Science, Technolo y, and The Future

Big Bang
The greatest secrets in the cosmos may already be sitting on a hard drive near you.


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32 Crunching
the Universe
New sky surveys will catalog billions of astronomical objects. To digest all that data, scientists are turning to...well, just about everybody.

40 The Fall
and Rise of Douglas Prasher
His work revolutionized biology, but he got no share of the eventual Nobel glory. The rocky career of Douglas Prasher offers a lesson in what it takes to succeed in modern science.

48 Silent Warrior
Neuroscientists are trying to build a helmet that can read and transmit a soldier’s thoughts. The U.S. Army is betting $6.3 million that they can do it.

56 Ill Wind Blowing
Each year, thousands of tons of mercury and other contaminants waft from Asian factories across the Pacific. Global winds make one nation’s pollution problem everyone’s problem.


Interview: Lynn Margulis
Are humans really amalgams of bacteria? Is AIDS really a form of syphilis? One noted researcher thinks so.

contents /// april 2011
Neural stem cells (pink) genetically modified with engineered HIV. Protein introduced by HIV is green; blue shows neuronal progeny.


cience, Technolo y, and The Future

Corey S. Powell Michael F. Di Ioia

Nicole Dyer

Tina Wooden

Pamela Weintraub Eric A. Powell Jennifer Barone Elise J. Marton Chris Orlow / Amy Barth, Andrew Grant, Andrew Moseman Debi Allen Shannon Palus, Sarah Stanley Sean Carroll, Tim Folger, Susan Kruglinski, Michael Lemonick, Bruno Maddox, Linda Marsa, Kathleen McAuliffe, Kat McGowan, Jill Neimark, Phil Plait, Dava Sobel, Gary Taubes, Carl Zimmer

Erik Basil Spooner Randi Slatken Aine Duffy

contents /// april 2011
4 5 6

Close-up view of the eye of a common blue damselfly; it took seventh place in the 2010 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition.

Douglas Adesko, Timothy Archibald, C. J. Burton, Caleb Charland, Ann Elliott Cutting, Joshua Darden, J. Henry Fair, Derek Lea, Spencer Lowell, Tim O’Brien, Jonathon Rosen, Mackenzie Stroh, Shannon Taggart, Nathaniel Welch

Amos Zeeberg Gemma Shusterman Eliza Strickland Patrick Morgan



Robert D. Vitriol
917 421 9048 DETROIT

Lisa Budnick

Contributors Editor’s Note Data

22 Best new books and film, plus dinos in New York and Web comics you should be reading.

Hot Science

313 640 5638 CHICAGO

Keith Bainbridge
312 236 4900 x1106 LOS ANGELES

Craig Miller Ilyssa Somer Reina Miller Joe Wholley Kim McGraw Glenne Belton
213 624 0900 x1228 DIRECT RESPONSE 917 421 9055 917 421 9052 312 236 4900 x1102 213 596 7215

The Brain


8 Fossil treasures from a Los Angeles construction site, a gold mine-turned-science lab, Bronze Age brain surgery, the tree that secures our shorelines, lessons from a scandal, an implantable brain scanner, smart bandages, super-lightning, and more.

24 Brain-injured patients who lose their past often also lose their future—a clue to how we time-travel in our minds. By Carl Zimmer 28 A 6-year-old girl can speak at home—but goes mute everywhere else. By Mark Cohen

Vital Signs

June C. Lough Susan Weiss Sara Everts

Future Tech Five Questions for Sada Mire
20 A Somali archaeologist discovers prehistoric rock paintings—and a recipe for peace—in the strife-torn country she fled as a child. By Amy Barth

30 Computers could make driving idiot-proof, if we’d just let them. By David H. Freedman

Gerald B. Boettcher Charles R. Croft Kevin P. Keefe , Scott Stollberg Scott Bong Daniel R. Lance Michael Barbee Brian Schmidt

, , ,

20 Things You Didn’t Know About DNA 80
By Kirsten Weir

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whose company is designing space taxis and hotels. “We have found rocks right near each other that nonetheless moved in di erent directions. NASA scientists showed that strong winds and thin layers of ice are responsible for boulders that mysteriously glide across the desert. Helena. We also conducted interviews with and administered questionnaires to the lesbian mothers’ o spring.4 Million Barrels Later. and gure-eight patterns. shared his vision of the future of private spaceflight in story #73 of our Year in Science 2010 issue. demonstrated that adolescent children of lesbian mothers experience healthy psychological development. Not only does it degrade the noble deaths of the astronauts on the mission. switchback.S. address.WorldMags MAIL the year in re-review Give NASA Its Due Entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. and daytime phone number. but I do question her Erratum “ e Science Traveler’s Guide” (page . barrels per day. I think that Bigelow is trivializing the work and passion of employees. 4 DISCOVER WorldMags . without which he would not even have the technology to build his designer spacecraft. Your article says that oil spilled at the rate of . space program. As the daughter of an astronaut who has seen her mother dedicate her life to the space program. the wind always blows in the same direction. You would think that there would be some randomness or deviation in the boulders’ paths. it appears that when the conditions are just right for these rocks to slide across the desert oor. The editors reply: e photograph shows only a small portion of the boulder’s path. it would have totaled the consumption of oil by the United States in only one day! Tony Fricke . Eric Knode .com.” jan/feb Send e-mail to editorial@discovermagazine. e Robert Bigelow interview left me disappointed. methods. Psychiatrist Nanette Gartrell replies: It is unlikely that parental bias played a role in our ndings because they are based on a standardized behavioral checklist completed by both lesbian and heterosexual mothers. NY 10011 Include your full name. Meredith Baker . Larry Benson . described in “Same-Sex Parents Do No Harm” (#88). I found Bigelow’s assumption that the Constellation program was compensation for the Columbia disaster insulting. He actually escaped in and after Waterloo lived out his nal exile on St. “4. Address letters to DISCOVER 90 Fifth Avenue New York. BP Spill in Perspective DISCOVER’s #1 story of 2010. I don’t believe you can get real results from just asking what a parent thinks of her child. January/February) mistakenly stated that Napoleon lived out his exile on the island of Elba. humidity. e checklist is set up so that a parent is not able to gure out which behaviors indicate competencies and which indicate problems. who studies boulder migration in Death Valley National Park. Boulder Dash In “Roaming Rocks of Death Valley” (#98). and wind speed conditions even over short distances.” dissected the environmental and energy policy impacts of last spring’s 86-day oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Judging by the straight path of the boulder pictured in this story. possibly because of varying temperature. I have no issue with what Nanette Gartrell is researching.” says NASA space scientist Cynthia Cheung. If that catastrophic rate had continued for a full year. “Rock trails are curved and include zigzag. Parental Bias? A study in the journal Pediatrics. he and were blatantly belittling the success of the U. Her study relied on questionnaires that asked parents how they thought their kids were adjusting to life. but it also ignores the progress astronauts and engineers were making on translating Constellation into a reality.

