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Space: The
Issue #43 (5th May 2016)
Inevitable Frontier
Editor Anthony Fordham hen people say to the Moon not because of Cold War propaganda,

Group Art Director Kristian Hagen
Art Director Malcolm Campbell
W me “we shouldn’t
go to space,
there’s too many problems
but by exploiting Cold War propaganda. To secure
the frankly mind-melting amount of cash the
organisation needed to invent an entire rocket and
ADVERTISING on Earth we have to solve spaceship, NASA had to very earnestly agree with
National Advertising Executive
Lewis Preece lpreece@nextmedia.com.au first,” I understand what they the politicians that it was vital for the USA to get to
ph: 02 9901 6175
mean, but I can’t understand the Moon before the USSR, yes sir.
Production Manager Peter Ryman why they believe that. Yes, If only we could do that these days, we’d be on
Circulation Director Carole Jones
there are problems here on Earth that need to be Mars by 2020. Of course, everyone in the 1960s
Editor-in-Chief Sebastian Relster solved, but to the exclusion of going to space? and 1970s had to live under the shadow of the
International Editor Lotte Juul Nielsen Why does space have this unique status? constant threat of nuclear annihilation so perhaps
BONNIER INTERNATIONAL We can’t go to space until there are no more trying to find a better way isn’t so bad.
International Licensing Director poor people? Of course, we can still get kitchen All this is a distraction. We should go to space
Amy Mangino
Art Director Hanne Bo
renovations and buy a yacht, and play professional because space is there, and we’ve won’t solve the
Picture Editors Allan Baggesø, sport, and do ballet, and race remote-controlled problems of our civilisation by looking inward.
Lisbeth Brünnich, Peter Eberhardt
cars, and take selfies with compact 360-degree In the decades ahead, the human population of
cameras, but go to space? Not until all the evils of Earth faces either collapsing under its own weight,
the world have been defeated! or coming to some kind of arrangement that limits
Generally when you make this argument, the further growth. The first outcome is obviously bad,
Chief Executive Officer David Gardiner anti-space person will point out all the benefits of but the second may not be that much better.
Commercial Director Bruce Duncan the things I just mentioned. Sport keeps your kids Stagnation has sounded the death-knell for
Science Illustrated is published healthy, a newer bathroom is cleaner, and in any more than one civilisation before ours. Societies
7 times a year by nextmedia Pty Ltd
ACN: 128 805 970 case all these things create jobs and money in the that live in perfect balance for thousands of years
Building A, 207 Pacific Highway Earthbound economy. are almost always eventually suddenly wiped out
St Leonards, NSW 2065
Ah yes, money. These days, almost everything when the status quo changes. A river diverts. A
Under license from Bonnier Inter-
national Magazines. © 2014 Bonnier is about money. Have you noticed? Everything, plague rips through a population. The climate
Corporation and nextmedia Pty Ltd. All
Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole
expressed in terms of what it costs, or what it shifts, and grasslands become deserts while
or part without written permission is is worth. Every time the government has good forests become swamps. Or a more technologically
prohibited. Science Illustrated is a trade-
mark of Bonnier Corporation and is news, no matter what it is, it comes down to how advanced culture arrives and disrupts everything
used under limited license. The Austra-
lian edition contains material originally
jobs will be created and everyone will have more beyond the point of recovery.
published in the US and UK editions money. When the government has bad news, it’s A galactic-scale civilisation is by its very nature
reprinted with permission of Bonnier
Corporation. Articles express the opin- (usually) about how the opposition stufed up so more resilient. And a universe with a trillion
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sarily those of the Publisher, Editor or now there’s less money. humans, a quadrillion, will create such works of
nextmedia Pty Ltd. ISSN 1836-5175. (Incidentally I think this is a big part of why artistic, philosophical and technological beauty as
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scienceillustrated.com.au | 3


Why pay $80m for a rocket launch when new

technology can get you to space for only a
few hundred grand?


The Black Death may have first struck

Europe much, much earlier than we thought.
Are we all survivors of a deadly epidemic?



Vast riches are just hanging in the

sky, ready for us to take them...

Life thrives in a cave oasis...

To understand the universe, first we NASA has an amazing archive of photographs 10

must build eyes to see it. And the latest from the Apollo missions, unstaged, totally SCIENCE UPDATE
telescopes will offer unprecedented clarity... candid, and now available online... What are the rules of this
mysterious ancient game?

All you need to know (about fat gerbils)

An oil spill is one of the worst disasters.
Can new tech make them trivial?

Tales of animals raising lost children
are common, but the reality is grim for

58 62 the few survivors of a “feral childhood”.


Just discovered a new animal? Does it There’s a remote valley that somehow spawns Your fingerprints can
look kind of weird in some way? Then balls of light in the sky. Is it a giant natural tell criminologists a
you should name it after a celebrity! battery, or something even weirder? lot more about you
than you might think.

Now with more zymology zingers

Is this skull from a hideous alien beast...
or something much cuter?

NOW! 64
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Illustrated delivered to
your door and save $$$!

scienceillustrated.com.au | 5

The Blue Planet never sleeps

Earth is also known as the Blue Planet, but
perhaps it ought to change its name, at least
on the night-side. Canadian scientist Félix Pharands’
satellite photos reveal a world speckled in yellow.
The satellite photos show the sophisticated
infrastructure of Europe as millions of illuminated
roads, railways, and submarine data cables criss-

cross the continent. The map also shows air traffic.

Key to modern civilisation's success is the ability to
keep working after dark – and so city lights
proliferate, and can be observed from space.

Photo // Félix Pharand

scienceillustrated.com.au | 7

Chinese sinkhole
is a lush oasis for life
Far away from civilisation and 290 m below
ground, a lush world of plants, birds, and
insects is thriving. This paradise is located in an
approximately 67,000 m2 sinkhole in the
mountainous Xuanen region in the Hubei province of
central China. The combination of calcareous soil,
ascending water, and light from a large hole at the
top of the crater has created favourable growth
conditions. Scientists are now looking for new plant
and insect species in the living crater. Used as a
dump for years, it was recently cleared of trash.

Photo // Song Wen


scienceillustrated.com.au | 9
Supervolcanoes recharge in 500 years
New measurements of crystals in lava from old eruptions surprisingly show that
the chambers of supervolcanoes are filled and heated in record time.
GEOLOGY Fire, lava, gas, and red-hot ash in quantities to an eruption, magma enters one or more chambers
that block out sunlight and start a global "hard winter" is below the volcano, where it is cooled. When new hot
the horror scenario of an erupting supervolcano. But now, magma enters from below, the mass melts, becoming
geologists from the US Vanderbilt University add a new “active” and ready to erupt.
dimension. They have discovered that a supervolcano could In the cooling process, crystals form inside the
"recharge" and blow its top again in just 500 years. magma, and during the heating, the crystals change
During such a period, the magma chambers under the again, but when the volcano erupts, the process is
volcano could be filled and heated, according to studies abruptly halted. So, based on the shape, size, and
of quartz crystals from four major eruptions that took contents of the crystals, geologists can tell for how long
place 760,000-27,000 years ago. Hundreds of years prior the crystals have been in the magma.

The Potentially
World-Ending Eight
There are 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, of
which eight are particularly huge. These volcanes
each contain more than 1,000 km3 of magma, or
enough to bury London under thousands of metres of
magma. Such major eruptions only occur once in
100,000 years. Or so we hope.


Island Park
La Garita
Lake Toba
Blacktail Creek
Kilgore Tuff Lake Taupo

Five of the larest supervolcanoes are

in the US, including Yellowstone.



A private company has

developed a plane that takes
off like a helicopter. Called the
TriFan 600, the aircraft takes off
vertically using three horizontal
fans, two of which then rotate
to vertical, making the plane
fly forwards. Carrying a
pilot and six passengers,
the TriFan can fly 1,300-
1,900 km at a top speed

of 644 km/h.
Editor: Karen Grubbe

Volcano "charges" up for eruption
A supervolcano forms when magma from a hot spot
air is what a new, light,
moves from Earth's mantle to the crust, but without the super strong material is
mass being able to push through to the surface. As Rock pocket made up of. Named micro-
result, chambers are formed, into which magma lattice, the material was
subsequently flows. The pressure increases, until developed by Boeing.
the crust can no longer resist.
Geologists established
the magma’s age by looking
at crystal shape, size, and
content. X-rays revealed
small pockets of rock
embedded in the crystal.
The rock pockets change
shape with temperature. Galaxies

Dark matter

1 Aforms,
Observations show a cluster of young,
when the pressure from
the upper rock mass
offsets the pressure
3 New magma
moves up,
heating the magma in
star-forming galaxies surrounded by
dark matter.
from below. The the chamber. So, gas
magma collects, and bubbles form in the Galaxies born
the hot rock moves
upwards just like air.
mass, which becomes
lighter and moves up-
in dark matter
wards, eventually mak- ASTRONOMY The weird
ing the volcano erupt. dark matter that makes up 85%
of the universe may have

2 The magma cools,

and crystals form from minerals
in the mass, which develops into
played a vital role, when
galaxies formed in the early
childhood of the universe,
flexible "porridge".

according to new observations

from the ALMA telescopes in
Chile combined with data from
a Japanese telescope.
Leukaemia found in 7,000-year-old skeleton Astronomers have analysed
a series of images of a cluster of
ARCHAEOLOGY A 30-40-year-old woman, who huge star-forming galaxies,
passed away 7,000 years ago may have died of which are located 11.5 billion
leukaemia. Scientists have CT-scanned the Signs of leukaemia light years from our Solar
skeleton, which was discovered at a burial site in System. The images show the
Stuttgart-Mühlhausen, Germany. The scans galaxies the way they appeared
showed that the central bone tissue of the in the young universe some 13
breastbone, the upper arm, etc. were porous, billion years ago. At that time,
which may be a sign of blood cancer. the galaxies were located in a
The scientists compared the woman to 11 huge web of dark matter. The

skeletons from the same grave, but did not find observations confirm a theory
similar structures. The that huge, star-forming
scans show that the DICTIONARY galaxies are born in regions
woman did not suffer Leukaemia is also known as with lots of dark matter.
from other diseases. blood cancer. The name The discovery is important
So, the German woman includes several types of for astronomers’ understanding
is the oldest known cancer, which affect bone Scientists found leukaemia in the upper arm bone of how star-making galaxies
leukaemia victim. marrow blood cell formation. tissue and breast tissue of a 7,000-year-old skeleton. form and develop.
scienceillustrated.com.au | 11




The ant species
brunneus escapes
backwards, by
Curiosity takes a look at mysterious trees – NASA’s Curiosity rover is
investigating a landscape with "trees" in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The trees are an somersaulting on its
optical illusion occurring because the red Martian sand dunes have dark sand in them. jaws. It flees forwards,
When the ice melts in the spring, the dark sand appears as groups of streaks .
using its legs to jump.

And talking of ants ...

-year-old fish fossils have been discovered by palaeontologists
Ants can carry objects
that are 50 times
heavier than themselves, the
in South Africa. The 30 complete fossils are an unknown species. equivalent of a human
carrying three cars. They can
Scientists 3D print a chicken heart do it, because ant muscles are
relatively bigger compared to
MEDICINE Skin, muscles, using an ordinary 3D printer, which makes blood coagulate. their bodies than ours.
and bone tissue can already be that is available in stores. They also adjusted the printer
created by sophisticated 3D Usually, 3D printers use to deposit material layer by
printers, and now, US scientists plastic or metal, but the layer in a supportive gel. Once Some ant species keep
have printed the spitting scientists reconfigured the the print had been finished, other ants as slaves.
images of a heart and major printer to use materials such the scientists heated the gel Amazon ant queens conquer
arteries from a chicken embryo as collagen, that holds the to body temperature, causing other ants' hills, killing their
in a soft biological material, skin together, and fibrin, it to melt away and reveal the queens. The ant workers
bioprinted structure complete become slaves and help raise
A blood vessel and undamaged. This
new generations of Amazons.
has been 3D technique could eventually
printed in a make organs to order.
supportive gel, Ant colonies can stretch
HUMAN HEART over thousands of km.
which melts
away when Size: 12 x 9 x 6 cm. Each colony has its own
heated to body Weight: about 350 g. chemical cocktail, by which

temperature. Chambers: Four. the ants navigate. There's a

Beats per minute: single colony that has spread
60-100 at a state of rest.
throughout Europe, Japan, and
One heart beat pumps:
80 ml of blood. North America.

SENSORS Artificial skin mimics nature
Sensors in the artificial skin turn sensory
impressions into electric signals in a circuit.
So, the artificial skin works like normal skin, in
which receptors convert sensory impressions
into nerve impulses, which the brain perceives.

Skin with ridg-

es and grooves

Layer reinforc-
ing sensory im-
ARTIFICIAL SKIN pressions in
case of light
Flexible material with
Receptors for
ridges and grooves
Pressure sensor made and pain
of crystals. The material
Receptors for
registers pressure,
light pressure
converting it into an
electric current.
Receptors for
Temperature sensor vibration and
containing special hard pressure
crystals that react to Receptors for Receptors for
temperature changes light touch and prolonged pressure
and vibrations. brief pressure and firmer touch

Electric skin can feel and hear

Scientists have developed two new types of artificial skin. Combined, they
cannot only feel pressure and heat, they can also send signals to the brain.
TECHOLOGY Two teams of scientists have created new impressions” to brain neurons (using mouse brain tissue).
versions of artificial skin. The skin not only detects pressure The sensors can tell the difference between light touch
and temperature, it can also send impressions to the brain. and a firm handshake.
In South Korea, one team has developed a thin film, In both skin types, the top layer functions as a sensor,
which mimics the surface of a fingertip. The artificial skin whereas the lower layer is a circuit, which passes the

can register touch, temperature, and even sounds based electric signals on. In one skin
on electric signals. The skin is extremely sensitive, type, the signals are
detecting pressure and temperature differences of two converted into
water drops. Moreover, a US team of scientists has chemicals to which
developed artificial skin, that can send “sensory neurons react.

Australian peacock spider
males dance to woo females.
New observations of 120 spiders
show that only 1 in 4 attempts result

in mating, and the most energetic males

are successful. Google "YMCA spider" to
see the dance on YouTube.
SCIENCE UPDATE Penguins melt ice with faeces, creating a protected environment for their newborn babies.

Bandage without infection

In 20-40 million years, Mars
will be surrounded by a ring
just like Saturn.

Bandage with infection


Type: True planet
Diameter: 6,780 km.
A new bandage reacts to bacteria toxins Orbit: 228 million
km from the Sun.
(green colour), when a wound is infected.

The death of Phobos
MEDICINE In the future, you
won't need to worry about
whether your minor wound is
suppurating. A new bandage will
could give Mars rings
The diminutive Martian moon is falling apart, and within the
alert you with a fluorescent green next 20-40 million years, it will form a ring around Mars.
colour, if the wound is infected.
Inside the bandage are tiny ASTRONOMY Things are going badly for struggle against the gravity of Mars. Phobos is
capsules, which burst in the same the captured asteroid Phobos, currently slowly losing the battle, and can expect to
way as a cell membrane, when orbiting Mars. Martian gravity attracts the eventually be torn apart. According to
exposed to toxins from bacteria. moon, which is slowly losing altitude. scientists, Phobos will meet its fate in 20-40
The capsules release a harmless Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight million years, and its remains will form a ring
green colour, which flows into the Centre have discovered that the moon will around Mars, in turn orbiting the planet for
bandage as the capsules burst. probably shatter, forming a ring around Mars. another 60-80 million years.
The point of the bandage is to To begin with, the scientists discovered Before then, Phobos may play a vital role
warn of infection, before it gets that Phobos had developed stretch marks. in space exploration. The moon is considered
too serious, which will allow Computer models subsequently revealed that a viable waystation for NASA’s planned
doctors to treat severe infections the marks are the results of the moon’s manned missions to Mars.
at an earlier stage and reduce the
use of antibiotics. So far, scientists
have developed a prototype, but
they have not yet tested the
Moon’s dance of death around Mars
bandage on humans.

1. Orbit decays 2. Phobos disintegrates 3. Ring forms 4. Ring decays
scientists have created a
Phobos is approaching In 20-40 million years, The remains of Phobos The ring disintegrates,
piece of paper that can Mars at a speed of tidal pressure is so will form a dense ring and the biggest
store electricity. Made of 1-2 m per century, intense that the around Mars, like a mini fragments fall
cellulose fibres wrapped attracted by the moon falls apart. version of Saturn's rings. down onto Mars.
planet's gravity.
in an electrically charged
material, a square sheet
150 mm a side can be PHOBOS

recharged 100 times. Type: Presumed captured asteroid.

Diameter: 22 km.
Orbit: 6,000 km from Mars.
one of the fathers of the personal computer

August 23 / Auckland, ASB Theatre

August 24 / Perth, HBF Stadium
August 26 / Brisbane, BCEC
August 27 / Melbourne, Margaret Court Arena
August 28 / Sydney, Australian Technology Park

Tickets available now / www.thinkinc.org.au


Scan reveals hidden THE GREAT PYRAMID

chamber in pyramid The Great Pyramid is the only one
of antiquity’s seven wonders that
still exists. The pyramid was
ARCHAEOLOGY The Great Pyramid of
146.5m high, when it was finished
Giza, Egypt, may include undetected
around 2560 B.C.
chambers. The discovery was made while
international archaeologists were studying
Egyptian tombs using infrared scanners.
Thermal cameras discovered unusual
temperature differences in the large
building blocks. Three stones at the base of
the pyramid are warmer than the others,
and may hide walled-up entrances to
passages or chambers. Or the difference
may also be due to circulating air or
varying stone types.
The next stage of the project involves
3D modelling, which will give scientists a
better impression of pyramid design. Hot spots on the Great

Pyramid suggest a walled-up chamber


Located in Basra, Iraq,
the tower will rise to
46 billion
nerve impulses per second are emitted by a new computer
chip, which functions like brain neurons.
1,152 m, according
to a visionary firm
of architects. The
Bride will have ZOOM – Mouse or monkey?
230 storeys with
private homes,
schools, and
even parks. The
will be covered
in solar panels
for energy
It is still
when the
will be

completed, at
a cost of many
billions of USD. The Pygmy Slow Loris – is one of the only species of its kind to
hibernate, as recently discovered by Austrian scientists. It hibernates for up to
63 hours in December-February, when food is scarce. The creature measures just

18 cm and lives in China.



