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Malaria kills one million people each year. Here
are the five best tools for eradicating it.
Why are some people born without the
ability to recognize faces?
Eight cool nature-inspired inventions, from
fish-like cars to blades that mimic rat teeth.
Could sunshine have driven the evolution
of the continents millions of years ago?
"By studying the
climate and geology
of Mars, scientists
hope to determine
whether liquid
water-or life-was
ever present"
A giant cold spot in space is forcing scientists
to reconsider the big bang.
Mysterious hollows found in Mexico reignite
a debate about the first Americans.
Stunning satellite images of Mars reveal
avalanches, sand dunes and more.
Biologists uncover why some species
reproduce without sex, despite its drawbacks.
Scientists take to the treetops to count the
insects in a South American rainforest.










Fish that repel predators with slime, why
Hungarian is so darn hard to learn, and other
fascinating nuggets of scientific knowledge.






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Science Update p.19
Gecko-inspired bandages, a weatherproof
polar research base, asurprisingly old galaxy,
and a new theory behind SIDS.
Bull's-Eye p.10
See art that helps diagnose disease and ants
that masquerade as bulging berries in this
issue's gallery of amazing images.
World of Science
Ask Us p.27
Why does herpes stick around? What happens
when astronauts get sick in space? When did
people start using last names?
Trivia Countdown
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Myfamily can't get
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1IIustrated. Your May!
June issue kept my
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rapt during a plane
ride from NewYorkto
Orlando. She especially
loved the cool story on
the T.rex reconstruction.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes via e-mail
Good Stuff
I totally enjoyed my first issue
[MarchJApril]. I especially liked it
because the articles weren't bogged
down with endless technical
jargon. What a great magazine,
with excellent articles and photos.
RayPierce via e-mail
I like the array of topics that are
covered in your magazine, and the
stories are informative and well-
written. There hasn't been an article
that I found difficult to wade through
because it was outside
my area of knowledge.
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ASecond Scope
There is another kind of
electron microscope in
addition to the scanning
electron microscope you
described in "HowDoes an Elec-
tTon Microscope Work?" [''Ask
Us," MarchJApril]. Transmission
electron microscopes give an
inside look at cellular compo-
nents through a cross-section
of the specimen.
DeeAnn Hartung via e-mail
In my community, Greenpeace ac-
tively seeks support for saving po-
lar bears, but I have yet to hear
about saving penguins ["Penguins
on Thin Ice," March/April]. The
issue of global warming is becom-
ing a larger problem everyday, but
the citizens cannot support the
solution to a problem most of
them do not know about.
Kaycee Cronin via e-mail
In "Learning to Be an Orangutan" [March/
April], Ponginae is a subfamily name.
Therefore, the names should have
appeared as Sumatran (Pongoabelil1
and Bornean (P. pygmaeus).
In "Building a T. rex" [May/June], we should
have referred to the excavation as paleon-
tological instead of archaeological. Also,
rather than being the first T. rex specimen
found, the holotype was the fossil that first
bore the T. rex name. It has been on display
for 66 years, not 100.
In "Where do shooting stars come from?"
["Ask Us;' May/June], we incorrectly stated
that no meteoritic fragments were left at
Arizona's Meteor Crater; in fact, 30 tons of
meteoritic iron have been found.
In "Headbreakers" [May/June], question
number three should have been phrased
"What does A equal in terms of B?" since
the answer, A = BBBBB, is BS rather than 58.
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Trapped in the Pitcher
...I,;I,W......" Historically, peopleaged40and
up have beenthe happiest, according to
anewUniversity ofChicagostudythat sur-
veyed Americans aged 18 and older. Self-
esteemand otherpositivetraits tend to in-
crease withage, which may, in part, explain
satisfaction later in life. Buttoday, baby
boomers (those bombetween 1946and
1964) report the least happiness, possibly
becausethey had high expectations for life.
1:j[.)!eIijj Scientists have long known
that the digestive fluid cupped in the leaves
of flesh-eating pitcher plants found around
the world helps the plants break down
insects. Anew study, however, shows that
the thick liquid also helps to trap the prey.
Biologists previously thought that the plant's
super smooth leaves were the only thing
preventing bugs from climbing out. But
French researchers found that 95 percent of
insects dropped in a pitcher plant containing
water were able to escape, but none could
break free when immersed in the sticky,
viscous digestive fluid.
Polar Research Base
Antarctica gets a science station that's designed to
ug3Wt"!eI?" Polar research stations are notoriously short-
lived: Snow accumulation and the steady movement of ice shelves
deform the structures over time, forcing scientists to abandon
them within 10 to 20 years. But Germany's Antarctic science base,
Neumayer Station III, is expected to last longer.
The Bremerhaven, Germany-based Alfred Wegener Institute
for Polar and Marine Research is erecting the station on Antarcti-
ca's Ekstrom Ice Shelf. The structure will be built upon 16 hydraulic
jacks that can raise the base to prevent it from being covered by
snow drifts and to compensate for the movement of the ice shelf
below it. It should last for at least 25 years.
The two-story building will contain almost 20,000 square feet
of labs and living space for up to 40 scientists with specialties rang-
ing from meteorology to seismic activity to marine life and more.
The station, which can only be assembled during the continent's
short summers, should be completed by 2009.
Ice Shelf
Energy Supply
Awind-powered generator
will fuel the base.
Garage and
Smell No Fear No Evil
While studying the connection between smell and fear,
researchers at the University of Tokyo have genetically
engineeredbizarrely brave mice. Missing key olfactory
neurons in their noses, the mice can smell cats, for
instance, but can't connect
the odor with fear.
(The critters, however,
retain their ability to
connect sights and
sounds with fears-
so the faceoff here
wouldstill be unlikely.)
Fighting Diabetes Naturally
IMNt3W' Diabetics often rely on expensive drugs to control
their condition, but a natural alternative may be on the horizon. A
Nigerian tea has been shown to reduce fat, promote weight loss
and help control blood sugar in diabetic mice when combined
with a low-calorie diet. The tea is made from bitter orange and the
leaves of the medicinal Rauwolfia vomitoria plant; together they are
believed to improve diabetes management, but scientists are
unsure how. Nigerians with diabetes have long imbibed the drink,
and researchers are the University of Copenhagen are now inves-
tigating the tea's benefit in a clinical trial.
Weather balloons that gather
meteorological data will
be launched from the roof.
The Yummy Hormone
HI \jlljNN?I Canadian scientists have
uncovered areason why food looks so good
when you're hungry. Study participants were
given adose of ghrelin-a hormone associ-
ated with hunger-and then shown pictures
of food. Brain imaging showed increased
activity in pleasure and reward centers. Ac-
cording to lead researcher Dr. Alain Dagher of
McGill University, ghrelin was probably a key
to survival in the past, when obtaining food
was ahigh-energy, dangerous task. Mak-
ing food look more appealing encouraged
humans to expend great effort and put them-
selves at risk to get it, preventing starvation.
But today, the hormone's appetite-boosting
effects combined with our easy access to food
may, in part, explain rising obesity rates.
What GrayWhalesTell Us About the Pacific
EN'l!.m.. The good news: There are
now approximately 22,000 gray whales in the
Pacific, asignificant increase in numbers from
the several thousand present at the peak of
the whaling industry. The not-so-good news:
New genetic research shows that the pre-
whaling population was three to four
times higher than today's.
Marine biologists recently became hope-
ful that gray whales had returned to their
peak numbers. As starving whales were dis-
covered, scientists assumed that the Pacific
couldn't support the growing numbers,
and that the species had reached its histori-
cal population limit.
But computer-based simulations con-
ducted by researchers from Stanford Universi-
ty's Hopkins Marine Station and the University
of Washington have refuted that theory, indi-
cating that the population actually numbered
between 76,000 and 118,000 before large-
scale whaling began in the mid-1800s.
That today's PaCific can only support a
quarter of that suggests adramatic change
in the ecosystem possibly including reduced
food sources, though the cause is unknown.
Without the whales, scientists predict that the
ocean's ecosystem will continue to change:
Their feeding habits-digging into the sea
floor to find food-circulate sediment and
bring food to the surface for other animals.
Seabirds, for example, sometimes forage
behind feeding whales.




'" uj

The average number of miles
thetropical belt-the area of
tropical climate centered on the
Earth's equator-has expanded
since 1979. For now, meteorolo-
gists at the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
aren't sure of the cause and aren't
willing to speculate on what the
growthwill mean for humans.
showing them four different things:
their owners, an unfamiliarhuman,
acat andadominant dog.
The distinction lends anotherclue
to howthe left andright sides ofadog's
brainhandledifferent tasks andemotions.
Humans showasimilarasymmetry: Studies
have indicated that we predominantlyuse
the right side ofour face to reflect pleasant
emotions andthe left for negative.
Medieval Gems
Happy Dogs Wag to the Right
Ifyou want to knowifFido is happy, look
more closely athis tail. Giorgio Vallortigara,
apsychologist at the University ofTrieste
in Italy, andtwo veterinarians from the
University ofBari in Italy found that happy,
relaxeddogs tendto wag their tails with a
bias to the right, while unhappyorstressed
dogs wag left. The researchers filmed
30 family dogs ofvarious breeds (both
purebredandmixed) over25days, while
Amedieval cemetery
housedtreasures like
this 1,400-year-old
t'it,W'NNCi'J In 2005, adig
site in northeastern England revealed
aseries of graves belonging to Anglo-
Saxons, medieval people who occupied
parts of England from the fifth to the
eleventh centuries. Not asingle bone
remained in the seventh-century
cemetery, but the graves provided an
array of gold jewelry, glass beads and
weaponry, suggesting that the site was
an Anglo-Saxon royal burial site-the
first found in northeastern England.
Since the discovery, British archae-
ologist Steve Sherlock has returned
each summer. As of late 2007, he and
his colleagues had uncovered more
than 100 graves. In one of them, they
found agold brooch set with stones, an
unparalleled example of the culture's
craftsmanship. It likely belonged to an
Anglo-Saxon princess.
.:!t.lNCSI Charlotte wasn't the only spider spin-
ning fanciful webs: Several species embellish their
snares with zig-zag patterns. Arachnologists have
long wondered why spiders weave decorative webs
that make the silken traps more conspicuous.
To answer this burning question, Taiwanese
researchers set up video cameras in aforest to moni-
tor 56 patterned webs and 59 plain ones. The scien-
tists observed that the decorative webs attracted 60
percent more prey than the others.
On the other hand, the candid cameras also
revealed that two-thirds of spiders attacked by
wasps had woven patterns into their webs. The
researchers concluded that the patterns attract
both prey and predators, which may explain why
many spiders choose plain webs over more intricate
ones. Meanwhile, German researchers studying the
phenomenon posit that some spiders spin patterns
just to keep the silken juices flowing, so to speak,
during downtime.
For more examples of
natureinspiring tech-
nology, see "Inspired
byNature" (page 62).
Bandages of the Future
iU,*[.lNCf' Alizard has lent ahelping hand-or foot, really-to research-
ers at the Harvard-MIT Division of Heath Sciences and Technology. Taking their
inspiration from the gecko's foot, which has thousands of microscopic bristles
that enable it to stick to almost any surface, engineers created asimilarly pat-
terned bandage that could replace staples and sutures for internal injuries.
The elastic bandage can be folded and stretched to patch up organs like
the intestines and lungs, and a sugar-based glue allows it to adhere to wet
surfaces like those inside the human body. Bonus: The body can break it down
over time, so patients won't have to return to the doctor to have it removed.