All materials included with the product at the time of purchase must be returned together and undamaged to be eligible for any exchange or refund. with a free initial online access period which includes features that connect you to language like never before. • Mobile Companion™ – a practice application for your iPhone ® or iPod touch® device. I am no longer sending these out myself. inspired in part by a talk Margulis gave during which she said the eld of molecular biology is still unable to distinguish a live cat from a dead one. Massachusetts. and Time magazine. and Wired. Burton suggested Rosen draw while in the mind-set of a late th-century detective and amateur artist. • Live. Renew yourself. offer does not apply to any additional subscriptions or subscription renewals and cannot be combined with any other offer. TOTALe elevates the language-learning experience. who teaches the history of anatomy and medical illustration at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Access to live online sessions. who interviewed Margulis more than half a dozen times over a year. Online components must be accessed within 6 months of purchase.WorldMags CONTRIBUTORS Yudhijit Bhattacharjee wrote “ e Fall and Rise of Douglas Prasher” (page ) after spending three days at the microbiologist’s home in Alabama. His misfortune was to run out of funding. • An exclusive online community filled with language games and other activities.” says Teresi. but if you’d like a sample…’ He responded to every scientist without bitterness. Offer valid through July 31. WorldMags . a researcher at the Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research. and was surprised to learn that kids in elementary school today are making astronomical discoveries. later went on to win a Nobel Prize. Other researchers. iPod and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple Use promo code dss041 when ordering. 31 LANGUAGES AVAILABLE Activate your natural ability. SAVE 10% when you order today. Connect with others. it was just a game.” Based in Los Angeles. 2011 while quantities last. 50-minute practice sessions tutored by native speakers. Level 1 Level 1. 4. “She didn’t realize she was doing science. “Graham’s -year-old daughter was on Galaxy Zoo. “Crunching the Universe” (page ). Enriched. who asked him to create Ichabod Crane’s disturbing sketchbook for the movie Sleepy Hollow. while Prasher struggled to nd a job. Popular Science. Lerner specializes in cars and aerospace and is a member of an amateur race car club. I suddenly realized this man was so noble. & 5 $249 $579 $749 $224 $521 $674 SIX-MONTH (877) 287-5974 RosettaStone. Guarantee does not apply to any online subscriptions purchased separately from the CD-ROM product or subscription renewals. All rights reserved. 2. Jonathon Rosen’s drawing of a man carrying a double helix illustrates “ ings You Didn’t Know About ” (page ). He has written for Air and Space. Dick Teresi lives in the same neighborhood of Amherst. Lerner spoke with Matthew Graham.” Lerner says. Use real-world images and words spoken by native speakers to create connections between words and their meanings. Teresi is writing a book about science and death. “She’s very erce about her ideas and the ideas of those she feels are shut out for not being in the mainstream. Prices subject to change without notice. Rolling Stone. 3. Start today. WIN/MAC compatible. 2. building on his work. Rosen has long been drawn to historical anatomical artwork.’ ” says Rosen. “He printed out these letters reading ‘ ank you for your request for the gene. To her. & 3 Level 1. naturally and effectively. Preston Lerner rst became interested in astronomy when he read about the discovery of Pluto in elementary school. *Six-Month Money-Back Guarantee is limited to product purchases made directly from Rosetta Stone and does not include return shipping. With Rosetta Stone® Version 4 TOTALe™ — our latest solution — you’ll learn a new language naturally.” Bhattacharjee is a sta writer at Science and also writes for Wired and e Atlantic. While working on his article about the new eld of astroinformatics. Intuitive. Rosen’s work has been published in e New York Times. In Prasher made a signi cant contribution to science when he isolated the green uorescent protein ( ) gene. “It was the rst time I’d ever drawn ‘in character. the controversial evolutionist who is the subject of this month’s Interview (page ). e most poignant moment of Bhattacharjee’s visit came when Prasher showed him form letters he had sent to scientists who inquired after the gene. as Lynn Margulis. Teresi is the coauthor of e God Particle. games and communities require online access and are offered on a subscription basis for a specified term. NO-RISK MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE* ©2010 Rosetta Stone Ltd. without translation or memorization. Our Proven Solution. One of his most unusual commissions came from lm director Tim Burton. Citizen-science Web sites such as Galaxy Zoo now give anyone with an Internet connection access to sophisticated data mining tools. Offer applies to Version 4 TOTALe CD-ROM products purchased directly from Rosetta Stone.