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CThe Charlene Heisler Prize.6946:;6<;:;)5,15/):;96564@!0;0-:1: CThe Berenice & Arthur Page Medal.69-?+-33-5+-15)4);-<9):;96564@
CThe Louise Webster Prize.69-?+-33-5+-*@)5-)93@+)9--99-:-)9+0-9 C The Richard Cole Fund ;6:<7769;;9)1515/.6976:;/9),<);-:;<,-5;:
CThe Ellery Lectureship .696<;:;)5,15/+65;91*<;165:15):;96564@

Donate to the Foundation for the Advancement of Astronomy



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SHOOTING STAR – Cosmic light show

Snakes have an ul-
trathin film of fat on the
skin under their stom-
Hubble captures cosmic lightsaber – The Hubble space telescope has focused on
achs, allowing them to
what looks like a cosmic sword, which makes one think of the lightsabers of the Star Wars films. move across the ground
Located in the Orion Nebula, the spectacular phenomenon consists of two jets of ionised gas
ejected into space by a young star. almost without friction,

minimising skin wear.

And talking of snakes ...

years. Age of the oldest dinosaur ever discovered.
A snakes' vision is rather
poor, but as it casts off
its skin, it becomes even
The dracoraptor dates back to the early Jurassic Period. worse. Duing the shed, the
eyes become white and milky,
Solar-powered balloon aims high and due to the extraoridinarily
TECHNOLOGY A thin layer the stratosphere without the afloat by air heated by the poor vision, the snake may
of foil inflated by warm air. use of fossil fuels. Sun, and at night, by the heat become aggressive.
That is the formula of the Saraceno’s balloon will be radiation from Earth.
Aerocene balloon designed by powered by either the wind or The Argentinian artist is Snakes are quite
Argentinian artist Tomás jet streams at an altitude of planning a round-the-world economical when it
Saraceno, who intends to 8-13 km. The balloon is trip in his Aerocene, but first,
comes to their food. A large
demonstrate how we can neither equipped with solar the balloon will be tested
travel both several times cells nor batteries or helium. during a flight across the Salar meal – such as a sheep or a
around the World and into During the day, it will be kept de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. goat – could keep a Burmese
python going for a period of
THE STRATOSPHERE approximately two years.
The big, heat-powered
balloon will be tested The stratosphere
above one of the stretches approx
world’s biggest salt 8-50 km above 1 in 10 of the world's
flats in Bolivia, 3,600 m Earth's surface.
3,400 snake species are
above sea level. The ozone layer,
which absorbs UV
venomous. And 250 of those
radiation from the Sun, are so venomous that they are
is a vital part of it. able to kill a human. Nine of
High-flying planes the 10 most venomous snakes
operate in the

in the world are native to, you
guessed it: Australia

Detailed 1 Pluto's hostile and icy surface
is characterised by a series of
impact craters, revealing depths
with several layers of ice. The

layers are from different
geological periods.

ot Pluto
New images from the 2 A mountain range with
jagged ridges borders on the
New Horizons probe dwarf planet's Sputnik
include impact craters Planum ice plain. Some of
Pluto's ice mountains are up
and an uneven surface. to 6000 metres high.
ASTRONOMY An arid, cold,
unfriendly world of mountains,
wilderness, craters, and gorges emerges
on photos from the outskirts of the
Solar System sent back to Earth by 3 The ice plain on Pluto consists
NASA’s New Horizons probe. The images of "dirty water icebergs" and
nitrogen ice. The nitrogen flows
are from the summer of 2015, but due
like a glacier on Earth. In the
to the extreme distance, it takes a long cracks, there is an as yet
time to download the images to Earth. unknown dark material.
The photos, which are the sharpest
yet of Pluto, were taken from a distance
of about 17,000 km, only 15 minutes PHOTOS ARRIVING
before the probe came the closest to AT SNAIL'S PACE
Pluto on 14 July 2015. Right before the The New Horizons probe is
fly-by, the camera shot lots of photos, still sending images back to
capturing an 800-km-long and 80-km- AREAS ENLARGED Earth from a distance of about
5 billion km. At a transmission
wide belt of varying landscapes. The
speed of only 1,000-2,000 bits
images show an ice plain that per second, it sometimes
scientists have named Sputnik takes 45 minutes to send one
Planum, and a mountain range single image.
now called al-Idrisi.
The detail of the new PLUTO BY THE NUMBERS
images is overwhelming,
Radius: 1,184 km
and provides astronomers 2
Moons: Five
with a unique impression
Distance to the Sun:
of a world that we have
3 5,874,000,000 km
so far only been able to
see as a tiny spot in the
Solar System, 4.76
billion km away.


In a 2,300-year-old grave in China, scientists
have discovered the remains of a mysterious
board game seemingly called Liubo.
Archaeologists don't know what exactly the

game is about, but they also found a 14-sided

die made of animal tooth and 21 rectangular
gaming pieces with numbers on them.
Ask Us How does a balloon burst?
Are all forms of balloon destruction the same? Is there a difference
between popping with a pin, and blowing until it bursts?
When a balloon bursts, it happens using high-speed cameras and the air will quickly move to the
with such speed and energy that the concluded that balloons burst in “exit”, splitting the balloon in two.
mechanism is impossible to observe different ways when overinflated or The other mechanism, known as
with the naked eye. But we must poked with a pin. over-inflation, occurs when there is
know! Two scientists from The pressure inside an inflated so much air inside the balloon that
Laboratoire de Physique Statistique in balloon is much higher than on the the pressure on the membrane
Paris have studied the phenomenon outside. If a hole is poked with a pin, makes it split into tiny fragments.

A balloon bursts in
different ways, depending
on the method.



In the wild, food is usually so scarce that
animals will not get fat enough to be
considered obese. A predator that has
gained a few extra pounds will quickly
slim down again if the fat makes the
animal a poorer hunter. Still, fat wild
animals such as squirrels and prairie
dogs are observed. One reason is mild
winters, meaning there is plenty of

food all year, and animals do not

burn their winter fat.
Editor: Anne Lykke

The higher the pressure, the more fragments TOP 5

When a balloon is inflated, the pressure increases. The fastest way for Exactly how tiny
the air to escape is through holes. The higher the pressure, the more is the world’s
holes are produced, if the balloon bursts without help. smallest shark?
A 16 cm

In case of overinflation, lots of cracks are immediately produced in the
balloon when air escapes, and the result is many tiny fragments.


1 Latin: Etmopterus perryi
Length: 16-17.5 cm
Bioluminescent, and lives in the
Caribbean at depths of 300-400m.

A poke with a pin makes the air escape fast through the hole,
which is converted into a crack, splitting the balloon in two.
2 Latin: Squaliolus laticaudus
Length: 17-20 cm
Lives in most of the ocean
at depths of 200-500m.


B POKING WITH A PIN 3 Latin: Eridacnis radcliffei
Length: 18-19 cm
Consumes small fish and squid
and is found off the Philippines.


4 Latin: Apristurus sibogae

Length: 20 cm
One specimen was discovered off
Borneo at a depth of 655 m.


5 Latin: Apristurus stenseni
Length: 22 cm
As far as anyone knows, it only exists
in very deep waters off Panama.

INSTANT EXPERT Have astronauts had, you know... sex in space?

Officially and for scientific purposes, no
Why do dogs sniff
? each other's butts?
humans have ever had sex in space. Intercourse
would probably be difficult because of
On either side of a dog's anus, microgravity: the astronauts would quickly
are glands with pheromones push each other away.
which are used to mark off It's also possible that a man would have
territory and hold information difficulties with his erection. When the body is
weightless, the blood pressure falls, and the
about the dog’s sex, diet, and
blood tends to accumulate in the upper part of
mood. Dogs also have an sensor
the body, so less blood flows to the penis.
in the nose known as Jacobson's Though nobody have officially had space
organ, which can process the

sex, the most obvious candidates are the

chemical signatures, filtering spouses Jan Davis and Mark Lee, who were in Jan Davis and Mark Lee did not – as far as anyone
out the smell of faeces. space together in 1996. Suspicions persist. knows – have sex in space.
scienceillustrated.com.au | 21

Are we actually pooping... wrong?

The Western method of going to the toilet is not NEW MEASUREMENTS
the best. The posture means that the rectum is MEAN AN INTESTINAL
squeezed and bent, so a person has to push DIMENSIONAL RETHINK:
harder to expel the faeces, increasing the risk of Length: The intestines, from
haemorrhoids and constipation. the small intestine to the colon
Squatting is a better method. According to an and the rectum, measure
about 5 m – rather than 8 m, as
Israeli study from 2003, test subjects only

scientists used to think.
needed 50 seconds to poop, when squatting,
Surface: The many folds
whereas 130 seconds were required in case of
result in a total surface of 32
the usual Western posture. When your legs are m2 – rather than the 300 m2
drawn towards your chest, the rectum indicated in earlier With a toilet stool (geddit), the right rectal angle
straightens, allowing faeces to pass more easily. estimates. is regained, resulting in poop improvement! Science!

? 4 Rocket in parking orbit
At an altitude of 191 km, the rocket entered
When does a rocket escape into an orbit around Earth. The rocket obtained
a speed of 10.4 km/s – enough to reach a posi-
Earth's gravitational field? tion where the Moon's gravity could take over..

A rocket on the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, must in Altitude: 191 km

principle obtain a speed of 11.2 km/s or about 40,000 Speed: 28-37,400 km/h
km/h to escape Earth's gravitational field – this is our
planet's escape velocity. At lower speeds, the rocket
will slow down and eventually fall back to Earth.


When the Saturn V rocket lifted the Apollo
11 astronauts to the Moon in 1969, it used
3 Second rocket stage disengaged
After approximately nine
minutes, the second stage was
three rocket stages to obtain a speed of disengaged, and the third took over.
37,523 km/h. The rockets lifted the
spacecraft from Earth's surface to Altitude: 176 km
a “parking orbit”, from which it Speed: 25,182 km/h
continued to the Moon.

2 First rocket stage disengaged

After almost three minutes,
the first rocket stage was disen-
gaged, and the second took over.
Fuel: liquid oxygen and hydrogen.
Altitude: 68 km
Speed: 9,920 km/h

1 Launch from Florida

Five powerful engines were
activated, and in a few minutes,
they burned 2.12 million litres of
kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Altitude: 0 km
Speed: 0 km/h

The biggest
mantis shrimp
46 cm.

The mantis shrimp or stomatopod

carries thousands of eggs. Its
claw is the fastest weapon in the
entire animal kingdom. B

Why do shrimps carry their

A Some fish carry

eggs between their legs?

their eggs in their
mouths, which means
they can't eat until the
eggs hatch – and often
What evolutionary advantage is conveyed to produce up to 25,000 eggs at a time. The ovary for longer, as the
shrimp by carrying their eggs on their bodies? is often located in a position that makes it look offspring hides behind
as if it is part of the head. When a male has the lips for a few days.
There are over 2500 species of crustaceans fertilised the eggs, they are carried to the
commonly called "shrimp" or "prawns". The lower side of the female’s body between her B The common mid-
smallest live for a few months. Big ones can legs, where they remain until they hatch. So, wife toad, which lives in
grow up to eight years old. the female can protect the eggs and offer them warm regions of Europe
Shrimp perform sexual mating. The act the best conditions. Another advantage in and North-West Africa,
only takes a split second, the male fertilising connection with the egg transport is that the also carries its eggs. The

the female stomach against stomach. The female can find food at the same time. males wrap the eggs
female’s eggs develop in her ovary, which is If you see a shrimp with eggs outside its around their hind legs,
located right behind the head and looks like a body, it means they are fertilised – otherwise carrying them about
long saddle. In some species, the females the eggs would still be inside the female. until they hatch.

One of the first

machine-made glass
WORLD RECORDS bottles from 1886.

How much soft drink do we drink per year? ENGLAND

Soft- or fizzy-drink was invented in the English city
of Leeds in 1767 by chemist Joseph Priestley. The Where? Leeds, England.
drink was intended to be a cure against digestive Who? Joseph Priestley –
enthusiastic politician
problems and scurvy, but had no effect. Now, every
and scientist.
year, in various flavours, the world drinks:

90 billion litres GETTY IMAGES

scienceillustrated.com.au | 23

How does a weather

radar work?
A rainfall radar can measure where it is raining Due to a
and the direction of the shower. The radar emits reflected signal,
shortwave pulses, typically 5,000 per second. The a radar can
pulses travel at the speed of light, and if they hit “see” raindrops
something in the atmosphere, a part of the energy in the air and
is reflected back to the source. The radar registers the direction in
the reflected energy, using it to produce an image which they are
of the objects that reflected the waves and to travelling.
calculate the distance to the objects.
Many objects in the air, such as smoke, birds,
and swarms of insects, reflect the waves,
interrupting the signal. So, the signal is filtered, and
finally, the data is combined into the radar images
that we know from the BOM website, TV, etc...


What is the largest known prime number? A prime number is a number that has no positive divisors but
1 and itself. Examples include 5, 7, and 11. The largest known prime number was discovered in January 2016:

2 74.207.281
This machine is a 3D
WHAT IS THIS? molecule printer which
can synthesise
chemicals in a few
hours that would
otherwise take months
to craft in the lab.

1 The printer's “ink

cartridges” contain
molecules: chemical
building blocks.

2 The first building block

is glued to a basic element
in a reaction tube.
Aftwards, the rest of the
building blocks are added
one by one, until the
required molecule has
been crafted.

3 The molecule is
isolated and separated
from any by-products.

4 The process is repeated

with a new chemical
building block.

Homo sapiens may have
infected Neanderthals
with the H. pylori ulcer
bacterium, as well
as other diseases

Is it really true that ...

... modern humans made

the Neanderthal sick?
Could Homo sapiens have infected the Neanderthal died of diseases, which typhoid fever, whooping cough,
Neanderthal with diseases that killed modern humans introduced, when the meningitis, and the common cold.
them, eliminating the species? two species met for the first time some Homo sapiens itself usually survived
50,000 years ago. these diseases, but as the Neanderthal
Scientists do not know for sure why the Scientists have found proof that our had never experienced the infections
Neanderthal died out. But according to evolutionary cousins were infected before, they were badly affected and
one of several theories, the with diseases such as tuberculosis, finally became extinct.

theories of how the Neanderthal disappeared
Modern humans began to mate with Neanderthal about 50,000 years ago. Apart from the
theory that the Neanderthal became extinct due to diseases brought to them by Homo sapiens,
both volcanoes and a failure to adapt to a changing world probably played a role.

2 A volcanic eruption in
Italy 40,000 years ago
made global temperatures
4 Neanderthal mated
with modern humans,
and the result was fewer
fall drastically. The cold "pure bred" Neanderthal.
affected the Neanderthal The species was "absorbed"
very badly. by Homo sapiens.

1 Modern humans en-

tered Neanderthal
3 In a matter of a few
centuries, the climate
alternated between cold
hunting grounds bringing and warm weather,
new tools such as arrow- affecting animals and
heads and sewing needles, plants. The Neanderthal
out-competing them. could not adapt.

Get ready
for the




$111 billion. That's the estimated

worth of the metal contained in just
the Ryugu asteroid. Vast riches are
already tempting mining
companies to develop spacecraft
and start a new rush, not just for
gold, but for almost every valuable
resource you can imagine...


Has a diameter of at least
300m, so mining is economical.
Travels at a speed of less than
5km/s, so satellittes will not consume
too much fuel trying to catch up with it.
Passes by Earth regularly. In the future, mining companies
hope to build space stations from
26 | SCIENCE ILLUSTRATED pieces of mined-out asteroids.
By Rolf Haugaard Nielsen


Value: $117 trillion. Value: $110 trillion. Value: $109 trillion.
Contents: Nickel, iron, cobalt, water. Contents: Platinum, nickel, iron, cobalt. Contents: Iron, hydrogen, nitrogen.
Diameter: 326 km. Diameter: 110 km. Diameter: 169 km.





Technicians wear
162173 RYUGU 1989
dust suitsML
and masks to 1943 ANTEROS
prevent contamination
Value: $111 billion. Value: $16components
of delicate billion. Value: $6.5 trillion.
Estimated profit: $41 billion. Estimated profit: $5.1 billion. Estimated profit: $1.4 trillion.
Contents: Nickel, iron, cobalt, water. Contents: Nickel, iron, cobalt. Contents: Magnesium, aluminium, iron.
Diameter: 900 m. Diameter: No precise measurement. Diameter: 2.3 km.

Miners focus on three types of asteroid

In the young Solar System, some asteroids grew so large and hot that gravity attracted
heavy metals to their cores under a mantle of rock. Now, many have been crushed into pure
rock and metal fragments, and one type in particular is attractive to mining companies.