"'- 0::


The Real Baby Einsteins
'lffl,:t']NCfJ Babies are surprisingly
good judges of character, say Yale psycholo-
gists. The researchers created a puppet show
to test whether children under 10 months
would prefer helpful characters over unhelpful
ones. As the babies looked on, apuppet tried
to climb a hill, either helped or hindered by
another. When later given achance to choose
one puppet or another to hold, 93 percent of
the babies choose the helper over the hinderer.
In another experiment, the puppets
helped or hindered an inanimate object. Only
42 percent of babies chose the helper in this
case, indicating that their preferences were
based on social evaluations-they preferred
the helper when it was aiding someone rather
than something-not the puppets' color or
movement. The scientists claim that the study
shows that the ability to evaluate human
behavior develops very early on in life.
Babies choose
puppets that
help over those
that hinder.
Male flies oftenswarmaround
indoor "landmarks"just as they
do in nature.
Those are probably little
houseflies (Fannia canicularis lin-
naeus). Many insects are attracted
to light, so you might see several
types of bugs hanging out by
your lit lamps. But these particular
flies will buzz around just about
any indoor landmark, including
unlit lamps. The explanation
probably has to do with their
mating habits in the forest. There,
males often create small swarms
around landmarks (a branch on
alarge tree, for example). The fe-
males then dart into the swarms
to find amate. Even indoors,
these bUZZing pests can't seem to
turn off their old habits.
So far, no astronaut has been
involved in a life-threatening medi-
cal emergency while in space. The
most serious cases were a urinary-
tract infection suffered by Fred
Haise on the Apollo 13 mission and,
in the early days of the space age,
I acouple astronauts who came
down with the flu.
Astronauts are screened for
good health, and an aggressive pre-
ventative medicine program helps
keep them well. But every injury, no
matter how small, could poten-
tially affect a mission's success, so
astronauts are trained to administer
medical attention during orbit.
The International Space Station
and the space shuttles are equipped
with first-aid kits, medicine chests
and medical reference books, mak-
ing it possible to diagnose and treat
avariety of ailments in cooperation
with doctors at mission control. If
alife-threatening crisis does arise,
there's a rescue plan as well. An
emergency landing could bring a
shuttle safely back to Earth in just
90 minutes, and astronauts on
the ISS could be evacuated aboard
aSoyuz vehicle, which has room
for three people.
Many athletes know this experience.
When the finish line is in sight, runners
sprint for the last few hundred yards. Win-
ning depends on it. And just as they are
pushing themselves the hardest, they get
a blood-like metallic taste in their mouths.
There are a few possible explana-
tions, and most of them have nothing
to do with blood. Inflammation of the
lungs, common in winter, can cause a
change in the metallic ions in saliva. Acid
reflux, which brings stomach acid into the
esophagus, can exacerbate the problem.
Also, the breakdown of certain carbo-
hydrates is enhanced during strenuous
exercise, while the production of lactic
acid and ketone, a compound found in
adrenaline, are increased. These factors
can to change the pH of the blood and
saliva, which will affect taste, according to
Mariana Castel Is, an associate professor at
Harvard Medical School. Staying hydrated
and not exercising on a full stomach can
help prevent both of these conditions.
Theoretically, the metallic taste could
also be symptomatic of a pulmonary or
cardiac problem. Studies have shown
that in racehorses and dogs, capillaries
surrounding the lungs'tiny air sacs can
burst, sending blood into the pulmonary
system. Doctors say it's unlikely, but not
impossible, for humans to experience this
phenomenon. We have 500 million air
sacs and only a delicate, 0.2-micrometer-
thick membrane separates them from
the capillaries. Rarely, blood enters the
pulmonary system through heart-valve
problems or swollen airways. Doctors
assume that in these cases, the metallic
taste comes from iron in the blood.
Why do stones sometimes rise fromthe ground in the spring?
These stones-large and small-were
deposited about 20,000 years ago by
the last ice age's glaciers. As they moved,
the glaciers picked up a mixture of boul-
ders, gravel, sand and clay, which was
then left atop the landscape when
everything melted.
Now buried under centuries of dirt,
the rocks eventually pop up at the sur-
face as a result of seasonal temperature
changes. In the winter, the stones conduct
the cold to their undersides, causing water
beneath them to freeze and expand. This
pushes the stones up. In the spring, the sur-
rounding soil dries and falls into the hollow
beneath the stone. The stones move up a
few millimeters every year until they reach
the surface. Of course, any kind of soil
erosion can also playa part in the phenom-
enon, as can insect and animal burrowing.
First off, it's not Just tulips that keep
growing. Other flowers, such as snap-
dragons, also grow after being cut. "Plants
don't have a brain or a nervous system
like animals, so they simply don't know
they've been cut off and placed in a vase;'
says Roger Hangarter, a biology profes-
sor at Indiana University. Cut flowers and
plants use the sugar reserves stored in
their stems to continue making the food
needed for growth.
The softness of a tulip stem, however,
allows for the growth to be more notice-
able than in other flowers, according to
horticulture science professor Mary Meyer
of the University of Minnesota. When
these flowers take in water, the vacuoles
(empty spaces in plant cells) fill
up with liquid and expand. With
little cellulose to keep it rigid, the
tulip stem easily elongates.
In addition to their increased reach,
cut tulips also bend to follow a moving
light source as part of an involuntary
reaction called phototropism. Many
other flowers do this too, but it's more
obvious in tulips because of their speedy
growth. The best way to observe the
process is by filming tulips in low light,
where the process is more exaggerated.
Without an obvious light source, the tulips
keep "searching" for one and perform a
"tulip dance:' Speed up the film's playback
to see the fanciful show.
Is black not actually a color? And what's
the blackest material in the world?
Black and white are in fact not colors in
the same way that red, blue and yellow, for
example, are. Light is electromagnetic waves,
and when our eyes perceive a ray of light,
they associate its wavelength with a specific
color. For example, we see light with a wave-
length of 700 nanometers as red, while
a shorter, 4S0-nanometer wave-
length is perceived as blue. When
we see all wavelengths in the
visible spectrum at once, we
perceive it as white-white
paint will reflect all wave-
lengths. The opposite effect
is observed with a black
object, which reflects very
little light. And each of the
various colors we see manifest
when some, but not all, wave-
lengths are reflected.
In January, researchers from Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute and Rice University
created the world's blackest substance. This
new material is made of carbon nanotubes
(hollow tubes of carbon molecules) and
reflects 0.045 percent of light. That makes
it three times as darker as the previous record
of 0.16 to 0.18 percent, held by a nickel-
phosphate compound at London's National
Physical Laboratory. By comparison, com-
mercial black paint has a reflectance
of 5 to 10 percent.
According to project leader Shawn-Yu
Lin, the nanotubes' limited light reflection is
due to their porous nature, since air doesn't
reflect light. The material might be put to use
in solar collectors that can absorb light from
any angle without needing to be rotated,
and in paint for cars or airplanes with owners
hoping to avoid radar detection.
By 500 B.C., the Romans and other Italian
peoples had adopted asystem of last, or fam-
ily, names. (The Chinese were not far behind,
starting the convention about 200 years
later, although they-and later many Asian
cultures-placed the family name before the
given name.) The Romans were restricted
to choosing one of only 20 first names, so it
became necessary to add asecondary name
derived from their clan or tribe to differenti-
ate between people. The Roman naming
system collapsed around AD. 200, when
all freed slaves added Marcus Aurelius, an
exhalted former emperor's name, to their
own to celebrate their citizenship. Last names
made acomeback in Europe during the late
Middle Ages thanks to teeming cities and
status-conscious aristocrats, and by the 15OOs,
the practice was commonplace. Today the
European style of using both family and given
names has been adopted all over the world.
Historically, family names have been cho-
sen based on occupation, a hometown or
parent's first name. In fact, nearly all cultures
around the world have used agenerational
naming convention at some point. Patro-
nymics, for example, involves children taking
their father's first name as their last name
and affixing the relevant gender suffix-
Lars Petersson or Maren Sigurdsdottir, for
example-a custom still observed in Iceland.
In Arabic-speaking countries, children also
get patronymic last names, such as ibn Khal-
dun, or "son of Khaldun:'
Yes. In fact, tinnitus, or aringing in the
ears, is often caused by hearing loss and is
common among deaf people. Those who
lose hearing later in life are usually more
able to recognize the sensation-which
can be exacerbated by inflammation,
allergies or various ear-canal problems-
than are people who are born deaf.










'" ..:
Over the years, several techniques have
been invented for making acomputer screen
react to motion. The technique used in a
laptop touchpad-its built-in "mouse"-is
called capacitive sensing. The touchpad
contains an electrically charged plate, called
acapacitor, that lies underneath aprotective
layer. Our bodies also function as capacitors.
When afinger touches atouchpad, a small,
harmless current flows between the pad and
the finger to complete the electrical circuit.
As the finger moves, the onscreen cursor
moves in acorresponding manner.
Manufacturers use different types of
this sensing technology-some relying on
agrid of intersecting wires to track the finger
and others using sensors in the touch-
pad's four corners-but all methods take
advantage of the body's ability to conduct
an electrical current. Objects such as plastic
pens or pencil erasers don't conduct that
necessary electricity.
Send your burning question to our
editors. If we answer it in an upcoming
issue, we'll send you this cool T-shirt!
Send your questions to:
aSkL_ _ eel Ius 'ated.eom
Herpesviruses develop in the body differently than cold-causing ones. When you
have acold, your body mounts an immune response, clearing the infection out of your
system. If you catch herpes, however, the viral particles produce an active infection but
then go dormant. Herpes simplex viruses 1and 2cause cold sores and genital blisters
and are "latent" infections, meaning they hide from your immune system in your spinal
ganglia, amass of nerve tissue along your spinal cord, leaving you stuck with achronic
condition. Even when you're not symptomatic, the virus can still be active and may be
transmitted through bodily fluids.
The virus can later be reactivated by triggers such as illness, poor diet, and emo-
tional or physical stress. When this happens, it travels down sensory nerves to mucus
and skin membranes, resulting in aflare-up of symptoms.
The American Social Health Association reports that 90 percent of Americans
contract oral herpes by age 50, and about one in five Americans has genital herpes
(although 90 percent of those people are unaware that they're infected). Three antiviral
drugs on the market today treat and suppress oral and genital herpes, but because of
the way the virus embeds itself deep within the nerve ganglia and sensory nerve cells,
acure has proven to be more of achallenge.
Herpes simplexvlrlons{insets} enter
Qcell{blw}that theytuehijaddngin
OIdet'torep/kate themselves.
------- -
t's May 2007, and four scientists
are traveling by bus from Buenos
Aires, Argentina. Twenty-two
hours later, they've reached their
destination: Salta, a city at the foot of
the Andes. From there, the team will
make its way on all-terrain-vehicles
and on foot through the Southern
Andean Yungas, a rainforest-covered
region in the Tropical Andes that is
home to some of the world's most
diverse plant and animal species. The
mission: Climb trees; find bugs.
The adventurous scientists-
Eric Guilbert and Cyrille D'Haese of
France's National Museum of Natural
History, Diego Leonardo Carpintero
of the Museum of Buenos Aires, and
Sara Montemayor of the Museum of
the Plata in Buenos Aires-are ento-
mologists, or insect experts. They have
teamed up to create the first inventory
of the Yungas's bugs, which they will
use to further their research on insect
evolution. Why here? Although the
Tropical Andes cover only 1 percent
of the Earth's surface, more than 12
percent of all land-animal species are
found here, and nearly half of those
animals exist nowhere else on Earth.
Considering that insects are believed
to make up half of all animal species,
it's safe to assume that the Andes
must be home to an astonishing
number of bugs.
In 1998, English biologist Norman
Myers coined the term "hot spot" to
identitY the most biologically diverse
regions around the globe. Today, 34
such areas, from the Mediterranean
basin to the Horn of Africa to the
Tropical Andes, have been designated.
The scientists hope that their catalog
of creepy-crawlies will soliditY the
Tropical Andes, and the Yungas in
particular, as one of the world's most
important ecological hotspots, since
these regions tend to attract the high-
est amounts of conservation funding
from government agencies and envi-
ronmental organizations.
Soon the team will present their
findings, including several never-
before-seen species, to Argentina's na-
tional park service. By providing hard
evidence that a large proportion of the
world's bugs live here, the scientists
may help deter logging that currently
threatens the forests-and protect
insect species from vanishing forever.
The Yungas's
ildlife faces many
threats, including
hunting and
deforestation for
logging, farming,
cattle grazing,
and oil and gas
Climate Control ....
The Yungas's unique environment supports an
abundance of animal and plant diversity. The
foggy, temperate rainforest has varied soil and
terrain in addition to plenty of rain.
Safety Fi rst
Before the scientists ascend to the treetops,
Lionel Picart attaches ropes to strong
branches. He then tests them to make sure
the branches will hold. Picart and the scientists
often climb dozens of feet into the trees to
collect insects not found at ground level.
ANet Profit
The scientists gather many bugs
at once by stringing a large
cloth net between branches.
Then they hit the branches with
poles, causing adownpour of
stunned insects. Surrounded
by adeafening din of droning
insects, calling birds and curious
monkeys, Guilbert moves with
haste to collect as many bugs as
possible in plastic bags to take
back to the lab.
ca 0