Not until the empirical resources are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation. waiting to be pushed back again. glowing patches scattered across the night sky—were actually galaxies as expansive as our own. Using electronic detectors and computer software that go far beyond what Hubble could do. human minds need a boost from their computer software assistants. Working at Lowell Observatory in Arizona under the watch of Percival Lowell. It contains just two dozen solid data points. almost uniformly away from us.” Edwin Hubble once declared. Powell. that program has been wildly successful—in some ways too successful. a famous scienti c eccentric. Slipher managed to analyze the light of the brighter galaxies and determine that they were moving at enormous velocities. And what meager information it was. in part because he was working with a much smaller telescope. the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has measured the velocities of an overwhelming million deep-sky objects. since he was responsible for two of the most dramatic recedings in history. (Slipher was unable to make such measurements. To modern eyes.” pushing back the darkness Corey S. en ve years later Hubble published the core evidence that the universe is expanding. Extrapolate backward and you get an initial Big Bang. Much of astronomy since then has essentially been dedicated to adding more numbers to Hubble’s diagram. at pattern is the de ning trait of a universe that is expanding in all directions. In he proved that the “spiral nebulae”—fuzzy. Yet in a fundamental way. e problem today is not lack of data so much as data overload. e information he presented formed the foundation of our entire modern Big Bang narrative of cosmic history. astronomy is the same today as it was in . e search will continue. the diagram that forms the centerpiece of Hubble’s paper looks like something a child might cobble together for a science fair. Much of it derived from the work of Vesto Slipher. the more rapidly it is receding from us. Astronomy’s data revolution does not take away any of the truth or poignancy of Hubble’s words in summing up that task: “Eventually we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. Likewise the limits of knowledge lie farther o than they did back then. 6 DISCOVER WorldMags . one of the unsung heroes of cosmology.) Now Hubble could make a simple but powerful plot of velocity versus distance. ose data points were enough to establish a mind-blowing trend: e farther away a galaxy is. He could say that with considerable authority. although with millions rather than dozens of data points to consider. Hubble’s stroke of genius was not just collecting the data but nding the pattern within it. and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. adding a crucial second piece of information: the distances to those galaxies.WorldMags EDITOR’S NOTE “ e history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons. at is still the challenge. Grander surveys are now under way. ere we measure shadows. Hubble built on Slipher’s studies. and a lot of the information in there did not even originate with Hubble. As Preston Lerner describes in “Crunching the Universe” (page ). but they are still there.

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which will search for dark matter particles. 9 04. this cavern housed a Nobel Prize–winning neutrino experiment. THE SHOT Photographer Steve Babbitt fought condensation and temperature changes to capture this 30-second exposure lit by a combination of flash and headlamps. South Dakota. researchers successfully petitioned to turn it into a lab. The lab recently expanded the space. After the mine’s closure was announced in 2000.000 tons of rock to prepare for the installation of the Large Underground Xenon Detector. The site has contributed to science before: From 1965 until the late 1990s. removing 17.000 feet. Homestake once hosted the largest gold deposit in the Western Hemisphere and was the deepest mine in the United States. reaching down more than 8.WorldMags A MINE’S SECOND LIFE THE MOMENT Scientists and engineers inspect a cavern nearly a mile beneath the surface at the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake in Lead.2011 WorldMags .

WorldMags WILD RIDE NASA. PREVOUS PAGES: STEVE BABBITT THE MOMENT The Multiple Axis Space Test Inertial Facility at what is now the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland mimicked the complex motions of a spacecraft during astronaut training for Project Mercury in 1960. The rig. the test pilot strapped into the center then used the jets to stabilize the simulator. and yawing. 10 DISCOVER WorldMags . aimed to teach pilots how to regain control of a tumbling craft. An operator set the apparatus rolling. pitching. THE SHOT NASA photographer Bill Bowles used both double-exposure and long-exposure techniques to create this image of the trainer in action. which consisted of three aluminum cages powered by nitrogen jets.

O. from Isaac Newton to Richard Feynman to E.scientific genius? Presents What does it take to be a WorldMags GENIU 47 FLASH E GOODALL RICHARD FEYNMAN E. Featuring: • Jane Goodall • Stephen Hawking • J. Robert Oppenheimer • Stephen Jay Gould • Marie Curie • And more than 40 other extraordinary minds • When good minds go wrong: The dumbest ideas of the brightest scientists Also: Purchase a copy today at your favorite newsstand or bookstore! WorldMags .99 U. DISPLAY UNTIL MARCH 21.S. Special sections delve into the brilliance of Einstein and Darwin and explore how their groundbreaking ideas shape our world today.indd US1 Process CyanProcess MagentaP rocess Yellow How Genius Works Big Thinkers. Wilson. WILSON STEPHEN HAWKING CHARLES DARWIN Presents GENIUS GREAT MINDS OF SCIENCE GREAT MINDS of SCIENCE JAN and more BAD IDEAS WINTER 2011 $7. EINSTEIN HisWords. 2011 DS1004COVER2A_QG. O. His Vision Red C 12/13/10 4:38 PM Process BlackPANTONE Warm The latest special issue from DISCOVER showcases the unique insights and profound observations of the greatest minds of science.

WILLIAM A. one of the paleontologists with the Southern California Edison team. that the sun converts to helium and energy through nuclear fusion every second. Obscure provisions in California’s tough environmental laws require that scientists be dispatched to construction sites in geologically promising areas. digging in preparation for construction of a new power station in arid San Timoteo Canyon southeast of Los Angeles unearthed some fossilized snails. The core. operates at 27 million degrees. at the sun’s surface. surpassing 1 million degrees. e fossils were quickly excavated. showing that jets shooting out from the sun’s surface contain gas that is even hotter than previously realized. Thomas Demere. Among the largest and most complete specimens in the new collection are a giant ancestor of the saber-toothed tiger. jacketed in plaster. two types of camel. That is equivalent to the weight of all the coal burned in the United States in seven months. million years old. 10. BOWEN. “It was extremely exciting to come across such a rare find. A study published in January offered a possible explanation. and new deer and horse species. Strangely. 12 DISCOVER WorldMags FROM TOP: COURTESY DR.WorldMags Big Idea Accidental Paleontology in L. ground sloths the size of grizzly bears. Most of us think of determined bone hunters digging up paleontological treasure on NUMBER The Sun BY JEREMY JACQUOT Temperature. in degrees Fahrenheit.” If not for the strong California laws protecting paleontological resources at the site. the magnitude of the find slowly became clear: e canyon revealed a trove of thousands of animal and plant fossils that were more than .000 600 MILLION Amount of hydrogen fuel.” says Philippe Lapin. in tons. “The number of fossils was beyond our expectations. the corona. they will “help esh out the tree of life here with what organisms existed. At 4. the San Timoteo discoveries might never have happened. is much hotter than its surface. and shipped to a nearby lab for ongoing cleaning and analysis so that construction could continue.” he says. As the researchers sifted through the soil. a giant nuclear reactor. so utility company Southern California Edison had a team of paleontologists standing by. . curator of the department of paleontology at the San Diego Natural History Museum. the sun has burned through nearly half its hydrogen fuel supply.A.5 billion years old. says that because these fossils are from an earlier epoch than most others found in the region. when they arrived. the sun’s outer atmosphere. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON . and how they evolved.