Mining companies prefer metal Rocky asteroids hold no These asteroids contain lots of
asteroids. They are former cores, guarantees. Like Earth's water (frozen into ice), and by
so they consist of pure metals: mountains, rocky asteroids using solar panels, the water
precious metals such as may contain valuable metals, can be converted into oxygen
platinum, gold, and silver, or but mining companies cannot and hydrogen to be used as
base metals such as iron. The be sure to find rich ore. propellant. So mining
mining company Planetary Because of this, rocky asteroids companies hope to use these
Resources has identified a metal are the least attractive objects asteroids as "filling stations"
asteroid estimated to contain to the diggers of space, to create spacecraft fuel and
more platinum than has ever although they often orbit top up the reserves of
been mined on Earth! quite close to Earth. extended mining missions.

Metal asteroids are very compact – Rocky asteroids used to be the The building blocks of the Solar System
much more than the rock types that mantle around an asteroid core exist in non-converted asteroids made of
are sometimes found on Earth. and may contain metals. carbon, phosphorus, etc.

ut on the vast, flat Chaco Austral get hold of the Solar System’s sources of often contain valuable metals. Some
plain in northern Argentina, you can platinum, gold, and other rare metals. The asteroids are rich in platinum, which is more
see how Earth has been pummelled strategies include developing robots to scoop valuable than gold. Planetary Resources
by space. Huge craters and meteorite up pebbles on asteroids, analyse rare metals, estimates that an asteroid with a diameter of
fragments show that not only are there and even build new space stations from 500m could contain more platinum that
asteroids in space, which travel at dizzying scratch millions of kilometres from Earth. what has ever been extracted on Earth. So,
speeds, they also contain metal. The Argentinian the new companies’ aim to become space
craters and meteorites contain lots of iron. If you A PLATINUM RECORD miners is highly justified.
multiply by the millions of asteroids orbiting in Both pioneering US companies have
space, there must be unimaginable quantities of substantial financial backing. Planetary THE TRILLION-DOLLAR PAYDAY
metal in the Solar System, which American Resources is supported by filmmaker James The vast majority of asteroids orbit the Sun
businessmen would like to get their hands on. Cameron, who directed Avatar, and Google in the asteroid belt between Mars and
A brand new type of mining company has co-founder Larry Page. The mining Jupiter, where you will find about 1.9 million
started up in the US – employing satellites companies began their search for the riches with 1+ km diameters, and millions of smaller
instead of surveyors, and right now they are of space a long time ago, and today, they asteroids. The belt boasts an abundant
competing to get to the untouched riches of have studied over 50,000 small meteorites selection: the asteroids of Davida, Siwa, and
space first. At the front of the line of and asteroids, which are small planets, rock Germania are each worth an estimated $117
competitors are two companies, Planetary fragments, and fragments orbiting the Sun. trillion. But the asteroid belt is far away, and
Resources and Deep Space Industries, which After taking a closer look at these objects, before the ambitious mining companies
have both worked out ambitious strategies to the new mining companies know that they reach out for its riches, they will carry out
Metal asteroids tempt mining
companies into space. There is so
much material floating around,
we need no longer worry about
exhausting Earth's mineral reserves..


Precious metals
Both gold and silver are found
throughout the asteroid belt in compact
metal asteroids, but many also consist of
the most expensive and attractive precious
metal: platinum. Platinum is a very good catalyst,
boosting chemical reactions in industry, and is a key
ingredient in a car's catalytic converter.

Base metals
While Earth contains more iron that we
could probably ever use, eventually
mining it won't be profitable
anympore. Asteroids contain new
reserves of iron and other base metals
such as zinc, which may already be in
short supply on Earth before 2100.


Rare earth metals

Neodymium makes the world’s most powerful
permanent magnets and is used to make
efficient wind turbines, speakers and more.
Other rare-earth metals, which are used in
electronics or even in green technologies
such as electric cars, could be abundant

in certain asteroids, and worth billions.


scienceillustrated.com.au | 29


missions to the near-Earth asteroids, of and can easily be exchanged by

which there are also plenty. So far, scientists updated versions. According to 4
have discovered 12,745 near-Earth asteroids plan, the small satellites, which
of the up to one million believed to exist. weigh only a few kg, will be Exploration probe
The value of an asteroid is estimated launched by booster rockets, The Planetary Resources mining company has
based on its make-up, and there are two which carry large satellites into developed a small, solar-powered satellite to
main groups: C-type asteroids, which consist orbit or lift supplies to the travel to interesting asteroids to send photos
of the Solar System’s original building International Space Station (ISS). and value assessments back to Earth.
materials and are ripe with water in the After their cheap launch, the
Solar panels unfold in space. The panels
shape of ice, and M-type asteroids, which research satellites will be orbiting 1 power the satellite’s ion engines.
once grew so big that all metals retracted to Earth, keeping quiet until an
the cores and were surrounded by a rocky interesting asteroid approaches. The tyre-shaped fuel tank unites the
mantle. Many of these major asteroids have 2 satellite’s instruments.
now been crushed and only exist in the shape CAPTURE EVERYTHING
of rocky mantle fragments and metal from
cores. The mining companies make every
When a possible metal asteroid
approaches Earth, the research
3 The cavity includes modules with
electronics for the satellite’s navigation
effort to get their hands on the remains of satellites must prove their worth. system. Telescopes, sensors, and
cores – the metal asteroids. The engines are activated, and communication lasers protrude.
the satellites begin their mission

The small ion engines propel the satellite,
THE EXPLORATION BEGINS to the asteroid, navigating so 4 when it leaves its orbit around Earth.
Planetary Resources and Deep Space accurately that they fly in
The engines are mounted on the tank.
Industries are both taking the first steps, formation with the asteroid and
busily developing small, cheap satellites the enter into orbit around it. Now,
size of suitcases and intended for exploration the satellites’ sensors are
missions. The small satellites are made up of activated, measuring the minerals contained Resources became the leading player,
modules: a small engine, a fuel tank, in the asteroid. The satellite sends its data launching the first small satellite into orbit
navigation equipment, communication gear, back to Earth via lasers, and the mining from the International Space Station, and
telescopes, and sensors which the satellite companies will quickly be able to estimate recently, another one was launched. By
will use to explore interesting asteroids. Each the value of the asteroid. means of the two satellites, the mining
module has its own electronic control system In the summer of 2015, Planetary company tests the prototype’s ability to

Three kinds of rocky visitor

Most asteroids are located in the belt between Mars and Jupiter,
Earth Jupiter but to begin with, mining companies will focus on the three
types of near-Earth asteroids, which aapproach Earth.
Sun Mars


The Amor asteroids The Aten asteroids The Apollo asteroids’
travel in an orbit orbit the Sun. They orbits reach into
outside Earth’s orbit between Earth the asteroid belt.
orbit, which they and Venus and come Their orbits

never cross. close to Earth’s orbit. cross Earth’s.

On the surface of asteroids,
there is a layer of fine-grained
regolith, which can be analysed
for valuable minerals.

The small satellittes are

1 launched, whenever space 2
is available aboard a booster
rocket lifting a big satellite
into space (ensuring low
costs). The satellites
orbit at altitudes
of 200-500km.

When an
2 interesting 1
asteroid is
approaching, the
satellite’s ion engines
are activated, taking
it to the asteroid. The
trip may take months or
years depending on the
shape of the orbit.

satellite gets a lift
A valuable asteroid must be captured when its orbit
comes the closest to Earth. There is no time to be lost, has made
when an attractive metal asteroid is approaching, a prototype
and so, the space mining companies are placing research
satellites in stand-by orbits around Earth. satellite.


remain in its orbit, keep the
loss of power to a minimum,
navigate, and communicate. The
next generation of satellites will
be equipped with small engines,
telescopes, and sensors allowing
them to fly to near-Earth
asteroids to survey them and
determine their value.
Although neither Planetary
Resources nor Deep Space
riches back from space yet, they
Many asteroids are On asteroids with a Ice and other volatile When valuable metals are
still have their favourite
covered in a layer of loose surface, metals materials can be melted discovered deep inside an
asteroids. One promising
pebbles. A robot scoops are captured directly or evaporated using heat asteroid, mining
candidate is Ryugu, which up the pebbles, crushes with magnetic rakes. from solar panels, companies drill a shaft to
approaches Earth every 4 years. them, and sorts out the This means mining leaving heat-stable the ore and hoist the
Ruygu is packed with water and minerals by using companies obtain the materials such as extracted ore by using a
minerals, including nickel, iron, magnets, which most valuable minerals metals, which are special lift just like in

and cobalt worth an estimated attract metals. right away. captured with magnets. mines on Earth.
$111 billion. Ryugu’s orbit is
such that satellites can fly in
formation with the asteroid without purify valuable metals to be carried back to
consuming large amounts of fuel. Ryugu is Earth, the pioneering business also plans to
moving at a speed of less than 5 km/second, use nickel, iron and more to build satellites
and in overall terms, the asteroid is an and mining equipment from scratch on near-
obvious test subject. Earth asteroids, using sophisticated 3D
printers. From there, the new satellites can be
GOLD IN THEM THAR... ASTEROIDS sent to the main asteroid belt.
Next step is to land on the asteroids, anchor,
and take samples for further analysis. EARTH: METAL POOR
Planetary Resources estimates that it will In the asteroid belt, the dreams of
spend 10 years identifying the near-Earth even the greediest gold diggers can
asteroids best suited for commercial mining. come true, but it is indeed a long
When the asteroid hunters reach the next way from Earth. This does,
stage, they will rely on the expertise of space however, not trouble the
researchers, chemical engineers, and mining companies, who
physicists. The mining itself requires the imagine using near-Earth
development of new, reliable robotic asteroids as stepping
technology and new solutions concerning the stones for human
long distances challenging the companies. colonisation of the Solar
Only one satellite has ever brought back System. The asteroids
samples from an asteroid. In 2005, the will provide water,
Japanese probe Hayabusa landed on Eros to oxygen, and fuel and can
collect a few grammes of asteroid material, be used as launch pads
which it then brought back to Earth in 2010. on their way to more
The mining companies have a different remote asteroids.
strategy. They intend to develop mining Right now, Planetary
robots and send metals back to Earth by Resources and Deep Space
satellites, whose fuel is made on-site from Industries are competing to
the oxygen and hydrogen contained within get the asteroid metals,
those asteroids which are primarily made up which are much needed, back
of water ice. Deep Space Industries is to Earth. According to the
considering altering valuable asteroids’ American Chemical Society, in
orbits, ensuring a shorter transport route. future centuries, we may lack 44
The gentle push needed can be obtained important elements, which can all be
using solar sails or ion engines on asteroids. extracted from asteroids, such as lithium for
Deep Space Industries aims high. Not only batteries, phosphorus for fertilisers, and
does the company intend to extract and metals such as zinc and silver.
Robots use asteroids to build
more robots... for asteroids
A space station made of asteroid dust is the ultimate goal of the mining company
Deep Space Industries, which is developing specialised satellites to identify, harvest,
and make the most of valuable asteroid building blocks such as nickel and iron.


Mining companies Mining will be Space deposits The most ambitious
1 intend to launch 2 carried out by 3 with automated 4 part of the mining
satellites, which will large harvesters, which factories orbit Earth or companies’ plan involves
approach interesting land on the asteroid the Moon. There, using raw materials from
asteroids and determine and anchor. First, they valuable metals are asteroids to make big
the wavelengths of the will extract water for extracted from the structures such as satellites
reflections they emit fuel. Subsequently, the harvested minerals. and space stations. So, the
when hit by sunlight. harvester collects loose The factory also makes mining pioneers will build
Analyses indicate any surface material and volatile products such as structures in space, which
minerals in the seeks out valuable water and methane gas, are too big to be launched
asteroid’s surface. minerals, which are which are used as fuel, from Earth. The most
Satellites will carried to a space and oxygen for important building
photograph and deter- deposit, from which the astronauts. Metals are materials are metals such
mine asteroid shape, ore can be processed. sent to Earth by as iron and nickel. Deep
density, and rotation. DEEP SPACE INDUSTRIES satellite. Space Industries is
method for extracting pure
nickel from iron ore. The 3D
Planetary Resources printed nickel building
has made a prototype components can be
research satellite. assembled into a new
space station or ship.

Deep Space Industries will

build space stations, huge
solar panels, and satellites of
asteroid raw materials.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 33

Balloons lift
tourists 30 km into
space, where the
curvature of the
Earth’s can be

A 20-km-high
tower will launch
rockets from a
platform at
its top. FROM JET
A jet plane flies
up through the
atmosphere and
continues into
space as a

By Rolf Haugaard Nielsen

The first and most
expensive rocket
stage will be

Cheap Seats
To Space...
Rocket missions have always been expensive, partly because the
rockets are destroyed after use. But thanks to new recycling methods,
the rocket industry will soon ride the budget price wave. The
challenge is Earth’s gravitational field and atmosphere.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 35

Recycling cuts
he roar of the jet engines is deafening,

T as Skylon speeds down the runway,

takes off, and rushes up through
Earth’s atmosphere. The 82-m spaceplane,

costs by 80 %
which resembles a huge fighter jet, travels at
a speed of 6,300 km/h and an altitude of
28.5 km. At this point, the engines shift into
rocket mode, increasing the speed to 26,500
km/h on the way into space. Once Skylon
Aerospace companies can save millions, when it
has launched satellites into orbit or carried
goods and/or astronauts to the International becomes possible to reuse the first stage of a rocket,
Space Station (ISS), the spacecraft returns which accounts for the majority of the costs.
to Earth, landing at an ordinary airport.
According to plan, Skylon will take its
maiden flight in 2019, hopefully to be reused
at least 200 times. The private company
A merican aerospace giant SpaceX
had every reason to cheer shortly
before the turn of the year, when the
success. Previously, SpaceX has been
stricken by bad luck. The company
fruitlessly tried to land a Falcon 9
behind the project, Reaction Engines Limited company managed to reuse the first rocket on a platform on the ocean, and
of the UK, wants to launch satellites at stage of a rocket. The first stage another one of its rockets exploded on
discount prices. Now, several other private accounts for no less than 80% of the its way to the ISS, losing its cargo.
players have also joined the race. total cost of a rocket. Consequently, Most recently though, things
recycling solutions concerning this went exactly right, when a first stage
CHALLENGED BY GRAVITY very part of the rocket are highly engine successfully landed on its
Rocket launches are expensive, because profitable – when the project is a drone ship in the Pacific.
they require large amounts of fuel to be able
to travel at speeds that allow them to
escape Earth’s gravitational field. Three
centuries ago, Isaac Newton envisaged,
what was required. Newton placed an
imaginary cannon on a high mountain, fired
a cannon ball, and very accurately calculated The rocket ascends through
that the ball needed to gain a speed over
10,000 km/h to escape Earth’s gravitational
2 the atmosphere. The first
rocket stage is disconnected.

field and fly into space. With traditional

rockets, this problem is solved by the first
rocket stage, which is the by far biggest and
most expensive one, and which consumes
Hot exhaust gases are
the majority of the fuel. If the first rocket
stage could be reused or rendered 1 forced out of the engine
nozzle at a high speed,
superfluous, such as by launching rockets
from planes in mid-air, space missions would
and the rocket lifts off.
be markedly cheaper.
So far, rocket launches have been so
extremely expensive that small, cheap SpaceX counts on
satellites must wait until there is room for lowering the costs
them in the hold of a rocket that launches a of satellite launches
big satellite into orbit. So, the waiting list is aboard reusable rockets by 99%.
often long, and designers of small satellites PROS: The reusable version of
do not get to decide the time of launch. the Falcon 9 can launch large
Space will not be ”public property”, until satellites of up to 13,150 kg into
the price of launches has been markedly a low orbit and satellites of up to
reduced. But we are getting closer thanks to 4,850 kg into a high orbit at an

private enterprises such as SpaceX of altitude of 36,000 km.

California, which is offering the world’s
cheapest cargo rate: $3000/kg for launches CONS: SpaceX has still not
into low orbit with the Falcon Heavy booster been able to successfully reuse
rocket. The cost is much lower than the the first rocket stage on every
launch price with a European Ariane 5 rocket, attempt. This factor is essential
whose kilo rate is $15,000, or with a US Atlas for the price.
V rocket ($18,000/kg ).
The Falcon Heavy
booster rocket will be
able to lift 53 tonnes
to a low orbit and 21
tonnes to a high orbit.
The engines reduce
speed down through
the atmosphere,
preventing the rocket
stage from burning.

The second rocket stage

4 continues into space, and the
satellite is launched into orbit.

The disconnected
3 rocket stage is
turned around in
preparation for its return
to Earth.

The engines are

5 activated, sending
the rocket stage back
to Earth. The tail fin unfolds.

Right before entering

6 the atmosphere, the
engines are reactivated
to reduce speed and prevent
the stage from burning.
Last year, Amazon.com-founder Jeff Bezos
took an important step concerning reusable
rockets. In November, his company, Blue
Origin, lifted a rocket to an altitude of 100.5
km, only to make it return to Earth. The price
of a new rocket is about $80 million, but it only
costs $270,000 to refuel and relaunch it. The rocket stage,
7 which is heading for
the landing site, is
readied for a vertical landing.

The landing gear unfolds,

8 and the rocket stage
lands on the platform.

SKYLON SAVE Reserve tank

The aim is to

Real-life transformer
reduce the price of
satellite launches to
25% of the current rocket price
of approximately $80 million.

conquers air and space

That would require Skylon to be
reused 200 times.
PROS: Skylon can take off,
land, and be maintained at
ordinary airports. A 12,000 kg The European space-plane Skylon is based on a breakthrough
load can be lifted to an altitude combined engine. The craft takes off from an ordinary airport
of 300 km, and a 9,500 kg and flies up through the atmosphere as a jet plane. Subsequently,
satellite can be lifted 460 km.
the engine functions like a rocket, lifting the plane into space.
CONS: The spacecraft can only REACTION ENGINES & ALLAN HØJEN

launch satellites into low orbits.

