back when they have a known disability. Ask me to write a news story any day of the week — I have garnered over 30 journalism awards. Just don’t ask me to count the plates needed for our Thanksgiving dinner. Ellen Smith Pittsford, NY Ivory Trade Debate July/August’s “Contrarian” suggested that making the rhino horn trade legal would prevent poaching. The logic of selling rhino horns brings to mind a parallel case. I am sickened when I see authorities in various African nations set ¿re to tons of poached elephant ivory. Why not Àood the market with this commodity, eliminating or greatly reducing the pro¿t margin for poachers? Donald Schmiedel Las Vegas, NV JOIN THE CONvErsaTION Send email to editorial@DiscoverMagazine.com. Address letters to: DISCOVER 21027 Crossroads Circle P.O. Box 1612 Waukesha, WI 53187-1612 Include your full name, address, daytime phone number and email address. More Tan Mail The Top 6 Things Our Readers Write To Us About 1 Opinions on the GMO controversy: who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s going to hell. 2 Theories about dark matter, the Big Bang and where the heck the universe came from. 3 Our font. 4 Our articles are too short. 5 Our articles are too long. 6 Extraterrestrial life. ErraTa June’s “Out There” column incorrectly noted the Super-TIGER probe’s location as 82 degrees 14 minutes 69 seconds south, and 81 degrees 54 minutes 88 seconds west. The correct coordinates: 82 degrees 14.69 minutes south, and 81 degrees 54.88 minutes west. Shark Hunt Hatred Erik Vance wrote about the declining shark population in our June cover story. I read your great article, “Desperately Seeking Sharks.” I’m 17 years old. I want to do marine conservation biology. I already know about shark- ¿nning, but after reading your article I was upset at how fast the shark population is declining. Tonight (6/5/13) on CNN on Piers Morgan Live, I was horri¿ed to see him glorifying the capture and killing of a mako shark for sport. I hope your article will raise awareness of the decreasing population of sharks and help to save the species. Saoirse Keely-Zinkel Madison, WI Counting Off July/August’s ”Mind Over Matter” column explained dyscalculia, a math- comprehension disorder. Thank you for your article, “No Head for Numbers.” I am 53 and learned three years ago from a radio program that my horri¿c math disability was not from being lazy but from dyscalculia. I struggled in math in elementary school and while I excelled in reading, I could not even add or subtract without using my ¿ngers. I have learned Inbox ➔ Don’t be shy about sharing your opinions, whether via letters, email or our social media communities. Here’s what you’ve been telling us lately. FOTO24/GALLOIMAGES/GETTYIMAGES of DISCOVER’S Facebook followers opposed legalizing trade in rhino horns. 65%
    • ConneCt with us “Te Cambodian zero proved that zero was an Eastern invention. But it disappeared during the Khmer Rouge regime, and no one knew if it still existed. I felt very strongly that it was important to recover the world’s oldest zero.” — Amir Aczel, in the crux blog post “How i rediscovered the Oldest zero in History,” DiscoverMagazine.com/Zero exchanging gift ideas In the June issue, Editor in Chief Steve George asked readers to submit their ideas of “Gifts from the Future” — the technological advances they’d like to see or predict will happen. Here are just a few responses: “That my consciousness be transferred to an android like Data from Star Trek so I could walk on Mars without a space suit.” —THOmAs mAdden “It’s 2013, where is my Àying car that I’ve been promised? (Honestly, though, I would rather have a self-driving car.)” —dArryl suskin “I think all useful gadgets — watches, cell phone, smartphone, computer, radio, stereo, TV, e-books, registrator of temperature and blood pressure, etc. — will be concentrated into eyeglasses (display) and their frame (circuits).” —igOr kuzmin “I’d like to see everything we throw away being recycled instead and salvaged down to every single atom.” —kATeH sHirk “In the future, mankind will dine on pills: a yellow one for breakfast, a green one for lunch and half of a red one for supper (half because we are required to watch our weight).” —T.r. THOmpsOn from our Blogs facebook.com/DiscoverMag twitter.com/DiscoverMag plus.google.com/+discovermagazine september 2013 discOVer 7 We Asked: if a private space company were recruiting volunteers for a manned mars mission, would you sign up? Here’s What You Said: DisCover reader ulrika suuronen in rome snapped this shot of the full moon at its closest point to earth this year on June 23. For a heads-up on future polls and contests, follow us on social media. 55% YeS! i’m ready to relocate permanently to the red Planet today! 20% Sure. i’d take a vacation there as long as i can come home. 11% Maybe. i won’t be first in line, but i’d consider it after others have gone. 14% No way. i’d rather watch the broadcast from the safety of my sofa. Did You Spot the Supermoon? TOPTOBOTTOM:NASA/JPL-CALTECH;ALISONMACKEY/DISCOVER;ULRIKASUURONEN
    • 8 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Editor'sNote editor in chief Stephen C. George design director Dan Bishop EDITORIAL managing editor Kathi Kube consulting executive editor Pamela Weintraub senior editors Siri Carpenter, Tasha Eichenseher senior associate editor Becky Lang associate editors Bill Andrews, Gemma Tarlach Lisa Raffensperger (digital) staff writer Breanna Draxler editor at large Corey S. Powell copy editor Dave Lee editorial assistant Elisa R. Neckar contributing editors Tim Folger, Linda Marsa, Kathleen McAuliffe, Kat McGowan, Jill Neimark, Adam Piore, Darlene Cavalier (special projects director) ART photo editor Ernie Mastroianni senior graphic designer Alison Mackey DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM bloggers Meredith Carpenter, Lillian Fritz-Laylin, George Johnson, Razib Khan, Keith Kloor, Rebecca Kreston, Neuroskeptic, Christie Wilcox, Tom Yulsman ADVERTISING SALES OFFICES DISPLAY NEW YORK Tom Buttrick account manager 917 421 9051 DETROIT Leslie Palmer account manager 248 530 0300 x1401 CHICAGO Joe Wholley account manager 312 236 4900 x1102 LOS ANGELES Kim McGraw account manager 213 596 7215 DIRECT RESPONSE EAST COAST Ilyssa Somer 917 421 9055 Pam Pagan 917 421 9052 MIDWEST Joe Wholley 312 236 4900 x1102 WEST COAST Kim McGraw 213 596 7215 MARKETpLACE & CLASSIfIEDS Chariya Milindawad 312 348 1201 marketing director June C. Lough research director Susan Weiss advertising services Daryl Pagel KALMBACH PUBLISHING Charles R. Croft president Kevin P. Keefe vice president, editorial, publisher Scott Stollberg vice president, advertising Daniel R. Lance vice president, marketing Connie Bradley vice president, human resources James R. McCann vice president, finance James Schweder vice president, technology Diane Bacha associate publisher Jeff Felbab group advertising manager Maureen M. Schimmel corporate art director Michael Barbee corporate circulation director Jerry Burstein single copy sales director Ken Meisinger group circulation manager Brian Schmidt director of operations SUBSCRIPTIONS In the U.S., $29.95 for one year; in Canada, $39.95 for one year (U.S. funds only), includes GST, BN 12271 3209RT; other foreign countries, $44.95 for one year (U.S. funds only). SUBSCRIBER INQUIRIES 800 829 9132 DCRcustserv@cdsfulfillment.com P.O. Box 37807, Boone, IA 50037 Back issues available. EDITORIAL INQUIRIES editorial@discovermagazine.com 21027 Crossroads Circle, Waukesha, WI 53186 Here at DISCOVER, we see change as a big part of our job. Over the past few months, the team here has introduced a variety of tweaks to the magazine and website. But this issue heralds a bit of an upgrade, with a new look and new elements that we’re eager to share with our readers. Whenever a magazine undergoes a redesign, this is the spot where the editor starts justifying the revamp, perhaps with a reference to Darwin, or by making use of a handy pop-culture reference — comparing the change to, say, the regeneration of the Doctor from Britain’s popular Doctor Who TV series. Same character you know and love, just a new look and some added personality traits! I would never do that, of course. Instead, I will simply say this: I hope you like what you see. Dan Bishop, design director, and Alison Mackey, senior graphic designer (and a DISCOVER reader from way back), worked tirelessly to develop and implement a crisp, clean design that’s easy on the eyes, while Ernie Mastroianni, our photo editor, scoured the planet to fll our pages with images that are hard to ignore. Still, I should call out a few changes. On page 9, you’ll fnd The Crux, replacing the old Data section. As the name suggests, Crux stories will tackle, in brief, the vital points, puzzles and perplexities emerging in the world of science. My favorite new Crux item is Ask Discover (page 12), a regular place for you, dear reader, to pose your most vexing science questions. We also had readers in mind when we modifed our Mail page (now called Inbox, page 6) to include the broad range of your input, including online comments, Facebook polls, even photos. Meanwhile, 20 Things and your other favorite columns are still here. The ever-popular Hot Science section gets bigger and better; we just moved it to a spot where it has more room to spread out. It starts on page 63. Check it out. Are there other improvements you’d like to see? Email us at editorial@DiscoverMagazine.com. Just don’t be surprised if we make those changes. That is, after all, our job. Welcome to a crisp, clean design that’s easy on the eyes, but hard to ignore. Stephen C. George, editor in chief A Bit of an Upgrade Discover Science for the curiouS ® WILLIAMZUBACK/DISCOVER
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 9 CRUXthe 10 › The Cosmic Recipe for Earthlings 12 › Road Map to Save Artifacts › Ask Discover: Dreams and Dark Matter 14 › On the Hunt for “Killer” Mushrooms 16 › Under- standing the Sun’s Energy › See a Fish Think 18 › Tornado Tech 20 › Condiment Conserva- tion DYNAMIC DUO A leafcutter worker ant carries a load with a passenger, a minor ant of the same species, to their nest in a Costa Rican forest. Each ant has a specific role: The worker clips a leaf section from live foliage, and the minor protects the worker against parasitic phorid flies, which can lay eggs directly onto the worker. —ErniE Mastroianni BENCEMATE/NATUREPL.COM The Stories Behind the Latest Science News
    • CRUXthe Te Cosmic Recipe for Earthlings 10 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM →Stars cook up nearly all of the approximately 60 atomic elements in people’s bodies. But exactly how that works remains a mystery. Astrophysicists have developed cutting-edge computer simulations (shown at right) to grapple with an array of related puzzles: •What were stars like when they first appeared in the universe over 13 billion years ago, starting the process of modern element production? •What do we know about the nature of the death of massive stars — signaled by Type II supernovae — that fashion crucial elements such as calcium and oxygen? •How might the burned-out stars called white dwarfs be brought to ruin by other stars in so-called Type Ia supernovae, inciting the fiery alchemy that yielded much of the iron in our blood and the potassium in our brains? Scientists are still trying to figure out what triggers an individual Type Ia supernova and to determine the identity of the partner star to the exploding white dwarf. The Hubble Space Telescope’s recent discovery of the earliest known Type Ia supernova from more than 10 billion years ago, plus other results, favor a scenario in which two white dwarfs merge. The results indicate that crucial elements in people formed later in the history of the universe than many had expected, says David Jones, the lead astronomer on the Hubble study. “It took (very roughly) about 750 million years longer to form the first 50 percent of the iron in the modern universe.” ▼ About 500 million years after the Big Bang, one of the first galaxies in the universe formed, containing stars of about the same mass as the sun — which can live for 10 billion years — as well as lighter stars. The green and whitish regions depict elements such as carbon and oxygen. ▲ This simulated image shows the first half- second of an explosion of a star 15 times more massive than the sun. Called a core collapse supernova explosion, one example of which is a Type II, these are a source of about a dozen major elements in people, including iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc. The sphere in the center is a newly born neutron star, the superdense corpse that remains of the former star. The scale from top to bottom is 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles. BY Dolly SeTTon illustration BY kellIe jAeger THISPAGE,ToPToboTTom:VISuAlIzATIonbYRAlfKAEHlERAndTomAbEl(KIPAC/STAnfoRd);SImulATIonbYJoHnWISEAndTomAbEl(GEoRGIATECH,KIPAC/STAnfoRd);AdAmbuRRoWS,PRInCETonunIVERSITY oPPoSITEPAGE,ToPToboTTom:RÜdIGERPAKmoR/HEIdElbERGERInSTITuTfÜRTHEoRETISCHESTudIEn;PAulWoodWARd/lCSE/unIVERSITYofmInnESoTA ▲ out of the primordial hydrogen and helium created in the Big Bang, clouds coalesced within 100 million years, eventually forming the first stars. This simulation shows light from an early star 100 million years after the Big Bang. When this fireball — millions of times brighter than the sun — dies in a titanic explosion called a supernova, it hurls out elements such as oxygen, carbon and magnesium.
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 11 O Oxygen 65.0%Critical to the conversion of food into energy. (Percentage of body weight. Source: Biology, Campbell and Reece, eighth edition.) ▲ About one-and-a-half minutes into a Type Ia supernova explosion, elements created in the blast — iron (red), surrounded by silicon and sulfur (green) — are spat out with typical velocities of about 6,214 miles per second. Some oxygen (blue) is left after the explosion, but little carbon remains. ▲ A star the size of the sun becomes a “red giant” toward the end of its 10-billion- year life span, a phase in which its outer atmosphere expands a great deal. The white region at the center is the dense, hot core where hydrogen and helium are still burning in two concentric shells. Between those two shells, carbon is combining with helium to form oxygen. C CARBOn 18.5%The so-called backbone of the building blocks of the body and a key part of other important compounds, such as testosterone and estrogen. H HydROgen 9.5%Helps transport nutrients, remove wastes and regulate body temperature. Also plays an important role in energy production. n nITROgen 3.3%Found in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins; an essential part of the nucleic acids that constitute dnA. Other Key elements Human Body Ingredients The four ingredients below are essential parts of the body’s protein, carbohydrate and fat architecture. Potassium 0.4% Sulfur 0.3% regulates metabolism. Iron (trace amount) Part of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells. Zinc (trace amount) Forms part of some enzymes involved in digestion. Calcium 1.5% Lends rigidity and strength to bones and teeth; also important for the functioning of nerves and muscles, and for blood clotting. Phosphorus 1.0% needed for building and maintaining bones and teeth; also found in the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which provides energy that drives chemical reactions in cells. Important for electrical signaling in nerves and maintaining the balance of water in the body. Found in cartilage, insulin (the hormone that enables the body to use sugar), breast milk, proteins that play a role in the immune system, and keratin, a substance in skin, hair and nails. Chlorine 0.2% needed by nerves to function properly; also helps produce gastric juices. Sodium 0.2% Plays a critical role in nerves’ electrical signaling; also helps regulate the amount of water in the body. Magnesium 0.1% Plays an important role in the structure of the skeleton and muscles; also found in molecules that help enzymes use ATP to supply energy for chemical reactions in cells. Iodine (trace amount) Part of an essential hormone produced by the thyroid gland;
    • 12 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM CRUXthe QWhy don’t we know when we’re dreaming, especially when we interact with dead characters? My dad died a long time ago, yet when he inhabits my dreams, it seems perfectly normal. Do we all become morons when dreaming? —Alan Schertzer AThis is a very good question. The dreaming brain’s activity is largely similar to that found when awake, but some areas of the brain are less active in dreams. In particular, activity in a region called the precuneus is lower — and this area has been linked to conscious experience. In one study, activity in the precuneus was higher during lucid dreams (in which you are aware of being asleep) than normal dreams. So the precuneus, and perhaps other connected areas, might generate the self-awareness and insight that’s often lacking in dreams — but how this happens is unknown.— NeuroSkepTIc QDoes dark matter affect the navigation of the spacecraft we launch to explore the solar system? —Richard Rosing AThe effect of dark matter on spacecraft is basically zero — much smaller than the subtle effects of sunlight and solar wind. The inferred density of dark matter, based on the motions of nearby stars, is equivalent to about ¿ve hydrogen atoms per cubic inch. That’s not much, and it’s spread out evenly so it’s not even pulling a spacecraft all in one direction. Astronomers would love to study dark matter by measuring its pull on a space probe, but nobody has ¿gured out how to do that yet. — Corey S. Powell Ask Discover Downtown Tucson and the Santa catalina Mountains loom in the distance in this october 2000 photo showing an excavation at Julian Wash in Arizona. once dismissed as a probable trash heap, the site is now recognized as a large Hohokam village from about A.D. 750 to 1150, and it is a shining example of preservation archaeology, in which sites are excavated and preserved in concert with development. After Arizona made plans to rebuild an interstate exchange at the Julian Wash site, archaeologists and the state established a two- stage preservation plan. Researchers ¿rst excavated a strip of land that held hundreds of dwellings as well as other artifacts, according to William Doelle of Desert Archaeology Inc. The interstate was subsequently built over these parcels, and nearly 17 additional acres near the site were preserved for future exploration.— Fred Powledge TOPTOBOTTOM:adreilheisey;dOUGlasTaylOr/deserTarChaeOlOGy;arChaeOlOGysOUThWesT The jar above, from the Middle Rincon phase, A.D. 1000 to 1100, is among the nearly 60,000 artifacts excavated from Julian Wash site in Arizona. An interstate exchange was built atop Julian Wash, shown in 2002 (below); in return, 17 acres were preserved for archaeological investigation. RoadMapto Save Artifacts Archaeological Preserve Area of Archaeological Investigation 2002 2011 Visit DiscoverMagazine.com/Ask for expanded answers. To submit a question, you can send an email to Ask@DiscoverMagazine.com ➔ Two of DiscoVer’s bloggers answer our first round of questions.
    • National Collector’s Mint announces a special limited release of 3,085 Morgan Silver Dollars 92-135 years old at $39 each. Several prominent national dealers charge up to $28.75 MORE for a comparable Morgan Silver Dollar. These Morgans are among the last surviving originals still in existence, and each coin is guaranteed to be in mostly Brilliant Uncirculated to Fine condition. Due to volatile fluctuations in the precious metals market, price can be guaranteed @ $39 each for one week only! MARKET CONDITIONS The last time silver hit $50 an ounce, China was a poor, underdeveloped nation. Now, the Chinese are rich and using over three times as much silver! Will this drive the price of silver back to $50 or even higher? One thing is cer- tain – dramatic increases in silver investment have seen silver prices rise over 129% in the last five years, and as much as 29% in one month alone! But you can still get these Morgans for just $39 each! INVESTMENT Increasing prices of precious metals make every Morgan Silver Dollar more valuable. But acquiring your own private cache of Morgan Silver Dollars is a long term investment in so much more... in history... in American heritage... in the splendid rendering of Miss Liberty’s profile by designer George T. Morgan, whose “M” mark on every Morgan Silver Dollar identifies his masterwork. And, of course, Morgan Silver Dollars have not been minted for 92 years and are no longer in circulation. Phone orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and a limit of 100 coins per customer will be strictly adhered to. Due to Direct from Locked Vaults to U.S. Citizens! Original U.S. Gov’t Morgan Silver DollarsA message from the 37TH TREASURER OF THE UNITED STATES Hello, I’m Angela Marie Buchanan. You might know me as Bay Buchanan. I was appointed by Ronald Reagan to be the 37th Trea- surer of the United States… maybe you’ve seen my signature on some of the bills in your wallet. So, you can understand why our nation’s coins are vitally important to me. That’s why I’m so pleased to be able to announce this release of Morgan Silver Dollars by National Collector’s Mint. Of all the coins ever struck by the U.S. Gov’t, none have so captured our imag- inations the way Morgans have. Per- haps it’s because Morgan Silver Dollars are so much a part of our heritage – that striking image of Lady Liberty has been with us since 1878, a time when Amer- ica was only 38 states big, and much of our country was raw frontier. Morgan’s gleaming silver dollars saw us through two World Wars. They fueled periods of wealth and helped us survive the strug- gle of the Great Depression. Of course, they gained even more notoriety in the casinos of the Old West and then again, in the casinos of the new Las Vegas. Most of all, they are a constant symbol of America. So I invite you to sample some of these magnificent Morgan Silver Dollars. Enjoy them. Protect them. Celebrate them. What better way to hold your history, our history, America’s history in the palm of your hand! Sincerely, Angela Marie (Bay) Buchanan 37th Treasurer of the United States of America Co-Director, NCM Board of Advisors © 2013 NCM, Inc. R7-R52 CALL TOLL-FREE 1-800-799-MINT ASK FOR EXT. 7556 (1-800-799-6468) the extremely limited nature of this offer, mail orders cannot be accepted. THIS OFFER MAY BE WITHDRAWN AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE AT THE SOLE DISCRETION OF NCM. You may order 1 Morgan Silver Dollar for $39, plus $4 shipping, handlingandinsurance,3for$124 ppd., 5 for $204.50 ppd., 10 for $403ppd.,20for$799ppd.,50for $1980 ppd., 100 for $3935 ppd. If you’re not 100% delighted with your purchase simply send us your postagepaidreturnwithin60days forarefundofyourpurchaseprice. Don’t wait. ACT NOW! National Collector’s Mint, Inc. is an independent, private corporation not affiliated with, endorsed, or licensed by the U.S. Government or the U.S. Mint. Offer not valid in CT.