aims to protect fossils uncovered during development of federal land. Words Words Buzz Buzz PALEONTOLOGICAL RESOURCES PRESERVATION ACT A 2009 law requiring development projects on federal land to excavate and protect fossils uncovered during construction.000 11 Duration. Previously. and preserving them for study.WorldMags dedicated expeditions in exotic locales. indicate a strong magnetic field. Speed. out t that specializes in preserving fossil remains. “We find fossils about percent of the time on construction sites. two porpoises. in years. to . including a telescope and a particle counter. an Auburn.” a process known as mitigation paleontology. 4x10 23 1.” says paleontologist Lanny Fisk. yielded extinct camels. in kilowatts. the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act. rhinos. but the fact is that many fossils turn up quite by chance. builders erecting a seawall in Santa Cruz. but there was no clear directive for handling fossils. which makes up Remains of a nearly complete extinct horse that lived around 1. slated to launch before 2018. Evaluating all this information. A federal law. Construction projects. and other marine life from million to million years ago. “when you’re doing work on public land in an area that’s likely to have fossil resources. The current cycle began in 2008. Total power output of the sun. and giant wolverines. a bulldozer operator working on a reservoir expansion project in Colorado found a juvenile mammoth. in miles per hour. a patchwork of laws including the Antiquities Act of and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of protected objects of historic and scienti c interest on land owned by the federal government. In 2009 researchers at NASA estimated that 45 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth is absorbed or reflected by our atmosphere. which sift through tremendous amounts of dirt and rock while digging foundations or laying roads. In September NASA selected the instruments. monitoring for fossils. that will make the unprecedented journey. MITIGATION PALEONTOLOGY A specialty focused on protecting fossils discovered during construction. of a typical solar cycle. Sedimentary rock such as sandstone and shale. so before a development project gets under way. SHALE A type of sedimentary rock consisting of layers of fine particles. “ e intent was to take the hodgepodge of laws that we were using and create a more uniform approach to managing paleontology resources on federal lands. while a recent expansion of the Caldecott Tunnel near Berkeley. roughly . DIRE WOLF A carnivore slightly larger than the modern gray wolf that roamed North America until about 10. Workers found dire wolf fossils while digging a parking lot in L. If it receives a high rating. they give the site a score for its fossil potential. California. and analyzing any fossils that turn up. will dive into the sun’s atmosphere to study how the wind achieves its astonishing speed. extinct bison. dire wolves. so construction projects in areas containing shale receive special attention from paleontologists. Earth’s surface absorbs or reflects the rest. of the solar wind. natural variations in the number of sunspots and flares that affect solar irradiance levels on Earth. president of PaleoResource Consultants. Geology is the best indicator of promising fossil beds. a stream of charged particles flowing from the sun in all directions. are an especially rich source of these happy accidents. California.000 years ago.000. sorting.2011 WorldMags . And last October. a paleontologist in Albuquerque who oversees the western region of the Bureau of Land Management. California. that gure may be as high as percent.” she says. It often contains fossils. including preliminary site evaluations. In construction for a parking garage for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art revealed a prehistoric lion skull. large solar flares have caused blackouts and disrupted communications on Earth. Fisk and other paleontologists estimate that more than half of all new fossils in the country come from construction sites. The experts also review whether nearby or similar geological formations have produced important specimens. years ago. In . and a -foot sloth. and professional monitors stay on location to observe construction work.” says Patricia Hester. researchers hope to return to the site to continue digging this spring. and a near-complete mammoth skeleton from the last Ice Age. Still. does an especially good job of preserving animal and plant remains. you have to show how you’re going to deal with them. marked by dark areas on the sun. and in states like California with powerful regulations. uncovered three whales.4 million years ago (left) were discovered during the installation of a power station in the San Timoteo Canyon near Los Angeles (above). A mission called Solar Probe Plus. three more mammoths. the scientists develop a mitigation plan for cleaning. Subsequent excavation in Colorado exposed at least eight mastodons. and a NOAA panel predicts it will peak in May 2013. created from layers of deposited material. one of the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the new law. In the past. Solar flares are powerful explosions at the star’s surface. for instance. Sunspots. the new law applies only to federal land.A. 13 04. “Now. paleontologists assess the location.

discovermagazine.8 miles before mechanical failure brought the trip to a premature conclusion.WorldMags about percent of the country’s area. as a model for other states.A. The crew collected 4. 32 marine scientists set out from Portugal on a planned 52-day trans-Atlantic expedition. (A followup cruise is slated for later this year.” he says. “ ey’re worth protecting as an essential part of our national heritage.” says Gregory Cutter.” page 56).” A horse leg bone scarred by a sabertoothed cat. mercury levels in the North Pacific Ocean have increased 30 percent over the last 20 years. Scientists point to California. potentially putting humans at higher risk of exposure from seafood (See “Ill Wind Blowing. yet scientists have only a glimmer of understanding of how these chemicals influence marine ecosystems. “It’s an inventory of the periodic table in the ocean. Researchers will also track radioactive isotopes such as tritium. but enforcement is spotty at best. a consulting group based in Riverside. “Every fossil adds to our knowledge of the evolution of life on this continent over the last million years. have their own rules about fossil salvage. The sampling also includes environmental contaminants such as mercury and lead. fossil finds are all but totally unregulated nationwide.” JEREMY JACQUOT The R/V Knorr’s last ocean chemistry expedition was cut short by a broken driveshaft. some—such as iron and copper—are naturally occurring nutrients supplied by dust storms and deep-sea vents. 14 DISCOVER Keep your finger on the pulse of science as it happens with 80Beats. WorldMags LEFT: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON.COM These nourish phytoplankton and drive yearly bursts in regional productivity. a form of hydrogen. California. researchers will finish the job this year. Extensive recent fossil nds in the state conrm the value of such laws and underscore the need for tougher national rules to preserve these precious resources. and Utah.” says Robert Reynolds. found in L. 30-nation research collective called Geotraces is embarking on an ambitious global survey of ocean chemistry to quantify trace elements and shed light on how chemical concentrations fluctuate in response to changing environmental conditions. we’re losing valuable resources forever. especially fossil-rich ones like Colorado. which suggests that in unregulated areas. And on private lands. Last October. While tougher regulations have driven lead levels down globally since the 1990s. to better understand the ocean’s circulation systems and to learn how they might be shifting in response to climate change. an oceanographer at Old Dominion University and one of three lead scientists on the recent trip. ABOVE: WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION .) Of the 30 or so trace elements Geotraces scientists are studying. Now.600 water samples in three weeks from depths as great as 2. “We almost always make major discoveries of new species when construction sites are properly supervised. DISCOVER MAGAZINE . a mitigation paleontologist with Associates. the first American-led effort on behalf of the project. Fisk says. even on state-owned property. a 15-year. North Dakota. which boasts some of the most comprehensive regulations in the nation. the DISCOVER news aggregator at blogs. Science News EARTH SCIENCE BEAT Charting Earth’s Chemical-Kissed Seas Just about every naturally occurring element churns through the earth’s oceans. “There’s never been anything like the breadth and scope of this project. e California Environmental Quality Act of requires an analysis and mitigation plan for potential fossils on largescale construction projects regardless of whether the land in question is publicly or privately Many states. Fisk says. Scientists are busy planning six more global expeditions this year.