a e round
Escape Artists
The scientists collect insects closer to the ground
with butterfly nets. Sara Montemayor uses avacuum
to qUickly suck an insect out of a net and spit it into
ajar before it escapes.
Sifting for Treasure
Plants, mosses and insects all thrive in tiny independent ecosystems amid layers
offungus and rotting plant matter. Cyrille D'Haese searches for abug called a
springtail, awingless, soil-dwelling arthropod. He sifts through samples, collecting
the largest leaves, pieces of wood and moss to analyze for the insects later.
Scien is sexamine eac insect using 0 e ful electron
microsco e, W ich helps them spot ana omical differences
that distinguish previously-kno nspecies from newones.
Turning Up the Heat
D'Haese uses Berlese funnels to separate insects from the soil they
live in. The soil, which is composed of leaf litter, moss and other
organic matter, is placed on top of ascreen inside along bag. An
overhead light dries out the soil, forcing the bugs to dig deeper
in search of cooler, moister soil. When they have dug far enough,
they fall through the screen into ajar filled with ethanol, which
kills and preserves them for study.
Not Enough Time
The team encountered many leaf beetles,
like the one shown here, in the Yungas.
They didn't study these bugs this time
around but may do so on future trips.
Some assumed the footprints
would overtummodem
perceptions of human migration.
To detennine the age of the foot-
prints, Gonzalez sent samples of the
ash layer and sediment atop it to two
labs. At Oxford University, scientists
used accelerator mass spectroscopy, an
extremely sensitive dating method, to
determine that the sediment above the
ash layer was 38,000 years old, give or
take 500 years. Asecond lab in Oxford
used optically stimulated lumines-
cence, which measures the time that
has elapsed since certain minerals
were last exposed to sunlight, to deter-
mine that particles in the volcanic
ash layer were 38,000 years old, plus
or minus 8,600 years.
When the footprints' discovery was
announced, the news made headlines
on the BBe. Some assumed that it
would overturn or at least challenge
modem perceptions of human mi-
gration. The hype culminated in an
appearance at London's Royal Society's
Summer Exhibition in 2005, where
Gonzalez and her team officially pre-
sented their findings. Most archaeolo-
gists, however, were doubtful.
Two skeptics-Paul Renne, of the
Berkeley Geochronology Center at the
University of California, and Michael
Waters, of the Center for the Study of
the First Americans at Texas A&M-
along with several other colleagues
did their own analysis of the volcanic
ash and came up with an even more
surprising date. According to argon
dating, a method often employed to
place geological events (like volcanoes)
in history, the ash is actually 1.3 mil-
lion years old-meaning it was created
more than a million years before mod-
em humans even existed. The ash has
been traced to a volcano near Puebla
whose hardened lava has also been
dated to 1.3 million years ago. Renne's
conclusion: Either the footprints were
made by ancient pre-humans or they're
not footprints at all.
He believes the latter, and theo-
rizes that the holes were created by a
combination of centuries of erosion
and disturbances from work done in
the quarry during the 20th and 21st
centuries. According to Waters, such
disturbances occur when workers in a
quarry break up the tuff, or volcanic
rock, with picks and pry bars, creating
small divots in the rocks. Weathering
and erosion allow the holes to take on


a variety of shapes, some resembling
footprints. Waters also notes that
the hollows cross bedding planes-
boundaries in the rock that represent
the passage of time-and therefore
must have been made recently.
Renne also has several theories to
explain the discrepancy between his
dating of the footprints and Gonzalez's.
Accelerator mass spectroscopy only
tested the sediment lying on top of the
footprints-not the actual rock contain-
ing the footprints, says Renne. Plus,
dates derived from optically stimulated
luminescence rely on certain assump-
tions, and in the case of the Mexican
footprints, Renne believes the guess-
work was heavily inaccurate.
The archaeological community
has largely dismissed the possibil-
ity that the Puebla hollows could be
38,000-year-old human footprints.
But if people didn't set foot in the
Americas that long ago, when
exactly did they arrive?
Dating Begins
In 1929, James Ridgely Whiteman,
a teenage armchair archaeologist,
unearthed a set of finely made stone
spear points near Clovis, a small city in
eastern New Mexico. Scientists quickly
uncovered a wealth of ancient weap-
onry in the area, and went on to find
similar artifacts scattered across the
Americas. Radiocarbon dating on or-
ganic matter found at the site revealed
that the "Clovis people," as the inhabit-
ants are known, lived approximately
13,000 years ago.
At the time, the findings were the
oldest evidence of human presence in
North and South America-the last
region of the world to be settled-and
for decades, most scientists believed
that the Clovis people were the first
Americans. The "Clovis-First" theory
posits that the settlers migrated here
from Siberia at the end of the last ice
age, using the Bering Land Bridge to
cross into Alaska. Pursuing now-extinct
"megamammals"-mammoths, mast-
odons, and large horses and camels
(yes, camels)-they spread into every
corner of North America, and then
continued south, eventually reaching
the southern tip of South America
hundreds of years later.
Clovis-First reigned until new
evidence began to emerge in the late
1970s. It placed humans here at least
one thousand years earlier, and called
for a rethinking of American prehistory.
Beyond Clovis
During a 1979 dig in Monte Verde, an
ancient settlement in southern Chile,
American anthropologist Tom Dillehay,
now at Vanderbilt University, discov-
ered thousands of tools that were
clearly different from Clovis imple-
ments. The tools were found alongside
the remains of animals and plants, as
well as artifacts such as tents. Radio-
carbon dating of charcoal and ani-
mal bones revealed that the site was
The Monte Verde finds are now
considered the strongest evidence
that Clovis wasn't first.
AWidely reported
theory has turned
out to be amisun-
derstanding. Luzia,
an 11 ,SOO-year-old
skull [at left] found
in Brazil, was said
to resemble Austra-
lian aborigines,
which some mista-
kenly interpreted
as its origin.
'" z


site from being widely accepted.
Even more controversially, Albert
Goodyear of the University of South
Carolina believes he has discovered
stone tools alongside charcoal that's at
least 40,000 to 50,000 years old at a dig
site in Topper, South Carolina. The arti-
facts were found three meters below the
Clovis level and two meters below the
pre-Clovis level. Critics of his surpris-
ing date say the tools may actually be
stones shaped by natural erosion.
Goodyear, however, stands by his
research: "The artifacts number in the
hundreds and are too complex to have
formed naturally," he says. The area
they lie in is also a "low-energy envi-
ronment," he says, where such rock
shaping is unlikely.
According to Ted Goebel, associate
director at the Center for the Study of
the First Americans, "Both Goodyear
and McAvoy's discoveries present some
very compelling evidence, but neither is
without problems." They are still being
ever found in the Americas. Clovis-First
supporters initially claimed that the or-
ganic materials used in the dating were
contaminated by older carbon that had
seeped into the cave, but since then,
multiple investigations have shown no
evidence of contamination. According
to J.M. Adovasio, director of the Mer-
cyhurst Archaeological Institute, the
majority of the scholarly community
now accepts the antiquity of the site.
Next stop: Cactus Hill, Virginia. In
1993, archaeologist joseph McAvoy
began excavations at the site and found
pre-elovis tools in an earthen layer that's
up to 18,000 years old. But inconclusive
testing results of the soil have kept this
Thanks to new DNA evidence and other
more traditional dating tools, most
archaeologists today believe that the
earliest Americans originated in Asia,
possibly coming in waves of migration.
European- and Australian-origin theories
also persist.
occupied at least 14,500 years ago. A
panel of 12 respected archaeologists,
all specialists in early settlement of the
Americas, inspected the Monte Verde
finds in 1997 and officially endorsed
the accuracy of Dillehay's date. Monte
Verde is now considered the strongest
evidence that Clovis wasn't first.
Artifacts at Meadowcroft Rock-
shelter, near Pittsburgh have also cast
serious doubt on Clovis-First. Between
1973 and 2004, archaeologists found
tools, plant and animal remains, and
hundreds of hearths at this site. Ra-
diocarbon dating suggested the shelter
was between 13,000 and 19,000 years
old, making it the oldest habitation
Until the late 1970s, archaeologists thought that the very first
Americans-believed to be the Clovis people-traveled from
Siberia to Alaska on foot over the Bering Land Bridge.
studied and haven't been dismissed or
validated. And thus the debate rages on.
From When to Where
Where the first Americans came from
and how they got here is as lively
a debate as when they arrived. The
Monte Verde finds, which pushed the
accepted first-arrival date back from
around 13,000 years to at least 14,500
years ago, sent shockwaves through
the scientific world. It not only un-
dermined the Clovis-First theory, but
also disputed the common wisdom
that the first Americans arrived via a
land bridge at the Bering Strait. Before
14,500 years ago, North America was
still covered by glaciers, making it im-
possible for humans to traverse on foot.
Instead, the settlers in Monte Verde
had probably traveled in primitive
boats from Siberia to Alaska, and then
down the Pacific coast.
There's plenty of physical evidence
to support the notion of a migration
from East Asia to the American west
coast of the Americas. Kennewick Man,
a 9,500-year-old skeleton found in
Washington state in 1996, has Asian
features and is believed to be descended
from the Ainu people of modern-day
Japan. And the 13,000-year-old bones of
Arlington Springs Man were discovered
on Santa Rosa island off the coast of
California, providing possible proof that
the people of this time were sea-faring.
Other fossil and artifact evidence may
lie buried 35 miles off the Pacific coast,
which was dry land until 11,500 years
ago, when the melting glaciers of the
last ice age submerged it.
Aminority of anthropologists
believes that the first Americans
crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailing west
from Europe along the glacial coast.
The theory has hinged on the strik-
ing similarity between the Clovis-era
spear points and the points used by the
Solutrean people, a hunting culture
that thrived 17,000 to 20,000 years ago
Another Clue?
North America's Pacific coast shows
the most linguistic diversity in the
NewWorld, with an extraordinary
variety of distinct languages dot-
ting the region. Many linguists are
doubtful that this could have hap-
pened in just 13,000 years, which is
how long ago Clovis-First theorists
claim people arrived here. Some
linguists say this diversity is a sign
that the West Coast was the first
area to be occupied-indicating
an Asian origin-and that it must
have happened at least 20,000
years ago. Others say that even that
generous time frame can't account
for the sheer number of languages
that have sprouted up.
in modem-day Spain and France. Many
of the tools belonging to both cultures
were created with a technique called
"intentional overshot flaking," which
allowed a craftsman to quickly thin the
point of a spear. Similarities also exist
between the two cultures' bone imple-
ments, and their traditions of burying
large numbers of tools in the ground.
Critics of this theory say that the
spear-point technology may have
simply developed simultaneously in

more than one location. But Solutrean
theorists maintain that the complexity

of these tools discounts the possibility
of independent development. ::;
A third theory-that ancient Aus-
tralians populated the Americas-has
been propagated by a misunderstand-
ing involving the skull of a woman
dubbed Luzia, who lived 11,500 years

ago in Brazil. In a 1999 television in-
terview, Brazilian archaeologist Walter

Neves stated that Luzia's features re-
sembled Australian aborigines. Neves
has since spent almost a decade
clarifYing his position. Although
he's often cited as a proponent of
an Australian-origin theory for

the first Americans, he does
not believe in a direct migra-
tion from the island conti-
nent. Rather, Neves theorizes
that the ancient people may
have migrated from Austra-
lia to Asia over thousands
of years, and then to the 11:

Still No Verdict
Today, most anthropologists
support a Pacific-coast entry point

for the first Americans. According
to a recent study by Goebel, Waters

and Dennis O'Rourke of the
University of Utah, genetic testing of
modem Native Americans shows that
they share DNA and chromosomes with
indigenous populations in Siberia.