    • 14 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Since the late 1970s, more than 400 people of all ages in remote areas of China’s southwestern Yunnan province have dropped dead — sometimes in midsentence — from a mysterious cause, mostly during the summer. The so-called sudden unexplained deaths (SUDs) seemed to be the result of heart attacks, but no one was sure what was prompting them as only half of the autopsies revealed underlying heart disease. In 2010, Chinese health offcials warned that, based on preliminary tests of the victims, the culprit was a dangerously high level of barium in a local edible mushroom, Trogia venenata. The little white mushroom isn’t valuable, but exports of other fungi, including matsutake and porcinis, are a major source of income for Yunnan’s native people; fears of barium poisoning could hurt the region’s economy. Not everyone was convinced that barium was the killer, so from 2009 to 2011, biologist Jianping Xu of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, collected samples of the mushrooms to investigate. — as told to jennifer abbasi On the Hunt for “Killer” Mushrooms Summer in southwestern China is the monsoon season, with heavy rain at unpredictable times throughout the day. The area has many deep gorges, rivers and steep mountains. Most villages with SUD cases are in very remote and hard-to-reach areas, requiring long walks or hill climbs. For one of the trips, in 2010, we CRUX personal the TOP:CHANTALLVANRAAY/MCMASTERUNIVERSITY;BOTTOM:JIANPINGXU A specimen of Trogia venenata, a fungus originally thought to be the cause of illness in southwestern China. Jianping Xu, a fungus specialist, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. walked for ¿ve hours over 18 miles in the rain on muddy clay paths to reach the village. Because the mushroom is not common, we had to ask many locals before we found someone who knew a spot where it grew. By the time we ¿nished collecting the mushrooms — and in the process we were bitten by many leeches — we were hungry and thirsty, and there was no way we could have walked all the way back. Fortunately, we found someone with a motorbike who was moved by our efforts to solve one of the village’s problems and was willing to take us to our car. With three of us on the one bike, it took almost two hours to get back, and my graduate student was taken to the hospital because of severe fatigue. In the end, we found that the mush- room didn’t have high concentrations of barium. Other mushrooms from Yunnan had normal levels of barium, too. We concluded that barium in this mushroom is not the cause of SUDs, as had been suggested. There are likely multiple fac- tors contributing to these deaths: other toxins in this species of mushroom, the genetics of the victims, contaminated food and other environmental factors. I hope now that people will not be concerned about barium in wild edible mushrooms in Yunnan. in His Own wORds
    • 16 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM FROMLEFT:NASA;NASA/MARSHALLSPACEFLIGHTCENTER;MuTOETAL.,CuRRENTBIOLOGy(2013) CRUXthe The solar corona, our sun’s energetic atmosphere, has long bafÀed scientists who don’t understand how it gets all that energy. “We call it the coronal heating problem,” says Jonathan Cirtain, an as- trophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “Why is the surface of the sun 6,000 Kelvin while the corona is 7 million Kelvin?” Cirtain and a team of researchers have helped solve the mystery using the highest-res- olution images ever taken of the corona. In July 2012, the researchers launched a telescope less than 10 inches in di- ameter — dubbed the High-Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C — 174 miles above Earth. The Hi-C spent only ¿ve minutes observing the sun before para- chuting back to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, but it yielded remarkable results. The team captured images of “solar braiding,” the trans- fer of energy from the sun’s magnetic ¿elds to the corona, theorized in 1983 but never observed. Astronomers have long seen loops of magnetic ¿eld lines extend from within the sun out into the corona. These get twisted and tangled and release energy into the corona while unraveling. Braid- ing is a similar, but far more complex, process. “It apparently involves a lot more magnetic ¿eld lines,” Cirtain says. Plus, those ¿eld lines break, reconnect and interweave, he says. Solar braiding is also known as “Parker Braiding” after Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist credited with weaving the theory together, Cirtain says. Parker, 86 and retired, says it’s gratifying that his 30-year-old theory has ¿nally been observed. “I always hoped the resolution would creep up on this thing,” Parker says. He adds that the new study may help researchers understand not just our sun, but other stars. — jay r. thompson The High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) captured a range of solar activity (top), including the first observations of “solar braiding.” The Hi-C team, posing with the orbital telescope after its mission (above), suggests the braiding helps explain why the sun’s corona is so unexpectedly hot. See a Fish Think In a first, researchers in Japan have captured the brain activity of a living animal as it pursues its prey. “Seeing is believing,” says Koichi Kawakami, a molecular and developmental biologist at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics. In the past, he says, researchers have had to infer brain processes indirectly, by watching behavior and surmising what the brain must be doing. That makes his feat a big improvement. “Nothing is better than direct observation,” he says. For years, researchers have regarded the ability to watch an organism’s neurons fire — at high resolution, as the animal behaves naturally — as the pinnacle of brain observation. In humans, neuroimaging techniques show brain activity, but the methods aren’t fast or fine-grained enough to give a clear picture, Kawakami says. Attempts on mice and rats have been challenging: Their brains must be opened, which is invasive and makes it difficult to capture brain activity in natural conditions. In most animals, including humans and rodents, the biggest problem is that skulls and brains are opaque. Kawakami and his team cleared that hurdle by choosing the zebrafish as their model. Zebrafish embryos and larvae are transparent, and their genetics are well-known. The researchers tinkered with the fish’s DNA so that a protein present only in neurons would fluoresce when the neurons were firing. They then watched the neuronal activity of the developing fish at high resolution as it moved about its natural environment, eyeing and attacking its prey. “The fundamental brain functions are conserved between fish and human,” says Kawakami. “We hope that we can understand the processes at cellular and molecular levels by studying the fish brain,” he adds. — susanne rust A zebrafish’s neurons activate (shown in red) as it watches prey nearby. Understanding the Sun’s Energy
    • Designed to meet the demand for lifelong learning, The Great Courses is a highly popular series of audio and video lectures led by top professors and experts. Each of our more than 400 courses is an intellectually engaging experience that will change how you think about the world. Since 1990, over 10 million courses have been sold. LIM ITED TIME OF FER 70% off OR D ER BY OCTOB ER 4 Are We Alone in the Universe? Does the cosmos pulse with signs of life? This is one of the most profound issues facing mankind—and one of the unresolved questions that science may finally be able to answer in this century. No matter what the answer, one thing is for certain: The implications are vast. Life in Our Universe reveals the cutting-edge research that leads scientists to believe that life is not exclusive to Earth. Taught by Dr. Laird Close, an award-winning Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Arizona, these 24 visually stunning lectures take you on a remarkable journey through space and time, from the big bang to NASA’s Kepler mission, which has identified more than 2,000 likely new planets. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to join astrobiologists on the hunt for microbial life elsewhere in our solar system and Earth-like planets in alien solar systems—one of the field’s “holy grails”—as you explore the subject of life and the mysteries that remain. Ofer expires 10/04/13 1-800-832-2412 www.thegreatcourses.com/4dscy Life in Our Universe Taught by Professor Laird Close the university of arizona lecture titles 1. Is There Life Elsewhere in Our Universe? 2. Bang! A Universe Built for Life 3. A Star Is Born—Forming the Solar System 4. The Early Earth and Its Moon 5. Impacts—Bringers of Death … or Life? 6. Evidence of the First Life on Earth 7. Common Themes for All Life on Earth 8. Origin of Terrestrial Life 9. Astrobiology—Life beyond Earth 10. Has Mars Always Been Dead? 11. Evidence for Fossilized Life from Mars 12. Could Life Ever Have Existed on Venus? 13. Liquid Assets—The Moons of Jupiter 14. Liquid on Titan and Enceladus 15. Discovery of Extrasolar Planets 16. The Kepler Spacecraft’s Planets 17. A Tour of Exotic Alien Solar Systems 18. Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life 19. SETI—The Search for Intelligent Life 20.The Fermi Paradox—Where Is Everyone? 21. Space Travel—A Reality Check 22.Terraforming a Planet 23.The Future of Terrestrial Life 24.The Search for Another Earth SAVE $185 Life in Our Universe Course no. 1898 | 24 lectures (30 minutes/lecture) DVD $254.95 NOW $69.95 +$10 Shipping, Processing, and Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee Priority Code: 77442
    • 1. Warm water is pumped into heat exchanger 2. Water warms ambient air, which is directed from exchanger into tower 3. Cooled water is discharged Warm air circulating in tower creates vortex, drawing in more air and turning turbines to generate power 18 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Tornado TechExcess heat from power plants or seawater could be twisted into a renewable energy source. CRUXthe Tornadoes may be destructive, but even funnel clouds have a silver lining. Inspired by the process that creates natural twisters, electrical engineer Louis Michaud of Canada’s AVEtec Energy Corp. designed a nonpolluting source of swirling power he calls the Atmospheric Vortex Engine. The device can spin waste heat from power plants into usable energy. Instead of directing excess heat into conventional cooling towers that simply disperse it into the air, power plants could usher the heat into the hollow, open-topped tower of a vortex engine. A heat exchanger outside the tower transfers the extra heat (piped in as warm water) to ambient air. When this warmed air is directed into the tower at an angle, it encounters cooler air and produces a circular current. This current funnels air upward into a controlled twister whose low-pressure center draws more air into the tower, turning turbines at its base. These turbines drive a generator much like a wind turbine does, except, as Mi- chaud says, “You’ve got more oomph to push it with.” Michaud has already demonstrated working models of the engine up to 15 feet across, but the real deal would measure 300 feet wide and half as tall, capable of producing tamed twisters that stretch nine miles high. When hooked up to the average 500-megawatt natural-gas or coal power plant, the vortex engine could produce an extra 200 megawatts of energy just by putting the excess heat to use. At a cost of less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, tor- nado energy is cheaper than burning coal (which rings up at 4 or 5 cents per kwh) and produces no additional greenhouse gases. The vortex engine could also run on heat sources other than power plants. “You’ve got to have warm air, and you’ve got to have spin,” Michaud says. Solar heat or warm ocean waters ¿t the bill. “If there’s enough energy in warm seawater to produce a hurricane,” Michaud says, “there’s enough energy to run a vortex engine.” — Breanna Draxler JAYSMITH/DISCOVER
    • When the sun turns up the heat, you need a necklace that will make a splash. Ever since ancient times, sailors have sworn by aquamarine for protection on the open water. We guarantee it to turn heads, by land or by sea. And today you don’t have to leave shore to reap the benefits of this leg- endary blue gem, because your ship has come in. Today, you can wear this spectacular 300-carat Maré Aquamarine Necklace for only $99! Claim your “Mermaid’s Treasure.” On any vessel crossing the oceans, there was no more precious cargo than aquamarine. Sailors paid handsomely for its power, considering it their most valuable commodity. In scientific terms, the chemical composition of our Maré Necklace beads are cousins to precious emeralds. They begin life as geological twins underground, colorless until something sparks a change. Sprinkle in a dash of minerals and one becomes vivid green and the other becomes brilliant blue. That’s the beauty of chemistry. A legend among luxury jewelers. Named for the Latin words for “water of the sea,” aquamarine shines with all the colors of the ocean. Each bead is like a droplet of the sea frozen in space and time. Walk into the most exclusive retail jewelers and you’ll find aquamarine in a place of honor. Fifth Avenue thinks nothing of offering a strand of aquamarine “pebbles” for nearly $12,000. But with a color this captivating, you deserve more than a dollop. That’s why we collected the bluest stones from three continents, polished them to perfection and arranged them in this double-stranded, 300-carat masterpiece. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. Try the Maré Necklace for 30 days. If you don’t fall in love, send it back for a complete refund of your purchase price. It’s that simple. But once your wear 300 carats of aquamrine, you’ll find that there’s no better way to make a splash without getting wet! * For more information concerning the appraisal, visit http://www.stauer.com/appraisedvalues.asp. Maré Necklace (300 ctw) $179 Now Only $99 Save $80 14101 Southcross Drive W., Dept. MAN272-06, Burnsville, Minnesota 55337 www.stauer.comStauer® Call now to take advantage of this fantastic offer. 1-888-373-0654 Promotional Code MAN272-06 Please mention this code when you call. Rating of A+ Send in the Aquamarines Claim your share of the legendary “sailor’s gem” that was once considered more valuable than diamonds or gold! 94% Less than appraisal value!* Yours for only $99! This is how you make a splash... Necklace Independently Appraised at $1,590*—
    • 20 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM CRUXthe What does salad dressing have in common with building conservation? Olive oil. Researchers led by Karen Wilson in Cardiff, Wales, discovered that oleic acid, a component of the food staple, has just the right properties to make an excellent coating to help preserve historic structures. Some great historic build- ings, such as the York Minster cathedral in England (pictured), are made from limestone, a popular material because it was cheap, plentiful and easy to build with. Unfortunately, limestone DANBISHOP/DISCOVER;SHUTTERSTOCK Condiment Conservation is also extremely vulnerable to pollution, especially acid rain. Previous attempts at creating protective coatings failed because they were too thick: They blocked pollutants, but also prevented lime- stone from expanding and contract- ing with changes in temperature, leading to structural damage. The new oleic acid coating is inherently hydrophobic, repel- ling water and any pollutants, and it allows the material to react to temperature Àuctuations naturally. In the words of the researchers, it allows the stone to “breathe.” The oleic coating is also remark- ably thin, just about a nanometer thick, allowing it to conform to even the smallest cracks and imper- fections in the structure. Many con- servation groups are now interested in putting this historic food supply to use protecting historic buildings. —Mary Beth GriGGs Babies born by cesarean section are 5times more likely to develop allergies than natural- birth babies when exposed to dogs, cats, dust mites and other common allergens in the home, according to a recent study at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. fast stat SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY PRICE reg. $59.50-$64.50 $19.95 our best selling dress shirt the pinpoint oxford ^hite 100
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    • 22 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM The Canadian-built Dextre, a two-armed robot aboard the International Space Station, could be a predecessor to a fleet of robots capable of repairing defunct orbiting satellites. →Earlier this year, as astronauts busied themselves inside the International Space Station, engineers on the ground conducted their own experiment just outside the craft. Oper- ating from a control room in Houston, they directed a nearly 60-foot-long, Canadian-built robotic arm to grab a smaller, two-armed robot called Dextre, before moving it into position in front of a washing machine-size module attached to the station. Then, Dextre reached into the mod- ule, grabbed one of four toaster-size, custom-made, high-tech tools there, and proceeded to snip two safety wires, unscrew two fller caps on the outside of the module and pump a few liters of ethanol into a small holding tank. The Jan. 25 exercise wasn’t especially dramatic — it made no headlines. But the maneuvers, formally known as the Robotic Refueling Mission, represent what could be a revolutionary step in space science and commerce. It’s part of the larger Notional Robotic Servicing Mission (that’s Notional, not National, because so far it’s only an idea) that would send fully au- tomated repair robots to survey, fx and refuel aging orbiters. If it works, the project, run out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., could save federal and commercial satellite owners billions of dollars. A single communications satellite can generate tens of millions in revenue every year, so keeping even a few of them operating a few years longer could make a huge difference. InItIal Costs The decision to explore the idea is a no-brainer, says Benjamin Reed, Save Our SatellitesSending maintenance robots on orbital servicing missions may no longer be the stuff of science fiction. By Michael leMonick deputy project manager of NASA’s Satellite Servicing Capabilities Offce (SSCO). “Right now, there are about a thousand satellites operating in space. Of those, just two were designed to be serviced in orbit: the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station,” he says. “So we began think- ing about the other 998. What could be done for them?” The “we” in this case was the team that masterminded the multiple servic- ing missions that refurbished and up- graded Hubble — designing the tools shuttle astronauts would use, training the spacewalkers how to use them and offering real-time guidance during the missions themselves. Reed’s team also consulted on other satellite repair op- erations, including a Challenger fight in 1984 that fxed the ailing Solar Max satellite. When the shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003, killing all seven astronauts, Reed recalls an all-hands meeting a couple of days later where team leader Frank Cepollina said, “We’re going robotic, right?” “The agency hadn’t decided this yet,” says Reed, “but Frank knew we would still be servicing Hubble, so by God, let’s do it with robots instead of risking the lives of astronauts.” For the next 15 months, the team worked on the design for a robotic servicing vehicle, only to have NASA decide in the end to let astronauts carry out the ffth and fnal Hubble repair after all, in 2009. Having put in the work already, If it works, the project could save federal and commercial satellite owners billions of dollars. NASA Big Idea
    • Reported by J. Page Chicago: Board-certiÀed physician Dr. S. Cherukuri has done it once again with his newest invention of a medical grade ALL DIGITAL affordable hearing aid. This new digital hearing aid is packed with all the features of $3,000 competitors at a mere fraction of the cost. Now, most people with hearing loss are able to enjoy crystal clear, natural sound—in a crowd, on the phone, in the wind—without suffering through “whistling” and annoying background noise. New Digital Hearing Aid Out- performs the Expensive Ones This sleek, lightweight, fully programmed hearing aid is the outgrowth of the digital revolution that is changing our world. While demand for “all things digital” caused most prices to plunge (consider DVD players and computers, which originally sold for upwards of $3,000 and today can be purchased for less then $100), yet the cost of all digital medical hearing aids remained out of reach. Dr. Cherukuri knew that many of his patients would beneÀt but couldn’t afford the expense of these new digital hearing aids, which are generally not covered by Medicare and most private health insurance. Amazing new digital hearing aid breaks price barrier in affordability Proudly assembled in the USA from Domestic & Imported Components. For The Lowest Price Plus Free Shipping Call Today 800-873-0541 Phone Lines Open 24 Hours EVERY DAY www.MDHearingAid.com/MP52 Use Ofer Code MP52 to get FREE Batteries for a Full Year! 45 DAY RISK FREE TRIAL 100% money back guarantee A study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests older individuals with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. They suggest that an intervention—such as a hearing aid—could delay or prevent dementia by improving hearing! Can a hearing aid delay or prevent dementia? Chicago Doctor Invents Affordable Hearing Aid 3 Doctor and Audiologist designed, Mini behind-the-ear open-¿t digital hearing aid 3 Small Size and thin tubing for a nearly invisible pro¿le 3 Multiple channels and bands to provide precise ampli¿cation of the human voice without background noise 3 Wide dynamic range compression to amplify soft sounds and dampen loud sounds 3 Feedback Cancellation to eliminate whistling 3 Advanced noise reduction to make speech clearer 3 3 programs and volume dial to accommodate the most common types of hearing loss even in challenging listening environments 3 Telecoil mode for improved use with compatible telephones, iPhones® , (and other cellphones), and looped environments (churches, etc.) He evaluated all the high priced digital hearing aids on the market, broke them down to their base components, and then created his own affordable version—called the AIR for its virtually invisible, lightweight appearance. Afordable Digital Technology Experience all the sounds you’ve been missing at a price you can afford. This doctor-approved hearing aid comes with a full year’s supply of long-life batteries. It delivers crisp, clear sound all day long and the soft Áexible ear buds are so comfortable you won’t realize you’re wearing them. Using advanced digital technology, the AIR automatically adjusts to your listening environment—prioritizing speech and de-emphasizing background noise. Try It Yourself At Home With Our 45 Day Risk-Free Trial Of course, hearing is believing and we invite you to try it for yourself with our RISK-FREE 45-day home trial. If you are not completely satisÀed, simply return it within that time period for a full refund of your purchase price. “Satisfied Buyers Agree AIR Is Best Digital Value” “I am hearing things I didn’t know I was missing. Really amazing. I’m wearing them all the time” —Linda Irving, Indiana “Almost work too well. I am a teacher and hearing much better now” —Lillian Barden, California “I have used many expensive hearing aids, some over $5,000. The Airs have greatly improved my enjoyment of life” —Som Y., Michigan “I would definitely recommend them to my patients with hearing loss” —Amy S., Audiologist, Munster, Indiana SAME FEATURES AS EXPENSIVE HEARING AIDS ©2013 BBB RATING A
    • 24 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Reed says the team fgured, “Heck, we know how to do things robotically.” So they began thinking about those other 998 satellites. “ ‘Do they have servicing needs?’ we asked. Well, obviously they do.” Just to begin with, he says, most of the satellites carry fuel for the small rockets that nudge them back into the proper orbit when they begin to drift. “When they run out of fuel,” says Reed, “they’re replaced.” And whether it’s the private communications satel- lite that carries your phone calls or a government satellite that tracks the weather, we all end up footing the bill for that replacement one way or another. With costs running into hun- dreds of millions of dollars for replace- ment satellites, and with replacements needed every 12 to 15 years, extending a satellite’s life beyond the average could result in billions in savings. Sim- ply topping off the rocket fuel would keep many otherwise dead satellites operating for years. That’s what the January test was all about. GoinG Farther It wouldn’t be practical to refuel satel- lites in low-Earth orbit. “There are lots of them,” admits Reed, “but they’re all going in different directions. It’s tough to create a servicing mission that’s dedicated to more than one satellite.” So the engineers at Goddard began focusing on servicing satellites in geo- synchronous orbits, in the band about 22,500 miles above the planet’s surface where one orbit around Earth lasts exactly one day. About 400 satellites are in geosynchronous orbit today, says Reed, “and the vast majority of satel- lites are on the same highway. They’re on the same belt. They’re all going in the same direction.” That makes it relatively simple for a servicing robot to fit from one satel- lite to the next, pumping in fuel here, replacing a battery there, pulling a stuck solar panel out to full extension, even dragging the satellite to a different spot on the orbiting belt or into a safe “graveyard” orbit if it’s beyond repair. Unlike Hubble, however, none of the geosynchronous satellites was designed for mid-orbit maintenance, so they have no special tabs or knobs for a repair robot to grab onto. And since nobody ever expected to refuel the sat- ellites, the fueling ports aren’t standard- ized. That’s why the practice module used in the January Robotic Refueling Mission test has an array of different fller caps studded along its surface. It’s also why the SSCO has outftted a warehouse-like structure at the edge of the Goddard campus with robot arms and mock-up satellite parts. Here, the engineers can develop the tools, tech- niques and software that robotic repair/ refueling missions could someday use in space. The tools wielded by the Dextre robot in January came from here. the new reality Someday, Reed, Cepollina and the oth- er team members hope manufacturers will agree to build their satellites with orbital servicing in mind, but that clear- ly won’t happen until robotic repair satellites are much further developed. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem, but that doesn’t mean the manufacturers aren’t interested. The aerospace industry has already looked into what small changes it might make to future satellites. “They don’t want something that costs a million dollars,” says Reed. “But they might be willing to use a Velcro-like closure, instead of tape, for attaching insulation around their fll-and-drain valve. That way, when a robot goes to push it back, it’s a simple peel job, it’s not a cut — and you can reattach it afterward.” Or they might slap a small patterned decal on the satellite, so that when the robot sidles up, it can tell instantly if everything’s lining up properly. “It’s a teensy bit of extra work for the manufacturer — teensy compared with the building of a $100 million satellite.” For now, the main task is to keep practicing with the International Space Station’s module, using the various fller caps they have to work with. Then, a couple of years from now, the plate holding those caps will be taken off and replaced with two more “busy boards,” as Reed calls them, that will help develop other kinds of repair functions. Naturally, the change-out will be done robotically. D One of Dextre’s tools approaches a sealed cap it must try to open, a likely obstacle in a mission to repair satellites that were never intended to be serviced. The decision to explore the idea of sending repair robots to fx satellites is a no-brainer. Big Idea Michael Lemonick is a senior science writer for Climate Central and DISCOVER contributor. nasa
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    • 26 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM →It was a sunny summer day in 2010 just outside Houston, and 54-year-old Shirley Dygert was getting ready to skydive for the ¿rst time. Though nervous, she felt at ease after meeting her instructor, Dave Hartsock — the man she’d be strapped to as they executed a tandem dive from a plane. When she asked him how often he’d done this, he reassured her, “Hundreds of jumps.” But problems started as soon as Hart- sock opened the parachute to stop their free fall. The chute didn’t open all the way, and the backup parachute got tan- gled up. As the two neared the ground, Hartsock made a fateful decision, using control toggles to rotate himself so his body would cushion Dygert’s fall. Hartsock’s action dramatically altered the course of both their lives. While Dygert incurred some injuries, Hartsock’s spinal cord suffered a severe blow, para- lyzing him from the neck down. A man who’d just met Dygert sacri¿ced his own well-being so she might keep hers. “I was absolutely amazed,” Dygert says, blinking back tears. “How can somebody have that much love for another person?” The question that still preoccupies Dygert is the same one that echoed in so many people’s minds after the story of Hartsock’s feat went public: Why? Why did Dave Hartsock — going against every What Makes a Hero?Although generosity may often be self-interested, research suggests true selflessness and compassion can also be taught. By ElizabEth svoboda self-preserving impulse that must have screamed through him — propel his body in a direction he knew would put him in harm’s way? Can anybody learn to build on natural biological endowments to become such a model of selÀessness? That question has recently spurred a wave of research exploring how biology and experience intersect to produce selÀess behavior, which runs along a broad con- tinuum from everyday generosity to acts of extraordinary self-sacri¿ce. An IntrInsIc rewArd A few years ago, economist Bill Harbaugh of the University of Oregon wanted to know what rational calcu- lations play into people’s charitable giving choices. He and psychologist col- league Ulrich Mayr presented subjects with opportunities to donate to a food bank from a fund of $100. An fMRI scanner recorded what areas of their brains were activated as they chose. When subjects decided to donate their money, Harbaugh and Mayr found, brain areas involved in process- ing rewards lit up more than they did when the decision to donate was not their own, but was instead dictated by the experimenters. One such area was the nucleus accumbens, which contains neurons that release the pleasure chemi- cal dopamine. This area “keeps track of rewards, whatever kind they are,” Harbaugh says. Some subjects, whom he calls “egoists,” showed less such activity at the prospect of seeing their money go to charity. Those he calls “altruists” showed more. The results, he says, suggest that at least for some people, giving money to others provides an intrinsic reward that is neurologically similar to ingesting an addictive drug. MARJORIETAYLOR,COURTESYOFJIMANDREONI Mind Over Matter This fabric rendering, titled Warm Glow, is accurately modeled after fMRI scans from research by University of Oregon economist Bill Harbaugh and colleagues. Colored areas are brain regions that show heightened activity associated with making charitable decisions. The artwork was created by University of Oregon psychologist Marjorie Taylor, who is married to Harbaugh.