Mounted on a rat’s head. Then the laser bombards the dye with photons. “He has been among the most prominent in part because of his research. other journals issued corrections to two of his publications. tentatively titled Evilicious: Explaining Our Evolved Taste for Being Bad. a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. which emits pulses that probe up to 300 microns deep into the brain.2-ounce multi-photon microscope that can track networks of brain cells and individual neurons.” says Jason Kerr. WILL HUNT 2-Photon Laser Plastic Optical Fiber Miniature Scanner KELLIE JAEGER 15 04. The best method was to hook up a restrained rat to electrodes that monitor brain signals and then play images on a screen in front of the rat to create the illusion that it is roaming through a landscape. A miniature scanner guides the beam across the cells. causing it to glow green when a cell is active. allowing scientists to track cells without limiting the rats’ mobility. he did not originate the concept. To that end. “ ere have been many other important contributors to the eld. which is converted into an electric signal that appears as an image on a computer screen. the 1. “To understand how the animal’s brain operates. Hauser was a rising star whose studies of primate behavior seemed to show that the foundations of language and morality are hardwired into the brains of humans and our kin. All the same. Gerry Altmann. Perhaps more answers will emerge in his upcoming book. Moreover. we need to let it behave as naturally as possible. It is not clear if that kind of bias is what caused Hauser’s troubles.2011 WorldMags . but in part because of his ability to publicize. this technology could help us understand how we make choices. Kerr says. much related research does not rely on monkey studies. BRAIN SCOPE Mini Multi-Photon Microscope The laser in a tiny but powerful microscope is giving neuroscientists their best look yet at how the brains of rats work as they scurry about their daily activities. Cognition’s editor. Since rats and humans probably share similar decision-making mechanisms. which may be particularly vulnerable to con rmation bias—the unwitting tendency to interpret observations in a way that ts preexisting beliefs.WorldMags NEUROSCIENCE BEAT Monkeys & Morality quaked last August when Harvard con rmed that it had found Marc Hauser. A plastic optical fiber collects the emitted light. One key to the microscope’s success is its powerful 2-photon laser. But virtual reality can go only so far in simulating natural movement. a cognitive scientist at the university. he is on leave and not talking. they must inject a fluorescent dye to highlight brain cells. Before researchers activate the laser.” Although Hauser expanded the idea of an innate moral grammar. doubts the scandal will taint the areas of inquiry in which Hauser made his name.5-inch plastic and titanium instrument allows the animal to move freely and captures in real time how brain cells interact during everyday behaviors. Kerr and his team recently developed a 0.” Altmann says. But a document provided to e Chronicle of Higher Education indicates that Hauser’s lab workers observed huge discrepancies between his descriptions of monkey behavior and the experimental results captured on video. In October. “solely responsible” for eight cases of scienti c misconduct. the journal Cognition published a retraction of a paper by Hauser. the ability of researchers to study the animals’ brains while they socialize or look for food has been relatively limited. Until now.

In the initial prototype. but their collapse can be sudden and dramatic. devolving from a state to a tribe without hitting intermediate levels on the way down.” he says. and anti-inflammatory agents for use on a variety of wounds.” BAD NEWS ≥ Environmental scientists report that 45 percent of tap water samples from 18 countries around the world contained live amoebas. ≥ A road experiment by a Dutch and French team found that performance impairment after three hours of continuous night driving was equivalent to driving drunk with a 0. Java’s largest temple complex. alerting doctors to a potential infection. Fewer dressing changes will also reduce scarring and speed healing. First they used linguistic similarities to create an evolutionary tree showing the relationships among contemporary cultures. a battery-powered time-release mechanism will dispense the medications. NAYANAH SIVA 16 DISCOVER WorldMags DALLAS AND JOHN HEATON/AURORA . but ultimately the researchers hope to incorporate chemical sensors that will trigger drug release in response to changes in the wound.WorldMags Science News OOD NEWS ≥ Medical researchers in Japan report that a trained dog sniffing human stool samples can detect colorectal cancer about as well as a colonoscopy. ≥ NASA’s solar sail mission is back on track. Biologist Mark Pagel of the University of Reading in England says the nding makes intuitive sense. ≥ A study of fastfood restaurants in Washington State before and after a labeling law was enacted found that posting calorie counts made no difference in how much people ate. The team completed preliminary testing of the antibiotic release response in December and hopes to begin bandage trials on pigs within two years. native shellfish in the Hudson River are making a comeback. well-organized society to produce Prambanan. e research aims to settle a major anthropological debate over whether political systems develop the same way regardless of culture. ANTHROPOLOGY BEAT On the Origin of Societies . It took a sophisticated. ey then described each society’s political structure on a spectrum from loosely organized tribes up to complex states and began testing di erent models of how they could have evolved to form the present-day tree. ere are a lot of small steps in between. “It’s essentially the same way biologists use genetics to see how species are related. “You don’t start with a sundial and move straight to a wristwatch. To study societal evolution. with each one passing sequentially through all the stages of increasing complexity. But it was possible to fall quickly. Meanwhile. change. Toby Jenkins of the University of Bath in England and colleagues are designing a dressing that releases antimicrobials from nanocapsules when bacterial toxins appear in a wound.08 percent blood alcohol content. Currie and his colleagues turned to the tools of evolutionary biology. cell biologist Paul Durham and his team from Missouri State University are working on a multitasking bandage layered with antifungal. he says. though. Durham expects to begin preliminary human testing next year. “Cultural evolution is a lot like biological evolution. ≥ After a sharp decline following an invasion of zebra mussels in 1991. In late January. MEDICINE BEAT Smart Bandages Nurse Your Wounds Two new self-medicating bandages promise to keep serious wounds free of infection. the sail radioed back that it had successfully unfurled. antibacterial. The harmful bacteria also prompt the dressing to change color. Engineers tried to eject NanoSail-D from its launch satellite in December but initially got no signal from the craft. Jenkins believes a bandage that can spot and treat an infection faster than clinicians can will be particularly beneficial for burn victims—nearly 50 percent of all burnrelated deaths result from infection. e most successful models were those that prohibited the skipping of steps during a society’s rise.” he says. includ- ing the complex Balinese society of Indonesia and the indigenous Iban people of Borneo. including deep cuts and punctures. at is one intriguing lesson from a recent study of diverse cultures across Southeast Asia and the Paci c Islands by University College London anthropologist Tom Currie. the results suggest that some aspects of political development are in fact universal.