And just last spring, testing of
14,OOO-year-old human coprolites
(feces) found in Paisley Five Mile
Point Caves in south-central Oregon
revealed a similarity between the
specimens' mitochondrial (maternal)
The Oldest Mistake
There's plenty of archaeological evidence
that casts doubt on the Clovis-First theory,
but not all of it is reliable. The Calico Early
Man Site in southern California is one of
the best examples of apre-(Iovis culture
that was later debunked.
In 1949, agroup of amateur archae-
ologists found stone implements that
appeared to be crafted by humans. A
uranium-thorium dating process used
on the surrounding soil suggested that
the tools found in the same layer might
be as many as 200,000 years old. Many
respected archaeologists have con-
firmed the authenticity of the finds, and
today digging still takes place at the
site. The general consensus, however,
is that the stones are not artifacts, but
Mgeofacts,Mthe product of thousands of
years of geological activity.
DNA and the genes of modern Native
Americans. Other items like plant
fibers, animal bones, and stone tools
were also found at the site. Although
skeptics claim that animals and mod-
ern humans may have contributed
the DNA found in the coprolites, the
samples were compared to DNA taken
from the researchers and excavators
involved in the study with no matches.
Animal DNA was also accounted for
through further genetic testing.
Together, the new research shows
that Native Americans and the first
Americans shared a common ancestor
who probably originated in northeast-
ern Asia and traveled here somewhere
between 14,500 and 19,000 years ago.
As for how they got here, according to
Adovasio, various scientists now sup-
port many different theories, including
migration in waves as well as arrival
by boat and then, after the glaciers
melted, on foot.
The riddle of the first Americans is
far from resolved. Despite being largely
dismissed, Silvia Gonzalez, for her
part, continues to study the mysterious
Mexican "footprints." with the hope of
releasing new findings this September.
Respectedarchae0htWist ou,
tried for decodes to pfove 'fMt Calico
WGS inhabited200,000yeet,s ago.
The site's future has been looking more
and more dubious as road development
destroys the quarry. Further excava-
tion hasn't been possible, but Gonzalez
and her colleagues are likely rolling up
their sleeves for yet another round of
controversy this fall. _
Most nowbelieve that theCalico
artifacts are naturallyshapedstones,
not man-modeimplements.
Many places in the brain process informa-
tion about faces, but researchers believe
that there's acore system [1 through 2b,
at right). Facial recognition begins here
and then moves to the extended system
[3a to 3cJ, which handles emotions, back-
ground information ("Is this my friend?")
and whether you find the person attrac-
tive. People who cannot recognize faces,
acondition called prosopagnosia, most
likely experience abreakdown of this
process. Scientists are investigating where
and why that breakdown occurs.
area (OFA)
The first impression of the face
may be made here.
2a. Fusifonn face
area (FFA)
Scientists think this may be a
central location for the visual
side offacial recognition. The
FFA focuses on facial features
that are set, like the distance
between your eyes.
2b. Superior temporal
sulcus (STS)
This brain center may interpret
the direction the face is
looking, its movements tied to
speech, and facial expressions.
3a. Amygdala
Facial expressions that tele-
graph emotions are probably
interpreted here.
Scientists speculate that
prior knowledge of the face
and person-identifiers
like abirthmark or achipped
tooth, for instance-may be
activated here. Biographical
information, memories,
personal traits and attitudes
ofthe person may also be
stored here.
3c. Orbitofrontal cortex
Beauty and sexual attrac-
tiveness are probably
registered here.

magine a world where, when
you looked at someone, you saw
a mouth, nose and eyes-but
you couldn't put it all together to
recognize that person. It's a condition
called prosopagnosia, and scientists are
finding that it's more common than
previously thought.
In 1947, German neurologist
Joachim Bodamer published an account
of two World War II soldiers with a
strange ailment. After suffering severe
head wounds, they could no longer
recognize faces. He named the phenom-
enon, after the Greek words "prosopon"
and "agnosia," which mean "face" and
"non-recognition. "
For the next three decades, scientists
thought it was an extremely rare disor-
der caused by brain injury. But in 1976,
the first congenital case (one present at
birth) was reported. Still, it remained an
extremely uncommon diagnosis-until
the advent of the Internet. In online
forums and chat groups, prosopagnosics
discovered that they were not alone.
Two years after cognitive neuroscientists
Brad Duchaine and Ken Nakayama of
the Prosopagnosia Research Centers
at Harvard University and University
College London
in 2001, more than 175 self-diagnosed
lifelong prosopagnosics had contacted
them. Today, there are more than
4,000 people in the database. Scien-
tists now estimate that as many as 166
million people living nowwere born
without the ability to recognize faces.
Many researchers believe that the
brain has specially designed modules
for processing faces. Damage to these
areas-either from injury, a stroke or a
genetic defect-may cause prosopagno-
sia. German doctors and husband-and-
wife team Thomas and Martina Griiter
recently showed that congenital face
blindness runs in families and may be
caused by a simple mutation in a single
gene. The condition is also sometimes
linked with autism and other social
developmental disorders. But they do
not yet know which gene causes the
problem, or how and where things go
wrong in the brain.
Some researchers suspect that the
disorder begins in the fusiform face
area, or FFA, which resides in parts of
the brain that playa key role in vision
and speech. In 2003, Doris Tsao, the
head of the Independent Research
Group at the University of Bremen in
Germany, discovered a similar region in
the brains of macaque monkeys. Neu-
rons in this area were most active when
the monkeys were looking at faces. Tsao
argues that one of the advantages of a
specialized facial-recognition module
is that cells can work together more ef-
ficiently for this critical task. Analyzing
faces, after all, is key to many social in-
teractions, such as distinguishing friend
from foe; gauging emotions, age and
health; and perceiving sexual attraction.
But the FFA may not be the only
component in face recognition. Injuries
that lead to face blindness often damage
the occipital face area, or OFA, which
lies in the back section of the brain. A
study at the University of California at
Berkeley demonstrated that both the
OFA and FFA are involved in recogni-
tion. Using composite-face-making soft-
ware, the researchers gave a prosopag-
nosic woman intense training sessions
to improve her recognition skills. Afew
times a week, she was shown 750 com-
puter-generated faces with slight varia-
tions in the distance between features
such as the eyes and eyebrows. After the
training, the woman was better at differ-
entiating faces, and brain scans showed
that her OFA and FFA more efficiently
exchanged information.
The woman has maintained her
skills with daily visual exercises. "The
training has changed how she sees
faces beyond the laboratory, which is
exciting," says researcher Joseph De-
Gutis, now a postdoctoral fellow at the
VA. Medical Center in Boston. Scientists
in several prosopagnosia centers around
the world are now using the software
to help people. In the future, a longer-
lasting program may be developed,
says neuroscientist Shlomo Bentin
of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem,
who was involved with the study. For
now, he says, "Spending 15 minutes
a day on training is a small price to
pay to be able to easily recognize
your loved ones' faces." _
8'3 '0 ~ 'J :JaMSUII
In the original tests used to diagnose face blindness, subjects had to identify famous people
based on images in which some characteristic trait such as hair or clothing had been
altered. These tests failed because trademark characteristics, like Hitler's mustache, could be
memorized. Other leading tests were too easy (are these eyebrows the same shape?) or pre-
sented a lot of non-facial information, like patterned ties or wild hair. To avoid these prob-
lems, researchers at Harvard University created atest in which a photograph of one face is
merged with another. Test yourself: What order should the images below be in, starting with
the face that resembles the large one at left the most? Visit for more tests.
fyou're one of the 500 million
people who contracted malaria
from a parasite-earrying mosquito
last year, you probably know its
symptoms well: burning fevers chased
by bone-aching chills, incapacitating
nausea, splitting headaches and enfee-
bling fatigue. And ifyou lacked access
to standard medical care, you also know
how quickly the disease can progress.
Without antimalarial medications, the
disease can advance beyond flu-like
symptoms to cause lasting cognitive
problems. Every year, approximately
one million of the worst afflicted, most-
ly kids under the age of five, will die.
But chances are, you didn't contract
malaria last year. Few Americans do.
Thanks in part to insecticide spraying,
malaria cases in the U.S. plummeted
from 15,000 in 1947 to almost none in
1951. Today, only around 1,300 Ameri-
cans annually contract the disease,
almost always while abroad.
Inspired by another successful
eradication in Sardinia, in 1955 the
World Health Organization (WHO)
inaugurated what was then the most
ambitious campaign against disease in
history, the Global Malaria Eradication
Programme. The program included
spraying home interiors with insec-
ticides and distributing antimalarial
drugs to people in affected regions.
But WHO's efforts yielded only partial
success. The disease did disappear in
Europe, Russia, Australia and most of
the Caribbean. South Asia initially saw
dramatic reductions of infections, but
the disease soon bounced back. Other
hotspots fared even worse.
What went wrong? In a word,
everything. The parasites fought back,
becoming resistant to common medica-
tions. The mosquitoes grew stronger too,
as more and more of them were able
to survive insecticides. In some cli-
mates, mosquitoes bred so quickly that
insecticide applications simply couldn't
keep up. All the while, local tribes
were waging wars of their own, which
bogged down already-inadequate health
infrastruetllres and made public health
interventions difficult and dangerous.
In 1969, WHO shut down its program.
National malaria-eontrol programs fol-
lowed, but they later fell into neglect or
were abandoned entirely.
The most glaring disappointment
was in sub-Saharan Africa, which the
WHO program barely even touched.
Today, 90 percent ofall malaria cases
are found there, and two children die
of malaria every minute.
Now, 39 years later, WHO is again
tackling the world's malaria crisis, but
this time it has allies. The Bill and Me-
linda Gates Foundation, which brought
eradication back to the forefront dur-
ing last year's Gates Malaria Forum,
has committed more than $1 billion
to malaria research and granted $650
million to the Global Fund to Fight
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The
Global Fund has allocated $2.5 billion
for malaria, and thanks to its funding,
widespread distribution of mosquito
nets and antimalarial drugs sharply
reduced deaths in Zambia, Ethiopia,
Ghana and Rwanda over the past year.
In 2005, George W Bush launched
the President's Malaria Initiative, with
the goal of halving the disease in the
15 hardest-hit African nations. The
program will distribute $1.2 billion
over five years. But money and good in-
tentions won't be enough. It's going to
take some serious ingenuity-and, in at
least one case, compromise-to make a
difference. If the Global Malaria Eradi-
cation Programme taught us anything,
it's that there's no one-size-fits-all solu-
tion to stopping the disease. Here are
the five most powerful weapons in the
new war on malaria. Few are particu-
larly high-tech, but together they could
land the final knockout punch.
1. DDT
The infamous insecticide is back. First
discovered in 1939, dichloro-diphenyl-
trichloroethane was the main insecti-
cide used during the malaria campaign
of the 1950s and '60s, and was instru-
mental in WHO's long-term successes.
But by the 1960s, after its wide-
spread use in agriculture, DDT began
to lose its effectiveness against the
malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosqui-
toes. In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson
published Silent Spring, a damning look
at DDT's ecological and health effects
that created an intense public backlash
against the insecticide, culminating in
its ban in the u.s. 10 years later. Today,
scientists generally agree that the insec-
ticide put the bald eagle on the endan-
gered-species list. And, although there's
no direct evidence, the Environmental
Protection Agency has categorized DDT
as a "probable human carcinogen."
In 1969, when WHO's program
ended, DDT use was substantially scaled
back. Malaria thrived. WHO now uses
11 other insecticides against the dis-
ease-a vital tactic in areas where DDT-
resistant mosquitoes reign- but none
are as effective or long-lasting, and all
are more expensive. The world is finally
facing the harsh reality of DDT: Where
malaria is concerned, it's the lesser of
two evils. In September 2006, WHO
recommended that indoor spraying of
DDT begin again in certain areas of the
world, including most of sub-Saharan
Africa. The Environmental Defense
Fund, which launched the anti-DDT
movement in the 1960s, now endorses
indoor spraying, as does the Sierra Club.
And this time around, the outlook is
better. DDT is no longer permitted as
an agricultural insecticide, and it will
be used against malaria judiciously,
sprayed only on walls and ceilings in
targeted locations. Less DDT means less
harm to the environment and human
health, and less mosquito resistance.
2. Mosquito Nets
Spraying insecticides isn't the only
way to use them. Mosquito-repellent
bed nets treated with a class of insec-
ticides called pyrethroids, which bind
more easily to nets than DDT, cost just
$1 to $2 apiece in Africa. And nets give
some major bang for their buck: A
study published last year found that a
10-fold increase in nets resulted in 44
percent fewer deaths among Kenyan
children in the studied areas. In Sep-
tember of2006, Kenya's government
used a $17-million Global Fund grant to
provide 3.4 million insecticide-treated
nets to children. Zambia followed its
lead. In 2006, 23 percent of Zambian
children slept under treated nets, up
from 1 percent in 2000.
WHO is recommending free or
highly subsidized distribution of the
mosquito nets for all people living in
endemic areas. But the net program
won't work without education, says
April Harding of the Center for Global
Development. The free campaigns
often don't include usage instructions,
which, according to Harding, results in
nets used incorrectly or not at all. She
praises recent programs in Tanzania
that brought together the domestic net
industry, government agencies, non-
profits and researchers to give vouchers
to the poor over a number of years,
while maintaining the commercial net
market for those who can afford it.
Artemisinin, aplant compound, is usedin the newest
drugs. Even bettersyntheticversions are in the works.
Fish that eat mosquito larvae, like the Nile tilapia shownhere, can
reduce the populationofmalaria-carrying bugs on asmall scale.
3. Better Drugs
Of the four parasites known to cause
the disease in humans. Plasmodium
falciparum is the most dangerous. caus-
ing 90 percent of worldwide malaria
deaths. In the 1950s. Pfalciparum began
to develop resistance to the drug then
most commonly used to prevent and
treat infections. chloroquine. Today
the medication is completely ineffec-
tive on strains present in Africa. India
and Southeast Asia. In other endemic
areas. P falciparum has developed resis-
tance to other medicines.
In the face of widespread drug
resistance. scientists have turned to
a flowering shrub called wormwood
(Artemisia annual. the active ingredi-
ent of which. artemisinin. has potent
anti-fever properties. Since 2004. when
WHO began promoting the use of
artemisinin worldwide. the drug has
proved to be extremely fast-acting and
effective against P falciparum. WHO now
recommends it or its derivatives as the
first line of defense against the parasite
in areas where chloroquine no longer
works. such as much of sub-Saharan
Africa. Artemisinin is now one of the
most powerful tools against malaria.
For the moment. there is no sign of
artemisinin resistance. and scientists
want to keep it that way. In 2006. WHO
mandated that the drug be used only
in combination with another anti-
malarial to stave off resistance for as
long as possible. But these artemisinin
combination therapies. or ACTs. have
their drawbacks. including a high price
tag. The Artemisia annua plant is also
in short supply. Worse still. ineffective
knockoffs are common in Africa.
Fortunately. powerful synthetic
versions of the drug are on the horizon.
Since 2000. pharmaceutical scientists
at the University of Nebraska Medi-
cal Center have been working on an
entirely synthetic antimalarial designed
to mimic artemisinin. In preclinical
lab tests. the drug. called OZ277. was
found to be even more effective than
artemisinin derivatives. The medication
is currently in the last stage of clinical
trials and. although a price for the drug