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    • Adapted from What Makes a hero? by Elizabeth Svoboda. Copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Svoboda. Reprinted by arrangement with Current, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 28 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Compassion is a musCle Harbaugh and Mayr’s results raise the question of whether it might be possible to stoke the brain’s reward system. Can reinforcing generosity make people — especially those who lean toward the egoist side of the spectrum — start to crave the pleasure of giving? Harbaugh is optimistic. “You can change your taste for all kinds of things,” he says. For example, if charities ask donors for relatively small amounts of money at ¿rst, the neural reward from giving may outweigh the pain of giving up money. Having had a pleasurable experience on balance, donors might be more apt to give again. People may also be able to train their minds to be more selÀess through meditation focused on compassionate thinking. In one study, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist Rich- ard Davidson put long-term meditators and people with no meditation experi- ence into fMRI scanners and piped in either emotionally charged sounds, such as the cry of a woman in distress, or neutral sounds, such as background chatter in a restaurant. When listening to emotionally charged sounds, the long- term meditators showed greater activity in brain areas involved in experiencing emotion and empathy. Davidson believes his results support the theory that consistent compassion meditation makes it easier to understand what other people are going through, and may motivate us to intervene when someone else is in distress. Another recent experiment in his lab suggests compassion is like a muscle that can be conditioned. In the study, Davidson, graduate student Helen Weng and colleagues recruited 41 participants, none of whom were experienced medita- tors. The researchers trained a group of participants in compassion meditation, a form of Buddhist meditation, for 30 minutes daily for two weeks. The prac- tice involved focusing one’s thoughts on a particular person and repeating phrases such as, “May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease.” Participants in a control group practiced a different technique known as cogni- tive reappraisal, in which they learned to generate fewer negative thoughts. After the training, participants in both groups played an online game in which another person was treated unfairly. Weng’s team found that people who practiced compassion meditation were more willing to shell out money to help the unfortunate victim, compared with those in the control group. What’s more, in a neuroimaging study in which the participants were shown images depict- ing human suffering, those who gave most generously during the online game also showed greatest activation in brain areas involved in empathy, emotion regu- lation and positive emotion. Other research bolsters these ¿nd- ings. Stanford psychologist Jeanne Tsai and colleagues found, for example, that after taking a brief compassion medita- tion course, people were less fearful of showing compassion to themselves and others and of accepting compassion. And People may also be able to train their minds to be more selfess through meditation. researchers at Emory University found that such training enhanced people’s ability to correctly interpret other people’s facial expressions. The helper’s high Some researchers speculate that the brain is so readily trained for compassion and generosity because those traits carry adaptive value. Some research hints that selÀessness yields both mental and physi- cal rewards. When Allan Luks, direc- tor of Fordham University’s Center for Nonpro¿t Leaders, surveyed thousands of volunteers across the country, 95 percent of respondents reported a pleasurable physical sensation associated with helping — what Luks refers to as the “helper’s high.” In a study of 423 older couples, University of Michigan researchers found that those who reported providing no help to others were more than twice as likely to die during the ¿ve-year study period than those who reported helping others. But it might be counterproductive to help others exclusively with such bene¿ts in mind. In one study, researchers found that the people who experienced the most signi¿cant longevity gain from helping were those whose goal was to help for its own sake. People who volunteered in hopes of escaping their own troubles or feeling better about themselves were no better off than those who didn’t volunteer at all. Perhaps, then, it’s most constructive not to think of the “helper’s high” as an end in itself, but as a fringe bene¿t. The personal effects of more extreme heroism are likely more complicated. For example, taking extraordinary risks can mean bucking social norms, which can cause distress — as, of course, can conse- quences such as injury. On the other hand, the knowledge that you’ve demonstrated moral courage when it counted carries enormous power. Just ask Dave Hartsock, who suffered terrible injuries to save Shir- ley Dygert. He insists he wouldn’t have done things any other way. D Elizabeth Svoboda is a freelance science journalist who writes for DIsCoVer and Psychology today. She lives in San Jose, Calif. BarcroftMedia/Landov Mind Over Matter Dave Hartsock and Shirley Dygert meet for the first time after the skydiving accident that left Hartsock paralyzed.
    • From creating and personalizing 3D models, to engraving photos, to marking high-tech gadgets, our laser systems create the products you see here and more! Start a Laser Engraving and Cutting Business Today with an Epilog Laser To request a brochure, DVD, and samples, contact us at: epiloglaser.com/discover • sales@epiloglaser.com • 888-437-4564 CUT IT! ENGRAVE IT! MARK IT! • Starts with basic Newtonian parƟcles • Derives conservaƟon of mass, momentum, and energy • Derives Newton’s equaƟons of moƟon • Shows why Maxwell-Boltzmann gas parameters vr and vm arranged as [(vr - vm ) / vm ] 2 = ( 3π/8 –1)2 =1/137.1 is fundamental to quantum mechanics • Shows how neutrinos develop 106 newton thrust • Proves that Newtonian parƟcles can form stable inhomogeneous states – the neutrinos • Shows why fundamental angular momentum has one value – ½ Planck’s constant • Shows what produces the magnitude of the proton mass Foundations of Physics Basic Research Press 120 East Main Street Starkville, MS 39759 662-323-2844 www.basicresearchpress.com Hard Back: $29.95 ISBN-978-0-9883180-0-7 By Joseph M. Brown Ph.D., Purdue University, 1952 • Shows how hydrogen is formed • Shows what causes electric charge • Derives the strong nuclear force • Shows how maƩer moƟon is accomplished • Shows what causes maƩer waves and magneƟsm • Derives superconducƟvity • Derives the neutron and what causes nuclear decay • Shows exactly what a photon is • Shows what causes gravitaƟon • Shows how atoms are formed • Shows how stars are formed • Shows why photons decay with travel • Shows why maƩer we see was formed 1010 years ago Other books by Dr. Brown See the destrucƟon of age-old misconcepƟons of the Universe The Grand Unified Theory of Physics, ISBN 9780971294462, 2004, $29.95 Photons and the Elementary ParƟcles, ISBN 9780971294455, 2011, $29.95 The Neutrino, ISBN 9780971294479, 2012, $29.95 • Counter example to the Second Law of Thermodynamics •Einstein’stheoryofrelaƟvityiserroneous–see howtofindtheabsolutespeedoftheearth • See the fallacy of the expanding Universe
    • ã Materials scientist John Rogers can coax electronics into surprising new forms, allowing them to bend, warp and buckle — or even disappear. By Ed Yong and ValEriE ross Electronic monitors now in development could mold to the brain’s surface to sense aberrant electrical activity. coverstory 30 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM
    • ã Anyone who has tried and failed to swat a fy can appreciate the benefts of its wide feld of view and keen ability to detect movement. The advantage derives from insects’ compound eyes, which scoop up visual informa- tion through hundreds or thousands of visual receptors, called ommatidia, covering the eye’s curved surface. The more receptors, the more information the brain can as- semble, and therefore, the more acute the insect’s vision. Building on earlier work modeling a camera on the shape of a human eye, Rogers and his team recently unveiled a camera inspired by an insect’s compound eye. Instead of making a single curved lens to focus light onto a fat surface, they built a camera packed with tiny lenses, each connected to an individual photodetector. “The uniqueness of this design,” Rogers says, “is that it sees in all directions at once.” The camera also renders both close-up and faraway objects in perfect focus. And because each lens needs to process only a narrow feld of view — and therefore a small packet of data — the camera responds quickly to moving objects, just like insects do. “If you’re interested in a surveillance system, those properties are important,” Rogers says. Compound cameras could also be useful in medical procedures, such as endoscopy, that require a close-up view inside body cavities. Rogers’ current camera has only modest resolution, akin to that of a fre ant or bark beetle, insects with relatively few ommatidia. He plans to scale up to higher resolutions, mimicking the ocular prowess of a praying mantis or a dragonfy. And eventually, he hopes to achieve resolutions “that exceed anything that has ever existed in biology.” Bug’s-Eye View Rogers and colleagues’ compound camera lens is modeled after the eye of an ant (shown to scale in this composite illustration), giving it a wide field of view and acute motion-sensing capability. ull apart any electrical device and you will find a riot of right angles, straight lines and flat, uncompromising silicon wa- fers. John Rogers is changing that. The 45-year-old materials scientist has spent more than 15 years developing electronics that can bend and stretch without break- ing. His devices, from surgical sutures that monitor skin temperature to biodegradable sensors that dis- solve when their useful life is done, share a unifying quality: They can slip seamlessly into the soft, moist, moving conditions of the living world. Other scientists construct flexible electronics from innately bendy materials such as graphene, a lattice of pure carbon only one atom thick. From his lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rog- ers has bucked the trend, building most of his devices from silicon, a normally rigid material — but one that, due to widespread use and desirable attributes such as outstanding thermal conductivity, has a track record of efficiency and low cost. Rogers’ team has tapped silicon’s rep for reliabil- ity by tricking it into a more malleable form. Rather than making transistors from conventional silicon wafers, they slice the material into sheets several times thinner than a human hair. “At this scale,” Rogers says, “something that would otherwise be brittle is completely floppy.” Riding this approach, Rogers has filed dozens of patents and launched five companies to get his prod- ucts off the ground. His Cambridge, Mass., company MC10 is developing sensors that can fit the contours of the brain or heart to monitor for early signs of epi- leptic seizures or heart arrhythmias. North Carolina- based Semprius is making ultra-efficient solar cells as thin as a pencil tip and flexible enough to roll into a tube or print on plastic or cloth. With all his devices, including the five spotlighted here, Rogers’ goal is to make a lasting impact. “If we were successful beyond our wildest dreams,” he says, it’s important that people would care. P OPPOSITE:SCIEPRO/GETTYIMAGESANDJAYSMITH/DISCOVER;THISPAGE:UNIVERSITYOFILLINOIS/BECKMANINSTITUTE September 2013 DISCOVER 31
    • ã Fits Like a Glove Imagine that one day years from now, a peculiar pattern of electrical activity courses through your heart, causing it to beat erratically. But before you develop full-blown arrhyth- mia, which can be life-threatening, a network of hundreds of sensors steps in. Conforming to the shape of your heart, the network delivers its own set of electrical pulses, resetting the normal rhythm. And you barely feel a thing. Rogers has moved toward this futuristic vision by creating sensor arrays that can precisely mold to the shape of body or- gans. Heart sensors made of stretchy, lightweight material and embedded with electronics envelop the heart like a thin sock, providing real-time measurements of cardiac activity. The goal, Rogers says, is to detect early signs of arrhythmia and deliver coordinated voltages across the entire organ, rather than delivering massive, painful shocks at a few points, as current defbrillators do. His collaborators at Washington University in St. Louis have tested the device, which he calls an “artifcial pericardium,” on rabbits and on human hearts removed from transplant recipients, and trials in live patients could be close. Another of Rogers’ devices is designed to detect early signs of epileptic seizures. But unlike other brain implants, which either sit on the scalp or have to be jabbed into brain tissue, this one sits on the surface of the brain. And while modern electrodes can scan the brain either over a large area or in great detail, Rogers’ device can do both. Developed with colleagues at the Penn Epilepsy Center, the device measures brain activity using an array of 360 electrodes encapsulated in silk. When the silk dissolves, the array molds An inflatable sheath embedded with integrated electronics can wrap around and move with a beating heart to monitor electrical activity. The device is designed to deliver electrical pulses if arrhythmia is detected. Striving for Impact Q Your early work at Bell Labs in the ’90s focused on consumer products, like flexible screens with the look and feel of real paper. Why did you pivot to other areas, such as medical devices? AMany consumer electronic gadgets have limited societal benefit, and most are quickly supplanted by some next-generation thing. We’re hoping some of the things we’re pursuing can have some qualitatively different level of significance. The shift accelerated in 2002 after I gave a talk at the University of Pennsylvania, and a neuroscience student in the audience expressed an interest to the organ’s surface like shrink-wrap, even folding into the brain’s otherwise-inaccessible nooks and crannies. In a recent test using a cat as a test subject, Rogers’ team showed that the sensors, connected to computers via a thin cable, could identify specifc neural signals that portend a seizure. He plans to de- velop a wireless system and scale up the sensors to human size; after that, he says, surgeons could use them to monitor seizures in the brains of epileptic patients, helping guide surgical deci- sions. Rogers also envisions implants that could detect signs of seizure and then stimulate local neurons to prevent electrical buildup, perhaps averting seizures entirely. John RogeRs, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign
    • ã Normally, electronic devices destined for damp envi- rons are built to withstand moisture. Rogers and his crew have designed electronics that do the opposite, dissolving without a trace over a period of minutes, hours, days or weeks — and potentially even years. Such “transient” electronics, as Rogers calls them, could monitor and prevent infection at surgical sites, then resorb into the body on a predetermined schedule. They could also be used as environmental sensors, monitor- ing an oil spill or chemical contamination site, for instance, and then dissolving once the disaster is cleaned up, saving recovery teams the ordeal of collection. Transient electronics would also be valuable to the military, enabling devices carry- ing them to collect sensitive information, then disappear into thin air (or water, as the case may be). Not only do Rogers’ transient devices dissolve into the environment, they are also harmless when they do. In fact, Rogers says, most “ingredients” in his devices are listed on a bottle of daily vitamins. During a talk at a recent elec- trical engineering conference, a colleague bet Rogers that he wouldn’t dare pop one of the transient devices into his mouth and swallow it on stage; Rogers won the bet. To create the technology, Rogers’ team started with a flm of purifed silk, which is bendable and extremely soluble in water. Rather than using traditional aluminum or copper to make electrodes that serve as sensors, the team used magnesium, a nontoxic metal that’s highly conductive and dissolves in water. And instead of using conventional silicon wafers for transistors and diodes, they used silicon layers only 50 nanometers thick, enabling the components to dissolve in a couple of weeks. Finally, the team coated the entire device in magnesium ox- ide, another nontoxic compound — often given as an antacid — that works as an insulator in electronics. The thicker the layer of magnesium oxide, the longer it takes for water to get through, and so the more slowly the device dissolves. “Transient” electronics can dissolve entirely in water or other liquids over a period of time ranging from minutes to weeks, a capability that offers a wide range of medical, environmental and other uses. Just Add Water Testing their devices in a solution with a pH and temperature similar to that of the human body, Rogers’ team found that de- pending on the thickness of the coating, the devices worked for as little as 40 minutes or as long as fve days and disappeared entirely within two weeks. That range could make the devices suitable for applications as diverse as postoperative antibacte- rials and extended medical monitoring. Rogers and his team have even made non-insulated devices that dissolve in just 10 to 20 seconds. “We want to engineer them for as wide a time frame as possible, from a few seconds to many years,” he says. In one application, Rogers’ team devised a transient, fex- ible flm to kill bacteria using electricity instead of drugs. The device’s electricity kills pathogens with heat, or thermal sterilization, a method that prevents animals from building up resistance to antibiotics. In a recent test, the device successfully killed microbes both in a petri dish and when implanted under the skin of a rat; it lasted about two weeks, the amount of time surgery patients are most at risk for post-op infections. in putting our electronics on brains. That conversation led to a fruitful, long-lasting collaboration with his adviser and opened up clinical medicine as a focus of our research. QYou went from using semiconductor materials that are inherently flexible to using silicon, a more conventional material not known for its flexibility. That feels like a step backward. Why did you do it? AI started looking for new ways to make flexible electronics out of necessity. When I was at Bell Labs, I was surrounded by amazing organic chemists who could cook up all kinds of interesting polymers and organic molecules that we could use to build transistors. When I left for Illinois, I knew I wouldn’t have my chemistry collaborators next door anymore, so I needed to find a different way to make an impact. We started to get interested in ultrathin silicon because thin geometries render any material flexible. A 2-by-4 is rigid, but a sheet of paper is not — similar materials, just different thicknesses. The same goes for silicon. A wafer is rigid and brittle, but sheets of silicon with nanoscale thicknesses are floppy and flexible. QYour devices are not only flexible, but stretchable. Why does that matter? AIt makes it possible to wrap them around hemispherical shapes or soft biological tissues, like the brain or heart. For seamless, minimally invasive integration LEFTTORIGHT:LOUMCLELLAN/THOMPSON-MCLELLANPHOTOGRAPHY;KEVINDOWLING;UNIVERSITYOFILLINOIS/BECKMANINSTITUTE (continued on page 34) September 2013 DISCOVER 33
    • ã Second Skin Normally, devices that monitor muscle contractions and other biological activity are too bulky to be practical anywhere but a hospital or lab. Rogers and colleagues hope to bring these applications to the street and home with a wireless circuit board that can be printed directly on skin to monitor a wide range of biological functions, including heart rate, skin temperature, muscle activity and hydration. In an earlier version of their electronic “skin,” researchers in Rogers’ group packed temperature sensors, light detectors and other components onto a rubbery sheet that could be applied like a temporary tattoo, bending and stretching without break- ing. But it washed off within a couple of days. Their current model, less than a micron thick, dispenses with the polymer backing, instead stamping the electronics directly onto the skin and sealing the array with a spray-on bandage. The device con- forms so well to the creases and troughs of human skin that it can stay on for up to two weeks before it is sloughed off. And it is so unobtrusive that people can wear it on sensitive and shift- ing parts of their body, like the skin of their throats. The device could enable doctors to continuously monitor a wide range of vital functions. For example, by measur- ing electrical conductivity or the spread of heat in the skin, it can monitor hydration, allowing it to spot early signs of heart problems marked by water retention. It can also send small electric currents to stimulate muscles as part of a physical therapy regimen. Its noninvasiveness also makes it especially useful in neonatal care. Recently, Rogers showed that people could control a simple computer game with a throat-mounted e-skin that sensed their voice commands by detecting muscular con- tractions and translating them into virtual commands such as up, down, left and right. Other volunteers could use e-skin capable of sensing muscle tensing in forearms to fy a remote-controlled helicopter. of an abiotic system, like electronics, with a biological one, the mechanics and shapes must match up precisely. Since we can’t change biological systems to make them look like silicon chips, we’ve focused on the reverse. QHow did you realize that stretchability is as important as flexibility? ASometime in early 2005, a postdoc noticed that during the initial step of the printing process, the rubber stamps we use to print the ultrathin silicon could sometimes be slightly stretched in handling just before contact with the thin silicon. That can cause the silicon to adopt a wavy shape, almost like an accordion bellows. These shapes were formed initially by accident. QSo relaxing the rubber then compressed the silicon. What effect did that have? AWe were, in a sense, making the silicon do gymnastics — to buckle, stretch and deform. It took us a while to precisely understand the underlying physics of what was going on and to optimize the process, but as we’ve done so, we’ve come up with dozens of applications, including devices that conform precisely to the surfaces of body organs; or that can be attached to surgical instruments for insertion into the body with minimal harm to surrounding tissues; or that mimic nature in ways previously impossible, such as cameras that replicate mammalian-eye or insect-eye capabilities. —Jim Sullivan Rogers and colleagues’ first electronic “skin” (top) placed electronic components on a thin, elastic polymer sheet that could be applied like a temporary tattoo. More recently, they have developed an array of sensors and other components that can be printed directly onto the skin (bottom). Antenna Wireless power coil Temp. sensor LED Strain gauge RF coil RF diode ECG/EMG sensor (continued from page 33)