Not yet field-tested.
On the rest of the way to
3 an altitude of 300-460 km,
the air intake is blocked,
and the spacecraft shifts into
Skylon does not ascend
2 vertically through the
atmosphere like a
rocket mode at a speed of 26,500
km/h. The fuel is a mixture of
oxygen and hydrogen.
The spacecraft takes off rocket, it flies at an angle.
1 and lands on wheels
like a jet plane,
Within two hours, the plane
reaches an altitude of 28.5 km.
reaching a speed of 6,300
km/h within two hours.


Helium cools engine air at record speeds

Air intake


Air for combustion In 0.01 second, the air is

1 is drawn in when 2 cooled to -150 degrees to
the engine is used as a be mixed with liquid hydrogen. This efficient cooling
jet engine. Air flows into The latter can only exist at 3 is achieved by -269-
the engine at a speed of temperatures below -240 degree-cold helium flowing
6,000 km/h, and air degrees. If several thousand- through thin tubes with a

intake friction increases degree-hot air were mixed with large surface area. The
the temperature to the hydrogen, it would expand, tubes cool the air
1,000 degrees. and the engine would explode. extremelly quickly. Hot air Cold air

Tank with liquid oxygen

Reserve tank
Cargo hold

The nose of the plane

is equipped with
Tank with liquid oxygen
guide fins.

Tank with liquid hydrogen

Tank with liquid hydrogen

Combined jet and rocket engine

Skylon is designed to
4 launch large satellites,
which are placed in a
cargo hold at the centre of the
As it descends through Earth’s
fuselage. The hold opens, and
robotic arms lift the satellites
into space.
5 atmosphere, the spacecraft
is protected by a glass ceramic
heat shield, which can resist
temperatures of 1,650 degrees.
After landing, Skylon can be
6 maintained just like an
ordinary jet plane.


The key to future economy class space astronauts, but things turned out differently. planned per year were never achieved. The
missions is a cheap escape of Earth’s Before the first space shuttle, Enterprise, best rate was nine launches in 1985.
gravitational field, sending the vehicle up was launched in 1977, NASA expected a cost Skylon has benefitted from experience.
through the dense atmosphere and into the per kg of a launch into a low orbit, where the Unlike the space shuttles, the future European
vacuum of space, from where satellites can vast majority of satellites are located, of no spaceplane will take off by itself from an
be launched at a modest fuel consumption more than $25,000/kg. In reality, the average airport, without the use of booster rockets,
– both into low orbits at altitudes of 160-200 price was $80,000 per kg. which will also improve the safety of the
km and high orbits at an altitude of 36,000 The causes of the cost overruns were launch. The flight up through Earth’s
km, where weather satellites and many. The space shuttles’ main engines were atmosphere is carried out without the use of
communication satellites are located today. so complex that maintenance was both liquid oxygen. Instead, the jet engines absorb
The first part of the mission can be made time-consuming and expensive. The same air for the combustion process. At an altitude
cheaper using a new type of booster rocket, was true for the ceramic tile heat shield, of 28.5 km, the engines shift into rocket mode,
which returns to Earth to be reused. Another which prevented the space shuttles from consuming liquid oxygen from the tank. So,
possibility is special planes, which launch burning on their way down through the Skylon will be both lighter and cheaper to
rockets from altitudes of 9-14 km subject to atmosphere. Following every landing, all operate than the space shuttles. The
a modest air drag. 35,000 tiles were examined, and if one was spacecraft must be able to lift 12 tonnes to an
damaged, a replacement had to be made orbit 300 km above Earth or carry a load of 9.5
NO MORE COMPLEX ENGINES individually to get the exact shape. Many tonnes to an altitude of 460 km. Skylon will be
Skylon is based on the same principle as the small and major accidents – the worst being able to take off, fly into space, and land again
retired American space shuttle - recycling. Challenger’s wreck in 1986 and Columbia on autpilot and under manual control.
The space shuttles were meant to reduce break-up in 2003, with a combined loss of 14 The real revolution concerning the
the price of launching satellites and lives – also meant that the 12 missions spaceplane is the combined engine, which

scienceillustrated.com.au | 39

Space gondola offers

a spectacular view
In 2017, World View Enterprises of view for a couple of hours,
Arizona will offer space tourists who do before the pilot begins to let
not fear heights a six hour flight with a helium out of the balloon,
huge, helium-filled balloon, which lifts which will slowly descend through
them 30 km into space. the atmosphere. Later, the gondola is
The ascent takes 1.5 hours, and separated from the balloon to land in a
subsequently, the space tourists inside the specific spot aided by a parachute. The
pressurised gondola can enjoy the unique balloon can subsequently be reused.

Space tourists can enjoy the

sight of Earth from an altitude
PRICE: A seat aboard PRICEY almost 3.5 times as high as
Mount Everest.
the first balloon to be DAY
launched in 2017 will
cost about $98,000. The
entire trip lasts 5-6 hours.
PROS: An opportunity for


ordinary people to travel into space.
The alternative could be a trip with
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
spacecraft to an altitude of 100 km.
CONS: The space tourists will not
experience the five minutes of
smaller version of a space shuttle known as which brings supplies to the ISS and sends
weightlessness that are included in
Dream Chaser, whose concept has been satellites into orbit. It is still to be seen, which
a flight with SpaceShipTwo.
developed by NASA. The miniature version will company will be the leader within low price
be 6.9 m long and have a wing span of 5.5 m, rockets, but the cheap future highway into
and the small space shuttle will be able to seat space will open within the next 10 years, and
2-3 astronauts. After each mission, Dream there are many competitors. The low price
has been developed by the British company Chaser will land at an airport. race is, if not an existing fact of life in the
Reaction Engines. Last year, the US Air Force Stratolaunch will primarily be used to aerospace business, then an upcoming one.
Research Laboratory carefully scrutinised the launch large satellites of up to 6,100 kg, The US company Planet Labs has already
technology, approving its feasibility. whereas British entrepreneur Richard Branson anticipated developments, launching 93
Previously, ESA did the same, and the and his Virgin Galactic staff are counting on observation microsatellites. The 5-kg
European Commission recently approved smaller planes to fulfill their dreams of satellites, also known as doves, are located in
British state subsidies of $95 million for the conquering the growing market for small a low orbit at an altitude of 400 km. From
next stage of the project. In only three years, satellite launches. Their WhiteKnightTwo is a there, the doves’ cameras observe Earth with
Skylon could take off for the first time, if jet plane with a wing span of 24 m, which will a spatial resolution of only 3-5 m.
everything goes according to plan. launch rockets from an altitude of 14 km. Each That is markedly better than the 15-100 m
rocket will be able to lift a load of up to 230 kg which the American space agency NASA’s
FIRST ROCKET LAUNCHED IN 2018 into orbit around Earth. Landsat can manage from its orbit at an
The European spaceplane must compete Virgin Galactic is currently developing a altitude of 36,000 km. On the other hand, the
with companies which intend to use jet rocket known as LauncherOne. The company large satellite can photograph the entire
planes to lift rockets through most of the estimates that the system can reduce the planet in one orbit, which one single low-flying
atmosphere before launch. The most cost of launching small satellites to between dove can of course not manage.
ambitious project is Stratolaunch introduced one third and one fourth of the present rate, But that is not so important. A group of 150-
by the US company Vulcan Aerospace, aiming to let ordinary universities and research 200 doves will be able to film every single spot
whose plane consists of two jumbo jets with institutions access space. in the world 24/7 all year long. The swarm of
joined wings. The huge aircraft will have a micro-satellites will immediately spot a swelling
wing span of 117 m. A rocket with a satellite ANTICIPATING DEVELOPMENTS river threatening to flood, illegal deforestation,
is placed under the wing between the two The American rocket company SpaceX has or new roads and houses being built anywhere
bodies, to be fired at an altitude of 9 km. developed a new type of rocket, of which the in the world. Consequently, thousands of
The first rocket launch is expected in first, heaviest, and most expensive rocket people can be warned and saved, when
2018. In the long term, Stratolaunch will also stage returns to Earth to be reused. The tsunamis or the like are roaring towards the
be used to lift astronauts to the ISS via a company reuses a former Falcon-9 model, vulnerable coastal areas of the world.
or rocket
In the future, a 20-km-tall tower with
an external lift will be able to offer by
far the cheapest rocket launches. The
first and most expensive rocket stage

is eliminated, when the launch takes

place from the top of the tower.

A s workers build the 1,000-m-high Jeddah Tower in

Saudi Arabia and the Azerbaijan Tower (1,050 m) in
Azerbaijan, engineers from the Canadian company Thoth Rockets are launched from
Technology are making calculations concerning a 20-km-
high space tower, which will be built according to the
3 a platform at the top of
the tower. This means the
first stage of the rocket will no
same principle as the main cables of a suspension longer be needed at all. That will
bridge. A high number of thin cables of sturdy metal remove the most expensive part
thread are united into thicker cables, which are united of the rocket "stack" and 30 % of
into the main cable. This will make sure that the the fuel when compared to
launching directly from Earth’s
strength of the latter is only slightly weakened, if a few
surface. Reusable rockets must be
metal threads or thin cables snap. The tower will not be able to land on the platform.
made of metal cables, but of pressurised, air-filled
building blocks able to resist a high wind load. Internal and external lifts
2 will take rockets,
satellites, and fuel to the
top of the tower. The lifts are
powered by electricity from an
ordinary power station, which will
lower the costs.

The external walls are

20KM TOWER 1 made of inflatable pipes.
At the top and bottom of
each section, there is a spinning
PRICE: Unknown.
But if reusable rockets
LOWEST wheel or gyroscope. The
gyroscope rotates at the same
are launched from the COST level, though the tower may sway.
platform, the price will If the tower inclines, it can
immediately be corrected by
be considerably lower
altering the pressure of the bent
than that of any other building blocks.
competing solution.
PROS: By lifting the launch to a
platform 20 km above Earth,the first
rocket stage, which typically
accounts for 80% of the price of a
rocket, will no longer be needed.
CONS: The tower must be 24 times
higher than any modern structure,
and it will need to be built using a
new, untested method.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 41



Three mirrors
capture the universe
The LSST differs from other telescopes
by having three mirrors – M1, M2, and
M3 – to capture the light of the night

sky. Until now, the biggest telescopes

have only had two mirrors, but three
mirrors allows the LSST to capture an
impressive 3.5 degrees of the night sky
per image, compared to 0.2 degrees for
a camera with two mirrors.

By Mikkel Meister

What is hiding in the remote corners of the Milky Way and
our neighbouring galaxies? How many asteroids are heading
for Earth? And what is dark matter? With a
3,024 megapixel camera, the Large
Synoptic Survey Telescope will The LSST ca
is the size of
photograph the sky for 10 years, a small
passenger ca
and (maybe) provide answers to r.
these mysteries of the universe.

1.65 x 3

he view of the night sky is sublime service in 2022. The 350-tonne-heavy LSST,

T from the top of the 2,715-m-high

Mount Cerro Pachón in Chile. The
climate of the Andes is bone-dry, and clouds
which is built on the Chilean mountain peak,
consists of three tall mirrors and a some
three-tonne-heavy image sensor, that will

only rarely pass by to spoil the clear view of make up an exceptional digital camera.
a myriad stars. If we look at the stars on a frosty night,
No other place on Earth is better suited the universe may seem still and unchanging,
for the building of a huge digital camera, but the fact is that it is constantly changing.
which, boasting a staggering resolution of Stars are born. Galaxies collide and merge.
3,024 megapixels, is to photograph an Asteroids change their paths.
enormous part of the night sky over the next Positioned in the southern hemisphere,
LSST is a collaborative project 10 years. That is exactly what the telescope the LSST will be able to systematically
between several universities and the by the name of LSST (Large Synoptic Survey photograph more than half of the night sky,
US Department of Energy. Telescope) is going to do, when it is put into creating a huge photo album with 43 about
scienceillustrated.com.au | 43

Light passes 2
The secondary mirror, M2,
with a diameter of 3.4 m, is convex
(curving outwards) unlike the two
other mirrors, spreading the light. As the

from night sky

light encounters M2’s surface, it is reflected
towards M3 in conical form.

to sensor
The telescope’s camera uses
M2 Mirror

three mirrors, which are pol-

ished to ultrahigh tolerances,
the capture ultrasharp images.

The light from

M1 is the large,
4 M3 hits the
camera sensor.

1 primary mirror –
the first mirror that
the light from the night sky
encounters. M1’s diameter
is 8.4 m, and its concave
(curved) shape reflects the
light upwards at an inward The tertiary mirror,
angle to hit M2.
3 M3, is the last mirror
encountered by the light
before the sensor. M3 has a
5 m diameter, is located at the
centre, and is more curved than M1.

M1 Mirror

M3 Mirror

200 petabytes of image files – 204,800,000 hold the answers to great mysteries such as centre in Chile as well as in an archive in the
gigabytes – which scientists throughout the what dark matter is, how many asteroids are US. The amounts of data will be so extensive
world will be able to analyse and use to heading for Earth, and what is located in the that astronomers from universities through-
answer questions about the make-up and remotest corners of the Milky Way and in our out the world do not stand a chance of going
development of the universe. With 10 years neighbouring galaxies. through it all, so the image files will also be
of uninterrupted photographing of the night The LSST is the most recent contribution fully accessible to amateur astronomers.
sky, astronomers can also piece together a to a long tradition, which began with Galileo
cosmic film, which will show billions of objects Galilei. But whereas Galileo had to point his AN ORDINARY CAMERA, JUST BIGGER
in the universe. So, the LSST – and several telescope at the sky himself, the LSST is a The telescope itself includes three mirrors.
other large telescopes under construction – huge high-tech robot, which moves its dome The principle of building telescopes with
will hopefully be able to provide us with new and telescope across the night sky all by three mirrors is not new, but so far, many
knowledge about the origin of life and our itself, photographs it in the shape of 15 have only included two. The traditional
location in the universe. Moreover, scientists second exposures every 20 seconds, and telescopes with only two mirrors are not
hope that the uniquely large star map will stores the digital image data in a local data designed to photograph the entire night sky.

The camera is equipped with an

7 automatic filter adjuster, which can
place different colour filters in front of
the sensor, filtering out specific wavelengths.
The filters, whose diameters are 75 cm, can filter
ultraviolet, green, red, and infrared light, which
is useful to astronomers, when they study night
sky phenomena at different wavelengths.

The huge data quantities are

8 stored locally in a data centre
in Chile, but they are also
USA transmitted for postprocessing and
filing in a larger data centre in the US.
Cryostat The data will be available to university
scientists and keen amateur
Cerro Pachón, astronomers throughout the world.
Lens 3
CCD sensor

Colour filter adjuster

165 cm

Lens 2


Lens 1

The camera is centred above the M3

5 mirror. Designed by Stanford University,
it has three optical lenses, a colour filter
adjuster, and a 3.2 gigapixel CCD sensor. The camera
weighs 2.8 tonnes and measures 1.65 x 3 metres.
The camera
resolution is
that it would so high
The CCD sensor is made up by 189 require abou
6 elements of 16 megapixels each, resulting in
the record-breaking resolution. The optimum
1,500 HDTV
s to show
one picture.

sensor operating temperature is -100 degrees. The

sensor panel is located in a cryostat, which ensures
the low temperature. The cooling reduces picture noise. 1,500 x
The large primary mirror of the LSST, M1, gigapixel CCD sensor. A CCD image sensor is
boasts a diameter of 8.4 m, and at its centre, analogous. When the light hits the CCD image
you will find a smaller, tertiary mirror, M3, with sensor, electric charges are produced in the
a diameter of five metres. The two are united sensor’s pixels – the tiny, light-sensitive
in a monolithic structure. Above them, you will elements. The charges are read as electric the energy of the light waves into electric
find the secondary mirror, M2, with a diameter voltage and converted into digital data by signals in the chip. When we press the shutter
of 3.4 m, and directly below the M2, the large, another electric circuit in the camera. In an release button, the sensor registers the light
3.2 gigapixel sensor is ready to register light ordinary digital camera, the light is captured by that hits it, and the information is stored as an
from the universe via 189 sensor segments of the camera’s objective – the glass lens located image file on the camera’s memory card.
16 megapixels each. The design is directly in front of the camera. But in order to obtain a The sensor part of the LSST telescope will
comparable to an ordinary digital camera, in permanent memory, the light has to be stored. be the largest digital image sensor made by
which the objective – the glass in front of the In the past, that happened on film rolls, which Stanford University scientists. The chief
camera – corresponds to the mirrors, and the have now been replaced by a digital image purpose of the LSST is quite different than
camera sensor corresponds to the huge, 3.2 sensor: a light-sensitive chip, which converts that of other telescopes. Whereas other

scienceillustrated.com.au | 45

Like the LSST, the E-ELT

is built in northern Chile
on the Cerro Armazones
mountain. The telescope
measures 978 m2 and
has a diameter of 39.9 m.