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malariainfections in infants by65percent.
has not been determined, it will prob-
ably be less expensive than artemisinin.
Other promising treatments in
the pipeline may include artemisinin
grown in yeast using wormwood
cells (thereby reducing the depen-
dence on plant leaves and lowering
costs), as well as a synthetic that
attacks the parasite more directly
with a longer-lasting effect.
4. Tilapia
Last August, a study at the Interna-
tional Centre ofInsect Physiology and
Ecology in Kenya showed that Nile
tilapia, an African fish that feeds on
mosquito larvae, could become an
effective weapon against malaria.
The tilapia were shown to reduce
larvae by 80 percent in Kenyan ponds.
Since the findings were released,
30,000 Nile tilapia have been intro-
duced into 45 ponds in Kenya, where
the fish will also be sold as food, boost-
ing farmers' incomes.
Increasingly, scientists are em-
ploying an array oflow-tech natural
methods such as these larvae-eating
(or "larvicidal") fish to supplement
insecticides and antimalarial medica-
tions. Although these are smaller-scale
alternatives, the benefits are very real.
Water-borne fungi and bacteria are
also used as low-tech larvae extermina-
tors around the world, and as a result
of new research, adult mosquitoes are
being added to their hit list. In rural
Tanzania, Dutch scientists are testing
an insecticidal mixture of fungus and
sunflower oil that is sprayed on large
cloths affixed to ceilings. The natural
concoction takes longer-one to two
weeks-to kill mosquitoes, versus in-
stant death with chemical insecticides,
and it has to be sprayed more often.
The payoff: It's the only insecticide that
works in certain parts of the world,
such as Benin in western Africa, where
mosquitoes have developed resistance
to all chemical versions. And it's
unlikely to ever stop working, because
resistance to fungi has never been
observed in nature.
5. Vaccine
Complete eradication of malaria on the
scale of polio will never be achieved
without a vaccine. Creating that magic
bullet, however, has been a tremen-
dous challenge. Obstacles include the
complexity of the parasites and their
ability to quickly change and adapt. We
also don't completely understand our
bodies' immune response to them.
But a vaccine is finally on the horizon.
Over the past 25 years, the pharma-
ceutical company GlaxoSmithKline
Biologicals has spent $300 million
developing a malaria vaccine against
P.faiciparum. RTS,S, as it's called, helps
the immune system fight off the para-
sites by blocking their ability to repro-
duce and develop in the liver, where
they first arrive and multiply. With
grants from the Gates Foundation
and other groups, the company re-
cently tested RTS,S on humans. Last
October, the vaccine was shown to
reduce the risk of malarial infection
by 65 percent among infants in
Mozambique-a huge victory.
RTS,S is now entering Phase III clini-
cal trials, during which 16,000 children
in 10 countries will be vaccinated.
GlaxoSmithKline hopes to submit it
for approval by 2011, making it the
world's most advanced malaria-vaccine
candidate. Research is also under way
at Sanaria, a biotechnology company
in Maryland that is working exclusively
on a malaria vaccine made of live,
weakened parasites. Experts caution
that these and other vaccines in devel-
opment still have a lot to prove. But
given time, an effective vaccine-and
an end to malaria-is within our reach._
Blowing Up the Big Bang
"A void in itself isn't significant-
outer space is full of those," says
Laura Mersini-Houghton, a physicist
at the University of North Carolina
who is studying the region and its
influence on the larger structure of
the universe. But, she says, this void's
immense size is "extremely difficult
to explain within established
theories." One such theory, cosmic
inflation, holds that the universe
expanded faster than light in the
first fraction of a second after the
big bang. This expansion smoothed
out the universe, so that matter
and energy were evenly distributed
throughout the cosmos. The theory
was originally used to explain why
the universe looks the same in all
directions (provided you look at large
enough chunks), an idea so funda-
mental that it's referred to simply as
the Cosmological Principle.
The presence of the giant void
challenges that accepted wisdom. "If
our finding holds up," Rudnick says,
"scientists will need to reevaluate
what processes led to the develop-
ment of structure in the universe."
In other words, back to the drawing
board. Rudnick thinks that one of the
most interesting ideas at the moment
deals with quantum fluctuations.
These are ordinarily quick, random
changes in the amount of energy at a
certain point in space. If these changes
happen in the very young universe,
the fluctuation would permanently
imprint itself into the structure of the
cosmos. Over billions of years, these
fluctuations would grow to make space
lumpy-some spots would have giant
clusters ofgalaxies, while others would
appear completely empty.
Ateam of physicists headed by
Luciano Pietronero of the University
of Rome has taken a new look at the
distribution of galaxies and galaxy
clusters throughout the universe.
They theorize that the universe is not
homogeneous but instead "fractal" in
structure. This means that if you look
at a small part of the universe, you
will find the same lumpy characteris-
tics you'd see at any larger scale you
chose to look at. Pietronero believes
that this is exactly what we see when
we statistically analyze data from
telescopes. He thinks the void makes
it necessary to explore new theories
about the way the universe formed,
since not enough time has passed
since the big bang for structures as
monstrous as the void to emerge natu-
rally out of quantum fluctuations.
Universal Push and Pull
Other scientists argue against the
idea of a fractal universe and are
attempting to explain the void in
other ways. Agroup of scientists led
by Mersini-Houghton has suggested
an astounding alternative: The lack
of galaxies and matter in the region
is the imprint of another universe on
ours. According to this theory, the
foreign universe essentially pushed
on one region of our universe, which
resulted in less matter and fewer stars
and galaxies in that region. Accord-
ing to Mersini-Houghton, the void is
near the edge of our visible universe,
where it could have interacted
with another billions of year ago
through what is called non-local
quantum entanglement. The effects
of the interaction would still be
felt because, according to quantum
mechanics, energy and information
can never be lost.
Mersini-Houghton came up with
the theory in 2004, so she wasn't sur-
prised when the void finally showed
up on the WMAP survey. "The interac-
tion is large enough to create this
void," she says, "and the size of the
void and its distance was observed at
exactly the scales we predicted." Her
theory requires that other universes
arose at the same time as ours, an
idea that has been percolating for a
few years among astronomers but is
still highly speculative.
ACosmic Mistake?
Some scientists, including Marcos
Cruz of the University of Cantabria
in Santander, Spain, say there's a far
simpler explanation: The void doesn't
exist. Cruz believes that the cold spot
isn't a void at all but a product of
normal statistical fluctuations-as
the universe cools, some spots cool
more quickly than others. Rudnick
is the first to admit that his team's
calculations are not infallible, and he
and other astronomers are continuing
to run tests to confirm that the void
is real and not a statistical error. It's
clear that before cosmology can move
forward, we will have to go back to
the beginning of time. _
Some of the most exciting technological advances in the works
today are knockoffs of naturally occurring phenomena,
as scientists and inventors increasingly borrow
ideas from the plant and
animal world
hen sketching his designs
for flying machines in 1487,
Renaissance artist, scientist
and mathematician Leo-
nardo da Vinci examined the mecha-
nisms of bird flight; so did brothers
Wilbur and Orville Wright, the 20th-
century inventors of the airplane. This
process of transferring nature's prin-
ciples to technology is called biomim-
icry and examples exist all around us,
ranging from everyday to magnificent.
Gustave Eiffel based his trussed tower
on the human femur bone; Alexander
Graham Bell modeled the telephone
receiver around the structure of the
human ear; and in the early 1940s,
Swiss engineer George de Mestral di-
vined Velcro from cockleburr spines.
The motivation is simple: When
investing time and money in research,
why not take advantage of principles
that have been tested for millions,
sometimes billions, ofyears?
Corporations are ramping up their
biomimicry research, and "biologists
now have a seat at the design table,"
says scientist Janine Benyus, whose
1997 landmark book, Biomimicry: In-
novation Inspired by Nature, helped to
galvanize the movement. Boeing, Gen-
eral Electric, General Mills, Kraft, and
Procter & Gamble have all called upon
the expertise of Benyus's Montana-
based consulting firm, the Biomirnicry
Guild, to create an "amoeba to zebra"
report, which pinpoints the animal or
plant that best solves a design problem.
When Nike was designing materi-
als that would keep athletes cool, for
instance, the group recommended
studying African reed frogs, which can
survive in sub-Saharan grasslands and
wooded areas for up to five months
without water, because of a waterproof
mucus they excrete.
From San Francisco to Japan,
venture capitalists who believe that
going green can be both profitable and
responsible are also banking on the bio-
mimicry movement, which naturally
lends itselfto eco-friendly materials and
processes. In 2006, "cleantech" invest-
ments doubled to $1.28 billion, with a
growing number of those dollars going
toward nature-inspired innovations.
are also getting
into the game,
in Europe.
For the past 10
years, Germany
has been at the
forefront of bio-
mimicry, offering tax incentives and
partnerships for research. Great Britain
and Scandinavia aren't far behind.
"In a short time, biomimicry has gone
from an academic pursuit to an indus-
trial method," Benyus says.
Man-made technology will probably
never really catch up with nature. After
all, a car that can travel 70 miles on a
single gallon of gas is pretty impres-
sive, but that's nothing compared with,
say, a tiny hummingbird that can fly
500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of
Mexico. Still, nature made humans
such that we can't help trying. Here we
present some of the newest and most
innovative examples ofbiomimicry.
Says Benyus, "These are the sons and
daughters of Velcro. "
The car's
frame is
where it is
exposed to
the greatest
The Car Aquatic
When Mercedes-Benz set out to cre-
ate a new fuel-efficient, eco-friendly
concept car, biologists, biomimicry
experts and engineers initially looked
at well-known speed swimmers such
as dolphins and sharks. But, surpris-
ingly, it was the slow, awkward-looking
boxfish, a tropical fish found in the
Caribbean, that scooped up the victory.
It became the inspi-
ration for the 2005
Bionic Car, a concept
vehicle also known
as the Boxfish that's
been making the
rounds at museums
throughout the
world, including an
exhibit at New York's
Museum of Modern
Art earlier this year.
According to
Bruce Mundy, a
biologist at the Pa-
cific Islands Fisheries
Science Center in
Hawaii, the choice
was counterintuitive,
since boxfish aren't
exactly graceful
swimmers. "Because
their bodies are so
rigid, they have an
ungainly way of
swimming," he says.
Boxfish do, how-
ever, have powerful
muscles that con-
serve energy, a streamlined shape and
a unique bone structure that protects
them from injury when they bump
into other animals.
The boxfish's square shape re-
minded Mercedes engineers of a car
body, and a closer look revealed that
the fish's skeleton was indeed very sim-
ilar to the frame of a car. The research-
ers used computer simulations and fish
models in a wind tunnel to gauge the
boxfish's drag coefficient (CD), a figure
that indicates how much air resistance
an object faces. Adrop of water's
theoretical CD value is 0.04-the lowest
of any known object; the boxfish's
turned out to be a surprisingly slippery
0.06. "The car designers were really
thinking imaginatively," Mundy says.
"You would never guess the boxfish's
aerodynamics by just looking at it."
When the designers tested a 1:4
scale model of the car in a water tank
so scientists could physically see its
aerodynamics at work, it had a CD value
of 0.09. Mercedes engineers went on to
develop the Bionic Car with just a few
tweaks to its body.
The car is 65 percent
more aerodynamic
than compact cars
on the market today,
and it scores 70 miles
to the gallon.
The fishy design
also makes for a
safer ride. The car's
frame mimics a layer
of lightweight bony
plates just beneath
the fish's skin. The
bones are thicker
where they are ex-
posed to the greatest
strains, along the
ridges or angles
of the frame. Con-
versely, they econo-
mize on material
where less is needed.
When this principle
was applied to the
car, engineers were
able to trim a third
of the bodywork
weight, which
saved on production costs and boosted
the car's fuel efficiency-all without
sacrificing safety.
The Butterfly Effect
Holed up in a hospital recovering from
a motorcycle accident, mechanical engi-
neer Mark Miles had an epiphany while
reading a magazine article about how
some butterfly wings generate color
without pigment. The wings of blue
morpho butterflies found in the rain-
forests of South and Central America
reflect sunlight through layers of fine
scales, producing gorgeous iridescent
blue and green hues. The process, Miles
believed, could be applied to creating
monochromatic displays for handheld
gadgets used in bright sunlight. And
thus, interferometric modulator (IMOD)
displays were born.
Here's how IMOD technology
works: Handheld devices contain many
cells arranged to form colored pixels. In
IMOD gadgets, these cells employ lay-
ered mirrors to produce one color, just
as layered scales produce color in blue
morpho butterflies. Each cell, called an
etalon, consists of two parallel, mir-
rored surfaces. Some ambient light re-
flects off the top mirror, which is partly
translucent, while the rest penetrates
and bounces between the mirrors.
With each bounce, light waves escape
through the top mirror. The distance
between the two mirrors determines
what happens next. Waves that have
the same length as the space between
the mirrors are amplified and visible to
the eye as a particular pixel color [green
in the cellphone on page 63]. Smaller