    • ã Light Bulbs for the Brain Neuroscientists have learned to modify animal behavior in — quite literally — a fash using optogenetics, a technique that genetically reprograms specifc neurons so they respond to light. Optogenetics experiments have helped illuminate the biological bases of complex behaviors such as addiction and sleep. But the customary setup in such experi- ments — fber-optic cables implanted in the brain and a heavy helmet linked to a laser — is invasive and cumbersome for mice, the usual subjects, severely hampering researchers’ ability to observe normal activity and social behavior. To overcome these obstacles, Rogers and his lab, with col- leagues at Washington University in St. Louis, developed a far less invasive light source: micro-LED devices that are easier to tote around and pose less risk to delicate brain tissue than conventional optogenetic equipment. A central diffculty in creating the devices, Rogers says, was the inconvenient fact that making light tends to gener- ate heat, and that neurons tolerate only a small range of temperatures. In conventional optogenetic procedures, that’s not a problem because light is beamed in via cable, keeping the actual lasers away from the brain. But Rogers wanted to nestle his tiny LEDs amid the neurons. “Operating a light bulb in the brain under the constraint that the temperature can’t go up more than half a degree [Celsius] turns out to be pretty challenging,” he says. The dimensions of the LED devices themselves provided a solution: Each square LED is 5 microns thick and 50 microns to a side. The combination of small size and relatively large surface area allows heat to dissipate quickly enough to protect the animals’ neural tissue. Rogers and his team put four of the micro-LEDs onto a thin, fexible polymer sheet, then layered it together with sheets containing sensors to monitor tempera- ture, light and electrical activity in a mouse brain. The result- ing tongue-depressor-shaped device is only 10 microns thick, thinner than the thinnest spiderweb. In a recent test, the team used a silk-based, water-soluble glue to attach an LED device to an ultraslender needle, then injected the needle into a targeted area in the brains of a dozen mice. Fifteen minutes later, after the glue dissolved, the team removed the needle, leaving behind only the fexible LED device — and very little tissue damage. To deliver power to the LEDs, Rogers outftted the mice with lightweight hats equipped with a radio frequency antenna. The slimmed-down system got results. Turning on the four micro-LEDs activated neurons in a key component of the brain’s reward circuitry, triggering the mice to prefer Devices containing tiny LEDs and other electronics — and narrower than the eye of a needle — can be injected deep inside the brain. When injected into a mouse brain, ultra-miniaturized LED probes trigger specific neurons that have been genetically altered to respond to light. whichever part of the cage they were in when the light was on. “This shows we have a way to get semiconductor devices down into the brain,” Rogers says. Just as important, he says, “We no longer have the tether.” The wireless setup permits animals to roam freely, allowing researchers to more fully study a mouse’s natural behavior — and may open the doorway, eventually, to a pragmatic form of human treatment as well. D ALLIMAGES:UNIVERSITYOFILLINOIS/BECKMANINSTITUTE Ed Yong is a freelance science writer. His blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, is hosted by National Geographic. Valerie Ross is a freelance writer who covers science, technology and travel. She lives in New York. September 2013 DISCOVER 35
    • Starting poınt Our universe began from an explosive burst about 13.82 billion years ago, according to the latest data. But what caused the Big Bang itself? 36 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM T=Ø by Steve NadiS
    • tim e space Throughout his career, including the 20-plus years he has directed the Tufts Institute of Cosmology, Vilenkin has issued a series of wild, dazzling ideas, though from the outside he looks neither wild nor dazzling. The 64-year-old professor is soft-spoken, trim and of modest build. He dresses neatly, in neu- tral, understated tones that don’t draw attention to him. Despite a low-key manner bordering on subdued, Vilenkin is a creative force who has continually found ways of piercing the fog surrounding some of the densest quandaries imaginable—triumphs that have earned him the respect of scholars world- wide. “Alex is a very original and deep thinker who has made important and profound contributions to our notions about the creation of the universe,” says Stanford cosmologist Andrei Linde. Yet this brilliant career might never have happened. Born in the Soviet Union in 1949 and raised in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Vilenkin got hooked on cosmology in high school, after reading about the Big Bang in a book by Sir Arthur Eddington. That “obsession” over the universe’s origins, Vilenkin says, “has never left me. I felt that if you could work on this question, which may be the most intriguing one of all, why would you choose to work on anything else?” As an undergraduate at Kharkiv National University, Vilenkin says he was advised to “do some real physics” rather than pursue his frst love, cosmology. It is cosmology’s most fundamental question: How did the universe begin? The question presupposes that the universe had an actual starting point, but one might just as well assume the universe always was and always will be. In that case, there would be no beginning whatsoever—just an ever-evolving story of which we’re catching a mere glimpse. “We have very good evidence that there was a Big Bang, so the universe as we know it almost certainly started some 14 billion years ago. But was that the absolute beginning, or was there something before it?” asks Alexander Vilenkin, a cosmologist at Tufts Uni- versity near Boston. It seems like the kind of question that can never be truly answered because every time someone proposes a solution, someone else can keep asking the an- noying question: What happened before that? But now Vilenkin says he has convincing evidence in hand: The universe had a distinct beginning—though he can’t pinpoint the time. After 35 years of looking backward, he says, he’s found that before our universe there was nothing, nothing at all, not even time itself. photos by mark oStow / IllustratIons by roeN kelly
    • 38 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Although he was an excellent student, he could not get into any graduate programs in physics because, he suspects, the KGB blacklisted him for refusing to become a government informant. Instead, Vilenkin was forced to take a series of mundane jobs. For a while he taught night school for adults but left that position because his responsibilities included going to the homes of absentees, many of whom were alco- holics, to try and drag them to school—an unenviable task. He was a night watchman for about a year and a half, in- cluding a stint at the Kharkiv Zoo. To protect the animals (which were sometimes hunted for food), he was given a rife that he didn’t know how to use and fortunately never had to fre. When he had time during those long nights, Vilenkin studied physics, an avocation that included read- ing the four-volume collected works of Albert Einstein. He got fred from this plum assignment when someone decided—perhaps based on his choice of reading mate- rial—that he was overqualifed for the task at hand. With his employment prospects looking bleak, he decided to emigrate to the United States; he fgured he’d start out washing dishes while trying to break into aca- demia. But getting out of the Soviet Union required an elaborate plan: Jews like him were allowed to go to Israel in small numbers, determined by a quota, but one had to secure an invitation from Israeli relatives frst. Vilenkin had no actual relatives there, so he contacted a friend who knew people in Israel and eventually found someone—a stranger to him—kind enough to write a letter on his behalf. After the letter arrived, he waited a year for a visa, but it came at great cost. Before Vilenkin and his wife could leave, their parents had to consent to the move. For giving their permission, his wife’s parents lost their labo- ratory jobs. His father, a university professor, later lost his job, too. The traditional stop en route to Israel was Vienna, but from there Vilenkin, his wife and 1-year-old daughter went to Rome instead, arriving in 1976. They met with the U.S. Consulate in Rome and, after a three-month wait, were fnally granted a visa to the U.S. BACK TO THE BIG BANG In fall 1977, Vilenkin took a postdoctoral position at Case Western Reserve, where he was supposed to study the electrical properties of heated metals. Still, he found time on the side to theorize about spinning black holes and their mysterious magnetic ¿elds. A year later, he got his lucky break when Tufts offered him a one-year visiting posi- tion. He took a gamble by poring himself into cosmology, an area considered fringe at the time. That would soon change. In late 1979, a Stanford physics postdoc named Alan Guth offered an explanation for the explosive force behind the Big Bang. Guth’s intellectual leap stemmed from theories in particle physics, which held that at extremely high energies—far higher than could ever be reached in a laboratory—a special state of matter would turn gravity upside down, rendering it a repulsive rather than an attractive force. A patch of space containing a tiny bit of this unusual matter could repel itself so violently as to literally blow up. Guth suggested that a tremendous burst of this sort Alexander Vilenkin believes the Big Bang was not a one-off event, but merely one of a series of big bangs creating an endless number of bubble universes.
    • Time The Past The Future Bubble universes Space between universes expands Bubble universe expands Bubble universe expands New bubble universes continually form Bubble universe expands September 2013 DISCOVER 39 triggered the Big Bang, swiftly enlarging the universe so much it doubled in size at least 100 times. This exponential growth spurt —called cosmic infation—was short-lived, however, lasting just a tiny fraction of a second because the repulsive material quickly decayed, leaving behind the more familiar forms of matter and energy that fll the universe today. The idea simultaneously solved a number of puzzles in cosmology. It explained where the “bang” behind the Big Bang came from and how the cosmos got so big. Rapid infa- tion in every direction also explained why the universe we now observe is so homogeneous, and why the temperature of the background radiation left over from that primordial blast is uniform, in every patch of the sky, to one part in 100,000. Infation also revitalized cosmology, giving theorists like Vilenkin plenty to think about—and a bit more respect- ability to boot. THE NEVER-ENDING STORY By 1982, a couple of years after Guth’s breakthrough, Vilenkin had a realization of his own: The process of inÀation had to be eternal, meaning that once it started, it never fully stopped. InÀa- tion might end abruptly in one region of space, such as the one we inhabit, but it would continue elsewhere, setting off a never- ending series of big bangs. Each bang would correspond to the birth of a separate “pocket” universe, which might be pictured as an expanding bubble—one of countless bubbles Àoating around within the “multiverse,” as it’s sometimes called. As Vilenkin saw it, infation’s eternal nature stemmed from two competing properties of the cosmic fuel, the gravity-repul- sive material that caused the universe to rapidly expand. On the one hand, the material was unstable, much like radioac- tive substances, and was thus doomed to decay. On the other hand, the material expanded far faster than it decayed, so even though decay might stop infation in certain regions, runaway growth would continue in others. As an analogy, Vilenkin suggests a blob of bacteria that wants to keep reproducing and growing, while bacteria- INFLATION SET OFF A SERIES OF BIG BANGS, EACH ONE SPAWNING THE BIRTH OF A NEW UNIVERSE WITHIN THE LARGER MULTIVERSE. killing antibodies try to curtail that growth. If the bacteria reproduce much faster than they’re destroyed, they will swiftly multiply and spread even though their reproduction may be thwarted in some quarters. Either way you look at it, the net result is that infation (or bacterial growth) never ends everywhere at once and is always going on in some portion of the multi- verse—even as you read this magazine. To gain a better sense of the phenomenon, Vilenkin teamed up in 1986 with a Tufts graduate student, Mukunda Aryal, on a computer simulation that showed what an eternally infating universe might look like. In their simulation, infating regions, or bubbles, started small and steadily grew, while the space between bubbles stretched out as well. Each bubble—repre- senting a mini-universe like ours—was surrounded by smaller bubbles, which were themselves surrounded by even smaller bubble universes, in turn. ROAD TO ETERNITY In Vilenkin’s bubbling universe, inÀation was, by de¿nition, eternal into the future. Once initiated, it would not stop. But was it also eternal into the past? Was there was ever a time when the universe was not inÀating? And if the universe were always in- Àating, and always expanding, would that imply that the universe itself was eternal and had no beginning? To address this question, Vilenkin joined forces with Guth and Long Island University mathematician Arvind Borde. Using a mathematical proof, they argued that any expanding universe like ours had to have a beginning. The thought experiment they posed went like this: Imagine a universe flled with particles. As it steadily expands, the distance between particles grows. It follows that observ- ers sprinkled throughout this expanding universe would be moving away from each other until, eventually, they occupied INFLATING BUBBLE UNIVERSES
    • ∞ ∞Big BangBig Bang Big Bang Big Bang The past The future Classic Cyclic Universe Time U niverse ex pands BigCrunc h The cycle of expansion and contraction continues endlessly. Volume (of the universe) ∞Big BangBig BangBig Bang Big Bang Modifed Cyclic Universe Time T= 0 (The universe and time begin with a bang.) During each successive cycle, the universe expands to a bigger volume. The future Volume (of the universe) Universe e xpands BigCrunch 40 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM widely scattered regions of space. If you happened to be one of those observers, the farther an object was from you, the faster it would be moving away. Now throw into the mix a space traveler moving through space at a fxed speed: He zooms past Earth at 100,000 kilometers per second. But when he reaches the next galaxy, which is moving away from us at, say, 20,000 kilometers per second, he will appear to be moving only 80,000 kilometers per second to observers there. As he continues on his outward journey, the space traveler’s speed will appear smaller and smaller to the observers he passes. Now we’ll run the movie backward. This time, the space traveler’s velocity will appear faster and faster at each successive galaxy. If we assume infation is eternal into the past—that it had no beginning—the space traveler will eventually reach and overtake the speed of light. A calculation by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin showed that this would happen in a fnite amount of time. But according to the laws of relativity, it is impossible for any massive object to reach the speed of light, let alone exceed it. “This cannot happen,” says Vilenkin. “So when you fol- low this space traveler’s history back in time, you fnd that his history must come to an end.” The fact that the traveler’s journey backward in time hits an impasse means that there’s a problem, from a logical standpoint, with the assumption of an ever-expanding universe upon which this whole scenario is based. The universe, in other words, could not always have been expanding. Its expansion must have had a beginning, and infation—a particularly explosive form of cosmic expan- sion—must have had a beginning, too. By this logic, our universe also had a beginning since it was spawned by an infa- tionary process that is eternal into the future but not the past. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING A universe with a beginning begs the vexing question: Just how did it begin? Vilenkin’s answer is by no means con¿rmed, and perhaps never can be, but it’s still the best solution he’s heard so far: Maybe our fantastic, glorious universe spontaneously arose from nothing at all. This heretical statement clashes with common sense, which admittedly fails us when talking about the birth of the universe, an event thought to occur at unfathomably high energies. It also Àies in the face of the Roman philosopher Lucretius, who argued more than 2,000 years ago that “nothing can be created from nothing.” LoophoLe #1 CyCliC Universe theoryTo bolster his hypothesis, Vilenkin has studied other model universes, eliminating loopholes that contradict the idea of a clear- cut cosmic debut. In a 2012 paper with Tufts graduate student Audrey Mithani, Vilenkin examined the “cyclic” universe investigated by physicists Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Neil Turok, now at the Perimeter Institute. In this model, there is neither a single Big Bang nor a single beginning. Instead, the universe continually goes through oscillating cycles of expansion, contraction, collapse and expansion anew. The catch is that the cyclic universe runs into the second law of thermodynamics, which says the entropy, or disorder, of a closed system will inevitably increase over time. For example, an ornate brick mansion is highly ordered, whereas a pile of bricks strewn across the ground — the result of the ravages of nature and decades or centuries of neglect — is more disordered. And brick dust, scattered by wind and water after the bricks themselves have deteriorated, is even more disordered. Left on its own, a system — even a bubble universe — will naturally go this way. We don’t often see a brick mansion spontaneously reassembling itself from dispersed dust. eliminating the loopholes jUst how did the Universe begin? maybe oUr fantastiC, glorioUs Universe spontaneoUsly arose from nothing at all.
    • The universe stays the same size for an infnite period of time. ∞ ∞ T= 0 Suddenly the universe starts to expand. The past The future Time September 2013 DISCOVER 41 Of course, Lucretius had never heard of quantum me- chanics and infationary cosmology, 20th-century felds that contest his bold claim. “We usually say that nothing can be created out of nothing because we think it would violate the law of conservation of energy,” a hallowed principle in phys- ics holding that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, Vilenkin explains. So how could you create a universe with matter in it, where there had been nothing before? “The way the universe gets around that problem is that gravitational energy is negative,” Vilenkin says. That’s a con- sequence of the fact, mathematically proven, that the energy of a closed universe is zero: The energy of matter is positive, the energy of gravitation is negative, and they always add up to zero. “Therefore, creating a closed universe out of nothing does not violate any conservation laws.” Vilenkin’s calculations show that a universe created from nothing is likely to be tiny, indeed—far, far smaller than, say, a proton. Should this minute realm contain just a smattering of repulsive-gravity material, that’s enough to ensure it will ignite the unstoppable process of eternal infation, leading to the universe we inhabit today. If the theory holds, we owe our existence to the humblest of origins: nothing itself. One virtue of this picture, if correct, is that the spon- taneous creation of our universe gives a defnite start- ing point to things. Time begins at the moment of creation, putting to rest the potentially endless ques- tions about “what happened before that.” Yet the explanation still leaves a huge mystery unad- dressed. Although a universe, in Vilenkin’s scheme, can come from nothing in the sense of there being no space, time or matter, something is in place beforehand—namely the laws of physics. Those laws govern the something-from-nothing moment of creation that gives rise to our universe, and they also govern eternal infation, which takes over in the frst nanosecond of time. That raises some uncomfortable questions: Where did the laws of physics reside before there was a universe to which they could be applied? Do they exist independently of space or time? “It’s a great mystery as to where the laws of physics came from. We don’t even know how to ap- proach it,” Vilenkin admits. “But before infation came along, we didn’t even know how to approach the questions that infation later solved. So who knows, maybe we’ll pass this barrier as well.” In the Clint Eastwood movie Magnum Force, Harry Calla- han says, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” but Vilen- kin’s work is a testament to pushing past traditional limits. If we persevere in the face of skepticism and doubt, as Vilenkin is often inclined to do, interesting and unexpected ideas may well emerge—just like a universe popping out of nowhere. D LoophoLe #2 CosmiC Egg thEory If our universe has been here forever and maintained a stable size, it, too, would have succumbed to the second law. Disorder would have inexorably increased to the point that the universe would now be a smoothed-out, featureless blur. But that’s not what we see at all. Instead, we see a universe filled with grand cosmic structures — galaxies, clusters of galaxies, clusters of clusters called superclusters, and clusters of superclusters called galaxy filaments — some of the latter stretching a billion or more light-years across. For that reason, Vilenkin rules out the cyclic universe picture unless one makes the added assumption that after each cycle of expansion and contraction, the universe ends up somewhat bigger than when it started. The stipulation would leave us with another expanding universe, meaning that the original Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem would still apply: An ever-expanding universe must have a single beginning. Another possible loophole is the “cosmic egg” scenario, a model universe advanced by South African cosmologist George Ellis, among others. According to this view, the universe can sit forever in a stable configuration, with a fixed size and radius, until it suddenly starts to expand — like an egg hatching after an exceptionally long incubation phase. The trouble with this proposition, according to Vilenkin and Mithani, is that the small “stable” universe is not so stable after all. Sometime during the long waiting phase it would collapse to nothingness, before it ever reached the expansionist period — that is, if the laws of quantum mechanics are to be believed. Quantum mechanics, the prevailing branch of physics for describing how things work on atomic scales, is exquisitely well- tested, and exquisitely weird. Quantum mechanics holds that if there is even the tiniest chance of something happening, however absurd it may sound, that thing is sure to happen if you wait long enough. As it turns out, quantum mechanical formulas predict a slim (but nonzero) chance of the cosmic egg universe collapsing to zero size, at which point the erstwhile universe would completely disappear. Given an infinite time span, which is what the cosmic egg scenario calls for, such a collapse would be unavoidable — even though the odds of it occurring at any one time are small — implying that the universe could not have existed forever. Indeed, says Vilenkin, among all the ideas we’ve thought of so far for a universe without a beginning, none of them seem to work. “So the answer to the question of whether the universe had a beginning is yes, it probably did.” —steve nadis Steve Nadis is co-author of The Shape of Inner Space. He writes frequently for DIScover and is a contributing editor for Astronomy magazine.