The first turf has been cut for the huge LSST telescope in Chile, which is scheduled to
be completed in 2022. Hundreds of construction workers cooperate on the project.

telescopes will provide a very detailed BILLIONS OF NEW STARS

image of a small part of the night sky, the The LSST will be able to capture the light
LSST will photograph every point of the sky from objects in the night sky that are 10
more than 800 times over a period of 10 years million times weaker than what the human
to draw up a detailed map. So the telescope is eye can capture. During its lifetime, the LSST
designed to capture as much of the sky as is expected to spot about 40 billion new
possible per picture as compared to other stars and galaxies.
telescopes of the same size, keeping up a The construction of the LSST officially
high degree of detail. began in April 2015 following several years 798 mirror parts
of preparations, and the project is carried out
EXTREMELY ACCURATE MIRRORS in cooperation between universities such as
The three-mirror design is key to capture the Stanford, Princeton, UCLA, Caltech, and
required part of the sky – corresponding to Oxford, the US Department of Energy, etc.
the area of about 3,000 images from the Apart from the telescope itself, the 8 year
Hubble telescope – and this is due to the fact process involves the construction of the
that the three mirrors allow a reduction of the dome, which boasts a 30 m diameter, and a
telescope’s focal length. To understand the some 3,000 m2 building including a control
concept of focal length, you may compare it room, a special camera clean room, and a lift
to peering through a keyhole to see what is to get the mirrors into position.
happening on the other side of the closed In comparison with other big telescopes
door. The focal length is the distance from the built at the same time as the LSST – such as
eye to the keyhole. If the eye is far away – the the E-ELT with a diameter of 39 m – the LSST
focal length is long – it is only possible to see will be more compact (8.4 m).
very little of what is going on on the other side Armed with a new set of detailed maps
of the door. When the focal length is reduced created by the LSST, astronomers will find it
as you move the eye closer to the keyhole, it easier to point a telescope such as the E-ELT
is easier to see what is happening on the in the direction they require.
other side. In other words, a short focal Although the LSST will not be
length provides you with a large the largest of the new
field of vision, and this is the telescopes, it is going to
effect that the LSST create a unique photo
obtains by using three One LSST im album, which can
mirrors instead of corresponds help us find out,
to 3,000
just two. More Hubble telesc whether there is
ope images.
specifically, the
LSST covers a field
of vision of 3.5
3,000 x life in other parts
of the universe,
what dark matter
degrees of the sky is, etc. If scientists
per image, whereas finally get those
an ordinary 2-mirror answers, the LSST
telescope of the same will make history
size covers 0.2 degrees. just like Galilei did.

Since the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1988, astronomers have spotted 2,000+ planets
orbiting other stars but the Sun. Thanks to the LSST and a number of other new telescopes,
we will now be able to answer questions such as “Is there life in other parts of the universe?”.

Right after
the Big Bang
How did
the universe
will be located in the Andes just

74-m-high dome
form? like the LSST and E-ELT
telescopes. It will be made up by
7 small mirrors with diameters
of 8.4 m, or a combined 24.5 m –
including secondary mirrors –
resulting in extremely high-
quality images. The telescope is

to explore the conditions in the

universe immediately following
the Big Bang. Astronomers hope
The astronomical events right after the Big to learn more about how vital
Bang will be analysed thoroughly by the elements such as carbon,
Giant Magellan Telescope. oxygen, and nitrogen originated.

More knowledge


about exoplanets
In Hawaii, the THIRTY METRE
TELESCOPE (TMT) will be built of
492 small mirror segments, which
will make up the telescope’s
30-m-across primary mirror. The
telescope is to help scientists
analyse the atmospheres of
exoplanets and understand the
origin of the universe. The TMT is
What are
expected to be able to map out black ho
and analyse supermassive black The Mauna Kea made of les
holes. TMT has been temporarily
postponed due to building permit
volcano on the ?
Big Island is perfect for
problems on sacred Mauna Kea. observation.

Do Earth-like 798 mirrors combined into one

planets THE EUROPEAN EXTREMELY LARGE so the E-ELT will be constructed as a

exist? TELESCOPE (E-ELT), which is expected to be

completed in 2024, will be the world’s
circular mosaic of 798 mirror segments,
which will be assembled using
largest optical telescope in terms of sophisticated motor control. The purpose
primary mirror diameter: 39.3 m. Such a of the E-ELT is to find Earth-like planets in
huge mirror cannot be built in one piece, other regions of the universe.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 47

Apollo 17 was the final Apollo mission and
the sixth time humans landed on the Moon.
It went relatively unnoticed, because public
interest faded after Apollo 11.

NASA's massive online archive shows

astronauts’ daily lives, including missed
shots, blurry photos, laughter, and silly
posing. This is Harrison
Schmitt driving
the rover.

By Casper Fauerholdt

lunar outtakes

On 11 December 1972, the last of six Apollo
missions landed on the Moon. Nobody cheered,
because to the public, lunar landings were
common. But now, photos from Apollo 17 and
more have been released online, showing us
the daily lives of these amazing astronauts.


The world’s most

expensive gravel

According to critics, the Apollo programme was too

expensive, but it provided us with much more than gravel.

T he high-profile Apollo programme

cost about US$120 billion in adjusted
dolalrs. Ever since the programme was
measure it until after 2000.
The geological samples also showed
that the Moon is just as old as Earth. So,
prematurely halted in 1973, it has been the theory of the Moon being the result of
debated whether Apollo made enough a collision between Earth and another
scientific discoveries to justify the price. planet originated.
When the last Apollo astronauts landed Using different measuring equipment
on Earth again in 1972, NASA reviewed placed on the Moon by the astronauts –
what the organisation had achieved from including a seismometer, a solar wind
10+ years of intense space activity. detector, and a laser reflector – NASA
The missions aimed to explore the concluded that there is no life on the Moon.
Sample- Moon and more. In connection with six Sceptics have described the moon
taking tool lunar landings, 12 astronauts brought samples as “the most expensive gravel
back over 380 kg of moon gravel. Based on ever”. According to others, the missions
the samples, NASA concluded that the were more than just an American
Moon was dry and barren, as no water prestige project. Apart from more
Harrison Schmitt was a geologist and was detected. In 2008, traces of water knowledge about our closest neighbour
joined the Apollo 17 team to select and were found in some of the Apollo samples. in space, we have the Apollo missions to
collect high-quality Moon samples. The quantity of water is so slight that thank for inventions such as the
scientists’ instruments were unable to aluminium sleeping bag.

stronaut Harrison Schmitt is standing child, he followed the lunar landings closely, years following the Apollo programme,

A in front of the American flag. Behind

him, you can see the Lunar Roving
Vehicle. His big, white boots are resting on the
and later, he volunteered to work for NASA’s
History Office. In 1999, he founded the
Project Apollo Archive, which was to function
nobody took much interest, and the photos
were mothballed. But from 1999, Kipp
Teague’s website offered the opportunity to
Moon, and above him, the pitch-black universe as an online photo archive from NASA’s see all the photos. People became interested
stretches in all directions. His colleague Apollo programme.
Eugene A. Cernan is reflected in the visor of In the following years, Kipp Teague
his helmet. He is taking the photo. cooperated with Eric Jones, who was EXPENSIVE, RARE CAMERAS
It is 1972, and we are looking at the second responsible for the Apollo Lunar Surface WERE LEFT ON THE MOON
last human to set foot on the Moon (so far). Journal, a website with transcripts of sound Each Apollo astronaut had a Hasselblad
The photo is one of thousands from recordings from the missions. camera mounted on the chest of his
NASA’s huge archive of lunar photos, which spacesuit. To take a photo, the astronaut
had to hit a shutter release located on the
have been dusted off and introduced to the PHOTO EVIDENCE OF LUNAR LANDING
handle under the camera. The cameras
world again. In October 2015, more than Over the years, the two of them collected were big and heavy, so the astronauts
10,000 photos from the 11 manned Apollo thousands of photos taken by either the removed the film and left the cameras on
missions were posted to Flickr. Apollo spacecraft or the astronauts with the Moon to reduce weight on the way back
It is like watching an old film, whose plot their Hasselblad cameras. to Earth. Today these discarded cameras
you faintly remember, but it is also like The first photos were taken purely for the would be worth millions to collectors.
browsing through an old album of holiday historical record. This is particularly true for
photos with funny pictures and missed the Apollo 11 mission – the first time people
shots. Some photos are blurred. Others are ever set foot on the Moon. But on the
so sharp that you can almost feel the following missions, such as Apollo 17 (from
astronauts’ boots touch the moon dust, which the photos in this feature come), the
leaving crisp prints. The man responsible for cameras were used to support scientific
the publication of the 10,000 photos is Kipp work such as documenting where different
Teague, an IT director from Virginia. As a soil samples had been taken. During the
The lunar
rover turned
Geologist and astronaut Harrison Schmitt
out to be the flexible
with the Earth above him during an Apollo
17 EVA, or moonwalk. His colleague, vehicle that we
Eugene A. Cernan, was standing in front of had expected.
him, reflected by the helmet visor. Without it, the great
scientific discoveries
of Apollo 15, 16, and
17 would not have
been possible.”
Harrison Schmitt // Apollo 17 astronaut

Gene Cernan (left) and Ron Evans in

the America command module.

Photo to the far right:

The Eratosthenes and Copernicus
craters seen from the orbit.
scienceillustrated.com.au | 51

The third Apollo 17 astronaut,

Ron Evans, remained in orbit
around the Moon. On his way
back to Earth, he made a 66
minute space walk to retrieve
film from a camera mounted on
the outside of the spacecraft.

The Moon as a
stepping stone to Mars
Perhaps we will soon visit the Moon again.
Travellers to Mars may need a ”filling station”.

It took Apollo 17 about 13 days to reach astronauts can use as a stopover on

the Moon, land, and return to Earth. A their way to Mars. At the base,
mission to Mars will last about six months astronauts would be able to obtain extra
– one way. Consequently, such a mission fuel, rest, and acclimate to low gravity.
involves greater risk, and scientists have In the summer of 2015, the European
considered using the Moon and the lessons Space Agency, ESA, got a new director, and
learned from the Apollo missions as a like NASA, ESA has now announced that an
stepping stone to Mars. Our knowledge international base will be built on the far Earth seen from a
about the Moon’s gravity could make it side of the Moon, and that the base could distance of 400,000 km. The
easier for NASA to build bases on Mars. become a stepping stone to Mars. Apollo 17 team were the last
In 2009, NASA announced a concrete NASA hopes to be able to send people to experience their home
plan to build a base on the Moon, which manned missions to Mars in the 2030s. planet rise above the Moon.

A day at the office
once again. The archive included the first
photo taken by Neil Armstrong, as he made
“one giant leap for mankind”. In the photo, you
only see grey soil, the black universe, and one
leg of the Eagle landing module. It was also
The daily lives of the Apollo 17 astronauts were
possible to see photos from Apollo 13, which organised according to a carefully tested routine.
suffered a service module oxygen tank
explosion on its way towards the Moon.
One of these photos shows two of the MORNING RITUAL
astronauts exchanging a lithium hydroxide
tank to be able to return to Earth alive. They The astronauts maintained certain
succeeded, but Apollo 13’s aim of a third lunar hygienic standards in space. You will find
landing was called off. Many people will photos of them taking baths, shaving, and
remember astronaut Jack Swigert’s famous brushing their teeth. To keep spit and
(but often misquoted) words: “Okay Houston, toothpaste from flying about, Ron Evans
we’ve had a problem here.” had to keep his mouth closed and
Apollo 17, the fifth landing, shows a team swallow instead of spitting it out.
going about their tasks like it was just another
day at the office – having fun, making small
mistakes, and generally in high spirits. TIME FOR A DRINK

THE FIRST COMPLETE PRESENTATION It is more difficult to eat and drink in

In 2004, the Johnson Space Centre began to space. The food was freeze-dried and
re-scan the original Hasselblad film packs. This vacuum-packed. Some of the food could
meant that the original 70 mm film rolls, which be consumed without any preparation,
were kept in a special freezer, were defrosted. whereas warm or cold water was added to
One by one, the rolls were digitally scanned other types. Everything had been carefully
using a film roll scanner. placed in small containers.
Kipp Teague and Eric Jones set about
uploading the improved photos from the new
scans to the Project Apollo Archive.
Over the years, more and more people ON THE JOB
asked about the photos, wanting to see the
original shots, prompting Kipp Teague to The longest trip was 20.1 km. The rover
establish an archive with unedited photos. That was only allowed to travel as far from the
is the archive which has been uploaded to Flickr, lander as the astronauts could walk back
where amazing lunar pictures have caused on their oxygen supply, in case of break-
sensation and attracted new attention to one down. It fact it proved to be a reliable and
of our civilisation's major accomplishments. efficient vehicle. And it was electric.

ZZZ... ZZZZ...
Sleep is important, although you are only
A missed sh
ot – or a on the Moon for 75 hours. In this photo,
photo of a te
st site? Cernan tries to sleep on the Moon. Wearing
a mask, he was lying in a small hammock
in the landing module. In an interview,
he said that it was difficult to sleep on
the Moon, as he did not want to
waste his time.

There are hundreds of Apollo

17 photos. The crew took
many pictures of every
aspect of their mission.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 53

The plague was

widespread in
the Bronze Age
According to DNA analyses
and carbon-14 dating of
seven ancient skeletons
found on the European
continent, the plague was
already widespread 4,000
years ago. The infected
individuals were adult men
DNA detective and Professor and women, three of whom
Eske Willerslev and his team were lying in shared graves –
of scientists have found indicating mass death in the area.
plague DNA in old skeletons.

By Maria Lund Jensen

The First
Great Plague sudden reduction of the number of people.
Think the Black Death first struck in the 1300s? In One explanation of the mystery could be
that the farmers succumbed to a fatal
fact, plague ravaged Europe 5000 years ago, to disease. Without any probable cause, the
devastating effect. Recent DNA analysis means we DNA detectives chose to look for the most
deadly epidemic they could think of: the
must rethink our history with this terrible disease. plague, also known as the Black Death, which
killed one third of the European population in
1347-52. Nobody expected the experiments
handful of DNA detectives and DNA from the teeth of Bronze Age skeletons. to be successful, as the plague should not

A archaeologists look at each other in

surprise. The results are
unmistakable: DNA from 5,000-year-old
The genetic material revealed that nomads
from the plains north of the Caucasus
Mountains on the border between what is
have originated until much later.

skeletons shows that our European ancestors now Russia and Turkey had mixed completely The oldest known plague bacterium so far
from the early Bronze Age suffered from the with the original population of European dates back from 541 AD. The disease is due
plague; a disease that people should not be farmers over a few centuries. to the Yersinia pestis bacterium, that causes
able to get at the time, as the "Black Death" The DNA analyses matched several severe fever, buboes, pneumonia, coughing,
form of the plague bacterium had not yet archaeological finds which show that the and diarrhoea, which could kill the victim in a
evolved – or so scientists had thought. number of settlements had fallen at the few days. Today, the plague can be cured with
time. The question was why European antibiotics, but if the victim is not treated, he
A WILD IDEA farmers suddenly became so scarce 5,000- will develop pneumonic or bubonic plague.
The scientific studies were originally meant 6,000 years ago, and why the nomads were Pneumonic plague is the most aggressive
to reveal how our ancestors were related and so successful spreading their genes among and deadly variant. It is transmitted between
how they migrated. DNA detectives headed the farmers? Such a major and fast change humans via coughing and breathing of the
by Professor Eske Willerslev from the of genes is quite unusual and usually only bacterium. Just before the patient dies, he
University of Copenhagen began to extract observed in small communities or after a often coughs bloody, frothy liquid from the
lungs. Bubonic plague is
less deadly than
pneumonic plague, but
Estonia: 2575-2350 BC Russia: 2280-2050 BC Siberia, Russia: 1750-1650 BC
extremely contagious.
A plague-infected woman aged The man was buried in a graveyard The 30-35-year-old infected woman shared
25-35 was discovered in a grave- in a simple grave. Scientists estimate her grave with a baby and a young child. Bubonic plague often
yard in north-eastern Estonia. that he was 30-40 years old. They probably all died of the plague. causes blood poisoning
and black splotches of
coagulated blood and
dead tissue under the
Siberia, Russia: 2900-2700 BC
skin (Black Death). The
Two plague-infected women
were found at a large burial awful disease is primarily
site of 40+ graves. The women transmitted to humans
were in a mass grave with a via flea bites, and as the
total of seven other people.
streets were full of flea
infested rats in the
1300s, the plague
Poland: 2100-1900 BC Armenia: 1050-900 BC spread fast.
This man was found in a grave- A young man aged 15-18 was found 101 SKELETONS
yard at the foot of the Sudetes in a small, rocky burial mound in TESTED
some 30 km south of Wrocław. the hills near the Voghji river.
scienceillustrated.com.au | 55


hb o n

Dent chamb
(pul p
e (den

al ne er)

Plague found in teeth

DNA is broken down into small fragments over time.
Using a sophisticated method, scientists can extract the DNA
fragments from teeth and reveal diseases in early humans.

Adaptor molecule Coloured

DNA building blocks




Cement “Lawn” with DNA Identical DNA cluster Laser


2 FROM CEMENT 3 BY ENZYMES 4 During the last copying
TOOTH DRILLED OUT process, the enzymes are fed
1 A tooth from the skeleton is
The cement is crushed, and the
DNA is extracted using special
DNA consists of four building
blocks: A,T, G, and C. Scientists the four building blocks, that
purified to remove contamination. The salts. DNA consists of two add enzymes, which copy all the are all marked by fluorescent
enamel and tooth bone are drilled out, twisting strands, which split up. DNA strands millions of times. colours, which light up when
and scientists extract the cement – a Each strand is placed on a plate The result is clusters – each subjected to laser light. The
bone-like cell layer covering the root. using an adaptor molecule. made of identical DNA strands. code can be read.