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” Judging from the frequency of healed bone in such skulls. Astrophysicist Michael Briggs. Italian Space Agency physicist Marco Tavani and colleagues report that the most energetic particles released carry four times as much energy as previous measurements detected. he says. but until now they had never been directly observed. or basic cranial surgery. The procedure may have been performed to treat hemorrhages. Tavani plans to evaluate how s might a ect aircraft ying nearby. or mental illness. But smaller-scale bursts called terrestrial gamma-ray ashes ( s) can occur much closer to home. Last August Bilgi also unearthed a pair of razor-sharp volcanic glass blades that he believes were used to make the careful cuts. In 2-inch incision. erupting thousands of times a year in association with lightning strikes during storms in Earth’s atmosphere. LEFT: IKIZTEPE EXCAVATION ARCHIVE. Researchers working on another mission.C. and “there are clear signs of recovery in the regrowth of bone tissue at the edges. rectangular incisions that are evidence for trepanation. OPPOSITE: NEIL LUCAS/NATUREPL. a Fermi team member based at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Tavani describes a storm hurling photons into ’s detectors as basically a giant particle accelerator in the sky. a small settlement near the Black Sea occupied from 3200 to 1700 B. anthropologist Yilmaz Erdal of Hacettepe University in Turkey recently proposed that about half of all Bronze Age trepanation patients—and 60 percent of those in Turkey—survived the procedure. revealing that they emit far more energy than previously thought and release streams of antimatter particles. announced in January that about percent of the particles red o by s consist of positrons—the positively charged antimatter twins of electrons.400-year-old skull of an early neurosurgery patient. and hundreds The 4. WILL HUNT PHYSICS BEAT Lightning Unleashes Antimatter Storms and light energy known as gammaray bursts come from violent cosmic events in deep space. . Some highpowered lightning strikes produce unusual forms of matter. At Ikiztepe.” he says. In a study of s recorded by the satellite. Üstündag says the surgeon cut a neat 1.COM of times as much as those produced by normal lightning strikes. physicists had predicted the antiparticles’ presence in the bursts. Currently. which bear a charge opposite that of their normal counterparts.000-year-old trepanned skull of a man at Kultepe Höyük in central Turkey. Two satellites originally designed to observe gamma rays from space recently caught the atmospheric ares in action. ’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. hopes such ndings will aid in modeling how s form. There is ample evidence that Bronze Age sawbones knew what they doing. 18 DISCOVER WorldMags ABOVE: MIKE HOLLINGSHEAD/GETTY IMAGES. Because gamma rays can convert into electrons and positrons. scientists do not understand why some lightning strikes produce such mayhem while others do not. but recent studies of the practice at Bronze Age sites in Turkey suggest that early neurosurgeons were surprisingly precise and that a majority of their patients may have survived. brain cancer.WorldMags Science News ARCHAEOLOGY BEAT Bronze Age Brain Surgeons You might shudder at the mere thought of ancient brain surgery. Next. archaeologist Önder Bilgi of Istanbul University has uncovered five skulls with clean. such as stellar explosions and black hole collisions.. biological anthropologist Handan Üstündag of Anadolu University in Turkey excavated the 4. Last summer. head trauma. “It’s the equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider acting in the atmosphere for a fraction of a second.

The findings suggest that the trees shield the coastline by reducing the height and energy of ocean waves and offer hard evidence that deforestation could result in increased coastal damage from storms. These so-called walking trees coolly shrug off extreme heat and muddy topsoil deficient in oxygen and filter the salty waters of southern Florida and tropical Southeast Asia. due to elaborate root systems that sprawl above and below the waterline. a study led by Danish ecologist Finn Danielsen reported that coastal areas flush with mangrove trees were markedly less damaged than those without. oxygen. where the majority of the 73 known mangrove species live. forming dense forests that shelter monkeys. They also curb their thirst: A 30-foot mangrove sips about six gallons per day. absorbing heat to prevent evaporation of the shallow waters they depend on. A global inventory by McGill University environmental scientist Gail Chmura found that mangroves pack away carbon faster than terrestrial forests.S. and medicine. Mangrove Mangroves are survivors. which helps hoist the tree upward. kangaroos. Every year they hoard some 42 million tons. and tigers as well as shellfish and brightly colored corals. roughly equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 25 million cars. mangroves remain active. lumber. Mangroves also help other species survive. the roots grow faster and bolster the soil. 19 04. ESTABLISHES DEEP ROOTS The mangrove depends on its complex root system for stability.000 years old found that during periods of rising sea level. Geological Survey scientists analyzing mangrove roots and soil up to 8. Unlike many tropical plants that close the pores on their leaves at midday to reduce sun exposure. AMY BARTH CAPTURES CARBON Mangroves are expert carbon scrubbers. In 2007 U. SURVIVES EXTREME HEAT Mangroves love sunshine.2011 WorldMags . and salt filtration. Even humans benefit as impoverished coastal communities exploit the tree for food. prompting ecologists to step up their investigations into the unique ability of mangroves to survive and protect their coastal environments. But mangrove forests are dwindling.WorldMags SLOWS COASTAL EROSION Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Relentless deforestation and powerful tropical storms have reduced their habitats by 35 percent since 1980. while a similar-size pine tree guzzles more than three times that amount.