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Aerodynamics, Fuel-Efficiency and Safety: What a Concept
The angular boxfish is surprisingly
aerodynamic, and its skeleton is thick
at high-stress points, protecting the
otherwise lightweight fish from injury.
Mercedes's concept vehicle, the fuel-
efficient 2005 Bionic Car, borrowed
its sturdy, lightweight, low-drag
design from the boxfish.
and larger light waves cancel each other
out and are not visible. Pixels in IMOD
technology are switched on (color) and
off (black) by opening and closing the
gap between the mirrors. Unlike LCD
screens, which require a powered
backlight, they use little battery power,
and are optimal in bright sunlight (a
front light turns on in the dark).
Miles marketed the technology,
Mirasol, under Iridigm Display Corp.,
which was bought in 2004 by wireless-
communications juggernaut Qual-
comm's MEMS Technologies, Inc.
According to Brian Galley, the
director of engineering at MEMS, low
power consumption and good visibility
in bright sunlight have made Mirasol
popular with early adopters. This year,
the technology was rolled out in Blue
tooth 2.0 headsets with displays, and by
the end of the year, IMOD cellphones
will be available in China and other
emerging markets under the Hisense
Seaweed Secretion Wards Off Bacteria
brand. MEMS is promoting Mirasol
in developing nations, where phones
with long battery lives and outdoor-
friendly screens are a necessity. Next
up: multicolor IMOD displays, which
are currently in development.