    • 42 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM Doorwayto a CureA nonprofit is taking a financial gamble on eradicating cystic fibrosis. So far, the odds look good. by Bijal P. Trivedi ThinksTock
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 43 F or the first time in over a decade, a striking silence fills the Cheevers’ barn-style home in North Andover, Mass. The deep, rumbling cough that plagued sisters Laura, 14, and Cate, 12, every night of their lives, leaving them exhausted and weak, has finally stopped. Their bodies are almost free of the life- threatening lung infections — requiring hospitalization and harsh organ-pum- meling intravenous antibiotics — which end the lives of so many children with cystic fibrosis. Now calories once spent fighting disease add weight on their dainty frames and give them energy to play soccer and dance. “And,” says Rob Cheevers, Laura and Cate’s father, “they don’t taste salty anymore.” “Yeah, I taste like an average person,” quips Cate, referring to the salty sweat that is a hallmark of the disease. Laura and Cate are among thousands of Americans who have cystic fbrosis (CF), an inherited disease that clogs the lungs with thick mucus, encouraging chronic infections that eventually kill. Affecting one in every 3,900 births in the U.S., CF is one of the most common genetic disorders known. Yet it afficts too few people — just 30,000 in America and an estimated 70,000 worldwide — for industry to recoup the enormous cost of developing drugs for the disease. For Laura and Cate, the outlook has changed. They are benefciaries of a gamble taken in 2000, when parents and volunteers running the Cystic Fibro- sis Foundation (CFF) gave a start-up biotech company more than $40 mil- lion to fnd a cure. Until that point, the advocacy group, established in 1955, had functioned much like other such groups. Battling a disease that, untreated, stole many of their children before age 5, CFF members compiled patient registries and established treatment centers nationwide. They ran regular fundraisers to develop new drugs, like those that broke up the mucus or delivered aerosolized antibiotics that penetrated deep in the lungs to fght infection. With slow and steady progress, they extended their children’s life spans a decade or more. Then 13 years ago, in a strategic roll of the dice, the group decided to fund the search for a cure that would target not the symptoms of CF, but the defective protein causing the disease. Urged by desperate parents, the board expanded the tradition- al nonproft by launching Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics Inc., an inde- pendent arm, to spearhead drug discov- ery. It used money the Foundation raised to hire companies to develop the drugs and then helped them test those drugs in clinical trials. In return, the Therapeutics arm earned royalties for drugs they co- developed, which were immediately folded into more drug discovery. Along the way, the Foundation imposed an urgency and focus that a biotech or pharmaceutical company functioning alone could not muster. “We were like a racehorse with blinders on. The goal was getting a medicine to patients. Everything we did, we put it through that lens,” says microbiolo- gist Eric Olson, who leads CF research at Massachusetts-based Vertex Pharmaceu- ticals, which discovered Cate and Laura’s drug. Collaboration with the Foundation, where everyone had a personal stake in the outcome, kept Vertex on target. “Nothing The Cheevers family stand near their home in Massachusetts. They are (from left) Rob, Cate, Laura and Kim. Thanks to CF drug development, clinical trial pioneers Cate and Laura have achieved robust good health. SamOgden
    • 44 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM is more powerful than when it is your own kid, your brother, your sister, and it keeps focus on getting to something real, even if it takes 20 years.” Vertex’s frst CF drug, called Kalydeco, is a stunning testament to patient power. Participating in a clinical trial in 2010, Laura and Cate were given a drug that entered their cells and fxed the defective protein making them sick. With the protein functioning almost as it would in a healthy person, the girls took back their lives. Laura and Cate have an especially rare mutation — it causes only 4 percent of CF cases in the U.S. But the success of the transforma- tive drug heralds similar treatments for the rest of the CF community. Vertex has already developed a drug cocktail for patients with the most common CF mutation — responsible for the overwhelming majority of cases — with phase III clinical trials underway. ON THE TRAIL OF THE CF GENE Little was known about the cause of cystic fbrosis in the 1970s, when Francis Collins, now head of the National Insti- tutes of Health (NIH), took an interest in the disease. Collins was a resident in internal medicine in 1978 at North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill when he was assigned to care for a 19-year-old nurse just diagnosed with CF. The case was unusual because the disease is typically diagnosed in child- hood, yet she clearly met the criteria: Her lungs were being destroyed by thick, sticky mucus that served as a breeding ground for sickening bacterial infections, and she had salty sweat, a function of CF pathophysiology Collins didn’t yet understand. “It was clear we didn’t know very much,” he says today. CF was variable. At one end of the spectrum, thick mu- cus derailed the function of the body: It blocked the pancreas from delivering enzymes needed for food digestion and absorption, resulting in malnutrition, and also caused severe lung infections, often killing children by age 5. At the other end was a milder disease with rare infections, few nutritional issues and a normal life span. CF was known to be a genetic disorder, inherited as a recessive trait. That means you needed two bad copies of the gene — one from each parent — to get the disease. The mutated genes would then produce defective proteins that cannot perform their job inside the cell, causing it to malfunction and ul- timately triggering the disease. Parents with just one mutant copy were healthy and often unaware they carried a defec- tive gene. Although scientists like Col- lins knew the pattern of inheritance, no one knew what the gene was or exactly which protein it produced. And as far as Collins was concerned, there was no obvious way to fnd out. That changed in the early 1980s after scientists found the unique DNA pattern, or genetic marker, for Hunting- ton’s disease, a crippling neurodegenera- tive disorder. The discovery “electrifed everybody’s imagination,” Collins says. Encouraged by this feat, Collins’ soon-to-be collaborator, Lap-Chee Tsui, a molecular biologist from Hong Kong, took up the search for the defec- tive gene from a CF lab at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Tsui had read about a technique for locating a desired gene through DNA mark- ers present in sick people but absent in healthy ones. Working closely with the doctors and nurses at his hospital, he was soon acquiring blood samples from some 20 CF families in Toronto and later from 30 more such families around Canada. By 1985, running his own lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Collins was doing the same thing. While no one had yet sequenced the full complement of human genes, researchers knew a thing or two about how genes could go awry. They knew the human genome was carved into 23 pairs of structures, called chromo- A Look Inside Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life- threatening lung infections. The mucus also obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. JaySmith/DiScover Esophagus Blood in mucus Bacterial infection Right lung Pylorus Mucous plug Common bile duct Duodenum Pancreatic duct Pancreas Stomach Small intestine Left lung Alveoli Airway With CF: With cystic fibrosis, thick, sticky mucus blocks the airway. Normal Airway: In healthy lungs, the airway is lined with thin layer of mucus
    • CARRIER PARENTS AFFECTED CHILD 25% UNAFFECTED CHILD 25% CARRIER CHILD 25% CARRIER CHILD 25% September 2013 DISCOVER 45 1978 Francis Collins, a resident in internal medicine, becomes interested in CF when he is assigned to care for a newly diagnosed 19-year-old CF patient. 1955 The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) is established. somes, made from deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA’s alphabet con- sisted of just four letters, A, C, G and T, that stand for four chemical units, or bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. The bases pair up, with adenine bonding to thymine and cyto- sine to guanine. The human genome has 3 billion of these base pairs on its 23 chromosomes pairs, but deleting or altering even a single A, C, G or T can cause disease or death. “The genome is an enormously large place to root around when you are try- ing to fnd something subtle,” Collins notes. Still, the race was on to fnd the DNA pattern unique to CF families, and especially their sick children. In 1985 Tsui used DNA markers to track the CF gene to chromosome 7. A team, including members from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Saint Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, narrowed the region further by fnding a couple of DNA signposts fanking the gene, whether defective or not. These markers are akin to road signs on a highway; the gene is like a hotel in between. But the genetic distance between these markers was enormous — a stretch of about 1.5 million DNA let- ters. In 1985, the standard way to fnd a gene between two markers was to sift through the DNA letter by letter, a technique called chromosome walk- ing. Then Collins developed a faster approach that he was itching to test: chromosome jumping, which allowed him to leapfrog over genetic terrain tens of thousands of letters at a time. “The idea was that if you know it’s between these two markers, you could start jumping off both ends toward the middle, and you would get there faster than if you had to just walk, step by step,” he explains. To speed things even more, Collins and Tsui joined forces in 1987, unleash- ing a small army of some 20 scientists to fnd the suspect gene wreaking havoc in patients’ sweat glands, pancreas and lungs — all organs affected by the disease. The moment of discovery happened on a rainy night in June 1989 at Yale University, as Collins and Tsui attended a strategic meeting on map- ping the human genome. The two were lodging in the student dormitories dur- ing the meeting, uneasy about being so far from their labs while critical analysis of DNA from a large cohort of CF pa- tients was in play. One evening at about 10 p.m. they holed up in Tsui’s room, wearily combing through pages of genetic data spewing from a small fax machine (the high-tech data transmis- sion of the ’80s) connected to Tsui’s lab. As they sifted through the data, a troubling pattern on chromosome 7 became clear: Most of the CF pa- tients were missing a sliver of DNA, a sequence of bases designated by just three letters, CTT. It was basic biology. In healthy subjects, the code was intact. The healthy gene produced a protein with 1,480 amino acid units. The dam- aged version produced a shorter, faulty protein with only 1,479 amino acids; it was missing a vital amino acid called phenylalanine. That minute change was enough to cause this cruel, deadly disease. “That was the moment for me,” admits Collins. “I wanted to jump up and down and scream.” BROKEN CELLS Finding the mutation was the frst step toward a cure, but Collins and Tsui still needed to fgure out what the gene did and how the mutation on chromo- some 7 derailed it. Whatever protein the gene coded for, they fgured, it ended up skewing the body’s balance of water and salt. Excess salt in the cells would cause them to suck in water from sur- rounding mucus, leaving it sticky and thick, allowing infection to set in. The excess salt also accounted for the salty sweat — all defning features of CF. To explain the salt imbalance, one possibility stood out: blocking the fow of chloride ions — one half of the table salt molecule, sodium chloride — in and out of cells. A mutated gene that produced a broken protein involved in chloride fow could cause a salt imbal- ance and all the devastation observed. To follow through, Collins and Tsui recruited biochemist Jack Riordan, who worked with Tsui. Riordan was an expert on proteins called ABC trans- porters, molecular elevators that shuttle things like fats, drugs and other mol- ecules back and forth across cell mem- branes. Riordan analyzed cells from the salty sweat glands of CF patients, proving that the mutant gene was ac- tive and producing a defective protein. Then he used a computer to compare the string of amino acids making up the protein to the sequence of amino acids in all other known proteins. He was stunned when he noticed similari- ties to his ABC transporters: The CF protein had sections that gravitated to water and parts that repelled it. And Searchfor the Cure Cystic fibrosis is passed genetically from parent to child. A child must inherit one defective gene from each parent to develop the disease. AlisonmAckey/discover
    • 46 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM 1985 Lap-Chee Tsui of the University of Toronto tracks the CF gene to chromosome 7. 1987 Tsui and Collins join forces. Early 1980s Scientists find the DNA marker for Huntington’s disease. This leads researchers to believe they can use a similar approach to find the gene causing CF. like those transporters, the protein was shaped like a tube and wedged in the outer surface of the cells, resembling the kind of biological valve that would move chloride in and out. That gelled perfectly with the Tsui-Collins hypoth- esis: A malfunctioning chloride channel apparently caused CF. On Aug. 22, 1989, news that Tsui and Collins had discovered the gene causing CF leaked to the press. Two days later, the researchers, just 38 and 39 years old, were whisked to Washington, D.C., for a series of news conferences almost two weeks before the scheduled publi- cation of three back-to-back papers in Science. The papers described the loca- tion of the newly named cystic fbrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) gene, its specifc genetic code and the proposed structure and function of the protein it produced. GENE THERAPY DEBACLE With the CF gene in hand, a cure based on gene therapy seemed within reach. Although the disease affects many organs, it is lung infections that kill. So if healthy genes could be sent into the lungs, Collins and Tsui reasoned, they could cure the worst ravages of the disease. Collins had been corresponding regularly with a leading human gene therapy proponent, James Wilson, who soon moved his lab to the University of Michigan, right next door to Col- lins’ own. By 1990 Collins and Wilson were retroftting a lab-built virus with healthy CFTR genes, then sending the package in, like a Trojan horse, to infect cells taken from a CF patient and kept alive in culture in the lab. The sick cells welcomed the healthy CFTR gene and used it to make functioning channels that allowed chloride to pass in and out of the cell. It was stunning proof that a healthy gene could trump a damaged one and fx the cell, at least in a petri dish. By 1993, in trials with baboons, Wilson proved the virus could import the healthy CFTR gene into lung cells. But translating the technique to humans was enormously challenging. That same year, efforts to install the healthy CFTR gene in CF patients hit a roadblock when the virus triggered alarming infammation and fever, causing the researchers to reengineer the virus and rethink their strategy. Researchers kept trying until De- cember 1999, when Wilson published phase I trial results in 11 volunteers with CF showing it was almost impos- sible to get the gene into lung cells permanently and effciently, without immune rejection. “It took quite a few years of banging heads against the wall to realize just how hard this was,” says Collins. Nobody anticipated how fercely the immune system would respond to the viruses and “essentially doom our approach.” FORGING ANOTHER PATH In the years after fnding the CFTR gene at the root of the disease, Col- lins, Tsui and others discovered the situation was far more complex than they had ever dreamed: Instead of just a single mutation in the gene, researchers found some 1,900 dis- tinct mutations. Most of them caused disease, and the differences among them accounted for the sliding scale of severity that doctors saw. The most common mutation had been identifed by Collins and Tsui in 1989. They named it Delta F508, for the absent amino acid, phenylalanine, in position 508 of the CFTR protein. A CFTR protein with this mutation cannot fold properly and cannot navigate its way to the surface of the cell where it would normally reside, providing a channel for chloride to fow in and out. Instead, the defective protein remains stuck inside the cell, like a Cheerio trapped in a balloon. Collins grasped that fxing this one mutation, carried by about 4 percent of Caucasians, could help almost 90 percent of patients with CF. But his lab halted efforts in 1994 after moving to the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., to lead the massive government human genome sequencing effort that would eventually chart the entire human genetic code. That same year, Robert Beall, a for- mer biochemist who left NIH in 1980 to work at the nonproft Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, became its CEO. Back in the ’80s it was a grassroots operation. Parents brought the food, ran the pro- jectors and catered to the few scientists who showed up. “They didn’t have a lot of science,” says Beall, “but I fell in love with the people and the parents, who were looking for some hope.” Beall rode the emotional roller coaster of the CF gene discovery, and, like others, he expected new therapies to emerge. When everybody got swept up in the gene therapy craze of the CYSTICFIBROSISCANADA Celebrating a breakthrough in cystic fibrosis research in 1989 are (clockwise from left) collaborators Lap-Chee Tsui, Francis Collins and Jack Riordan. With them is CF patient Ashley Donnelle. Donnelle grew up and even had a daughter, but she had a lung transplant in 2009 and died from complications of that in 2011.
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 47 early ’90s, he explains, “we were the same.” But with CF gene therapy ef- forts failing, one after the next, Beall knew he had to fnd another way. “We had discovered the CF gene and knew the root cause of the disease,” he says, “but the pharmaceutical companies were still not getting involved.” Beall told parents it was time to forge another path. He was scouring the scientifc literature when he hit upon an article describing high-throughput screening, a new technique that used robots to test the therapeutic proper- ties of thousands of chemical com- pounds a day in cells in laboratory dishes. Refecting on the impasse, Beall thought this could provide an answer for CF: Instead of giving patients healthy CFTR genes, he would launch a massive search for chemicals to fx the mutant proteins in the patients’ cells. Without a large government grant, Beall knew that no academic team could take on this challenge. And no company would embark on such an expensive drug search because it would never recoup its investment with such a rare disease. Instead, the CFF would need to front the effort, protecting companies from risk. At the time it was unheard of for a nonproft to take such a gamble. After all, Beall admits, he didn’t know much about drug discovery. “This is a risky thing that we are about to do,” Beall told his board at the time. “We are go- ing to invest big. But the biggest risk for us would be not to do it.” With initial funding of $3.2 million in hand, Beall called the fve technol- ogy leaders specializing in the high- throughput screening mentioned in the article; two returned his calls. One was Aurora Biosciences, a San Diego-based start-up specializing in screening drug candidates. They agreed that it was pos- sible to fnd a molecule to interact with the defective protein and correct it. Aurora came with a perk no money could buy: Paul Negulescu, a cell physi- ologist who studied CF while a gradu- ate student at Berkeley. As Negulescu well knew, the task was complex: Each of almost 1,900 mutations causing the CFTR protein to malfunction required its own unique fx. But it made sense to start with the most common mutation, Collins and Tsui’s Delta F508, the one afficting most of the CF population. (Of those with CF, some 50 percent car- ry two copies of the gene with the Delta F508 mutation, and another 40 percent carry one copy; those with just one copy of Delta F508 carry a second bad copy of the CF gene, with an alternate muta- tion that must be fxed as well.) Some 10 percent have rare mutations that don’t involve Delta F508 at all. Negulescu knew that patients with the Delta F508 mutation produced a CFTR protein that couldn’t fold prop- erly, like a crumpled origami sculpture, foiling its ability to even reach the sur- face of the cell, where it was supposed to be. To relocate the protein required one drug — dubbed a “corrector” — to tweak its shape so that it could be traf- fcked to the cell’s outer surface. But once this defective protein was lodged in place, there was a second glitch: The protein still wouldn’t allow chloride to pass in and out of the cell. It was as if a door had been jammed shut. To wedge it open would require a second, “doorman” drug. Patients with the Delta F508 muta- tion would need two drugs. But those like Laura and Cate — who have an even rarer mutation, called G551D — might be easier to treat. Unlike the common Delta F508 mutation, the G551D mutation yielded a protein that could reach the cell surface and wedge itself into the membrane, but it suf- fered from the door-jamming problem: Chloride still could not fow in and out. The Cheevers needed only the doorman to remove the jam that stopped chloride from fowing back and forth. 1993 Gene therapy for CF is successful in baboons, but it fails utterly in humans. 1990 Collins and James Wilson make a virus capable of carrying the CFTR gene. They hope it will transmit the gene to human patients. 1989 Tsui and Collins identify the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator gene (CFTR) that has been mutated in CF patients. TOMLYNN Robert Beall stands in front of portraits of CF children at the Chicago office of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Beall is the nonprofit group’s CEO.
    • 48 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM between 1994 and 2001 122,000 compounds tested HUNT FOR DRUGS To accelerate drug discovery, Negulescu and the Aurora team searched for both corrector and doorman simultaneously. To execute their high-volume search starting in 1997, they grew cells carry- ing the malfunctioning CFTR protein in plastic trays, each containing 384 tiny wells in a 16-by-24 grid. To identify correctors, a unique candidate drug was added to each well and allowed to steep overnight at body temperature, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, a fuorescent dye was added to the mix. Then they added a chemical called genistein, a known door-opening drug that, unfor- tunately, was so weak it worked only in the test tube. Finally, a robotic eye scanned each mixture. If cells were unaffected, the dye caused them to glow orange. But if the mutant CF protein had been elevated to the cell surface by a corrector candidate drug, then genistein, as the doorman, would open the channel and allow chloride in and out, making the cells glow blue. To search for a doorman drug, Negulescu’s team followed almost the identical strategy, but they incubated cells with candidate drugs overnight at a much cooler 80.6 degrees. Conve- niently, this cooler temperature acts as a corrector helping more proteins with the Delta F508 mutation to reach the surface, where they encounter the candi- date doorman drug. If the chemical had no impact, the cells glowed orange. If the molecule could open the channel, the cells glowed blue. The assay that Negulescu’s team developed worked. Some of the can- didate drugs were defnitely boosting the mutant CFTR to the cell surface while others seemed like they could open the door. It was proof that this new automated screening system could fnd something transformative. Yet after testing 122,000 chemicals in all, the researchers found that even those that showed early potential failed in later trials. Some were toxic, some too weak, and some, for whatever reason, couldn’t activate the CF protein on a second try. Aurora scientists were confdent that it was just a matter of auditioning more molecules to fnd ones that worked. And in 2001, when Vertex Pharma- ceuticals acquired Aurora, it decided to continue the quest as long as Beall could muster the money to keep proj- ects moving and the dream alive. PARENT POWER That’s when Beall recruited Joe O’Donnell, a CF parent and fund- raiser extraordinaire. Joe and Kathy O’Donnell, Massachusetts natives, teamed up with the CFF the moment their son Joey was diagnosed with the disease in 1974. It was a brutal begin- ning. Tests were botched, the pediatri- cian hadn’t seen CF babies before, and Joey couldn’t eat, choking every time he tried sucking milk from a bottle. After three harrowing months, another pedia- trician familiar with CF fnally made the diagnosis. The news was devastat- ing; at the time, CF children rarely lived beyond 5. But after the correct diagno- sis, Joey had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach to deliver predigested food and bypass the coughing and gagging, and he began to improve. “Compared to the frst eight months, the next fve years were a party, almost,” says his father. “He got better, and he was a magnifcent kid.” By age 12, Joey was president of his seventh-grade class, a prankster, a grade-A student and a pinball wizard. “He loved girls,” his mother adds with a smile, “and he loved baseball.” Yet the hospitalizations had become more frequent, and more serious. Many times they were told, “He wouldn’t make the night,” says his father, “but he always came through.” Except when he didn’t. He died in 1986. He was 12 and a half and barely 50 pounds. Six months later, the O’Donnells, together with close friends, launched the Joey Fund to raise money for CF research. By 2001, it raised almost $50 million. To continue the drug search, Beall needed a lot more — $175 mil- lion, to be exact — and he asked Joe, a former board member, to bring it in. O’Donnell admits it was an odd campaign. “That’s how I billed it. We’re not naming anything, endowing anything. We’re taking every dollar you give us and putting it into research,” he explains. “And guess what, we could end up with nothing. But for sure, we’re going to end up with nothing unless we do this. So that was the whole speech.” O’Donnell insisted upon pure venture philanthropy, not venture capital. If there were royalties and other profts, he wanted that money rolled into more re- search, not someone’s pocket. No other foundation had successfully bankrolled a cure in this fashion. But as everyone who knows him says, he has a gift, and he raised the money. That was crucial because Vertex was making progress. 1999 Wilson publishes phase I trial results showing it is almost impossible to get the CFTR gene into CF patients’ lung cells without immune rejection. 1994-1996 Collins’ focus shifts to sequencing the entire human genetic code at NIH. He leaves CF research behind. Robert Beall becomes CEO of the CFF and, grasping the limitations of gene therapy, invests $3.2 million in Aurora Biosciences Corp., where cell physiologist Paul Negulescu begins to look for a chemical cure using high-throughput methods to test large numbers of potential drugs. DiONiCiOPEREZ/CYSTiCFiBROSiSFOUNDATiON Fundraising activities, such as this Great Strides walk in Texas in 2012, are a key element to drug development for the CFF.