The study of the Europeans’ genetic material was almost impossible to extract DNA from no matter if it is from humans, animals, or
– which inspired the scientists to look for the them. Using the old methods, the scientists microbes. From the 101 sets of teeth, the
plague – is the most extensive of its kind ever had probably not even found the plague, as scientists isolated no less than 89 billion tiny
undertaken. Scientists studied tooth DNA the methods require scientists to know DNA strands, of which only 5-10 % were
from 101 individuals, who all lived on the what they are looking for. But with a new from humans – the majority of the DNA of
European continent 3,000-5,000 years ago. method known as next generation shotgun the samples was from bacteria. The
The DNA of old human skeletons is often sequencing, all DNA of a sample is analysed, explanation may be that microbes were still
in a poor state, and until a few years ago, it present on the tooth or flowed in the
person’s blood at the time of death.
However, the DNA contamination proved
DNA exchange to be a blessing in disguise. Due to the new
suspicion of plague, the scientists made the
makes flea bites fatal Plague bacteria in
stomach and guts computer browse the 89 billion DNA
The ymt gene protects plague in the guts segments, looking for plague matches. One
of fleas, allowing the bacterium to survive. month later, they had the answer: seven of
Plague bacteria cause constipation in 101 samples included plague DNA. The
fleas, so they vomit stomach contents and oldest DNA was from a 5,000-year-old
bacteria into the wound, as they try to human skeleton from Siberia. All at once, the
bite. Bacteria can partly fuse and share plague had become 3,500 years older.
genes such as ymt. According to scientists,
this was how plague bacteria absorbed The plague causes THE PLAGUE LEARNS HOW TO KILL
the ymt gene from other bacteria, constipation in fleas, which Subsequently, the scientists sequenced the

allowing them to survive in fleas. will bite more often. genetic material of the ancient plague
bacteria to determine how deadly the
Otic bone
5th flash 4th flash 3rd flash 2nd flash 1st flash

An overlap between two
G C ends means that the
DNA strands match.



Code of left cluster: GCTGA
A G 2nd fragment: G C T T TA C G A


C is always
paired with G, New bone
Screen image of clusters
and T is always
paired with A.
in the toolbox
The DNA detectives recently found out
CODE SEEN HUGE that the otic bone contains much more
5 BY COMPUTER 6 PUZZLE DNA than teeth and other bones.
A camera captures the colour The sequence of flashes reveals the genetic code
of each building block as a of each tiny DNA strand. Matching fragments In the future, scientists will probably try
flash of light. Every time the overlap at the ends and are used to complete
enzyme places a new building
to get their hands on other things than
the puzzle. The DNA of the sample is compared to
block on the strand, there is a known genetic material such as the plague to teeth in their search for usable human
flash, as the laser shines on it. find out what the sample contained. DNA. Scientists have found out that a
part of the otic bone contains usable
DNA, even when the skeleton is buried in
warm, humid regions. DNA is a very
disease was. They did it by analysing 55 infected people died of the plague or that fragile material, which is broken down
genes, one of which is necessary for the a plague epidemic caused the European into still smaller fragments, particularly
plague to survive in fleas. Known as ymt, farmers to disappear. Several facts in humid surroundings and at high
the gene was missing from the six oldest indicate the contrary. The experiments temperatures. Generally, the otic bone
samples. So, the oldest plague bacteria showed that the plague bacterium was contains about 10 times more usable
could not cause bubonic plague in probably much less deadly than today, as DNA than teeth and up to 180 times
humans – only pneumonic plague. it had a type of tail that warned the more than other bones. The otic bone is
However, the ymt gene existed in the human body’s immune system. Also, there a part of the temporal bone – the most
youngest skeleton, a young man from were no big cities in Europe at the time, so compact bone of the human body.
Armenia, who is almost 3,000 years old. So, the plague spread slowly.
the plague bacteria must have absorbed Still, maybe the plague reduced the
the ymt gene from other bacteria 3,000- number of farmers. The old, mild plague
3,600 years ago and acquired the ability to variant did not kill its victims immediately,
infect via fleas – a deadly ability in the so they probably spread the disease
Bronze and Middle Ages. across long distances. Two of the plaugue
infected skeletons were found in mass

MIGRANTS SPREAD THE PLAGUE graves, indicating that many people died
Several peoples migrated within and at the same time. Scientists are now
between Europe and Asia in the Bronze conducting more experiments in order to
Age. Along with all the trading networks, find out whether the old plague bacterium
this could explain, how the plague spread caused an epidemic. If so, the plague 7 in 101 skeletons
across long distances. killed many Europeans and changed our proved to contain
Even with the new knowledge, history more than once. the plague.
scientists cannot conclude that the seven

scienceillustrated.com.au | 57

Every year, scientists discover new animals
which are so unique that they need their
own name. Or almost. Biologists have named
a series of animals after modern celebrities.

Aleiodes shakirae SHAKIRA

Wasp makes larva

perform dance of death
Colombian singer Shakira is known for her swaying hips,
which have inspired the name of a small, cold-blooded killer.

W hen Shakira sings, it is difficult

not to move your body. Similarly,
the Aleiodes shakirae wasp makes its
the wasp larva begins its life inside an
immense buffet, slowly consuming the
caterpillar from within, while it is still
victim perform a bizarre dance before it alive. When the most vital parts have been
dies. Because nature is weird. consumed, the victim cramps, shaking and
The wasp, which measures less than 10 swaying like the South American diva.
mm, lives in the eastern Andes in Ecuador, Following the ”dance”, the wasp larva
where fertilized females lay an egg in a pupates inside the mummified body, and
specific type of caterpillar. Subsequently, after a while, an adult wasp emerges.

the egg hatches inside the caterpillar, and

An adult wasp emerges

from the caterpillar’s
mummified husk.

The Aleiodes shakirae Singer Shakira is famous

wasp lays eggs inside for her music and her
caterpillars. rhythmical motions.

By Kristian Filrup

Kootenichela deppi JOHNNY DEPP

Linnaean Taxonomy
Our "traditional" method of classifying
life has never been perfect, as it relies
more on how organisms appear, rather
than genetic connections. Newer sys-
tems are being developed, but for now,
most creatures are classified into:

The system uses six kingdoms: bacteria,
archaea, protists, fungi, plants, and animals.

Edward Scissorhands aka

Johnny Depp inspired the We are in phylum Chordata, which contains
name of this fossil. the subphylum we know as vertebrates.

Ancient creature CLASS: MAMMALIA

with ”scissors” Amphibians, reptiles, and mammals
(including humans) are examples of classes.
Kootenichela deppi was discovered in Edward Scissorhands, who had knives
Canada and named after actor Johnny for fingers. According to David Legg
Depp, as it resembles one of his from Imperial College London, who

characters. The 40mm-long creature is discovered and has since described

a 505-million-year-old distant relative the species, the small crustacean lived
of modern lobsters and scorpions, in shallow waters, using its scissors-
with claws that it could use as like claws to catch prey or feel its way ORDER: PRIMATES
scissors. So, its discoverer thought of to prey hiding in the sand. Exactly like The order of humans is primates,
which includes all species of
Depp’s film character from 1990, Johnny Depp does today.
apes and monkeys.

Avahi cleesei JOHN CLEESE

When it comes to family,
Lemur named after comedian humans belong with
orang-utans, gorillas,
The Avahi cleesei woolly lemur only chimps, and bonobos,
which are also hominids.
lives in Madagascar off the east coast of
Africa - just like all other lemurs. The
small primates weigh 5-6 kg and feed on
shoots and leaves found during the day. Known as Homo, the
The lemur is not named after the human genus consists
Monty Python comedian due to of 6-12 extinct species
particular similarities, but rather and modern humans.

because John Cleese has taken a great

interest in the survival of lemurs. Lemurs
are endangered, as they only survive in
The species consists of both the genus
a small area of western Madagascar, John Cleese has made a film about the and the species name. The genus is
where they live in small family groups. endangered lemurs. the ”first name”, and the species is
the ”surname”: Homo sapiens.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 59
Agra schwarzeneggeri Scaptia beyonceae BEYONCÉ

Ample bottom
like the pop star’s
Muscular arms In the forests of hair. The species plays a very
Queensland, Australia, you important role in the North
will find a rare type of horse Australian ecosystem. Like
fly, Scaptia beyonceae. One hummingbirds, the insects
very well-known type of fly from flower to flower of
horse fly is the fierce horse eucalyptus and tea trees,
botfly, but the Queensland feasting on nectar. As they
The beetle fly boasts an ample, golden search for food, pollen sticks
owes its name abdomen and is named after to their bodies, pollinating
to its legs. singer Beyoncé Knowles, other plants visited by
who is also known for her Scaptia beyonceae. The
gold butt. The golden colour species has only been found
is due to a dense layer of three times since 1981.

Beetle has
strong “upper arms”
The resemblance between central pair of legs look like
Arnold Schwarzenegger, a pair of large, very
who won the Mr Universe muscular upper arms.
bodybuilding title 7 times, The beetle is a soil-living
and Agra schwarzeneggeri species from Costa Rica,
might not be very obvious. where it was discovered in

However, the beetle shares 2002. The creature


a very characteristic trait measures just 15 mm, and
with the former California so, it is no heavyweight A fly reminded Australian
governor: The beetle’s among beetles. scientists of singer Beyoncé.

Liturgusa algorei AL GORE

Praying mantis named

after Al Gore
The praying mantis Liturgusa improve Earth’s climate and
algorei is named after former US environment. In northern Peru,
Vice President Al Gore, the Liturgusa algorei lives close to

acknowledging his efforts to the Amazon river in the northern

part of the rain forest. The Al Gore
praying mantis is a fast runner
and active hunter, unlike most
other praying mantises, which
Liturgusa often sit tight, waiting patiently
algorei is faster and for their prey. The female does
more male-friendly not kill its partner after mating
than other mantids. like many species do.

You've won the bid... to name a moth


When a new animal species is found, scientist intends to donate to the
usually the discoverer names it. Insect Western National Parks Association,
researcher Eric Metzler recently chose that funded his scientific studies.
a different approach, when he put the Metzler has discovered about 40 moth
right to name a moth from the US state species, so he has had the honour of
of New Mexico up for auction. The naming a new species before. The
The right to name a moth
auction on eBay ended with a final bid name chosen by the auction winner
cost a bidder $17,000.
of approximately $17,000, which the remains unknown. It's probably rude.

Ampulex dementor DEMENTOR FROM


The wasp uses
its antennae to
grab victims.

The wasp owes its name to the black dementors

from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.

Soul-sucking wasp
A small wasp uses a manipulating toxin to destroy its
victims’ minds, consuming them alive.

B ack in 2014, when German scientists

returned from an expedition to the
rain forest of Thailand, they brought
special toxin into the stomach of the
cockroach, which spreads to the part of
the cockroach’s nervous system that
powerless shell just like the poor
wizards and witches who lose their
souls to dementors in J K Rowling’s
100+ new species with them. One was a controls spontaneous motions. This Harry Potter universe. When the wasp
wasp, which was named Ampulex turns the victim into a type of zombie, of and the prey has reached a safe spot, the
dementor due to a very special gift. which the Ampulex dementor takes feast begins. The wasp may also lay eggs
Also known as the soul-sucker, the advantage. The small wasp can now pull on the cockroach and leave it to its
wasp feeds on cockroaches, of which it the sedated cockroach along like a dog offspring. The larvae will consume the
takes full control. The wasp injects a on a leash. The victim has turned into a victim alive. Stay classy, nature!

scienceillustrated.com.au | 61

UFOs, Ghosts, Ball Lightning...

or Something Even Weirder? very slowly, others moving in fast rushes at
Since the 1980s, mysterious balls of light have made speeds close to 30,000 km/h. During the
night, they light up, but in the daytime, they
UFO enthusiasts from all over the world travel to a appear almost metallic.
remote valley in Norway. Now, a scientific expedition
will solve the mystery of the Hessdalen lights.
At first, UFO enthusiasts had Hessdalen to
themselves, but over time, scientists also
metallic, brightly shining ball floats The first reports of strange lights in the became interested. The first person to take

A slowly across the night sky for

several hours. It sounds like one of
the thousands of reports of possible UFOs
remote, 15-km-long valley 120 km south-
east of Trondheim date back from the early
1800s. During the 1800s and 1900s, the
the lights scientifically seriously was
Associate Professor Erling Strand from
Østfold University College, who launched
that experts dutifully investigate annually. reports came with intervals of a few years, “Project Hessdalen” in 1983. According to
Almost all these cases can be explained – or but from 1981, the number increased to Strand, scientists did not want to be
shown to be hoaxes, but sometimes even nearly 20 per week, and now UFO enthusiasts associated with UFOs. But he quickly
the experts are left to wonder. Hessdalen is are very interested in Hessdalen. dismissed planes, meteors, reflections of car
such an example, but now, a scientific According to eyewitnesses, the balls can and train lights, and other theories. The
expedition is going to find out what makes be as big as cars and float like ghosts appearance and motions of the light balls
up the light balls and how they originate. through the air for up to two hours; some simply did not match any of the theories.

East of the river, the rock

3 includes copper, which attracts
electrons. Sulphurous vapour
from the river produces the cold plasma

Could a huge
of the balls.

battery generate
power in the river?
In 2014, Italian engineer HESJA RIVER
Jader Monari from the
National Institute of
Astrophysics introduced
Hessdalen a possible explanation of
the light. The valley’s
minerals and the
NORWAY chemistry of the river
function as a large, light- West of the river,
generating battery. 2 the rock includes
iron and zinc. The bank
is positively charged, making
up one side of a huge battery.

By Niels Hansen

MYSTERY SOLVED? that something is happening in the air above Monari sticks to the battery theory, other
Scientists have monitored the valley since the valley. In one case, the radar indicated an scientists suggest that weak earth-quakes
1984. Erling Strand and his international echo 30 minutes before a light ball appeared break down the rock, producing ionised
scientist colleagues have divided the light – and for three hours afterwards. crystal powder. Decaying radon lights up the
phenomenon into categories: quick glimpses, In 2014, Italian engineer Jader Monari sky. And finally: static electricity from dust or
which exist for a split second; large, stable introduced a theory saying that the light balls snow storms plus the iron-containing rock
light balls that may float about the valley for are the results of the valley’s geological create the characteristic and very clear light
hours; and smaller lights that are turned on structure. According to the theory, the valley flashes in the sky.
and off. All occur time and time again. functions as a huge battery that generates Project Hessdalen has been granted
Initially, the scientists tried to explain the power and so light balls. funding for a scientific expedition in
lights as a type of ball lightning – as glowing Today, the mystery is closer than ever to September. Strand hopes that cooperation
plasma. Plasma – or ionised gas – is the fourth being solved. While Erling Strand and his with more international geophysicists will
state of matter besides solid, liquid, and gas. colleagues are far from convinced that the once and for all solve the mystery of the light
It consists of ions and electrons and normally huge battery is a part of the explanation, and balls in the sky above Hessdalen.
exists at extremely high temperatures such


as in lightning and at the Sun’s core, but on
rare occasions, cold plasma may arise on
Earth without lightning.
However, this could only be cold plasma,
not glowing, as the objects touched by the
balls do not catch fire. Also, the balls are not
Light ball
radioactive or electrically charged. They (about 3m)
actually sterilise the materials that they
touch. Studies have shown that in the places
where a ball landed in the snow or on the
ground, almost all bacteria died. The balls Approximately 20 times a year, the mysterious light balls
can be observed using a radar. And even are observed in the night sky above Hessdalen. FROM OZON
when no balls are seen, the radar indicates E LAYER TO
Plasma is a statTV
e of matter whi
is electrically ne ch
utral. The elec
and ions of the trons
plasma neutra
each other’s ch lise
arges. Unlike ga
plasma conduc s,
ts electricity an
reacts to magne d
tic fields. Plasm
found in fluores a is
cent tubes, TV
screens, and Ea
rth’s ozone laye
plasma makes r. Hot
EAST BANK The electricity of the river things melt, w
cold plasma m
is sufficient to make a bulb light akes them light
up. According to Monari, the
Liquid plasma ca
electricity powers the light balls in the sky. n appear as
flashes of light.



An abandoned mine leaks

1 sulphuric acid into the river. The fresh
river water mixes with the sulphuric
acid into a liquid that makes electrons move
from west to east, generating electricity.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 63
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Winning the
War Against
Black Goop
Every year, millions of litres of crude oil end up in the
sea. Today, the contamination is laboriously collected
using shovels and buckets, but scientists are
developing smarter methods. In the future, the oil will
be combated with robots, bacteria, and nanotechnology.

Long “snakes” filled with oil-

absorbing material are used to
clean up after oil spills. The
material comes from the
milkweed plant.

By Mikkel Meister

Encore3 has placed milkweed

fibres in long “snakes”
to clean up oil spills.

Milkweed guzzles
litres of oil
Like dandelions, milkweed seeds feature is now used to clean up after oil spills,
long, white fibres that make them glide according to the Canadian company
through the air like small parachutes and Encore3. The firm believes so much in the
spread. But the fibres also boast another oil-cleansing properties of the milkweed
quality: They happily suck up oil. that it is manufacturing clean-up
The milkweed trick is that the seed equipment in the shape of oblong
fibres are naturally covered in wax, making “snakes” filled with milkweed seed fibres.
them highly hydrophobic or water- The fibres are hollow on the inside,
repellent. Moreover, the fibres are meaning that the oil will not only bind to
lipophile or fat-loving. The result is a the outside of the fibre tube, but also to
natural product that is five times as the inside, allowing the fibres to absorb up
efficient as synthetic polypropylene, which to 40 times their own weight in oil.