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Mr. Clean
Lotus leaves have the unique distinction
of staying clean and dry even in muddy
waters. Wilhelm Barthlott, a botanist
from the University of Bonn in Germa-
ny, is no stranger to the self-cleaning,
water-resistant properties of the lotus
plant. In 1974, he took a close look at
the plant's leaves using a scanning
electron microscope and discovered
that they are studded with tiny waxy
bumps. Both water and dirt end up
settling on the spikes as if on a bed of
nails, without any chance ofpenetrat-
ing to the deeper surface of the leaf.
On this "superhydrophobic" surface,
water beads up and rolls off the leaves,
washing dirt away with it and keeping
lotus leaves clean.
Twenty years later, Barthlott began
antibiotics around the world, bacteria
are becoming resistant to these and
other biocides at an alarming rate.
Delicate beauty, as Steinberg and
Kjelleberg discovered, secretes chemi-
cals called furanones, which prevent
bacteria and other microscopic organ-
isms from colonizing surfaces. In 2000,
the two founded Biosignal, Inc., which
produces similar synthetic compounds
that ward off bacteria before they cause
infections, rather than attempting
to eradicate bacteria. Biosignal's ap-
proach decreases the likelihood that
the bacteria will develop resistance.
"The pressure for bacteria to evolve
resistance is greatly reduced because
we're not trying to kill them," says
Rohan McDougall, Biosignal's chief
operating officer.
Biosignal has tested the technology
in the lab with promising early results
and is working with Japanese health
and sanitation company Saraya to pro-
tect water-cooling towers. One exciting
everyday application may be mini-
mizing irritation and infections from
contact lenses. Prototypes were shown
to be safe in clinical trials, and-with
funding from cleantech investors, who
are interested in Biosignal's naturally
derived, biodegradable technology-the
company plans to start rolling out the
lenses in early 2010.
grows on nearly every wet surface.
Bacteria in their biofilm state cause
70 percent of bacterial infections in
humans. They also cause expensive
damage in the form of microbial cor-
rosion to wet surfaces such as oil and
gas pipelines. The scientists figured
that harnessing the biofilm-fighting
power of the "delicate beauty"
seaweed could be an alternative to
antibiotics, which combat infections
in organisms, and other biocides that
target bacteria on non-living surfaces.
Their theory couldn't have come at a
better time: Because of the overuse of
....I6..iI.I........ Compounds that
,. mimicfuranones
inhibit the growth
of bacterial biofilms
on surfaces such
as water-cooling
towers and contact
lenses. Uniike
antibiotics, the
compounds don't
try to kill bacteria,
so the organisms are
less likeiy to become
resistant to them.
Super Seaweed
In 1995, biologists Peter Steinberg and
Staffan Kjelleberg of the University of
New South Wales in Sydney noticed
that a type of Australian seaweed
managed to shrug off biofilm, a thin
layer that contains harmful micro-
scopic bacteria and fungi, which
......iIIIII.....lIIII..... Compounds called
furanones block
the buildup of
biofilms, layers that
harbor bacteria and
other microscopic
life, on seaweed.
The biofilms grow
on most organic
and inorganic wet
illness and damage,
MicroscopicTexture Keeps Surfaces Clean and Dry
Lotus leaves' waxy surface is
superhydrophobic, meaning it repels
water extremely well. Tiny bumps on
the leaves hold water and dirt aloft.
Water beads up into droplets that pick
up dirt and roll off the leaf.
The"Lotus Effect" has inspired wet-
proof, self-cleaning products
like these food containers, which are
currently in development. Lotusan
self-cleaning paint entered the market
three years ago, and stay-dry bathing
suits are on the way.
negotiating with companies to in-
dustrialize his trademarked Lotus
Effect technology. Now, products
with surfaces that mimic the plant's
nanostruetures are entering the market.
Several thousand homes in Europe are
painted every year with self-cleaning
Lotusan paint. Lotus Effect tiles and
containers are in development, and
German scientists have created the first
clothing prototypes, which could result
in perpetually dry bathing suits. Plans
are also in the works for self-cleaning
architectural glasses, windows, man-
hole covers and insulation.
Seal the World
Imagine a bridge or roof that could
repair itself. It's not as far-fetched as
it seems. In place of steel beams, civil
engineers sometimes use inflatable
airbeams, which are packed with cylin-
drical membranes filled with com-
pressed air. Buttressed by cables and
rods, these beams have the strength
of steel but are extremely lightweight
and easily stored and assembled. The
membranes, however, are vulnerable
to tearing and puncturing, which can
reduce their load-bearing capacity.
Fortifying them against damage would
save construction dollars and time,
and maybe even lives.
Since 2000, biologist Thomas Speck
of the Plant Biomechanics Group at the
University of Freiburg in Germany has
Howto Get the Sun toWork Harder for Us
Translucent polar-bear hair catches
sunlight, directing it to the animal's
dark hide below. The black skin turns
the rays into thermal energy that
keeps the bears warm in their frigid
Arctic habitats. Polar-bear hair also
keeps the animals warm with its
hollowstructure, which holds air that
insulates them against the cold.
Atranslucent polyester textile
~ i i ~ affixed to black fabric re-creates the
effect in new solar collectors that are
lighter and cheaper to transport than
traditional glass ones. The collectors
could be helping to heat homes and
water in remote regions within ayear.
studied how rainforest pipevines patch
their own internal injuries as they age.
When the outer skin of an Aristolochia
macrophylla vine stops growing, the
inner "parenchymal," or supportive,
tissue continues to grow, occasionally
causing a break in the more delicate
outer layer. The parenchyma cells
respond by expanding and multiply-
ing to seal the hole. Scientists suspect
that highly reactive molecules called
oxygen radicals may lengthen the
cell walls and initiate the process
of filling the fissure.
Inspired by pipevines, Speck and
his wife, biologist Olga Speck, and bio-
mechanical engineer Rolf Luchsinger
of the EMPA Research Institute in
Dubendorf, Switzerland, developed
a biomimetic foam for use in airbeam
membranes. The polyurethane foam
mimics the pipevine's parenchyma
cells. Like the parenchyma, the foam
cells swell as a response to the release
of pressure that occurs with a punc-
ture. Over the next three years,
Speck's team and their industrial
partner, Switzerland-based Prospec-
tive Concepts AG, plan to develop the
first industrial prototypes of the foam,
which will be applied as an inner coat-
ing on membranes used in airbeams
for lightweight roofing and bridge
structures. The foam is sure to be a
fast fix: In lab tests, it "healed" mem-
branes in less than a second.
Hair Apparent
Polar bears aren't new to the biomim-
icry community. Their translucent,
hollow hairs are full of air, which
has an outstanding ability to insulate
against the cold-an adaptation that
inspired the hollow textile fibers that
provide warmth to winter jackets and
sleeping bags. Now polar bears are
inspiring invention yet again with
their remarkable fur.
For the past 30 years, ]annis Stefana-
kis, an engineer at SolarEnergie Stefana-
kis in Germany, has been tackling the
drawbacks of thermal solar collectors,
which harness the sun's rays to heat
water for indoor heating, showers and
more. Engineers typically use glass
because it's a good absorber
of sunlight's heat, but it makes the
collectors heavy and difficult to
transport-a major limitation when
the panels need to get to remote loca-
tions like refugee camps. The flat
design of glass collectors also prevents
them from collecting sunlight from
multiple angles.
Meanwhile, engineer Thomas
Stegmaier of the Institute for Textile
Technology and Process Engineering
in Germany spent a decade studying
polar-bear fur. The bears' hair not only
camouflages them in the snow but
catches sunlight and guides it to their
skin underneath. Their hides, which are
Staying SharpWith Use-Lots of Use
Industrial blades
self-sharpen with a
super-hard coating
that grinds against
the softer inner
metal during use.
with a harder ceramic or diamond
layer that acts like the enamel. As
the blade cuts, the ceramic or diamond
layer grinds against
the metal, keeping
it sharp. Aversion
for slicing paper
should be on the
market by this fall,
with blades for
plastics, textiles and
more on the way.
Unlike rat teeth,
which constantly
grow to compensate for the grinding
down of the incisors, the blades still
need to be replaced-but a lot less of-
ten. Now that's a solution with bite. _
In aprocess called
bruxing, rats'
incisors grind
against and sharpen
each other.
As the blade
cuts, it grinds
against itself
to staysharp.
the front wears down softer dentine
on the back, keeping both the top
and bottom incisors' edges sharp.
Using the
same principle,
Jurgen Bertling
and Marcus
Rechberger of
the Fraunhofer
Institute for
tal, Safety and
Energy Technol-
ogy in Germany
have developed a prototype industrial
blade that sharpens itself. The metal
body consists of an alloy that mimics
dentine, while the exterior is coated
Rats' incisors sharpen
themselves every time
they're used.
black, then convert the light waves into
heat that keeps the bears warm.
Stegmaier and Stefanakis joined
forces in 2003, turning their expertise
into a revolutionary new way of col-
lecting the sun's rays. Their invention
replaces the glass in a solar collector
with a %-inch-thick polyester textile
with the same characteristics as polar-
bear hair. It's lightweight and flexible,
making it less expensive and easier to
transport. Stegmaier is now working on
lining the underside of the textile with
a black, light-absorbent material that
mimics polar-bear hide. The textile will
then be stretched over a lightweight,
dome-shaped aluminum frame so the
collector catches rays from every angle,
squandering less of the sun's energy. If
the $2 million to $3 million in fund-
ing the inventors are seeking comes
through, the solar collectors could be in
mass production by the end of the year,
bringing heat and hot water to areas
that desperately need it.
ASharp Idea
Just as your kitchen knives lose their
sharpness with use, so do cutting tools
used in the production of, well, pretty
much everything. Carpets, furniture,
food products, paper-anything that's
processed in a factory has probably
involved a blade somewhere along
the line. And just as a dull kitchen
knife struggles to slice a tomato, an
industrial blade requires more energy
to make cuts as it loses its sharpness.
Factories must replace blades before
they dull-sometimes as often as
every four hours-which costs
time and money.
To reduce the expense caused by
dull cutting tools, German engineers
have drawn inspiration from rats,
which have razor-sharp incisors that
are kept that way with use. Unlike
human teeth, the rodents' chompers
are covered with enamel only on the
front side, whereas softer tooth bone,
dentine, is exposed on the reverse.
Every time a rat uses its teeth, it
alternates grinding its lower incisors
against either the front or the back
of its upper incisors. Hard enamel on
ast December, a baby white-
tipped reef shark (Triaenodon
obesus) was born at an aquarium
in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. Any
birth in captivity is cause for celebra-
tion, but this one was astounding: The
pup's mother had not been in contact
with a male shark of her own species
for six years. The birth is one ofjust
a few examples on record of sharks
reproducing asexually. In 2002, at the
Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, two
white-spotted bamboo sharks (Chiloscyl-
lium plagiosum) hatched from eggs laid
by a mother that shared her aquarium
with only females. And the year before,
a bonnethead shark (Sphyrna tiburo)
birthed a pup in the tank she shared
with three females at the Henry Doody
Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.
These fish are among the most
complex species of those believed to
reproduce asexually by a process called
parthenogenesis (Greek for "virgin
birth"). Until recently, scientists have
believed that only more basic plants
and animals can reproduce without
fertilization. In the case of the sharks,
biologists say parthenogenesis may
have been possible all along, and could
have emerged in captivity as a means
of reproducing in the absence of a
mate. But in other species, the motiva-
tion is not so clear. Today, research is
providing clues to why some animal
and plant species use single-parent
reproduction rather than two-parent,
and why other species choose-or even
alternate-between the two methods.
A Select Few
Almost every known animal species on
Earth, including all mammals, repro-
duce sexually, witll sperm fertilizing an
egg. At its simplest, sexual reproduc-
tion is believed to have evolved as a
means of strengthening the "fitness" of
a species, thanks to the chromosomal
mixing that takes place when the
reproductive cells from two different
individuals meld to form a new organ-
ism. As a result, sexual reproduction
is thought to provide evolutionary
advantages to organisms over those
that go the asexual route.
Roughly 1 percent of animal species
reproduce by parthenogenesis, while
an even smaller fraction switch be-
tween sexual and asexual reproduction
(known as cyclical parthenogenesis).
Both kinds of parthenogenesis occur
most often in low-level species, such
as plants like the American dandelion
Virgin Births
Scientists can't say for certain why some
animals seem to only reproduce asexu-
ally in captivity. An absence of males
in zoos is the most obvious hypothesis.
Experts also theorize that the phenom-
enon may actually occur in the wild
among these species but just has yet to
be witnessed by humans.
Abonnethead shark
was born in 2001 in a
tank in an Omaha zoo
that had contained
only females for three
years. DNA analysis
showed that the baby
shark had two nearly
identical copies ofthe
mother's single set of
AKomodo dragon named Flora gave
birth early last year to five babies at the
Chester Zoo in Chester, England. Flora
had never been exposed to a male.
and mulga tree, rotifers (microscopic
aquatic animals), aphids (tiny insects)
and daphnia (water fleas). Certain bees
and wasps also reproduce without
mating (but die out very quickly), as do
a very small group of vertebrates, such
as some fish, amphibians and reptiles.
Over the past decade, several species
in captivity at zoos and aquariums-
Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis),
the largest of the lizard species, and the
sharks previously mentioned- have
been added to the small list of parthe-
nogenetic vertebrates.
Organisms use different methods
to reproduce parthenogenetically. In
sexual reproduction, meiosis, a cell-
division process, produces spern1 and
eggs with half the chromosomes of the
parents. But in one method of asexual
reproduction, that cell division never
occurs, yielding an egg with a full com-
plement of DNA. The egg then divides
and develops into a daughter organ-
ism without fertilization by a sperm
cell. In another scenario, meiosis does
occur. After the female sex cell divides,
however, the two resulting daughter
cells fuse to create a new cell with a
paired set of chromosomes. Different
organisms choose among the methods
for unknown reasons.
A Matter of Survival
Plants and animals that practice
asexual reproduction are often found
in inhospitable environments, such
as high latitudes and altitudes and
in alid environments. In the Austra-
lian desert, for instance, several
organisms, like Bynoe's gecko
(Heteronotia binoei), a type of
wingless grasshopper called
Warramaba virgo and some
stick insects (Sipyloidea), practice
completely sexless reproduction. In
2006, Michael Kearney, an evolutionary
biologist at the University of Melbourne
in Australia, studied DNA sequences
from Bynoe's geckos and the Warram-
aba virgo. The tests revealed that both
are decendants of sexually-reproducing
ancestors still found in the area. So
why the abstinence?
Like the sharks recently born in
captivity, many species reproduce
parthenogenetically in tl1e absence of
a wide pool of potential mates. One
theory suggests that the desert's poor
conditions can support only a limited
number of individuals in a large area,
which makes mating a challenge. But
Kearney also notes that tl1ese species
may have found a genotype perfectly
adapted to the climate, which they may
be protecting tl1rough asexual repro-
duction. Another interesting theory:
When viable mates are few and far
between, some closely related species
will mate. The offspring-mules in
the case of mated horses and donkeys,
for instance-are sterile. In contrast
to mules, certain hybrids, like Bynoe's
gecko (which is the result of mating
between two distinct lineages), have
developed tl1e ability to reproduce
asexually. If they're lucky, these hybrids
will have inherited survival-enhancing
traits from both of the parents.
Some Species Are Fickle
Unlike the Australian desert-dwellers
and the sharks in captivity, other spe-
cies reproduce asexually when condi-
tions are right. In the summertime,
when food is plentiful and tempera-
tures ideal, certain female daphnia
(Daphnia pulex) produce female clones
without spending time and energy
mating. This results in rapid popula-
tion growth that the habitat's favorable
conditions can support. But when fall
arrives, temperatures drop and food
becomes scarce. The daphnia then
begin to spontaneously produce male
offspring. In tum these males fertilize
eggs that become females. The entire
population then continues to repro-
duce sexually to ensure that there's a
more diverse gene pool when the fe-
males begin cloning themselves again.
Among freshwater snails (Potam-
opyrgus antipodarum) in New Zealand,
asexual subspecies coexist side by side
with their sexually-reproducing coun-
terparts. In lakes with ideal conditions,
the asexual snails dominate, but in
lakes where parasitic worms plague the
snails, sexually-reproducing snails are
more common. Here's why: Parasites
have an intimate, symbiotic relation-
ship with their hosts. If a snail changes