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 49 In 2002 and 2003 Vertex’s San Diego facility, which does the drug screening, tested another 200,000 compounds, and a couple of them looked promising. The top candidates — dubbed VX-770 and VX-809 — doorman and corrector drugs, respectively, made the mutant CF cells in Negulescu’s assay glow fuores- cent blue, a sign that chloride was on the move. “That’s when we got excited,” says Negulescu, who was absorbed into Vertex to run the San Diego screens. To test VX-770, the doorman drug, researchers used lung cells from a CF patient with the G551D mutation — the same one sickening the Cheevers girls, who required only a doorman drug to function in healthy mode. VX-770 made the cells glow blue, proving that the chloride channels were open. Scrutiniz- ing the cells, Negulescu could see why: Lung cells are covered in fne hairlike structures called cilia. In healthy folks, these move back and forth and sweep mucus out of the lungs. On CF cells, however, the cilia are matted down with mucus, like a shag carpet covered in glue. When Negulescu peered through a microscope at the sick G551D lung cells growing in dishes in the lab, they resembled a mat of small, still, gray spheres. But when his colleagues dosed these sick cells with VX-770, the tiny hairs sprang to life. Under the micro- scope, he could see cilia swaying back and forth, like a crowd at a stadium doing the wave. As the cilia swayed, the cells started to vibrate as if caffeinated. With an active chloride channel, the mucus would be watery, he thought, like in healthy people, and the revived cilia could sweep it away. “That gave us so much optimism, some people were crying it was so beau- tiful,” says Negulescu. Perhaps VX-770 could do the same thing in live patients. By 2007, the drug had been tested on cells and in a phase I clinical safety trial in healthy volunteers. VX-770 was on its way to becoming the drug Kalydeco. The phase II trials for those with the G551D mutation were small, just 39 patients, but they were cleverly done to squeeze out as much data as possible. In spring 2008, Vertex’s chief physi- cian showed Olson some data; a few numbers he saw were worth a thousand words. “It was remarkable,” says Olson. After just two weeks, concentration of salt in the sweat had plummeted from around 100 millimolar — a typical val- ue when the CFTR protein is dysfunc- tional — to about 50 to 60 millimolar, a bit higher than average but below the diagnostic bar for CF. Then, in 2010, as part of phase III trials, VX-770 was given to patients with the G551D mutation, including the Cheevers sisters, Laura and Cate. “This is a once in a lifetime for a phar- maceutical scientist,” says Olson, the project lead. “We are not just treating symptoms. We are fxing the protein that actually causes this disease.” Laura began the trial unaware whether she was taking the drug or a placebo. She continued to cough, couldn’t gain weight and ultimately de- between 2002 and 2003 200,000 more compounds tested 2002-2003 Vertex finds promising drug candidates among 200,000 compounds tested, including VX-770 (doorman drug) and VX-809 (corrector drug). 2000 CFF gives Aurora Biosciences $44 million to find a cure and forms an arm called Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics to spearhead research. 2001 Aurora Biosciences is acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Negulescu stays on, and Beall recruits Joe O’Donnell to help raise $175 million to keep the project moving. JAYSMITH/DISCOVER,SOURCE:VERTEXPHARMACEUTICALS Gene Mutations in Cystic Fibrosis Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl-Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl-Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Cl- Healthy Lung Cell CF Lung Cell With 1 Problem (FUNCTION) CF Lung Cell With 2 Problems (LOCATION & FUNCTION) Cilia Normal DNA: CFTR protein develops normally, reaches the cell surface and becomes an open channel (“door”) for chloride ions. Cilia move back and forth, sweeping mucus out of lungs Chloride ions Chloride ions can pass through freely Cell wall Thick, sticky mucous buildup flattens cilia Common Delta F508 mutation: The CFTR protein is made, but it just floats around inside the cell without ever reaching the surface. The mutant CF protein needs a corrector drug to boost it to the surface. It also needs a doorman drug to open the channel so that chloride ions can pass through. Chloride ions can reach the channel at the cell surface but cannot pass through; this has been called the doorman problem Door-jamming mutation, including G551D: The mutation affecting Laura and Cate Cheevers disables function at the cell surface. CFTR protein
    • 50 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM 2010 Laura and Cate start clinical trials of VX-770. 2012 VX-770 is approved by the FDA and renamed Kalydeco. 2013 Vertex is conducting Phase III trials of the corrector drug, VX-809 in combination with the doorman, Kalydeco. 2007 VX-770 passes Phase I safety trials. veloped a severe lung infection requir- ing heavy-duty antibiotics. For Cate, things were different. “I could just feel like I was getting better, like growing more, and I could see the difference between me and Laura,” says Cate, who coughed less, slept better, gained weight, ate like a horse and was burst- ing with energy. Later, Laura, who had been taking a placebo, was switched to the drug, and she, too, got well. The FDA approved the drug in 2012. Experts agree the treatment is transformative for patients with the Cheevers’ form of CF. “We have just started using it in practice,” says Henry Dorkin, a pediatric pulmonary special- ist and director of the Cystic Fibro- sis Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “While it’s still early, the results are very encouraging.” Dorkin began treating patients more than 35 years ago, and the window ledge of his offce is crammed with pictures of kids — pa- tients he’s treated, many of whom died from the disease. Patients typically lose about 1 percent or 2 percent of lung function each year. If the decline slows, or stops, and they continue to gain weight, then, Dorkin says, “I would have to say that it’s a game changer.” Laura and Cate’s daily regimen of two pills of Kalydeco costs $841 per day; that’s $307,000 each year, making it one of the world’s most expensive drugs. In most cases, private insurance picks up the bill. Medicare or Medicaid may pay as well. For patients themselves, the cost is about $15 for one month’s supply of the drug. For those who lack insur- ance, Vertex offers fnancial assistance so they can access the drug. The company can afford the largesse: Kalydeco saw windfall profts of $172 million in 2012, boosting the company’s stock price and visibility. Although many have questioned the ethics of that proft and the burden of the drug price on the health-care system, Beall says that without Vertex, there would be no drug. And, for the CFF to negotiate a drug price before there was even a drug would have been a deal breaker. CFF has also profted from the discovery and sales of Kalydeco. It just sold a portion of the royalty rights for the drug, bringing in $150 million. As per the business plan that O’Donnell vehemently supported, that entire amount will be reinvested to fund more CF research and drug development. That’s important because Beall is not complacent that Kalydeco is a cure. “We need to be careful about using the word ‘cure’ when talking about Kalydeco, although the drug is clearly a game changer and has fueled incredible optimism in the CF community — and for me personally,” says Beall, “but we have to be cautious. We only have two years of data on how patients are doing on the drug, and it’s premature to say whether it will be a cure for them.” Indeed, even with Kalydeco, Cate and Laura still must take 20 to 30 pills a day to digest their food. They also require 30 minutes of physical therapy — clapping and beating their sides and back — to help dislodge the mucus. But they are staying free of lung infec- tions and gaining weight. COMPLETING THE CURE Those with two copies of the Delta F508 mutation — half the CF popu- lation — are watching the Cheevers to see if the treatment keeps working its magic. They are waiting as Vertex conducts phase III trials of the second drug, the corrector, VX-809, in com- bination with Kalydeco, the doorman, to see whether the defective proteins can reach the cell surface and open the door to get chloride fowing again. If it works, this drug combo could halt the disease in its tracks for the majority of patients — as Kalydeco seems to have done for Laura and Cate. There’s reason for hope. Phase II of Vertex’s combo trial showed that the
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 51 VX-809 plus Kalydeco improved lung function in patients with two copies of the Delta F508 mutation. The larger and longer phase III study of 1,000 patients will continue for 24 weeks and should yield an answer in 2014. Beall isn’t placing all his bets on Vertex. O’Donnell has embarked on another campaign for $75 million to give to other pharmaceutical com- panies. The Foundation has already invested $58 million with Pfzer to develop a second generation of similar but more potent drugs to treat those with two copies of the Delta F508 mutation. While Kalydeco and the cor- rector should work, Vertex or another company may ultimately be able to engineer more effective molecules. And Beall is still concerned about the 40 per- cent of patients who have only one copy of the Delta F508 mutation and one copy of another mutation: How effec- tive will Kalydeco and corrector combo be in this group? So the search goes on. “We’re not going to settle for less than 100 percent of patients,” he says. To this end, Vertex is expanding clinical trials to encompass other rare mutations. The R117H mutation, car- ried by about 3 percent the CF popula- tion, creates a protein that reaches its destination on the cell surface, but then malfunctions. While the impediment is unclear, Olson guesses it may be the door-jamming problem. If so, as with the Cheevers’ G551D mutation, Kalydeco might fx the defect. Olson adds that there are also two more cor- rector drugs in the pipeline, VX-661 and VX-983. “You want to fll your nest with lots of molecules, each of which has slightly different properties,” he says. People carrying different muta- tions may require specifc correctors, or more than one corrector, or a complex combination of these drugs, which is why Vertex continues it search. “Robert Beall deserves a lot of credit for placing a huge and expensive bet on an enterprise that could well have failed,” says Collins, the current NIH director. The CFF’s strategy is a prom- ising model for attacking other genetic diseases, Collins adds, and other groups are trying to embrace the innovative drug development model as well. CFF may soon succeed in creat- ing a long-sought cure, but for Olson and Negulescu, the journey has been bittersweet. Over the past 15 years, the scientists have embraced the CF com- munity. They’ve participated in fund- raising walks and bake sales. They’ve become acquainted with CF families who have visited Vertex to share their stories and participate in research. Along the way, they’ve experienced many losses. Olson describes one fam- ily who lost three children within the past three years. “We just weren’t fast enough for that family.” Every year the CFF holds its annual meeting in a different city, and over the past decade, Joe O’Donnell has gotten to know many members quite well — volunteers, mothers who have lost a child, others who are on the cusp. In October 2012 in Orlando, Fla., there were nearly 4,000 who refused to quit working toward a cure, all the time wondering whether it was really going to happen for them. D Thanks to drug development, the Cheevers girls are enjoying active lives. Laura (left) takes dancing lessons. Cate plays for a local soccer team. SamOgden Bijal P. Trivedi is an award-winning freelance writer who covers medicine, genomics, health and nutrition. She lives in Washington, D.C. Laura Cheevers holds a handful of pills that she and her sister take each day to fight the symptoms of CF. The blue pills are Kalydeco, taken twice a day. The capsules are Creon 12, taken four at a time with every snack or meal.
    • 52 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM TheUrban Bestiary By Lyanda Lynn Haupt illustrations By abby diamond We share our cities and suburbs with the furred and the feathered. But how well do we know our wild neighbors?
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 53 T he practice of assembling bestiaries — compendiums of animal lore and knowledge — began in medieval times. They were lavishly illustrated volumes, lettered by monastics on vellum, edged with hand-mixed colors and gilt. They blended medieval science — what was believed to be factually true about each animal — with unreservedly fanciful descriptions. Penned in the 12th century, the Aberdeen Bestiary’s entry for beavers exhibits the classic medieval bestiary components of observation, imagination and allegory. The beaver is accurately described as possessing a tail that is flat like a fish’s and fur that is soft like an otter’s. The animal was prized for its testicles, which were said to contain a potent liquid that could cure headache, fever and “hysteria.” (This liquid would have been castoreum, located in a small glandular sac at the base of the tail on both male and female beavers.) It is noted, impossibly, that to keep from being killed by a hunter, a beaver would castrate itself and toss its testicles in the hunter’s path. We may chuckle over the misguidedness of beaver testicle tales, but our own cultural/ zoological mythology is fraught with misinformation every bit as false as the beaver castration story. Nature books, television shows and conservation organizations educate us about remote wild and endangered species. Very often we know a great deal more about the Chinese giant panda or the lowland mountain gorilla than we do about the most common of local creatures, say the eastern gray squirrels in our backyards. As urban dwellers, we find ourselves unmoored — bereft of the knowledge of local creatures, plants and soil that were a necessity of life just a couple of generations ago. It is time for a new bestiary, one that engages our desire to understand the creatures surrounding our urban homes, helps us locate ourselves in nature and suggests a response to this knowledge that will benefit ourselves and the more-than-human world. The official common name of the pigeon was recently changed from rock dove to rock pigeon. I pre- ferred the term rock dove, which served as a reminder — and a surprise to some — that pigeons really are doves. People tend to separate them in their attitudes. Doves are seen as clean in feather and heart, gentle, peaceful, calming, even holy somehow, and they have the prettiest blue eyelids. Pigeons are viewed as grimy, poopy, pestilential. They suffer the indignity of being utterly commonplace in human habitats. Although Darwin’s fnches have all the fame, Darwin wrote far more about pigeons than he ever wrote about the Galapagos fnches or all of the island birds put together. It is common knowledge that pigeons were important to Darwin but less commonly known that pigeons were also beloved by Darwin. His studies led him down the road of personal obsession, where he kept a private dovecote and hobnobbed below his class with the pigeon fanciers of London. I doubt that Darwin would have been surprised by the recent study published in the journal Science demon- strating math competence in pigeons. Researchers in the Department of Psychology at New Zealand’s University of Otago began by teaching pigeons to order the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Images would appear on a touch screen, and the pigeons learned to peck the images in ascending numerical order. Next, they were tested with a more abstract rule. Presented with pairs of images containing anywhere between one and nine objects, the pigeons again had to determine ascend- ing order — if they were shown a group of four things and a group of seven, for example, they were supposed to peck the group of four frst. “Remarkably,” said lead author Damian Scarf, “the pigeons were able to respond to these novel pairs correctly.” And even more remark- able to primate-biased humans? “Their performance was indistinguishable from that of two rhesus monkeys that had been previously trained on this task.” Pigeons can navigate by the stars. Why should we be fummoxed when we learn they can count to nine? From the book THE URBAN BESTIARY by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Copyright © 2013 by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.
    • 54 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM The opossum has a white face that looks ghostly in the night, and lots of teeth — 50 teeth, more than any other North American mammal and about the same num- ber as a Tyrannosaurus rex. But as far as being vicious or somehow dangerous, opossums are neither. Opossums sleep up to 20 hours a day, out of which fve hours are REM-cycle sleep, implying that opossums dream, even more than humans do. Opossums’ favorite foods are things we would like to have eradicated from our homes and yards: mice, rats, cockroaches, other large insects and spiders, slugs and carrion. Opossums “seem dumb,” and they “seem dangerous.” We have to use “seem” with opossums because we know so little about them. But opossums are moderately to highly intelligent, ranking above domestic dogs on task tests. They are believed to be about as intelligent as pigs. One of the problems with our modern opossum percep- tion lies in our opposing circadian rhythms. They are from another kind of world, the night world, the place where in both mythology and psychology our own human anxieties are magnifed, where we feel a sense of mystery. The opos- sum doubtlessly feels the same when it stumbles unwit- tingly into our world. A quiet, nocturnal animal beneath a bright, electric light and a shrieking human or an aggres- sive dog or a wandering urban coyote? Such moments inspire one of the opossum’s most singular behaviors. When it fnds itself in the most dire of circumstances, an opossum will fall into a state that mimics sudden death. This zoological strategy is not uncommon in insects, but it is rare in mammals. The opossum lies perfectly still and seemingly stiff, with its eyes closed; eventually, a musky, death-scented liquid will ooze from its mouth and the glands near the anus. This state will last for some minutes at least, and up to several hours. Although you cannot even see the movement of breath in the breast, the opos- sum’s metabolism does not actually slow. Eventually, the opossum will twist its soft black ears all around, listening, and sniff the air. It will lift its funny head ever so slightly and have a peek around. When it deems all is well, it will amble off to perceived safety, no faster than usual.
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 55 ➔ Moles are reputed to taste terrible, possibly because of the increased hemoglobin that allows them to maintain oxygen balance in their subterranean haunts. So when a mole is killed by another animal, it is usually left lying. If you are fortunate enough to fnd a freshly dead mole, I would encourage you to embolden yourself in the noble role of urban naturalist and take a close look. (Moles are very clean and don’t carry diseases that affect humans; just wash your hands afterward.) Running your hand over the dead mole’s coat, you will discover that mole fur is not just chinchilla-soft but also reversible — it has no nap, so the hair follicles are not directional, and the individual hairs can move in every direction. When a mole presses forward or back in its tight earthen tunnel, the fur accommodates; it is literally impossible for a mole to be rubbed the wrong way. The thin, translucent layer of skin over the mole’s eyes is a permanent covering. Moles are not blind, but they are almost blind. The snout is soft, long and highly innervated, made for fnding insects and grubs by feel. The front paws are large and spade-shaped, turned out for swimmer-like paddling through the soil, and tipped with substantial claws. As with most perceived pests, moles are with us because we create a perfect place for them. The soil around our homes and parks is soft, free of big rocks and, in the case of gardens, nutrient-rich, with layers of mulch and compost that encourage the insects and grubs that moles love. Overall, a mole in a garden is far more benefcial than harmful. Moles eat insects and their larvae; devour slugs, cutworms and white grubs; and sometimes even prevent harmful insect outbreaks. Beneath our beloved grass and fowers, they work in the depths, turning, tilling, aerating and fertilizing the soil. Our crazed response to the presence of molehills could be perceived as disproportionate. Simple initial efforts to eradicate moles become obsessions, and efforts escalate from traps and poison to propane and sometimes even dynamite. Gardeners lie awake, fguring, plotting. It’s only a 7-inch mammal, really, the mole. And the damage? The proverbial molehill. A typical suburban lot is populated, tunneled and mounded by just one male mole, or perhaps by two females. When a mole dies, or simply leaves your yard, it is likely another mole will come. Unless you want to live a vigilant, mole-killing life forever, you might as well just keep the mole you have. We might delight in our newfound tolerance — moles are singular creatures from a subterranean world, a reminder that when we move and till and beautify the soil, we must do it by working alongside wild nature, not by overriding it. Any other approach is misguided and might also make us insane. Share your urban wildlife encounters for a chance to win the book: DiscoverMagazine.com/urbanbestiary
    • 56 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM No creature demonstrates the human schizophrenia regarding urban wildlife better than the squirrel. In stud- ies of backyard wildlife, squirrels rank as both the most desirable animal and the most hated nuisance animal. Squirrel strife is nothing new. Ratatoskr, a squirrel in Norse mythology, spends his days running up and down Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Some sources picture a wounded Yggdrasil chewed up and down one side by the sharp-toothed Ratatoskr. And the tree itself? She spends much of her day grumbling, annoyed to distraction. I have been this world tree, grumbling in bed just before dawn while a pair of Ratatoskrs nesting in the attic cor- nice right behind my sleepy head chew my house to pieces. Squirrels are not, as some like to say, “just rats with bushy tails.” The workings of the squirrel’s bushy tail actually create a squirrel social system that separates it from any other rodent. Their fuffy, swishy tails are the very heart of squirrel life, and their function is even more complex than that of the New World monkeys’ prehensile tails. Here are some of the ways that a squirrel uses its tail: for balance while running; as a rudder while jumping; as a parachute; to cushion a fall; for warmth; for shade (held overhead like a parasol — the family name, Sciuridae, means “shade-tail”); as an umbrella; to swaddle young; to confound and scare off intruders; and as a surprisingly complex form of squirrel-to-squirrel communication. There is a whole repertoire of communiqués conveyed in the dif- ferent twitches and swishes. In addition to tail language, squirrels exhibit complex au- ral vocalizations. They possess a profound spatial memory, used to recover the nuts they bury as scatter-hoarders. They discover through tireless trial and error the one slender route into an attic. In spite of our best efforts to keep them from our bird feeders, not to mention an entire commercial industry devoted to this end, they outwit us constantly, us- ing multistep problem-solving that is beyond the capability of most mammals and probably some humans.
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 57 It is common for people who fnd a fat brown rat in the basement to claim it is evil and as “big as a cat.” But rats rarely grow to weigh a full pound, and from tip to tail, an average one measures about 10 inches. And unless cornered, they are typi- cally gentle and will avoid humans. Although they dwell in the muckiest areas of urbania, rats are clean; they spend far more time cleaning and preening than humans do. The dis- eases that may be passed from rat to human are contracted by contact with concentrations of rat feces or urine or by being bitten (though, of course, the vast majority of infectious diseases contracted by hu- mans come from contact with other humans). In some countries, bubonic plague is still an issue, and it is passed between rats and humans by fea vec- tors (though not in North America). There has never been a case of a human in North America contract- ing rabies from a rat. Still, they cause a lot of trouble. They chew through electrical wires and tunnel into homes and buildings. They reproduce wildly, sometimes within our walls. Rats will eat any animal smaller than they are: baby birds, small reptiles, fsh, baby squirrels and rabbits. Rats are fascinating and intelligent and make wonder- ful pets. They learn their names, come when called, bond readily with individual humans, play games like a dog and snuggle to sleep on laps or in pockets. While laughter was long believed by ethologists to be a behavior limited to humans and, perhaps, the higher pri- mates, recent studies show that young rats appear to laugh when they are tickled. They don’t emit the high laughter sounds when their backs are tickled, just when their tum- mies are — like human children. And compelling new The Wild Guest Book Find out who your wild neighbors are, and learn to read their tracks, with this easy do-it-yourself project. A tracking box can help you learn to identify tracks in your backyard. Make a wood frame out of 4-by-6s (tracking schools recommend a minimum of 4 feet by 8 feet) and fill it with sand. Play sand is great — it is light and lump-free, and especially good for small birds. Construction sand or beach sand works, too. Dampen the sand so that it holds a shape without becoming runny. Try visiting tracks as they age, as they fill with debris, as they are affected by weather. If no wild animals come, then practice with domestic ones. Try walking your dog through the box when he is hungry, when he is full, when he has to pee, when he doesn’t. A box is best because it offers a controlled, contained substrate, but you can still benefit from the idea by leaving damp sand or soil edges around your garden. I have experimented with these loose-form tracking boxes at the borders of our koi pond (sprinkled wildly with raccoon tracks) and our vegetable garden (mouse, squirrel, rat, opossum) and beneath our cherry tree (more of all of the above) — all of them small wild entries into the loveliest guest book I have ever kept. —llH D research by neuroscientists at the University of Chicago shows that rats may actually exhibit true altruism. When one rat was locked in a small Plexiglas cage within a larg- er cage, the rat in the big cage often worked tirelessly to release its imprisoned rat colleague, without any reward and whether or not it was acquainted with the confned rat. When a pile of the rats’ favorite treat (milk chocolate chips!) was also placed in the larger cage, the free rat would not eat all the chips herself but would liberate the caged rat and share the chocolate. After the imprisoned rat was released, they would run around the cage together, jumping and chirping, as if rejoicing. Then, yes — to the chocolate. Seattle-based naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt is the author of Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness and blogs at TheTangledNest.com.