But while working on her Ph. leg. brown. pink. Sada I have seen archaeology cause conflict when it is used for political and religious purposes. was executed by the country’s brutal Barre regime. or wherever to stop the poison if it attacked. about miles from the Red Sea. I studied Scandinavian archaeology because I wanted to understand my new surroundings. yellow. What was it like being one of the first people in thousands of years to see the rock art of Dhambalin? It was an incredible feeling just to stand in front of the paintings. What challenges do you face in building Somaliland’s Department of Tourism and Archaeology from the ground up? Looting and uncontrolled development are major threats to the local sites. What do you consider to be the most important ancient site in Somaliland? From an archaeological standpoint. who are perhaps idols themselves. in archaeology from University College London. I became interested in my own past. Then I lay down to take photos and heard a snake breathing in my ear. 20 DISCOVER WorldMags . which saw him as a political threat. Mire hopes to spur interest in the region’s cultural heritage. along with antelope and ibex. where there are . a Somali police official. -year-old paintings of animals in red. green. and black. I would pick Laas Geel. so the paintings reveal an environment that was once more hospitable than today’s desert. After learning about European culture. ose animals haven’t lived there in many years. She returned to her homeland for the rst time in years to carry out research in Somaliland—a relatively peaceful. a wellpreserved . I didn’t tell my mother. PHOTOGRAPH: GRAHAM TROTT. It’s the only site in the region decorated with images of sheep. self-declared state in the northwestern part of Somalia—where she discovered several prehistoric rock art sites. apparently to symbolize fertility. Dhambalin is a rock art site in the desert. I believe he would have done it. e images in the cave are mainly cows painted with big udders. In she fled Somalia.WorldMags Five uestions for Mire . My assistant told me he was thinking how he would cut o my arm. religions. And you have recently discovered a major ancient site in Somaliland? Yes. How did you become interested in this career? When I was a refugee. Mire’s academic interests drew her back to Africa. reuniting with family in Sweden and eventually pursuing graduate studies in England. GROOMING: CLAIRE HANSON You are the world’s only active Somali archaeologist. and cultures. -year-old cave art site that is one of the oldest in Africa. white. In she was named Somaliland’s Director of Antiquities. e cows are shown being worshipped by human figures wearing painted hides. father. using the past to foster peace and understanding among her people today. but I want to help Somalis understand their past and accept di erent people.D.

P13002 WorldMags . Outside the U. 30 In-depth coverage. 46 Only 9e $29.Astronomy.m.issu5s! r 12 fo Subscribe today at or call 1-800-533-6644. Please have your credit card ready.S.m. 28 The Kepler mission is on the hunt for extrasolar planets. and Canada.COM! the Cassini mission 10 Saturn discoveries from p. and deep-sky objects • Dazzling full-color images that bring the universe to life • Readable user-friendly articles • Easy-to-understand science reporting • BONUS: SUBSCRIBERS ALSO GET UNLIMITED PREMIUM CONTENT ON ASTRONOMY. 22 The world’s best-selling astronomy magazine other worlds The world’s biggest telescopes illustrated p. p. 52 November 2010 The Kepler spacecraft’s search for Johannes Kepler decoded how the Sun’s planets move.4:30 p. 661. Subscribe to Astronomy now and SAVE 58% OFF the newsstand price! Your subscription will include: • A monthly pullout sky chart showing the constellations and more • Tips for locating stars. The world’s best-selling astronomy magazine brings the wonders of space down to Earth and into your hands. CST. ext. .WorldMags Out-of-this-world savings. Easter Island eclipse images p. Tour the Local Group of galaxies p. Monday-Friday 8:30 a. call 1-262-796-8776. Astronomers expect the spacecraft to discover everything from gas giants close to their suns to Earth-sized planets in habitable zones. planets. Now his namesake mission hunts for other planetary systems.

above. along with geoengineering as a fail-safe. Cool It. Shane Carruth’s cult classic stitched together one of the trippiest movie visions of time travel. Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as military man Colter Stevens. . budget. 22 DISCOVER WorldMags . and his film is just as manufactured as An Inconvenient Truth. A decade ago.plot devices. he can experience the last eight minutes before a fatal bombing as seen through a dead man’s eyes—and interact with a mysterious woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan.cinema: Primer. Now he is back. COOL IT. continues Lomborg’s cry to rethink the world’s responses to global warming: Abandon toothless agreements about carbon cuts and instead invest in renewable energy. it’s increasingly difficult to ignore his call to explore a different path. director Duncan Jones established himself as an impresario of mind-blowing science ction. COURTESY LIONSGATE A decade after becoming a pariah to many green crusaders. “Well. a documentary based on his 2007 book of the same name. “ ere wasn’t one today. COURTESY SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT 2011. throwing us for a di erent kind of loop. Groundhog Day. with Gyllenhaal). Be prepared to watch it several times to decipher the convoluted time line. what if there is no tomorrow?” Bill Murray asks. DVD Cool It SOURCE CODE.WorldMags HOT SCIENCE What to read. Source Code opens April . and visit this month Movies Source Code . time loops have motivated some of the richest stories in sci. view. Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg remains a polarizing force. Source Code poses its own cosmic question: Can reliving the past o er someone the chance to change it? In the right hands. the psychological trials of a time-displaced suburban loner put Gyllenhaal—and demonic rabbits—on the map. But in the aftermath of yet another blasé United Nations climate meeting. Stevens must do it repeatedly until he spots enough clues to nd the culprit. Despite its puny . Available March 29 A. Assisted by “source code” technology.” Along the way he learns about a hundred ways not to hit on a smart woman. Lomborg delights a tad too much in casting himself as a voice of reason (and the anti–Al Gore). Fans of Moon (available on DVD) know that Jones loves to put a twist on classic sci. Donnie Darko.M.