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The Benefits of Sex
Although some species opt to reproduce
parthenogenetically, there's a reason why
the vast majority use sex: In short, sex
mixes it up, Chromosomes exchange DNA
during the creation of sex cells (sperm and
eggs). The phenomenon, called recombi-
nation, ensures the greatest diversity of
gene patterns-be they helpful, neutral or
harmful-available to agiven population.
Here's how it works.
, --' ,..,
1. Parents
Chromosome pairs
differ greatly between
parents but also
among themselves.
2. Sex cells
Each parent's chromosome pairs mix
among themselves in aprocess called
recombination before pairing up with the
chromosomes from the other parent.
3. Offspring
The offspring has
chromosomes with
unique genetic
even a small amount, the parasite
must change along with it to survive.
When the snails reproduce sexually,
the offspring have a better chance of
acquiring beneficial genotypes from
the mother or father, making them
more resistant to parasites.
Is Parthenogenesis a Dead End?
Despite the benefits asexual reproduc-
tion seems to offer many species, the
scientific community has long regarded
it with curiosity. After all, the genetic
shuffling that occurs during sexual re-
production is thought to be one of the
main driving forces of evolution.
In 2006, evolutionary biologists
Susanne Paland and Michael Lynch of
Indiana University compared harmful
mutations between daphnia that re-
produce solely by parthenogenesis and
those that alternate between asexual
reproduction and mating. Both types
had approximately the same number of
serious mutations, but less serious-yet
still potentially harmful-mutations
were four times as common among
the asexual daphnia. The researchers
posit that natural selection weeds out
the worst mutations among asexual
daphnia by quickly killing off the
afflicted animals, but that those with
moderately harmful mutations survive.
As these animals continue to create
clones carrying their mutations, their
numbers grow exponentially. After
only a few thousand generations, the
survival of a species may be threatened.
Similarly, even though some species
in the Australian desert are flourishing
today because of parthenogenesis, their
success may not be enduring. Kearney's
analysis suggests that, after a relatively
short period of thriving (less than a
million years), the number of harmful
mutations in these completely asexual
species is likely to greatly threaten their
survival. Add to that the lack of recom-
bination (the swapping of genes during
sex-cell creation), and the animals are
suggests that
have been
at least 40
left with a fairly grim long-term future.
Not all the research agrees, though.
According to a Harvard University
study co-authored in 2000 by biologists
Matthew Meselson and David Mark
Welch, microscopic animals called
bdelloid rotifers have been reproducing
asexually for at least 40 million years.
Experts aren't sure why the rotifers
have chosen parthenogenesis for so
long, making them an anomaly in
the scientific world.
The Human Connection
Soon, exciting new parthenogenesis
research may revolutionize the treat-
ment of human disease. Although no
mammal has ever demonstrated natu-
ral asexual reproduction, the process
has been achieved in the lab. In 2004,
scientists at the Tokyo University of
Agriculture announced that they had
created the first mammal, a mouse,
through asexual means. The same year,
Hwang Woo-Suk, a scientist at Seoul
National University in South Korea,
accidentally created the first human
embryo via parthenogenesis. (Woo-Suk
claimed that the stem cells his team
extracted were actually from a cloned
embryo-a falsification that discredited
his work-but Kitai Kim, George Daley
and their colleagues at the Children's
Hospital Boston Stem Cell Program
later proved that the stem cells were
a product of parthenogenesis.) Since
then, other institutions claim to have
created stem cells asexually.
Embryonic stem cells have the
ability to differentiate into specialized
tissue, which makes them one of the
most promising avenues of research
for treating countless diseases and
injuries. The news of asexually-derived
embryos comes at a time when the
nation is debating the ethics of using
natural human embryos for stem-cell
research. According to Daley, the hope
is that this advancement will provide
an alternative way of turning stem cells
into favorable tissue, allowing scien-
tists and doctors to offer more-effective
treatments for many diseases. _
- -- - ---- --------
Did photosynthesis drive the construction ofthe continents?
ife as we know it depends on
photosynthesis. The process used
by plants, algae and some bacte-
ria to convert light into energy
also produces the oxygen we breathe.
And yet, a team of geologists argues,
photosynthesis is even more important
than we think, and it may have played
a hidden role in the formation of the
Earth's crust. Led by Minik Rosing of
the Geological Museum and Nordic
Center for Earth Evolution at the Uni-
versity of Copenhagen, the team used
computer modeling to calculate the
energy required to shape the surface of
the Earth. They contend that only the
advent of photosynthesis could have
provided the necessary energy to drive
the chemical reactions that eventually
created the continents.
"Ground-Breaking" Theory
When Earth first formed roughly 4.6
billion years ago, scientists believe it
was little more than a dense ball of ele-
ments such as iron, nickel and sulfur.
Today it consists of distinct layers: the
solid inner and liquid outer core, the
viscous mantle, and the continental
and oceanic crusts.
The continents, which are part of
the crust, are largely made up ofgran-
ite, a hard rock that is formed through
chemical and physical processes. Geolo-
gists have traditionally thought that
heat from the core and the mantle
was responsible for granite's fom1ation.
But Rosing and his colleagues think
there's more to it-much more. To
prove it, they calculated and compared
the amount of power intemally gener-
ated by Eartl1 with the amount of en-
ergy that Earth's surface releases into
space. The amount of energy that's
left over is too small, they say, to have
driven the construction of the conti-
nents. Instead, they credit the rise of
photosynthesis. The additional energy
required for the creation of granite
came from the conversion of solar
energy to chemical by means of this
essential process.
Granite forms from basalt, a plenti-
ful volcanic rock that makes up Earth's
The Sea BottomTransformed intoContinents
Very early life-forms could have used photosynthesis to convert solar energy
into geochemical energy, aiding in the conversion of oceanic basalt to granite.
Here's howscientists think the process may have worked.
oceanic crust, and is also found in
asteroids and the crusts of Mars, Venus
and the moon. On Earth, raw basalt
forms when lava erupts and cools.
Seawater circulates through cracks and
fissures, and the basalt is "weathered,"
or changed by a series of chemical
reactions with the seawater and the
atmosphere. The weathered basalt
melts at lower temperatures, and as
the weathered silica-, aluminum- and
alkali-enriched basalt melts and recrys-
talizes, it forms granite rock. Granite is
lighter than basalt, so in molten rock,
large masses of it rise to the surface
and separate from basalt. These float-
ing masses are what gradually came
to form the continents.
Without photosynthesis, Rosing
says, the early atmosphere, oceans and
basalt would have reached a state of
chemical equilibrium, making further
"weathering" chemical reactions
impossible and effectively ending the
creation of granite. But photosynthe-
sis, in which living cells harvest light
to drive their metabolism, would bring
new energy into the system. This ad-
ditional energy would have allowed
the weathering process to continue.
One by-product of photosynthesis, for
example, is oxygen, which can help
break down basalt through oxidation
of iron and other minerals.
The researchers also point to evi-
dence that oceans existed as early as 4.4
billion years ago. This suggests that the
necessary ingredients for granite forma-
tion-water and basalt-were available
during Earth's earliest stages, as was the
atmosphere, of course. Why, then, did
it take another 600 to 800 million years
for the continents to form? Accord-
ing to Rosing, because photosynthesis
hadn't yet emerged.
Agreeing on a Date
"We can't say with certainty that
Earth couldn't produce granite before
the advent of photosynthesis," says
Rosing, "but we do think the appar-
ent absence of continents in the first
800 million years of Earth's history
and the sudden rise of continents after
the evolution of photosynthesis is tied
together." Not everyone, however,
agrees that photosynthesis preceded
continent fOlwation.
The continents are at least 3.8 bil-
lion years old, but the oldest widely
accepted evidence for photosynthesis
dates back just 3.5 billion years to
bacterial microfossils found in Western
Australia. Rosing counters that the 3.5-
billion-year-old bacteria used a modern-
style photosynthesis, which he says was
most probably predated by other types.
Several researchers, including Rosing,
have found low carbon-isotope ratios in
rocks dating back 3.7 billion years; some
scientists believe this is evidence of early
life-which probably would have been
photosynthetic bacteria. In fact, Rosing
asserts, there's evidence that some form
of photosynthesis was active as long ago
as 3.8 billion years ago.
Rosing and his colleagues plan to do
more research on the role of biological
factors in the weathering of basalt. If
their findings continue to support their
theory, it would explain how Earth
and the biosphere (the life-supporting
region of the planet's surface) may have
interacted and evolved together. _
Global Extremes
Linguistic Curiosities
It's Raining Frogs!
Frogs, fish and other small animals have been observed
raining down from the sky in many countries. While fanciful
stories are often used to explain the free-falling animals,
one accepted scientific explanation is called a waterspout,
which is basically a tornado over water. As it spins, the
vortex lifts water (and small things in it) up into the clouds.
Meteorologists theorize that the animals are sometimes
held aloft in the clouds for a short time and could possibly
even travel many miles before raining back down to earth.
Some even manage to survive'
Learning Hungarian
Is No Cakewalk
Compared with many other languages that use aLatin alphabet,
like English, linguists say that Hungarian is particularly tough to
learn. The challenge begins with the numerous types of nouns
and verb inflections. Experts disagree on the exact number of
noun cases, but it's somewhere between 15 and 35. Incontrast,
English has only three: nominative (the subject of averb), objec-
tive (the object of averb) and possessive (which denotes owner-
ship). English is tough too, though-it has more than enough
exceptions to its grammar rules to trip up students.
Mathematicians have identified some fractions
that can be "reduced" by simply crossing out all
instances of a particular digit (but don't try
using this on your next math exam). For
example, 16/64 is reduced by crossing out the
sixes, leaving 1/4, the simpler equivalent
Some additional examples: 19/95 = 1/5,
26/65 =2/5, 49/98 =4/8, 16,666/66,664 =1/4
and 3,54417,531 =344/731.
Tricky Number
This map, from, displays countries larger or smaller on the being illustrated.
_.__. __ .. . .-:.-'





FIRESare rare in La Paz, Bolivia, be-
cause the city lies 10,000 feet above sea
level. Limited oxygen means that fires
are hard to start and slow to expand.
NEWBORNSenter the world
with about 300 bones in their
skeleton. But as they grow bigger,
many of the bones gradually fuse
together. Adults typically have
approximately 206 bones.
CRICKETS can help you figure out
the weather if you don't have athermo-
meter handy. Count the number of
chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 to get
the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
AtomIC weight
In the past, it was usedas arodenticide andinsecticide, but that
application was bannedin the U.S. in the 1970s becauseofconcerns
about its adverse effects on humans.
It is oftenusedin semiconductorresearch andin magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), lamps andotherelectronics.
Thallium is apoisonous heavymetal that can cause heart
andnervedamage, as well as hairloss.
Elemental Secrets
Trivia Countdown
This is the ninth
square, but it could
also be three to the
fourth power.
Members of the Hell's
Angels use this number
as one of their symbols
because it is related to
where Hand Afall
in the alphabet.
The sum of the number's
two digits can be
multiplied by itself-
(a+b)1-to get the
original number.
In binary code,
it would be written
The tart variety is one There is an annual Other fruits in this group This fruit is called
offew known natural festival in Washington, include peaches, plums cerezo in Spanish,
sources of melatonin, D.C, to commemorate and apricots. They all cerise in French and
achemical that helps the 1912 gift of 3,000 of have asingle hard pit. kirsche in German.
regulate the body's the Japanese flowering
internal clock. variety from Tokyo.
Approximately 6million This city's stadium, APortuguese explorer Alarge statue of Christ It's the second most
people live in this Maracana, seats 95,000 discovered the area on amountain overlook- populated city in
location, which is in the spectators and was in January 1502 and ing the city was recently South America's most
southern and western originally built for the named it with his named one of the New populous country. Sao
hemispheres. 1950 FIFA World Cup. language's words for Seven Wonders of the Paulo is the country's
"river" and "January:' World. largest city.
It has the highest It's number 74 in This element is used Its chemical symbol, One form of the ele-
melting point of all the periodic table. to make filaments for W, stands for ment is prized for its
metals: 6,19n lightbulbs-its first "wolfram:' the name hardness. It's used for
commercial use. given to it by the drill bits, saw blades
Spaniards who first and scratch-resistant
isolated it. men's rings.
This non-lethal weapon It was used by American The two most popular The weapon is still It causes uncontrollable
was first employed by forces in Vietnam to forms used today are CN, used by U.s. police to crying and aburning
German troops during drive enemies out of the principal component disperse rioters. sensation in the
World War I. their tunnels. of Mace, and CS, an even respiratory tract.
stronger irritant.
It is the country code
for calling Japan.
Earn more points by using fewer
clues to answer each question.
Your score- 24-30 Good show, Sherlock 9-16 Good enough, Paris
- 17- 23 Not bad, Watson 0-8 Hit the books, Homer!
Answers appear on page 95
56 I WO)aU\fH1SmlIDN3I)S BOOllSn9mt/Alnr
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9$ 00'0' vl$ 'sn 3H1 NI 'SW-lvLl 'lSVO) WWd 'SfWlv XOS 'D'd 01 S39N'o'H) ON3S 9NIlI'o'W
WNOl1100'o' 1'0' ON'o' 'AN M3N 1'0' Ol'o'd 39'o'1S0d V '3NIZ'o'9'o'W 3HllnOH11M 3S A'o'W 3NIZ'o'9'o'W SIH1
ON '9LOOL AN M3N '3nN3A'o' l AS 'O/N ON'o' O/S VWrM VM VS3Wl1 XIS 03HSIlSnd SI (0688800l8vLO SdSn) (v 3nSSI '[ 3WnlOA)
making every other figure the same.
2.56. By comparing the lines-both rows
4. 2X or 20. X, Cand M are the Roman
numerals for 10, 100 and 1,000,
The total that is missing is therefore:
3. 14 and 16. In the first line, the far left
number is divided by 4 to get the second,
and the far right number by 5 to get the
third. In the second line, the left divides
by 6 and the right by 7.ln the third line,
the left must be divided by 8 (112/8=14)
and the right number divided by 9
and columns-in which just one symbol
is different, you can determine the value
of each symbol. Compare row 2 with
column 4, for example, and you can see
that = lEI +10. This allows us to
determine that:
1= 14,
= 10,
4. Two hours. The next palindrome will be
16,061. It will come up after two hours at
55 mph, since the car has driven 110 miles.
5. Map A. You need four colors in this map
for no two adjoining countries to be the
same color. The other maps can be filled in
with just three colors.
1. The pattern is in a
spiral, starting in the
top left corner and
clockwise. The
sequence is as
follows: dot-dot-
blank-dot-blank-dot-dot-blank. Each time
the sequence repeats itself, the number of
blank tiles increases by one. [See diagram.]
Food: cherry
Geography: Rio de Janeiro
Chemistry: tungsten
Weaponry: tear gas
Mathematics: 81
History: 1973
1. A=2, B=ll and C=5. The sums of the
rows from top to bottom are 14, 15, 16,
17, 18and 19.
3. A. Each of the four stars in the big figure
rotates 180 degrees for each newfigure,
2.33 percent. Since we already know that
one of Joe and Brenda's children is a girl,
there are three possible combinations for
their children: girl/girl, girl/boy, boy/girl.
Only one of those choices gives them two
girls, so the answer is 1/3 or 33 percent.
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What is the solution to this equation:
What three
numbers substitute
for A, Band C?
3 9 A
B 2 2
C 5 6
7 8 2
3 5 10
9 1 9
Joe and Brenda
have two kids. The
likelihood that
their first child is a
girl is 50 percent.
The likelihood that
the second is a girl
is also 50 percent.
Joe and Brenda tell
you that they have
a daughter. What
is the likelihood
that both their
children are girls?
Which figure comes next in the series?
Each of the six symbols here represents a certain value, and
the numbers at the left and bottom are the sums for each
row and column. What is the sum of the middle row?
The yellowdots have been placed accor-
ding to a pattern. Can you figure out
whether the shaded spaces will have
dots or not?
Which of these dia- A
grams needs to be .....
filled with the most
colors so that no two
areas ofthe same co-
lor touch each other?
What 144-36-25-1 25
belong In
the empty 96-1 6-1 8-1 26
spaces? 112-_-_-144
The odometer of your car reads 15,951 miles, which is a
palindrome: Its digits read the same forward and back-
ward. If you drive away and maintain a constant speed
of 55 mph, howlong will you have to drive before the
odometer will once again showa palindrome?
Answers appear on page 95

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