    • 58 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM →In winter 2010, Adrian Glover, a marine biologist from the Natural History Museum in London, got a call from a colleague with some good news. While piloting a remotely operated ve- hicle to study a hydrothermal vent 4,700 feet beneath the surface of the Antarctic’s Scotia Sea, his friend had stumbled across something unexpected: the skeleton of an Antarctic minke whale. Rather than being a scene of death, the carcass was an oasis of life in the dark and inhospitable remote sea. Snails, worms, mollusks and white mats of bacteria were feasting on what remained of the mas- sive mammal. Glover asked his friend to bring home a piece of this treasure. While inspecting the bones in his lab, he discovered nine new species of worms and bacteria. These rare, relatively un- explored, deep-sea ecosystems — lively communities that spring up around dead cetaceans that sink to the seaÀoor — are called whale falls, or organic falls. In all, only about two dozen have been found since researchers, led by Glover’s postdoc adviser Craig Smith, chanced upon the ¿rst discovery off the California coast in 1987. The 2010 Scotia Sea ¿nd was the ¿rst in the Southern Hemisphere. Glover, now at the forefront of this postmortem science, is an expert on some of the worms that move into whale falls. These species and their whale-carcass cohort are helping marine biologists and paleontologists determine exactly how long large, dead marine animals have been hosting these rich communities of decomposers, and whether or not the whale falls of today look eerily like the organic falls of a time when prehistoric reptiles ruled the seas. watching a whale fall Once a carcass sinks, it becomes home to scavengers. Species such as sharks and hag¿sh consume the whale’s easily accessible soft parts. When the bulk of muscle, blubber and viscera are gone, organisms called enrichment opportunists, including snails, worms and bacteria, settle in, on and around the whale. An important part of this stage are Osedax, bone-eating specialists fondly known as “snotworms” for the mucus they make. Described for the ¿rst time in 2002, these bristly marine worms, or poly- chaetes, tap into bone and then rely on bacteria to help them break down fats and proteins in their new skeletal homes. But how snotworms populate whale falls in the ¿rst place remains a mystery. Glover believes the unusual worms somehow locate the remains during a swimming larval stage. Once snotworms arrive, the females send “roots” into the bone. Ha- rems of smaller “dwarf” males land on the females, taking up residence on their tube- shaped bodies and fertilizing their eggs. At the same time, other bacteria gather in great mats and help to break down the bones. Over the slow tick of decades, the whale disappears. Deep-Sea time machineS The fossil record tells us — via distinc- tive Osedax burrows that pockmark bone — that whale fall communities have been around for 30 million years. But some research suggests that these remote eco- Notes From Earth Deep-Sea Secrets Just how long have bone-boring snotworms been in the business of converting whale, even dinosaur, carcasses into ocean-floor ecosystems? By Brian Switek Researchers sank this gray-whale carcass off the California coast in 1998 to study whale-fall ecosystems. By 2002, bacteria coated the bones. CRAIGSMITH/UNIVERSITYOFHAWAII The same whale carcass as shown above, resting 5,530 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, was documented with mats of yellow bacteria, anemones and bacterial-grazing crabs in 2005.
    • systems could have extended even further into the past, before the advent of marine whales about 45 million years ago. In 2008, Polish Academy of Sciences paleontologist Andrzej Kaim and his col- leagues described what could be one of the most ancient organic falls yet known. As they analyzed a pair of 66- to 100-mil- lion-year-old plesiosaur skeletons found near Hokkaido, Japan, the researchers realized the fossilized bones of the toothy, quad-Àippered marine mammals were surrounded by fossilized shell fragments from provannids, a type of tiny snail. Provannids are ancient survivors. They are still with us today, and they offer a clue about what happened to Kaim’s plesiosaurs. Modern-day provannid snails inhabit ephemeral and remote deep-sea environments — cold methane seeps; hy- drothermal vents that spew superheated, chemical-rich water; and whale carcasses — and their prehistoric forebears prob- ably did the same. “They were apparently living together with the remains of the plesiosaur,” says Kaim. “I’d been looking for this for years. We could now be sure these communi- ties developed around the bones of large reptiles in the Mesozoic.” There would have been plenty of food for deep-sea opportunists like the provan- nids in prehistoric times. Starting around 250 million years ago, several lineages of terrestrial reptiles rapidly adapted into large marine forms, including plesiosaurs and ¿sh-like ichthyosaurs. Even land-dwelling dinosaurs may have fed organic-fall successions of sharks, crabs, snails and bacteria. While all the dinosaurs we know of were terrestrial ani- mals, they were occasionally washed out to sea by Àoods. The San Diego Museum of Natural History displays the skeleton of the “Carlsbad ankylosaur,” of¿cially known as Aletopelta coombsi. This poor dinosaur was found among Cretaceous- age marine sediments in California. Shark teeth and bivalve shells were scattered around the dinosaur’s bones, a hint that the heavily armored beast may have once formed a short-lived, edible reef. “If you have a deep ocean with larger organisms swimming around the surface, dying, falling to dark, cold, oxygenated depths, you’re going to have organic falls,” Glover explains. But did they look the same millions of years ago? OSEDAX EvOlutiOn Glover maintains that unraveling the mystery of Osedax evolution could help ¿nd the answer. At the moment, scientists have con¿rmed, using DNA analysis, that snotworms are closely related to the tubeworms that thrive around hydrother- mal vents and probably have existed for as long as whales, if not longer. Glover hypothesizes that young, prehistoric tube- worms may have been traveling from one deep-sea vent to another when they came across the carcass of a marine animal. They landed, found they could survive — due to a fortuitous mutation — and gradu- ally became the Osedax we know today. The dining habits of modern snotworms hint that the scavengers are not picky. “Put a bone down, and they’ll eat it,” Glover says. Experiments with modern bones, as well as fossil bones of prehistoric birds and ¿sh, show that these worms will dine on any skeletal scrap. But no one has seen Osedax burrows on the bones of the marine reptiles that came before whales. Kaim’s team saw provannid snails near the pair of Cretaceous-era plesiosaur skel- etons, but no Osedax. “Either they weren’t present at this particular site, or they sim- ply hadn’t developed yet,” he explains. But Kaim did ¿nd what he believes is evidence of bacteria eating the plesiosaur bones: tiny burrows visible only by cut- ting a cross-section of bone and examin- ing it under a microscope. The same thing is found at present-day whale falls during the sulfophilic stage — the last and lon- gest part of organic-fall succession, when bacteria produce hydrogen sul¿de as they break down what's left of the bones. “We saw the exact same type of community you would see at a whale fall today, but quite simpli¿ed,” says Kaim. In addition to investigating snotworm evolution, Glover is working with paleon- tologists to study the structure of the holes Osedax carves into bone, so he and others can re¿ne their search of the fossil record. “It may be that as we re-evaluate fossil evidence such as Kaim’s plesiosaurs, we ¿nd traces of Osedax,” he says. Without bone-eating specialists such as the snotworm, prehistoric organic- fall ecosystems could have looked very different. “We’re only just starting to understand the role Osedax plays in the degradation of bone,” says Glover, “but they likely speed up the process.” Understanding the snotworm’s course through history, and the tracks it leaves, could reveal that the intricate whale-fall ecosystems of today look nearly identical to organic falls from a time when there were true dragons in the deep. D Brian Switek is a freelance science writer and author of the books My Beloved Brontosaurus and Written in Stone. He lives in Salt Lake City. Te dining habits of modern snotworms hint that the scavengers are not picky. Put a bone down, and they’ll eat it. September 2013 DISCOVER 59 Osedax, or snotworms, bore into old whale bones. With the help of bacteria, they break down fats and proteins into a snotworm buffet. ADRIANGLOVER/THENATURALHISTORYMUSEUM,LONDON
    • 60 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM THISPAGE:MARATAKHMETVALEYEV.OPPOSITEPAGE(LEFTTORIGHT):MICHAELCARROLL,BACKGROUNDBERNARDGAGNON;BOBRATKOWSKI/INSTITUTEFORASTRONOMY →If I were about to be struck by lightning, I’d want to know. If an earthquake were going to shake my house tomorrow, or in 10 years, I sure would appreciate an early warning. Residents of Chelyabinsk, Sibe- ria, likely felt that way last Feb. 15, when a roughly 15-meter-wide meteor exploded above the Ural Mountains, shattering windows across about 200,000 square meters. More than a thousand people were injured, mostly from glass cuts. Dashboard-camera video of the white-hot rock streaking through the sky, replayed repeatedly on TV and online, boldly illustrated the threat asteroids pose. The footage also highlighted how little we’ve done about it. Just a few hours of advance notice would have made a huge difference in Chelyabinsk, but no observatory on Earth (or beyond) is capable of such a feat — even though the necessary technology is readily available. John Tonry, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for As- tronomy, is working furiously to imple- ment that technology with the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS. When complete in 2015, the system will be sensitive enough to spot Chelyabinsk-scale asteroids about 24 hours before they strike. For larger objects, the kind that can lead to Hunting Seasonfor AsteroidsWhile the government dithers, privately funded projects are stepping up the search for looming disaster. By Corey S. Powell mass casualties, ATLAS could provide warning of up to a month. The budget is just $5 million. “The cost of funding ATLAS is essentially one week of a typical space-mission development,” as Tonry puts it. Yet he and his supporters had to work hard to get even that much. The struggle to build ATLAS is part of a broader disconnect between the bold talk and the mild action regarding asteroids. The United States has spent less on asteroid detection over the past 15 years than the production budget of the 1998 asteroid movie Armaged- don. In response to the Chelyabinsk incident, Congress recently held a series of hearings and boosted NASA’s Near Earth Object Program budget to $20 million a year — a smidge over 0.1 percent of the agency’s total funding. Tonry is grateful for that support, but Rusty Schweickart, a former Apollo astronaut who co-founded the private nonproft B612 Foundation to hunt asteroids, is far more critical. (The foundation’s name refers to the home planetoid in The Little Prince.) He notes that Congress gave NASA a 2005 mandate to fnd 90 percent of the near- Earth asteroids more than 140 meters in diameter — big enough to wipe out the Eastern Seaboard or most of Cali- fornia. “I’ve thought from time to time about a class-action suit to sue NASA for not obeying the law,” he says, laugh- ing but not exactly joking. “It has been given a job to discover them, which it has done only partly and reluctantly.” Time for AsTeroid, inc. Despite meager public resources, asteroid science has seen impressive advances over the past few years. The latest fndings are good news for people who like bad news: more rocks out there worth worrying about. It turns out that 30-meter-wide as- teroids, about twice the diameter of the Chelyabinsk rock, pack enough punch to take out a city. Scientists believe that’s also the size of the object that struck Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908 and fattened about 2,000 square kilome- ters of forest. (Why does Siberia keep getting hit? The short answer: partly because it is a very large target, and partly just bad luck.) “There’s on the order of a million objects that size,” Tonry says about the Tunguska object. What about Chelyabinsk-scale rocks? The Chelyabinsk meteor blazed brighter than the sun as it streaked over Siberia on Feb. 15, 2013. Out There
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 61 “A lot more than millions. Billions.” Translating those raw numbers into meaningful risk estimates is not straightforward, which is one of the reasons politicians fnd it easy to set aside asteroid funding in favor of more concrete hazards like earthquakes or terrorism. Extrapolating from the lat- est research, Tunguska-size asteroids seem to strike Earth, on average, about every couple of centuries. For more than a decade, the Cata- lina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona has been tracking and tagging potentially hazardous asteroids. The Pan-STARRS telescope system in Hawaii is now speeding up the process. we got a letter from a donor. The letter we got said, ‘Those folks in D.C. are crazy, here is the money you need.’ ” With an injection of $3 million from that anonymous benefactor, Pan- STARRS began installing its second telescope this past spring. The expand- ed system will devote twice as much time to asteroid detection, instantly catapulting it into frst place as the most productive site for fnding any space rock with our name on it. But Pan-STARRS is something of a stop- gap effort that still will not produce the desired master map of all the potential city-killer asteroids out there. The real advance will come from Sentinel, a telescope that will conduct a thorough asteroid census from space after it launches in 2017 or 2018. The centerpiece of the B612 Foundation, Sentinel is a big-budget test case of the ability of private organizations to step up and do the science that government is unable to support. Rather than trying to invent every- thing from scratch, B612 will make heavy use of hardware developed for earlier NASA space telescope mis- sions. “Something like 80 percent of what we’re dealing with in Sentinel is Kepler, 15 percent Spitzer, 5 percent new, higher-performance infrared sen- sors,” Schweickart says. By focusing its R&D money on the one area that truly demands innovation, B612 aims to run Sentinel much more cheaply than NASA could, about $450 million in all. That is an ambitious budget for a private organization, and B612’s goals are correspondingly grand. Over Senti- nel’s 6½ year mission, it will complete NASA’s mandate to fnd 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters wide. Sentinel should also fnd “40 to 50 percent of the Tunguska-size objects — the city killers,” Schweickart says. Current searches fnd about 1,000 of those a year. Sentinel should raise that number to something like 100,000. Duck or Deflect? Sentinel is hardly the fnal word, however. Getting 50 percent of the city killers leaves plenty behind, and even though it should fnd hundreds of thousands of Chelyabinsk-scale asteroids, its launch is still years away. Tonry’s $5 million ATLAS remains important because it can provide early warning for the more frequent, smaller impacts — the ones that could be handled with local evacuation or with simple “duck and cover” precautions. So ATLAS could have spotted the Chelyabinsk meteor and avoided all those injuries, right? I put the question to Tonry, and am shaken by his reply: “No way, because it came in from the direction of the sun.” The project will fnd only about 20 percent of Chely- abinsk-size asteroids because it does not see the Southern Hemisphere, can- not watch during the day and cannot see through cloudy skies. Tonry suggests building a set of six ATLAS systems, which together could catch more like 70 percent. Schweick- art goes further, arguing that replica facilities might cost just $1 million each, putting them within reach of academic astronomy departments. The telescopes could then be knit together into a global early warning impact sys- tem. They would also be valuable for researching other astronomy topics. But even a great early warning sys- tem does not deal with the fundamen- tal threat from asteroids, especially the big ones. Fortunately, we have another option. Asteroid impacts are unique among all natural hazards because we know, in principle, how to prevent them. That will be the subject of next month’s column. D The Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii searches for changes in the night sky, constantly finding new Earth-threatening asteroids. Two asteroids approached Earth on Feb. 15, illustrated here for size comparison. The rock on the right exploded over Siberia. The larger, 2012 DA14, could have wiped out a city. Two to three times a month, it scans the entire night sky, looking for any- thing that moves or changes — a pow- erful tool for fnding small asteroids. Like almost all asteroid-related projects, Pan-STARRS has seen its share of funding drama. In this case, the project was born from Air Force money directed its way by late-U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. When such earmarks were banned in 2011, the project was in jeopardy, according to astronomer Nick Kai- ser, principal investigator for Pan- STARRS, whose offce is just down the hall from Tonry’s at the University of Hawaii. “Last December, we were coming up against a brick wall. We were about to issue termination notices to a lot of the staff. The very next day, Corey S. Powell is editor at large of DISCOVER. Follow him on Twitter @coreyspowell, and read his blog at DiscoverMagazine.com/outthere.
    • Comet ISON THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.CDT.Outside the United States and Canada call 262-796-8776, ext.661.Please have your credit card ready. The Great Comet of 2013 arrives in early October 2013. P19556 Background: Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) by Martin Moline The Great Comet of 2013 gets you ready for the spectacular appearance of what could be the century’s brightest comet! Trust the experts at Astronomy magazine to bring you Comet ISON’s complete story, including: OPTIMAL VIEWING PERIODS: Discover the ideal time for your location OBSERVING TIPS: Get day-by-day info for October through January EQUIPMENT ADVICE: Find out whatÕs best to view the comet IMAGING HOW-TOs: Learn how to successfully capture Comet ISON And MUCH MORE! ORDERNOWtoSAVE$1andreceive FREESHIPPINGonthisnewspecialissue! www.Astronomy.com/CometISON or call 1-800-533-6644
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 63 Hot SCIENCE SONYPICTURES 64 movies Summer’s hottest director is a fan by design 65 Books Read up on the yeti, parasites and living forever 66 Author Douglas Rushkoff clocks out 67 Tech A cool way to keep cof- fee warm 68 ciTizen science Get your geek on Swab data, not decks 69 UrBan skygazer UFO? No, it’s Venus 71 calendar Bug out in September & more GUN SHOW Matt Damon (left) and Sharlto Copley star in Elysium, the dystopian action movie from the man who brought you the critically acclaimed alien flick District 9. “Presenting issues through the lens of science fction shifts the audience’s view.” — Elysium writer/director Neill Blomkamp Your Guide to Cool Culture, New Tech and What’s Next
    • A Fanboy’s Flight of Fancy hotmovies TOP:SPEINC./MATTDAMES/SONYPICTURES.BOTTOM:AARONBECK/SONYPICTURES Discover: Where does science fit into your take on science fiction? Neill Blomkamp: I’m very interested in science personally, especially specula- tive ¿ction, outside the realm of my ¿lms. I’m interested in where the planet is going, where humans are going. But if you have too much science in a ¿lm, you could end up in a place where the ¿lm doesn’t work very well as a story. The people who decide to see a movie, to buy a ticket, to go to the theater and sit in front of the screen aren’t much different than cavemen gathering around a ¿re. They want to get drawn into the story. When you get very speci¿c with the science in a movie — oh, time travel through this wormhole won’t work unless we do this and this — you lose the audi- ence pretty quickly. D: Elysium has a strong transhumanism theme, using technology to augment the human body, such as the exoskeleton surgically attached to Matt Damon’s character. Is this a particular area of science that interests you? NB: The whole concept of transhumanism is something I’m obsessed with. It’s interesting, but I didn’t want to make a ¿lm just about that. The gap between rich and poor has always existed, and the ¿lm is about that. One way you can show that gap is that the rich can afford to modify their bodies. D: District 9 got a lot of attention for referencing apartheid. Elysium depicts class struggle, with the poor suffering on a resource-depleted Earth while the rich orbit in an idyllic space station. Do you use the sci-fi genre as a way to address real-world issues? NB: I don’t really want to push any mes- sage or commentary. Science ¿ction allows for the delivery of that kind of commentary in an easier-to-digest form, but is that my goal? Not really. I want to make movies that entertain. But I think about these topics all the time. They’re in my mind, even though I’m not trying to be quasi-political. District 9 was not saying apartheid was bad, which is relatively obvious. But I grew up in South Africa and saw apartheid and then emigrated to Canada, and all that is part of who I am. Science ¿ction is really cool because I’m showing you my upbringing, but it’s through that lens. Presenting issues through the lens of Director and writer Neill Blomkamp rocketed into the public eye with 2009’s gripping and inventive District 9, a sci-fi flick set in his native Johannesburg. The movie had all the whiz-bang effects and zap-happy gunfights we expect from the genre, but strong acting and a storyline evocative of apartheid-era South Africa won it critical acclaim as well. Blomkamp is back at the helm with the dystopian Elysium, due in theaters Aug. 9. He’s got big stars — Jodie Foster and a bald Matt Damon — and a big budget, estimated to be more than three times the size of District 9’s modest $30 million price tag. But one thing Blomkamp says he doesn’t have is a big worry about meeting stratospheric expectations for the movie. Blomkamp explained to DISCOVER Associate Editor Gemma Tarlach why he’s confident he’s made a movie that will satisfy the fanboy in us all. sCieNCeHot Elysium writer/director Neill Blomkamp Matt Damon rocks a cool exoskeleton in Elysium, but ... wait a minute, are those mom jeans?
    • September 2013 DISCOVER 65 ALLIMAGES:SONYPICTURES AbominAble Science! By Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero It probably wasn’t Bigfoot you heard go bump in the night, but wouldn’t it be cool if science could prove it was? Skipping cryptozoology’s usual sensationalism, Abominable separates history and folklore from hoaxes and fakelore. Discussion of the yeti, Nessie and their ilk includes analysis of “believer” psychology, exploring what’s behind faith in the fantastic. Occasionally wry but never mean-spirited, skeptics Loxton and Prothero press the field’s proponents to approach their subjects with the scientific rigor necessary to be taken seriously. —ELISA NECKAR Telling ourWAy To The SeA By Aaron Hirsh In his first book, evolutionary biologist Hirsh dives into the murky issues surrounding the conflicted history and uncertain future of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Students accompanying him to study the ecology of one of its bays see the waters as a pristine wilderness, but to scientists like Hirsh, it’s an overfished wasteland — meanwhile, foreign investors eye the shoreline for development with mixed reactions from local fishermen. Although occasionally lapsing into the Latin-laden jargon of a classroom lecture, Hirsh is articulate and impassioned as he struggles to figure out his own role in the future of the bay he loves. Moments such as a blind student’s tactile impressions of a sea cucumber serve as springboards for ruminations on a natural world far bigger and more complicated than any one person’s perception of it. —BREANNA DRAXLER science ¿ction shifts the audience’s view. They’ll watch it and then, at the end, maybe realize “oh, it was about that.” D: Given District 9’s commercial and critical success, do you feel a lot of pressure to meet the expectations building around Elysium? nb: I like to be an artist, to take risks, to work on what feels natural. You don’t need to validate that. I work on a ¿lm like a sculptor. It resonates with me. The pressure I do feel is that ¿lmmaking is not sculpting; it requires millions of other people’s dollars. If you spend $100 million and the ¿lm collapses, it makes it more dif¿cult to try to do another riskier ¿lm later on. But if I’ve done my job correctly, I shouldn’t run into this problem. D: When Elysium’s first trailer was released, people picked it apart frame by frame, claiming various elements were an homage to, or a rip-off of, other films. Does knowing the movie would be scrutinized so closely affect your decisions at any stage in the process? nb: My favorite part of ¿lmmaking is design. I’ll hand-sketch almost every vehicle, the weapons, even Matt Damon’s exoskel- eton. I have points of view about what everything will look like, because it’s what I would pay to sit in a movie and watch, it’s why I would be absolutely stoked to see this movie. With the design for Ely- sium, I didn’t have any speci¿c reference. But you know, with these copious amounts of data — these petabytes I have in my head from being a science ¿ction fan — I can’t help but be inÀuenced by what I’ve seen. I love Blade Runner, for example, and those designs had a massive effect on me. I’m totally an image-based person, and Blade Runner lodged in my mind when I saw it and never escaped. But does Elysium look like Blade Runner? No. At the same time, I feel like I’m one of those hardcore fans. I love those kinds of genre ¿lms. I feel like a lucky fan who gets to make this ¿lm. “My favorite part of flmmaking is design. I’ll hand-sketch almost every vehicle, the weapons, even Matt Damon’s exoskeleton.” hotbooks In Elysium, the poor live in an Earth-bound hellscape (left) while the rich orbit worry-free. The Oryx R-165 Raven Assault VTOL (vertical takeoff or landing) vehicle patrols Earth’s skies in Elysium.