The long fibres on milkweed

seeds are water-repellent and SUPER SUC
able to absorb 40 times their KER
own weight in oil.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 67


n the evening of 20 April 2010, chief designed nanoparticles that separate oil
engineer Douglas Brown is updating from water, nature’s very own cleansing
the logbook aboard the Deepwater agents in the shape of oil-absorbing plant
Horizon oil rig, when he is suddenly fibres. The development efforts aim to make
interrupted by the hissing sound of a gas leak. oil decontamination more efficient,
A few moments later, a violent explosion environmentally friendly, and inexpensive
hurls Douglas Brown backwards through the than it is today.
control room, as a second explosion makes
the ceiling collapse on him. Struggling to OIL FORMS A TOUGH FILM
escape the remains of the ceiling, he spots The development of new decontamination
his colleague Mike Williams, whose face is Crude oil forms a thin film on the surface of the methods is very much needed, as clean-up
covered in blood from a wound in his water, which can spread across huge areas teams have long used the same, often slow
forehead. Mike Williams shouts as loud as he without being burst by waves. and inefficient methods in the case of oil-
can that they need to leave the rig. contamination disasters. Typically, the efforts
Thirty-six hours later, the 32,588 tonne survived, but 11 of their colleagues lost their have been focused on oil collection on
Deepwater Horizon sinks into the Gulf of lives, and some 650 million litres of crude oil beaches using shovels and buckets, burning oil
Mexico following severe explosions and fires contaminated major parts of the sea and the floating on the sea surface, decontamination
caused by unchecked quantities of gas Gulf of Mexico coastlines. The accident using boat-mounted skimmers, and breaking
escaping from the rig’s drillhole at a depth of prompted scientists throughout the world to down oil with chemicals.
approximately 1.5 km. develop new methods for efficient clean- up When an oil disaster strikes, the oil
The Deepwater Horizon accident became of huge oil slicks on the oceans. usually starts to spread, forming oblong oil
the worst oil disaster ever in open sea. The new scientific methods involve slicks – where a thin film of oil drifting on the
Douglas Brown and Mike Williams both autonomous clean-up robots, carefully surface. Crude oil is more resistant to

Dietary supplement makes

oil-consuming bacteria hungrier
Some sea bacteria contain enzymes which allow and sodium hydrogen phosphate. These nutrients
them to break down oil and use its energy to keep are normally included, when the bacteria
themselves alive. As a result of the feast, the oil is consume the oil, but only supplies in limited
converted into carbon dioxide and water, so the quantities. By feeding the bacteria a more, the

bacteria contribute to cleaning up after an oil spill. scientists could see that the oil breakdown had
This natural process can be boosted by been even more efficient after a month. In
scientists. Norwegian scientists have tried to feed comparison, adjusting the water temperature or
Bacteria that exist naturally in the the oil-consuming bacteria ammonium nitrate including less oil had no significant effect.
sea feed on oil, converting it into
water and carbon dioxide.

evaporation and waves than kerosene, so AKE
the oil film can often spread across huge
areas without bursting. UGH THE OIL
Large animals such as birds, dolphins, and A snake-shaped sailing robot with multiple
seals are the first visible victims of oil spills. masts will suck up oil by hauling along a
According to a report from the American tail of oil-absorbing materials. The ”ship”
National Wildlife Federation, four times as zigzags up against the wind and so up
many dead dolphins were observed off the through the oil slick. Tail
coast of Louisiana in 2014, which is probably
partly due to the Deepwater Horizon oil Oil slick
contamination. Up to 12% of the brown
pelicans and 32% of the black-headed gulls in
the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico are
estimated to have died due to the oil. A
scientific study carried out by the University of
California in 2014 established that an area of
about 3,200 km2 surrounding the Macondo oil
well has been severely contaminated by oil
droplets settling on the sea floor.

SEA BACTERIA BREAK DOWN THE OIL When the ship sails upwind,
it is, unlike normal sailing
The sea has an army of decontamination ships, able to catch the
microbes such as the Alcanivorax wind on both sides,
borkumensis bacterium, which uses the allowing it not to lose
hydro-carbons of oil, also known as alkanes, momentum, although it is
as an energy source. As the alkanes are hauling along a long tail of
oil-absorbing material.
gradually broken down, the oil is converted
into carbon dioxide and water. But before
the microbes can start their oil-based feast,
the oil film must be divided finely and The hull is made
up of several flexible
converted into smaller oil droplets that can
segments, allowing it
sink from the sea surface. to wriggle like a snake.
Following the Deepwater Horizon
accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Wind direction
BP oil company used 7 million litres of the Several ships equipped with radio
chemical Corexit, which speeds up the fine communication and computer control to
coordinate their routes in proportion to each
division of the oil. Recent scientific research

Ships other can cooperate. Apart from removing oil

from the University of Georgia indicates that seen from a large area, the ships can collect
the unprecedented quantity of Corexit from floating plastic waste too.
poured into the Gulf of Mexico may have had
a negative impact on the natural oil
decontamination. According to scientific lab
experiments, the oil-decontaminating
Autonomous snake ship
Marinobacter bacterium consumes more oil,
when the water does not contain Corexit.
sucks up oil with its tail
Water measurements from the period Former MIT scientist Cesar Harada against the wind - against the
following the oil spill show that the content intends to build an autonomous direction of the oil slick, with a
of Marinobacter bacteria in the Gulf of ”ship” that can suck up a crude oil snake-shaped tail of oil-absorbing
Mexico was low. This may be due to the slick. Following the Deepwater material, the oil can be collected
comprehensive use of Corexit. Horizon accident in the US in 2010, much more efficiently, as the contact
Consequently, the Norwegian research hundreds of small fishing boats surface with the oil becomes bigger,
organisation SINTEF has developed an equipped with booms with oil- according to Cesar Harada’s idea.
alternative without chemicals. In an effort to absorbing materials were used, but The first experiments with such a
develop a simple decontamination method, the method only removed some 3 % sailing boat were not particularly
scientists have been inspired by one of the of the oil from the surface. By successful, as the boat was slowed
classic tools for cleansing walls. The method making a sailing boat zigzag up down by the tail. Instead, the
involves a number of parallel propelling solution is a ship made up of many
nozzles ”firing” sea water via a high- flexible segments, allowing it to
pressure pump according to the wriggle forwards, using the
same principle as a high- wind more optimally.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 69

The worst spills affect

pressure cleaner. By mounting the nozzles at
the front of a ship, the oil film on the sea
surface can be reduced to droplets, which
sink to the bottom. This allows the bacteria to
break down the oil.


New decontamination methods are not the
only innovation. An important element of
the world for decades
Oil spills that happened decades ago can still be
decontamination preparation consists of observed on the sea floor and sandy beaches. Though
estimating how much oil has escaped into bacteria work hard to break down the oil, it will take
the ocean and how thick the layer on the many years to delete the black evidence of a major spill.
surface is. This information is important,
when it comes to deciding whether the oil
can be burned, as that would require a
thickness of about 1 cm or more. 1 Alaska, 1989
Scientists from the Virginia Institute of
Marine Science have developed an under-

water robot that measures the thickness of Gulf of

the oil film by emitting sound waves into the 2010
water below the oil. By measuring the sound
waves reflected at the boundary between
water and oil – due to the density difference California,
between the liquids – and oil and air, the
robot’s algorithms can calculate the 1 Oil tanker ran aground
The Exxon Valdez oil tanker leaked
some 42 million litres of oil into the

Prince William Sound in southern Alaska

in 1989. Although most of the oil
contamination caused by the grounded
OIL SPILLS IN THE tanker is now gone, you can still find
OCEANS HAVE MANY crude oil on the beaches.
Oil spills such as the Deepwater
Horizon accident in 2010 get 2 Oil wells set on fire
When Iranian troops pulled out of
Kuwait in 1991, they set 650 oil wells on
media coverage, but most of the
fire, causing the largest manmade oil leak
1.3 million tonnes of oil ending ever (at the time). Up to 150 million litres
up in the oceans annually come of crude oil are estimated to have
from other sources. flowed into the desert and
the Persian Gulf.

Natural oil leaks via
cracks in the ocean
floor are the largest
source. However, scientific research
indicates that the spill happens so slowly
that living organisms have time to adjust.

People’s everyday
use of oil is the
second largest
source of contamination. The oil, which
leaks from cars, and more, slowly sinks
into the ground and into the oceans.

12% Shipping traffic annually

leaks large amounts of oil
from engines and fuel tanks.

3 Oil spill lasted for 87 days


The explosion aboard the



Spills from oil


Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf


extraction make

of Mexico in 2010 was the worst


up a minor part of all oil


human-caused oil spill in open sea.


contamination, but large-



scale accidents such as At least 650 million litres flowed


into the gulf in the 87 days that


Deepwater Horizon could

increase the percentage. passed before the drill hole was
sealed, and many birds, seals, and
dolphins were covered in oil.
7 Russian pipelines leak
in the Arctic
According to estimates from the
Hydrometeorological Centre of
Russia, the Russians release
some 500,000 tonnes of oil into

the Arctic Ocean annually. The
spills are often due to the bad
state of the Russian pipelines.

The Arctic coastline,

7 continous spills

The Persian Gulf, 1991

2 Bangladesh, 2014

Niger Delta,
continous spills

4 Oil spills due to

theft and sabotage
In the Niger Delta of Nigeria,
the biggest oil-producing region
of Africa, there have been 1,693
oil spills since 2007, according
to Shell. The company points to

sabotage and oil theft, but


poorly maintained pipelines

also play a role. Workers clea
n up after a

an abandon spill from

ed oil well in

5 Oil tanker sank in Bangladesh

When the Southern Star 7 tanker sank off
the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh in 2014,
325,000 litres of crude oil spilled into the sea.

6 Leaking pipeline in California

A pipeline leaked 530,000 litres of crude
oil near Santa Barbara, California. 80,000
litres ended up in the Pacific Ocean,
contaminating the coast.
scienceillustrated.com.au | 71

thickness of the oil film spanning from a Although it can be difficult to access an fuel cell, bacteria convert oil or other types of
thickness of 0.5 mm up to several cm. oil spill in the unfriendly Arctic, the cold is an water contamination into electri-city, which
In spite of all the new scientific methods, advantage, as the oil will evaporate more powers two motorized paddles, that enable
there may be a long way from the lab to slowly, extending the period in which it is the robot to move forwards. The robot, which
actually using the methods to fight real oil possible to burn the oil. is still only a prototype, will be able to move
spills. First, scientists need to find out if the about on its own, consuming oil without
new methods can work on a large scale, and CLEANSING ROBOT FEEDS ON OIL having to stop to get its batteries recharged
whether any of them have unintended Burning is an old decontamination method or get its fuel tank filled.
consequences for the marine environment. that will probably not be scrapped any time However, all oil spills are unique, requiring
So, the classic decontamination methods will soon, and one day, it will be joined by high- experts to balance the pros and cons of
not disappear right away. tech clean-up methods such as the Row-bot different decontamination methods. Ocean
According to research by the Technical robot, which is inspired by natural water currents, wind conditions, temperatures, and
University of Denmark and Aarhus University, ”boatmen” – insects that paddle forwards on wildlife are among the factors to be taken
under ideal wind and water current the water surface, feeding on the often dirty into account. The toolbox is greatly improved
conditions, oil burning could be an water in which they swim. at the moment, and one day, autonomous
appropriate oil decontamination method in Developed by scientists from the British robots, biodegradation, and nanotechnology
the Arctic as an alternative to tools such as University of Bristol, the Row-bot boasts a will enable us to clean up any oil slick quickly
skimmers, booms, or chemicals. special type of microbe-based fuel cell. In the and efficiently.

Floating robots
remove oil with bacteria A helicopter drops the circular cleansing
It looks like a top or a robotic vacuum with wings, but the Bio-Cleaner is a a 1 robots. They have a 60 cm diameter.

decontamination robot that can be placed in an oil slick to break down the
oil. The robot is still just a concept, as it requires a salt water-powered
battery, which has not yet been fully developed.

The robot features three

2 water locks that open, as
three fins on the side unfold.

The polluted water flows

3 into a chamber with oil-
consuming bacteria, which
break down the oil into water
and carbon dioxide. Oil and
water are separated via a CO2 CO2
pump powered by a
salt water battery.

WATER (H2O) LED lamp lights up,
when the robot is
H2O ready to be picked up.

Bacteria break down the oil.

A biosensor registers
the location of oil.
Battery powered by salt water.

A speaker emits sound waves

that scare off animals.


In the futu
scientists w re,
nanotechno l use
and magneti logy
DARING LAB suck up spil sm to
led oil.
Nanofilter uses gravity to remove oil
Scientists from the US University of Michigan use is oil-repellent. When the water encounters the
an old tool – gravity – to separate water and oil. filter, the water-loving qualities of the coating are Oil
The scientists have invented a coating that allows improved, so the water drips right through.
water, but not oil to pass through a filter. The According to the scientists, the filter is able
coating combines a polymer (a material to separate mixed liquids of oil and water with
consisting of chain-shaped molecules), and an efficiency rate of 99.9 % . The filter can be The filter separates water and oil by
nanoparticles. The polymer forms hydrogen used for more than 100 hours at a time making the water seep through, as
bonds with the water, whereas the nanomaterial without clogging. the oil remains on the other side.



Thirsty nanosponges suck oil from water

Carbon nanotubes are tiny make carbon nanotubes into anything
Nanosponge cylinders formed by rolling but a powder, which is difficult to
carbon sheets. The individual control and reuse in oil spills.
sheets are only one atom thick. By adding sulphur, scientists from
The tubes are extremely water- the University of Rome Tor Vergata
repellent, as carbon and water and others have made a carbon
SPONGE ABSORBS OIL molecules interact poorly. On the nanotube sponge, in which the
other hand, the spaces between powder has formed 2cm-long sponges.
the tubes will easily fit in the The size and porous structure of the
Oil-filled sponge
absorbed oil. For a long time, sponges allow them to float on the
though, it has been a problem to water surface. Once the carbon
nanotube sponges have sucked up the
The sponge consists of hollow carbon nanotubes, oil, they can be captured by a magnet
which absorb oil. It can be controlled by a magnet. and reused after squeezing the oil out.

Scientists separate oil and water using magnets

Imagine if the black slicks left by oil spills magnetic at the ends, while the attraction is
could be sucked out of the ocean by magnets. weaker alongside the cylinder, but the
MIT scientists have not only imagined the scientists used a Halbach array - a system
scenario, they have realised the idea in the consisting of several magnets placed beside
lab. The scientists poured magnetic each other with different magnetic
nanoparticles into oil, and subsequently, orientations. By lowering the cylinder into
they managed to separate oil and water by oil, which had been magnetised by
means of a special, cylinder-shaped magnet. nanoparticles, the scientists made the oil The top of the cylinder
Normally, such a magnet would be more collect on top of the cylinder. is more magnetic.

Nanoparticles Oil slick Cylindrical magnet


Nanoparticles are added to the oil slick. A cylinder-shaped magnet is lowered into When the oil-contaminated water hits the
1 The particles contain iron, and so, they 2 the water. The cylinder is made of several 3 cylinder, the magnetic oil is removed
are magnetic. They are also hydrophobic, so magnets with different magnetic orientations, from the water, settling at the top of the
they will not mix with the oil. concentrating the magnetism at the top. cylinder, where the attraction is more powerful.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 73


Mowgli is a character from Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle
Book” short stories from 1894-95. In the story, infant
Mowgli is left in the Indian jungle and raised by wolves.
Walt Disney’s cartoon from 1967 and the new 3D animation
film are based on the short stories.
In the film, Mowgli makes friends with a panther, a bear, Feral children often react by
and a pack of wolves. In real life, these animals would scratching other people when
probably not adopt a human. Experience from zoos shows
they are found. In the King
that big cats (including panthers) are very unpredictable.
Kong film from 2005, a feral
Although they are tame and like to play and be caressed by SHUTTERSTOCK

humans, they may suddenly attack with fatal power. girl acts like this.