    • InterviewHot AutHor SpotlIgHtHotbookS 66 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM PeoPle, Parasites and Plowshares By Dickson Despommier Don’t let the menacing teeth on the cover scare you. Save for one photo, you won’t lose your lunch as Despommier explains how parasites can find a nice, comfy spot in your gut and wreak havoc on your body from the inside out. The microbiologist even suggests how we can use their wicked ways to our advantage: isolating, for example, the gene that allows a parasite to suppress our immune system and using it to reduce the risk of rejection for transplanted organs. Parasites beautifully balances history and pathology, but it could benefit from more vignettes. Then again, maybe we should be careful what we wish for. —DAVE LEE the Book of immortality By Adam Leith Gollner Gollner takes readers on a romp through the history of our quest for immortality and the science that may (or may not) help us achieve that goal. From humans’ earliest notions of everlasting life to the science that went into a $200 thimble of resveratrol eye cream, Gollner deftly weaves a narrative as amusing as it is smart. His juxtaposition of insights from his favorite professor — a witty and grounded Jesuit priest facing his own mortality — with magician David Copperfield’s ruthless quest for the fountain of youth leaves little doubt where Gollner stands on the issue, but it may make some Immortalists rethink their priorities. —BECKY LANG SCIENCEHot QAre some people confusing the idea of “presentism,” of living in the present, with tweeting and texting and constantly updating Facebook? A The faux now of Twitter updates and things pinging at you — all the pulses from digitality that we try to keep up with because we sense that there’s something going on that we need to tap into — are artifacts, or symptoms of living in this atemporal reality. And it’s not any worse than living in the “time is money” reality that we’re leaving. QWhat do you have against clocks? A Time has always been used against us on a certain level. The invention of the clock made us accountable to the employer, gave us a standard measure and stopwatch management, and it also led to the require- ment of interest-bearing currency to grow over time, the requirement of the expansion of our economy. That’s not really consonant with a sustainable civilization. QIn an ideal world, how exactly would this new, post-clock era work? A First and foremost it would unshackle us from this very time-based money that we’re using. Working less, making less, producing less. The mandate for ef¿ciency of the industrial age is not to produce things more ef¿ciently, but to produce more things over time. We’ve had to keep looking to increase. Now, for example, the more people transact directly over things like Etsy, the worse it is for the macroeconomy. The industrial age was not about craftspeople trading peer to peer. It was about stopping that. You weren’t supposed to be a craftsper- son, you were supposed to be an employee. Take retirement: You hoard money now in order not to work when you’re older because you’re on your own. I don’t know of any other form of life that gathers up all the food it needs in the ¿rst two-thirds of its life in or- der to do nothing in its last third of life. In a utopian presentist society, instead of working extra hard to put money in the bank, you’d be working to provide value for the people around you. As you got old, those people would naturally want to take care of you. QThat sounds a bit idealistic. Don’t you think people freed from the constraints of a clock-based economy and society are more likely to go a little Mad Max, especially if they have to buy their clothes on Etsy? A I do believe humans can rise to the occasion. I think human beings are not necessarily ruthless. They can be. Look at those cultures that push old people off cliffs instead of caring for them. That might be the true presentist society. I guess I’ll ¿nd out. are you reading this on a smartphone or tablet? Even if you’re not, you’ve probably got a mobile device within reach. Congratulations. You’ve got at least one foot in a brave new world, says author and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff. His most recent book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, explains our cultural transition to “presentism,” a post-clock society enabled by the flexibility and reach of the Internet and those ubiquitous ways to stay connected to it. In a presentist world, we’ll work less but more efficiently and be free from the need for constant economic expansion. Rushkoff told DISCOVER Associate Editor Gemma Tarlach the future is bright for those of us willing to live in the present. Douglas Rushkoff sees a silver lining in cloud computing and other 21st-century advances. WHITNEYPEELING
    • H EAT ABSORBED HEAT RELEASE D SOLID LIQUID PHASE CHANGE MATERIAL (PCM) September 2013 DISCOVER 67 More Than This: Aside from keeping America’s java drinkers content, PCMs developed by PureTemp are also being used in far more significant ways, including the Embrace infant warmer; the Cool Vest, which prevents overheating in human and canine troops in Afghanistan; and the Greenbox, which safely transports pharmaceuticals, blood and vaccines. We’ll drink to that. Lukewarm coffee. In the grand scheme of life, it’s a mild vexation, but the same sustainable, nontoxic material that keeps babies warm and soldiers cool can now ensure your cappuccino stays at optimal drinking temperature for hours. PureTemp, a technology developed by Minnesota- based Entropy Solutions, turns vegetable oils into phase change material (PCM) capable of maintaining a specific temperature between minus 40 and 300 degrees for hours. PCMs have been around longer than our species: Water’s transition from a solid to a liquid at the phase change point of 32 degrees is the most obvious example. So we asked PureTemp Chief Chemical Officer William “Rusty” Sutterlin to explain what’s so cool about this hot new take on phase change. Running Hot and Cold Forever HotteCH iMMorTaL Phase: PCMs have an advantage over other heat or cooling sources: a kind of immortality. “The material never changes composition, latent heat capacity or its phase change point,” Sutterlin says. “Think of it this way: How many times can you freeze and melt and freeze water again before that water goes bad? The answer is unlimited.” GeTTinG sPecific: Unlike water’s set solid-liquid phase change point of 32 degrees, manmade PCMs’ change points vary depending on their molecular composition. But they absorb and release latent heat according to the same principles as ice melting (storing heat) and refreezing (releasing that heat). “As soon as we cause something to solidify, boom, there’s a lot of energy there to harness,” Sutterlin says. The PureTemp mug’s inner PCM core has a phase change point set at 140 degrees, considered the optimal drinking temperature. Coffee is typically brewed, however, at about 190 to 200 degrees. “You make your coffee and pour it into the PureTemp mug,” explains Sutterlin. “The PCM [inside the core] melts, pulling energy in the form of heat from the coffee.” It takes a minute or two to reach the optimal drinking temperature — and the PCM’s phase change point. As the coffee cools below 140 degrees, the PCM starts to solidify again, releasing the stored heat back into your coffee and maintaining that perfect drinking temperature. —GT read oiL abouT iT: PureTemp technology involves purifying a variety of vegetable oils and then isolating different compounds within the blends. Each compound, Sutterlin says, naturally melts or solidifies at a different specific temperature and can be used as the base material for an application, depending on the phase change point needed. “Think of peanut butter,” explains Sutterlin, who added he’d just stirred a jar of the sticky stuff that morning — not for a PureTemp application, but for a sandwich. “It’s made from the oil of peanuts, but that oil is made of different compounds, some of which are liquid at room temperature and some of which are solid at room temperature.” Other manmade PCMs exist, but most are petroleum- or mineral-based, with varying levels of toxicity, or water-based, with more limited temperature ranges. PureTemp’s claim to fame is that its materials are biodegradable and nontoxic. PureTemp materials also have a broader range of potential phase change temperatures and containment sizes: Its coffee mug, for example, has a rigid inner core of PCM that could fit in the palm of your hand, while blankets and clothing use the material in thin, flexible sheets or pockets of microcapsules. PURETEMP;TOPRIGHT:THINKSTOCK Embrace infant warmer The transition from solid ice to liquid water is a phase change. It looks like a typical commuter coffee cup, but inside is a coil of innovation made from veggies. PCM microcapsules
    • 68 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM TOPTOBOTTOM:U.S.NAVY;ZOONIVERSE.ORG;MUSEUMOFSCIENCEANDINDUSTRY SCIENCEHot SwabData,NotDecks Is it a w or an n? Panic sets in quickly. My promotion to lieutenant and, I might add, the future of the planet may depend on it. I am a cadet in the Old Weather Navy, a joint U.S.-U.K. web-based project that recruits citizen scientists to decipher the climate data recorded in old ship logs. Climate modeling is ¿endishly dif¿cult not only because of its innate complexity but also because of the paucity of historical data. Climatologists have long coveted the wealth and precision of weather observations contained in antique logbooks. Sailors measured winds, temperatures, barometric pressure and cloud conditions as well as sea ice and animal sightings. Not only is the data detailed and meticulous, it is considered highly reliable. The lives of the sailors themselves depended on its accuracy, and it was an offense to falsify it. But until now, the records were a buried treasure. The sheer number of logs made it impossible for researchers to transcribe the data them- selves, and computers are famously bad at reading human handwriting. That’s why Old Weather has been recruiting landlubbers like you and me since October 2010. Winston Churchill reputedly said the British Navy was run on rum, sodomy and the lash. Old Weather instead relies on our competitive streak to keep us battening down the hatches. Volunteers enlist in a “crew” on one of several ships. We all begin as cadets and are promoted to lieutenant when we have transcribed a certain number of pages. The “captain” of the vessel is the volunteer who has transcribed the most pages of that particular ship’s log. There are currently more than 900 recruits in the Old Weather navy crewing 17 vessels. The data points we collect will be maintained in a public database. After three hours of transcribing the 1845 log of the USS Jamestown, a beautiful 32-foot beam sloop sailing the Atlan- tic seaboard, I ¿nally decide the letter in question is de¿nitely (maybe) an n. (Each page will be transcribed by several volunteers so my mistakes will be caught.) I input wind direc- tion, hit enter and ... am granted my promotion. I am now a lieutenant! But since the planet still needs saving, I re-up and sail on.—LeeAundrA KeAny GetYour Geek on Got an idea to save the world but lack the stash of cash you need to do it? Want to get involved in real research without spending years in grad school? Looking for something sciencetastic for the younglings? Citizen science is all the rage, but it can be tough to know where to start. Here are some ideas: → SciStarter.com This one-stop shop for ongoing citizen science projects can get you inspired with first-person posts about the joy of helping NASA measure features on Mars or being a “Splatter Spotter” who keeps track of roadkill. Then check out the Project Finder to search by topic and location for your fastest route to, if not the Nobel Prize, then at least a fun way to spend next Saturday. → Fundageek.com If you’re long on ideas but short on scrilla, consider this hub for science-project-friendly angel investors. Tip: You might want to leave “aspiring evil mastermind” off your resume when pitching a project to develop sharks that shoot lasers. → Citizen Science Guide for Families Greg Landgraf’s user-friendly book serves as a field guide for parents interested in nudging their children (or focusing their enthusiasm) toward the wonderful world of science. CItIzENSCIENCE FUTURE ENERGY: Power to (and by) the People MuseuM of science and industry • Chicago Oh, so you think you can design a more energy-efficient car than the brainiacs at Tesla Motors? Put your noggin to the test at MSI’s new permanent exhibit, Future Energy Chicago. The highly interactive exhibit opens with the Energy Garden, where visitors learn how energy can be transferred and converted with activities such as riding a bike to power a visual effects display. Then you’ll move into The Simulation, taking on five different challenges to reinvent Chicago’s transportation and power grids, build more efficient homes and design a car that would be the envy of Elon Musk. msichicago.org —gt HotExHIbIt → OldWeather.org Enlist to help scientists decipher climate data from historic ship logs, like the one below. The USS Jamestown
    • ANDROMEDA AQUARIUS AQUILA ARIES BOOTESCAPRICORNUS CASSIOPEIA CEPHEUS COMA BERENICES CORONA BOREALIS CYGNUS DELPHINUS DRACO GRUS HERCULES LIBRA LYRA OPHIUCHUS PEGASUS PERSEUS PISCES PISCISAUSTRINUS SAGITTA SAGITTARIUS SCORPIUS SCUTUM SERPENSCAPUT SERPENS CAUDA TRIANGULUM URSAMAJOR URSA MINOR Algol Altair Antares Arcturus Deneb Enif Fom alhaut Polaris Vega M31 M33 Double Cluster M5 M13 M6 M7 M8 M22 Ecliptic Saturn N WE S For more on this month’s sky, go to Astronomy.com WHEN TO LOOK: This chart shows the sky at the following times: 10 p.m. Sept. 1 9 p.m. Sept. 15 8 p.m. Sept. 30 WHaT TO sEE: One star stands out in autumn’s drab southern sky: white Fomalhaut, which marks the mouth of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish). Venus does not appear because it sets earlier, during twilight. Urbansk ygazer MagNiTudEs: Higher magnitudes (and smaller dots on the page) denote dimmer stars. A 0-mag- nitude star is exactly 100 times brighter than a 5th-magnitude one. 0.0 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 September 2013 DISCOVER 69 RICHTALCOTT UFO? No, It’s Venus Why does the second-brightest object in the night sky get so little respect? At its peak, Venus outshines Sirius, the most brilliant star, by a factor of 15; only the moon surpasses our sister planet. Yet Venus is routinely mistaken for an airplane, a satellite or even an alien spaceship. Roy Craig’s riveting book UFOs: An Insider’s View of the Of¿cial Quest for Evidence, about his inves- tigations for the U.S. Air Force’s Colorado Project, includes an account of veteran police of¿cers in Georgia chasing a mysteri- ous, fast-moving object “about 500 feet above the ground.” Yep, it was Venus. Perhaps people forget about the planet because it disappears for long stretches. Its successive appearances in the evening sky happen 19 months apart. Also, Venus never ventures more than 47 degrees away from the sun, so it tends to hug the horizon closely — exactly where people expect to see landing airplanes (or, apparently, Àying saucers). You can make the correct ID tonight: Venus is that silvery beacon shining low in the west after sunset. See if you can ¿nd the planet by day (binoculars help). Note the angle between Ve- nus and the sun at twilight the night before. Stand in a shadow so the sun is out of view, aim your gaze the same angle away from the sun, and scan. It will pop into view: Venus, the third- brightest object in the daytime sky.—Corey S. Powell
    • Calendar compiled by Elisa Neckar. Submit your events to thismonth@DiscoverMagazine.com SCIENCEHot High-Speed Science Ride with the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Indianapolis as researchers investigate the science behind racecars. Fee and registration required. http://tinyurl.com/ACSNatlMeeting Can’t get enough science? We hear ya! Visit a festival in your hometown or make a vacation out of it. Here are a few fun ideas to whet your appetite: 9/7–9/12 British Science Festival Newcastle, United Kingdom britishscienceassociation.org/british-science-festival 9/8 Celebrate Science Indiana Indianapolis celebratescienceindiana.org 9/12–9/22 Ultimo Science Festival Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia ultimosciencefestival.com 9/14 Next Big Idea Festival Los Alamos, N.M. nextbigideala.com 9/17–9/21 Highlights of Physics Barmen, Wuppertal, Germany physik-highlights.de 9/20–9/29 Flagstaff Festival of Science Flagstaff, Ariz. scifest.org 9/26–9/29 Wisconsin Science Festival Madison, Wis. wisconsinsciencefest.org Yosemite Face-Lift Join the National Park Service and Yosemite Climbing Association for volunteer cleanup of the grounds after a busy summer season. tinyurl.com/facelift-yosemite 9/24–9/29 National Science Teachers Association Sept2013 National Food Safety Month Each year, foodborne illness sickens 48 million Americans, but restaurants aren’t the only culprits. Do you practice food safety at home? foodsafetymonth.com Ground Zero Skyscraper Airs on PBS NOVA examines the engineering feats of the new One World Trade Center. pbs.org/wgbh/nova Riddick in Theaters Vin Diesel returns as everyone’s favorite sly- tongued anti-hero with built-in night vision in the third feature-length outing for the sci-fi franchise that started with 2000’s Pitch Black. RiddickMovie.com 9/8–9/12 9/11 9/6 Epicurean Entomology At Café Insecta, part of Bugfest at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, “Ants on a Log” aren’t made with celery sticks and raisins. bugfest.org The Science ofVariation Where do we “draw the lines” to categorize people? Scan your skin tone at the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibit at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center and find out. pacificsciencecenter.org/Exhibits/race 9/14 9/28 Science Festival Lineup New SchoolYear, New Standards Teachers and parents can access resources from the National Science Teachers Association on the Next Generation Science Standards released in April 2013. nsta.org/about/standardsupdate HotCalENdar September 2013 DISCOVER 71 TOPTOBOTTOM:MARKLENNIHAN/ASSOCIATEDPRESS;JANTHIJS/UNIVERSALPICTURES;THINKSTOCK;WRAL.COM
    • 74 DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM 1. Alfred Nobel considered himself a failure. Af- ter a newspaper’s premature obituary dubbed him “the merchant of death,” the inventor of dynamite set out to improve his reputation by establishing prizes in peace, literature and the sciences. 2. Only one scientist has won a Nobel for failing. In the 1880s, Albert Michelson tried to measure the “luminiferous ether” that scientists thought was the carrier of light. He couldn’t fnd it, be- cause it didn’t exist. Michelson had inadvertently discovered that light carries itself, though it would take a patent offce clerk named Albert Einstein to explain it. The short version: E = mc2. 3. Several scientifc journals now specialize in publish- ing failed experiments, including the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine and the Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis. 4. Getting scientists to fess up to failure ain’t easy. After just over a year, the Jour- nal of Errology managed to attract only two papers and called it quits. 5. Google budgets for failure and its potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail. 6. The frst product manu- factured by Sony, shortly after World War II, was an electric rice cooker. Handy, except that it undercooked or burned the rice. Failing to sell a single one, the company tried an even dicier new gadget: a tape recorder. 7. On average, 10 percent of U.S. companies go out of business annually. 8. And corporate extinctions follow a pattern: A low-level attrition rate is occasionally punctuated by many companies failing at once. The economist Paul Ormerod has found that the relationship between severity and frequency follows a power law — mass failure is exponentially rarer than everyday attrition. 9. The pattern seems to be natural. Over the past half-billion years, the ex- tinction of species has followed that same power law. 10. Henry Ford’s Edsel was the dodo of automobiles, but Ford had far worse ideas. 11. His biggest failure? Fordlandia, a 2.5 million- acre rubber plantation in the Amazon. With Failure characteristic effciency, Ford planted rubber trees in tight formation. Fordlandia was effcient — as a buffet for caterpillars. 12. The nonproft Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has monitored the skies for alien communication for 53 years, and scientists have yet to hear a single word. 13. Talk about failure to communicate: In 1999, the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in Martian orbit because navigation software used metric units while the thrusters were programmed to follow English measure- ments. 14. In case you’re thinking of signing up for Dennis Tito’s 2018 voyage to the Red Planet, better remember Biosphere 2, a prototype Mar- tian settlement in the Arizona desert. Most of the animals went extinct, and the eight human inhab- itants were nearly asphyxiated. 15. Biosphere 2 is now studied by environmental scientists to reckon why humans can’t maintain a sustainable environment on Biosphere 1, aka planet Earth. 16. One failure leads to another. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania went into partial meltdown after someone spilled a cup of water. 17. The dumped water triggered a safety fuse, which shut down a coolant pump, causing the reactor to overheat. 18. Nobody noticed the overheating because the warning light was covered by a repair tag. D’oh! 19. The Large Hadron Collider suffered a catastrophic failure after just nine days when a solder connection melted, igniting a bottle of supercooled liquid helium. Fourteen months later, the LHC failed again after a bird dropped a piece of bread on some exposed electronics. 20. Scientists fretted that the repaired LHC would fail to fnd a Higgs boson, the missing piece in the standard model of physics. But fnding a Higgs was the least of our problems. The measured value of the particle shows that the universe itself is unstable and — in perhaps a billion billion years — will fail just like everything else. D SHUTTERSTOCK by Jonathon keats DISCOVER (ISSN 0274-7529, USPS# 555-190) is published monthly, except for combined issues in January/February and July/August. Vol. 34, no. 7. Published by Kalmbach Publishing Co., 21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612. Periodical postage paid at Waukesha, WI, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to DISCOVER, P.O. Box 37807, Boone, IA 50037. Canada Publication Agreement # 40010760, return all undeliverable Canadian addresses to P.O. Box 875, STN A Windsor, ON, N9A 6P2. Back issues available. All rights reserved. Nothing herein contained may be reproduced without written permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co., 21027 Crossroads Circle, P.O. Box 1612, Waukesha, WI 53187-1612. Printed in the U.S.A. 20Things YouDidn’tKnowAbout… Jonathon Keats is the author of Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology.
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    • Designed to meet the demand for lifelong learning, The Great Courses is a highly popular series of audio and video lectures led by top professors and experts. Each of our more than 400 courses is an intellectually engaging experience that will change how you think about the world. Since 1990, over 10 million courses have been sold. LIM ITED TIME OF FER 70% off OR D ER BY OCTOB ER4 SAVE $185 Fundamentals of Photography Course no. 7901 | 24 lectures (30 minutes/lecture) +$10 Shipping, Processing, and Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee Priority Code: 77440 Fundamentals of Photography Taught by Joel Sartore, Professional Photographer national geographic magazine lecture titles 1. Making Great Pictures 2. Camera Equipment—What You Need 3. Lenses and Focal Length 4. Shutter Speeds 5. Aperture and Depth of Field 6. Light I—Found or Ambient Light 7. Light II—Color and Intensity 8. Light III—Introduced Light 9. Composition I—Seeing Well 10. Composition II—Background and Perspective 11. Composition III—Framing and Layering 12. Let’s Go to Work—Landscapes 13. Let’s Go to Work—Wildlife 14. Let’s Go to Work—People and Relationships 15. Let’s Go to Work—From Mundane to Extraordinary 16. Let’s Go to Work—Special Occasions 17. Let’s Go to Work—Family Vacations 18. Advanced Topics—Research and Preparation 19. Advanced Topics—Macro Photography 20. Advanced Topics—Low Light 21. Advanced Topics—Problem Solving 22. After the Snap—Workflow and Organization 23. Editing—Choosing the Right Image 24. Telling a Story with Pictures— The Photo Essay Learn the Inside Secrets of Professional Photographers Photographs can preserve cherished memories, reveal the beauty of life, and even change the world. Yet most of us point and shoot without really being aware of what we’re seeing or how we could take our photo from good to great. Just imagine the images you could create if you trained yourself to “see” as the professionals do. With Fundamentals of Photography, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the art of taking unforgettable pictures straight from National Geographic contributing photographer Joel Sartore—a professional with over 30 years of experience. Whatever your skill level, these 24 engaging lectures allow you to hone your photographer’s eye, take full advantage of your camera’s features, and capture magical moments in any situation or setting imaginable. Ofer expires 10/04/13 1-800-832-2412 www.thegreatcourses.com/4disc