By Berit Viuf

Feral children
are “lab” animals
Occasionally, children who have grown up without human contact are
found, and provide scientists with a unique opportunity to study their
brains and find the key differences that distinguish humans from animals.

ne day in 1991 in a village near RELUCTANT, STUTTERING SPEECH In order to find out if John’s brain had
Bombo in central Uganda, a woman John’s human contact had stopped, when he suffered from his lonely life, scientists made a
searching for firewood ventured was three or four years old – a time when CT scan. The scan images showed that the
further into the jungle than she usually did. language skills are developing fast. brain generally appeared normal. However, this
A group of small green monkeys were Unlike the brains of other mammals, the type of scan does not reveal precisely how the
jumping around her, and one of them looked human brain is designed to detect sound brain’s nerve links – synapses – function.
rather strange, as it had no tail. After a contrasts and rhythm, allowing us to learn Like cables, the synapses can be linked in
while, she realised it was not a monkey, but how to speak. According to scientists, it is many different ways, and so, John’s brain may
rather a very young human boy. critical a child develop the ability to learn have functioned differently than that of
The woman made a man from the village language at the age of 6-12 months. If others. Indeed, brain scans of kids who grew
help her get the boy. He chased the monkeys parents leave their child behind at this time, up in Eastern European orphanages in the
away and carried the horrified kid back. The the brain will probably not develop a 1980s show that their brains contained less
boy was five or six years old, very dirty, and “language programme”, which can later be white matter than what is typical. White
covered in scars. He had no language, activated. But even if the brain is matter is a type of nerve cell that links the
squatted like a monkey, and was hairy. The programmed to be able to speak, the child centres of the brain – the brain’s networks.
boy was afraid of water, and it required three will never be able to master language as well Network development is vital for a child’s
adults to give him a bath. He was soon as others, as several examples of neglected brain to function normally. John’s brain looked
identified as John Ssebunya; a boy from the and abandoned children show. unusual in one way: the left hemisphere
village, who had disappeared a few years Even when John was given a foster family, included a dark, dead area the size of a
earlier. John’s family had been violent, and he who taught him how to speak, he kept on grapefruit. The area had probably been
had either been chased away from home or stuttering and had difficulties damaged by a violent blow to the head
run off into the jungle on his own. pronouncing many words. affecting the Broca’s area, which controls


Babies need care and eye contact Experiments with newborn mice The baby begins to learn its A baby could lose the ability to
to develop social skills. The child and monkeys show that if babies native language, but loses the understand any language, if it does
discovers that it is physically are not caressed, both memory and ability to make out nuances that not hear enough human speech
separated from the outside world. social skills deteriorate markedly. are not heard all the time. during its first year.
Vision develops, and the baby If the baby is adopted by wolves Motor development progresses The baby can't hear the
smiles to get in contact and test the or the like, it will not learn to use fast. The baby can control its difference between “g” and “k”,
reactions of the parents instead of its smile to communicate, and the motions and starts to walk and may not learn a language to
just mimicking their actions. baby will not return a smile. and reach out for things. perfection if eventually rescued.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 75

area and the speech muscles, John had probably survived on their leftovers.
the damage cannot be John also said that the monkeys folded
repaired. Due to this damage, banana leaves into a cone from which he
scientists were unable to drank water. But green monkeys do not
conclude anything about what know how to use tools. In reality, John
effect isolation has on probably figured out how to use banana
language development. leaves as a primitive drinking cup.
The stories he told suggest that John’s
THE MONKEY DIET memory betrayed him. Several studies
John's story caused interest indicate that kids with traumatic childhoods
among several behavioural may have false memories – they remember a
biologists. They took John situation differently than it was. Scientists do
back into the jungle and asked not yet know what exactly causes false and
Baby monkeys chose him to tell them about his life. altered memories, but they think the
soft teddy bear over food In his awkward child language, phenomenon is due to repression and that
he said that the monkeys
In the 1950s, psychologist Harry Harlow did groomed each other, but they


experiments with newborn monkeys. The babies had never deloused him.
could choose between two surrogate mothers: It was obvious to the
one made of steel wire and one of soft cloth. The biologists that the green
babies spent all their time with the soft mother, monkeys had not considered
though their feeding bottle was attached to the John to be part of the group,
steel wire mother. So, touch was more important but they did not chase him
than food. The babies were isolated for up to one away, which implies the
year and badly affected by their lonely lives. They monkeys had cared for John.
were afraid of peers, unable to play, and as adults, Another example of this was
they refused to mate or care for offspring. observed in the Brookfield Zoo in John Ssebunya always squatted to mimic
Chicago in 1996, when a three- the monkeys he grew up with in the jungle.
year-old boy fell into the
the muscles of the throat, pharynx, and monkey enclosure to face the zoo’s gorillas. the brain uses different centres to save and
mouth. This area also combines words from The unconscious boy was picked up by a young retrieve memories. That is also the reason
the memory with the motions needed to female gorilla, and she held him carefully, until why two people can "remember" the same
pronounce them. Damage results in slow, the staff moved in to help the boy. incident very differently.
hesitant, troubled speech. John also said that he had been playing
In a young child, brain plasticity – the hide and seek with the monkeys, and they A BIG BALL OF BRAIN WAX
brain’s ability to reorganise – will make had provided him with food and water. The During the first two years of a human being’s
the impaired speech go away over scientists doubted that the monkeys had life, the brain establishes 700-1,000 new
time. Unfinished child brains find shared their food with the boy, as green neural connections per second. By age four,
other networks to compensate monkeys usually do not share their food, the brain trims itself, so frequently used links
for the damaged one. But if the However, the monkeys in the area stole so are strengthened, while the networks that
brain has already established a much fruit and so many vegetables from the are rarely used are weeded out. If language or
connection between the Broca’s surrounding fields and homes that social skills are not exercised, the child may


The child can name objects, A feral child of this age will not Children learn how to decode Many neglected children avoid
show empathy, feel shame and necessarily develop emotions such other people’s emotions at the age eye contact and social contact,
jealousy. They can also assume as shame and jealousy, and it will of 3-5. Eye contact is vital for and feral children will act along
things such as “mum will not like react with violence if frustrated in proper brain development. the same lines.
it, if I knock over my glass of milk”. any way. The child starts to negotiate The child is unable to understand
The brain is still under Neglected orphans have fewer and cooperate. Children learn to other people’s emotions and body
construction, forming over links in their brain centres. Weak share food and sweets to improve language. For instance, they will not
1,000 new links every second. networks inhibit learning. group social relations. realise the advantages of sharing.

lose language or social skills, as the networks Abuse and neglect:
required disappear.
When John was found, it was difficult for a shameful history
him to walk upright, he had a bad temper, While there are plenty of legends of children being raised by animals (such as
and of course had no "table manners". His Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, being suckled by a wolf) most of the real
sense of logic and ability to plan were poor "feral" children became that way because they were abused... by humans.
too. But the ability of the brain to repair itself SCANPIX

cannot be underestimated: after eight years

with his foster family, John was able to make Oxana Malaya "Genie"
friends, play soccer, and even sing in a choir. WHERE: Ukraine BORN: 1983 WHERE: USA BORN: 1957
In 1970, a little girl


Oxana Malaya was
FERAL FOR LIFE sent to an was handed over to
Physical touch is also important for a child to orphanage when the authorities in
she was 19 months Los Angeles. The girl
develop in a normal manner. Monkey
old. Between age 3 was spitting and
experiments have shown that physical and 8, she lived moving abruptly
contact gives an important signal to the with the orphanage with her hands in
brain about safety. Touch triggers the dogs in a kennel. When Oxana was front of her. She was undernourished, 13
hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, found, she did not speak, she just ran years old, and had been tied to a potty
about and jumped on her chair for most of her life. Her father had
improving emotional bonds. Orphans who
hands and knees like a primarily communicated with her by
experienced no physical contact as they growling and barking like a dog.
dog, barking and
grew up, show that the kids’ oxytocin and KED
BAR alked lapping up food and The girl, called Genie in the press,
vasopressin levels are highly reduced – even and wands water. Today, she is a quickly developed a rich vocabulary, but
years after they have been adopted. Physical on h nees grown woman, but never learned to pronounce the words
a n d k
touch also reduces the level of the cortisol her IQ remains like that properly or combine them into
of a six-year-old. grammatically correct sentences.
stress hormone in the blood.
The brain areas known as the hippo-
campus (which controls memory), the cerebral Sujit Kumar Victor of Aveyron
cortex, and the amygdala are smaller in WHERE: Fiji BORN: 1972 WHERE: France BORN: 1788
stressed children. The cerebral cortex controls A 12-year-old boy
Sujit Kumar was left

learning and planning, and the amygdala alone and lived was captured in the
regulates emotions such as fear, happiness, with hens from age forest in 1800. He
and rage. The amygdala decides whether we 2 to 8. When he was had been living on
found, the little boy his own for a long
will stay and fight or flee in case of danger.
used clucking time and had no
Neglect can also harm a child's ability to language. A doctor
sounds to
remember incidents, react appropriately, and communicate, he doubled up like a adopted him and tried to teach him how
develop healthy social bonds. chicken and “plucked” his food with to speak and express emotions. Named
John’s story indicates that feral children’s his fingers like a hen would do it with Victor, the boy never spoke, but
brains are shaped in much the same way as her beak. He was unable to speak, and understood language and could
if he felt threatened, he would scratch read primitive sentences. After
those of neglected children. But scientists five years, the doctor gave
and bite. Today, he is in his forties, and
still struggle to understand why the human r
Neve ED
he still does not speak. Intellectually up and left Victor with his
brain is so dependent on human contact to housekeeper. Victor died in R N
and emotionally, Sujit Kumar
1828 at the age of 40. LEAspeak
mature correctly. remains like a young child. to

4-8 YEARS 8-12 YEARS

The child’s brain is almost the If left with animals at this age, The child starts to master The child is well equipped to
same size as an adult’s. The brain the brain is already good at abstract thinking and self- live on their own, but will have
networks can be improved or communicating, and the child may reflection. Most children of this difficulties handling abstract and
degraded, depending on their use. adjust to animal body language. age are eager to learn and ask existential thinking.
Non-verbal communication If they return to live with lots of questions about life. A child of this age will suffer
improves. The child reads body people at some point, the child Around the age of 12, puberty from living an isolated life, but the
language, and plays sophisticated may go back to normal and get rid sets in with major hormonal and damage need not be permanent
games with friends. of their animal habits. personality changes. and may not be severe.

scienceillustrated.com.au | 77

Fingerprints can
reveal race and sex explosives. By using a powder that contains
Over time, thousands of criminals have been identified submicron particles – particles that are
smaller than 0.001 mm – and is linked to
by their fingerprints, and today, this original amino and fatty acids of the fingerprint, it is
"biometric" is in focus again. Via amino and fatty acid possible to test for drug use.
analysis, sex, smoking habits, and more are revealed. And this is by no means the only progress.
Techniques have been developed to make
fingerprints light up in the dark, making it
easier to find and read the fingerprints fast.

openhagen, 2016. A police detective develop based on their discovery. From now Moreover, new devices can now image your
discovers a bullet at a crime scene. He on, it will be possible to determine a wide “internal fingerprint” which lies 0.5 mm below
checks out the bullet and finds a range of details concerning people’s back- the skin surface. If your external fingerprint
fingerprint, enters it into a database of grounds based on their finger patterns. has been damaged (perhaps by a burn), it will
criminals, and voila: The man responsible for ”grow out” again based on the internal “map”.
the shooting has been identified. YOU SIR, ARE A SMOKER When you are scanned for internal
But what would the detective have done, Fingerprints have been used to identify fingerprints, investigators can also see sweat
had he not found the fingerprint in the people for at least 4000 years. Legal pores and more. Your “internal fingerprint” is
database? Scientists from the North Carolina contracts from ancient Babylon have been more secure because it is more difficult to
State University now lend him a helping hand discovered with fingerprints on them, and copy and use for opening doors, accessing
– or rather a finger. Using a special fingerprint there is evidence that handprints were used smart-phones, etc.
analysis method, they can ”read” anything to demonstrate guilt, in connection with
from people’s skin colour and sex to their use burglaries around 200 BC. THE END OF DRUNK DRIVING?
of drugs and possible handling of explosives. In 1892, an Englishman, Sir Francis Galton, These new molecular techniques, which
Specific details of the pattern of a wrote the book “Fingerprints” about include analysing amino acids (the building
fingerprint can reveal if the owner is of African characteristics of the structure of friction blocks of proteins) and fatty acids, can be
or European descent. On ridges. Galton’s analysis of fingerprints was used for much more than finding criminals,
average, people from so effective, it was until just recently, when such as testing pilots or drivers and for dope
African families newer techniques (and newer technology) testing of athletes.
have more of allow scientists and police to discover Another area is screening for disease.
one specific markedly more details than previously. Scientists are testing if the sweat left in a
detail – known Obviously, fingerprints are much more fingerprint can reveal specific diseases – a
as bifurcation – than patterns. A fingerprint leaves a number technique inspired by observation of dogs
on their fingers. The of substances that can be analysed. For that can smell when people have cancer.
scientists behind the instance, it is possible to test whether a So, in the future, the police may not need
study predict that an suspect is a man or a woman, a smoker or a database with fingerprints to find criminals.
entirely new discipline will non-smoker, or has handled guns or All that is required is a little sweat.

The koala’s fingerprint is

very similar to a Acids can reveal
human's. Even under a drug addiction and
microscope, it is hard to use of explosives Powder
tell the difference.
Gorillas and chimps Fingerprints are more than just
also have human- patterns. When a man’s fingers touch a
like fingerprints. surface, he leaves substances that can
TOM VEZO/NATURE PL reveal a number of details about him. A special powder with submicron
Amino acids and fatty acids in
particular, contain lots of information.
1 particles (smaller than 0.001 mm)
is applied to a fingerprint or a crime
78 | SCIENCE ILLUSTRATED scene, and samples are taken for analysis.
By Esben Schouboe

Friction ridges Island or dot


do not make
prints unique
As we all know, details of a Bifurcation
person’s fingerprints can
contribute to finding out if
they are guilty or not.
Every individual’s prints
include unique bifurcations
and ridge endings.

Fingerprints can be Ridge
analysed at different ending
levels. There are three
main types of patterns:
loops, which are the
most common type, Independent
make up some 60% of all
patterns; whorls, which
are the patterns of 35%;
and finally arches,
which are only found in
5 % of the population.
One level down, a series
of finer details appear.



35% Crossover
Fingerprint details may reveal things about the owner,
even without consulting fingerprints in a database.
3. ARCH Scientists from the US have discovered that people of

African descent have different fingerprints than people of

5% European descent. People of African descent proved to

have about 5% more ridge bifurcations on their fingers.

Amino acids


The sample is scanned in a mass Particles in the powder evaporate and Molecular clues reveal sex, drug
2 spectrometer, and amino acids and fatty
acids in the print appear.
3 ionize, which are positively and
negatively charged components.
4 addiction, and smoking, and use of
guns or explosives can be proven.

1. Even though you can get it

over the counter, which common
painkiller does your body metabolise
(turn into) morphine?

2. Some professional cyclists are

“doping” their bicycles by installing
a tiny what in the frame?

3. With a membership made up of

racers wearing stereoscopic video
headsets, what is the IDRA?

4. Who had the bigger brain,

Neanderthals or modern humans?
laser diodes use heat sinks (radiators) (eventually) 21 shillings, was which
5. Which group of islands was made of what unexpected but famous but oddly-named English coin?
systematically depopulated expensive material?
by the Spanish from 1500- 9. True or false: an apple will wake
1520 and then remained 7. Of interest to beer you up better and more quickly than
essentially uninhabited makers, zymology is the a strong cup of coffee?
for 130 years? study of what?
10. After the tiger and the lion,
6. Some high-powered 8. Made of a quarter- which species is the third-largest
integrated circuits and ounce of gold, and worth of the “big cats”?

Trivia Countdown (use fewer clues, get a higher score!)


1. CHEMISTRY Different variants It is made of crude When the material In recent years, the The material
exist. Two general oil, which is mixed is converted into material has been is found in bottles,
Name this categories describe with other materials, products, processes shown to pollute toys, bags,
material types that can be depending on how such as injection and include ingre- toothbrushes, cups,
softened and types hard, flexible, and moulding and dients that may be car parts, and
that cannot. resistent it must be. extrusion are used. hormone-disrupting. almost everything!

2. MEDICINE The organ is very It is a glandular The functional The organ Humans have two,
important to our organ, which is structure inside the produces urine but actually only
Name this metabolism. important in organ is known as and hormones that need one. The
organ It keeps up the connection with the Bowman’s capsule, regulate the forma- organ is shaped
body’s salt and body’s secretion of and it is the same tion of blood cells like a bean and is
acid-base balance. different wastes. in many mammals. and blood pressure. reddish brown.

3. ZOOLOGY This creature According to the Most are about The creature While it is a beetle
develops faster in UN, we had better 2.5 cm and are used sometimes lives in larva rather than a
Name this warm surroundings get used to eating to feed reptiles, fish, kitchen cupboards true worm, you
creature than in cold ones. this creature to get and birds in captivity in starchy products might say that
It is found almost more protein using due to its high such as flour, grain, eating one is a
everywhere we live. fewer resources. protein content. and bread. “meal” in itself!

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Load the Newsstand store and search for SCIENCE ILLUSTRATED and POPULAR SCIENCE
SPECIES: Common Wombat
Vombatus ursinus
DISTRIBUTION: Well-watered
or high-altitude areas, from
Tasmania up to SE Queensland.
STATUS: Common

Vampire bat? No, fruit bat. More
specifically, the grey-headed flying fox
(Pteropus poliocephalus). This poor
oes this fearsome face belong to a huge chewing muscles, and indeed the specimen met his end, like so many of

D new prop from the latest Alien

movie? Not at all: the demonic
frown in this skull is actually the distinctive
wombat has an incredibly high bite-force.
The teeth are “rootless” which means
they can keep growing and wearing down.
his friends, on a high-voltage
powerline, and we discovered his dried-
out remains at the foot of a pylon in
Sydney’s south. Small and delicate
nasal passage of the common wombat. This skull has one loose molar which can be
skulls rarely end up clean and intact
Finding skulls and other animal bones in easily removed: it’s about six cm long, even when exposed to the elements, so we
the bush is a treat for any budding young though only a cm sticks out from the jaw! cleaned this skull with the help of a
naturalist, and a clean wombat skull is a rare When we found this skull, there was colony of Dermestes maculatus beetles.
discovery indeed. While it’s missing the some debate whether it belonged to an These useful critters are employed by
lower jaw and several teeth, this skull is adult animal. It’s not especially large, less museums (and in some situations, even
otherwise in very good condition. than 30cm long, but the wombat has such morgues!) to meticulously eat dry flesh
Even at first glance, it obviously huge jaw muscles it’s possible that, once while leaving even very tiny bones
belongs to a marsupial. The zygomatic wrapped in flesh, fat and fur, this particular alone. You can order Dermestes online
arches (the arches of bone that look like individual could have been near the and keep them in a small container
horns here) have a distinctive shape similar average 93 cm length for the species. with a dirty skull or even whole animal.
to the much more common kangaroo and Next time you’re out on a bushwalk, With a couple of cotton-wool buds
soaked in water and a heat pad (usually
wallaby skulls that litter open grasslands. especially in an area where few tourists go,
sold in pet shops for reptile owners)
But there are quite a few differences as keep your eyes peeled for a flash of white in
under the container, the beetles should
well, first being the layout of the teeth. the leaf-litter. There’s nothing like the
clean up a small skull like this in a
Wombats have an extra set of incisors for discovery of an unusual or uncommon skull couple of weeks. If the skull is properly
grinding up plant material. The huge arches to remind you of the amazing and unique dried first, it won’t even smell.
and very flat top of the skull help anchor wildlife living - and dying - all around us.

TRIVIA ANSWERS 1. Codeine 2. Electric motor 3. The International Drone Racing Association 4. Neanderthals 5. The Bahamas 6. Diamond 7. Fermentation 8. The Guinea 9. False 10. The jaguar
Trivia Countdown: Name this material: Plastic. Name this organ: Kidney. Name this creature: Mealworm