and other cephalopods abounds with both ancient legend and modern science. e author explains the development of quantum electrodynamics with the same breeziness with which he shows how the collaborative spirit of the Manhattan Project (and simultaneously losing his young wife) steered Feynman toward his legendary Ph. if misnamed. COMIC. all in one handy panel. long-necked sauropods—those largest of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. including the iconic. ese vivacious characters are trying to “increase the tinkerability of biology. Abstruse Goose has science punch lines that A. AlderseyWilliams turns his boyhood passion for the chemical elements into an insightful biography of the periodic table’s denizens. that scientists searched for the elusive giant squid Architeuthis by attaching video cameras to the heads of sperm whales.D. Opens April 16. This new exhibit explores the biological machinery that enabled the colossal creatures to thrive. COURTESY ZACH WEINER.COM Quantum Man by Lawrence M. In xkcd #482. visitors can use a hand pump to push a digital sauropod’s blood all the way to its lofty head.abstrusegoose. ) ough far from the rst biographer to take on Richard Feynman.” as the father of one of Wohlsen’s characters explains. along with his attempts to re-create centuriesold experiments. Be prepared to laugh 23 04. for instance. In #320.phdcomics. Zach Weiner’s dark and zany strip deconstructs science and delves into other geeky humor (below). including extracting pure phosphorus from his own urine. To appreciate the energy required for a sauropod’s heart to move roughly 100 times as much blood as the human body contains. Even more amazing and chilling: e real world-changing research is yet to come. see how your own thigh bone measures up to a Camarasaurus’s. millennia of sea monster myths turned fascinatingly real when Canadian shermen lopped o two arms of a giant squid that attacked their rowboat and brought them ashore as evidence. .com Abstruse Goose. A -year-old converts an old shipping container into a mobile wet lab. (Piled High & Deeper).” SMBC-COMICS. brontosaurus— flourished for 140 million years. the size of the observable universe is shown on a logarithmic scale. COURTESY ANNESS PUBLISHING. .xkcd. Jorge Cham’s dead-on portrayal of the grad student life beautifully decodes the meaning of academic language: “Remains an open question” equals “We have no clue either. from golden statues of Kate Moss to the biblical obsession with sulfur. Biopunk by Marcus Wohlsen ( ) A -year-old grad designs a genetic disease risk-assessment test in her apartment. www. Williams’s account of squid.” www. What Kraken lacks in overarching narrative it makes up in authority. More absurdist and given to drawn-out jokes than the rest. We learn.smbc-comics. and the celebrated wit—and cuts through Feynman’s self-mythology. www. Krauss ( . the womanizer. Despite the demands of their enormous bodies. wit.WorldMags Web HOT SCIENCE Museum A Geek’s Guide to the Best Online Comics xkcd. www. World’s Largest Dinosaurs . Videos projected onto a 60-foot-long model of Mamenchisaurus (below) reveal its dynamic interior: You can follow a bite of plant food on the long journey through the creature’s digestive tract and watch the action of its hard-working lungs. And if you simply wish to be awed by size. Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams ( ) With a distinct British wit and a zest for science history. TOP RIGHT: MAMENCHISAURUS. e author travels all over the cultural map. and poetry. Randall Monroe’s consistent hilarity —interrupted by occasional heart-wrenching seriousness and cosmic awe—has made xkcd the top geek comic on the Web.2011 WorldMags . The Flash learns a hard lesson about relativity. Krauss admirably interweaves parallel tales of the brilliant physicist.M. octopuses. “SMBC. SARAH STANLEY Books Kraken by Wendy Williams ( ) One day in . .

rst place. she couldn’t tell them anything at all. however. hadn’t just lost her past. But he could not recall a single event from his own life. During her examination. As for envisioning her personal future. sleepy and confused. It had occurred to him as he was examining a braininjured patient. . “I don’t picture myself in the future. “Do you remember the question?” Tulving asked.. You need a base to build the future. could not imagine the future. still had memories of basic facts. N.” e past and future may seem like di erent worlds. O -YEAR-OLD WOMAN WAS BROUGHT TO THE Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. a neuropsychologist at the center. he had lost his episodic memory.” as the man was known. In fact. It was impossible for her to imagine traveling forward in time. Andelman realized. “I don’t know.N.” she said. including a complex test that required her to plan several steps ahead. at the University of Toronto. she had lost her future as well. She could understand the meaning of words and recall the faces of famous people. In recent studies on mental time travel.N. In other words. She could see and speak clearly.WorldMags BY CARL ZIMMER Rich autobiographical memory is the essence of our humanity and the base from which we foresee the future—a key to our species’ success.” he said. She could still remember recent events outside her own life. our senses of past and future may be crucial to our species’ success. the woman o ered an explanation for her absence of foresight. But her memory had holes. her autobiography was in tatters. He could explain how to make a long-distance call and draw the Statue of Liberty. At first the woman seemed fine. yet the two are intimately intertwined in our minds. e patient. She could even solve logic puzzles. and she could tell Andelman details of her life up to . rst proposed a link between memory and foresight in . smiled faintly. After seconds of silence. neuroscientists found that we use many of the same regions of the brain to remember the past as we do to envision our future lives. our need for foresight may explain why we can form memories in the 24 DISCOVER WorldMags BIWA STUDIO . Beyond that point. and colleagues gave the woman a battery of psychological tests to judge her state of mind. that was a lost cause. Tulving and his colleagues then discovered that N. “What will you be doing tomorrow?” Tulving asked him during one interview. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get home. “N. Fani Andelman. ey are indeed “a base to build the future.” And together. Asked NE DAY NOT LONG AGO A what she thought she might be doing anytime beyond the next day. The more doctors probed her so-called episodic memory—the sequential recollection of personal events from the past—the more upset she became. “I barely know where I am.N.

Razib Khan delves into the results for insights into his ancestry and origins. Khan discovermagazine.” Podcast: StarTalk StarTalk bridges the gap between pop culture and pop The Loom While you’re going about your business. But new research suggests it has a dark RIGHT NOW @ Science Not Fiction Kyle Munkittrick isn’t afraid of the Singularity—that theoretical future moment when superintelligent computers begin to shape the world in ways we can’t imagine. Carl Zimmer tours the battlefield. and the bacteria are fighting back furiously. The weekly podcast is hosted by Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson and features appearances by a wide range of stellar discovermagazine. an exciting exoplanet orbiting in its star’s “Goldilocks Cosmic Variance Since 1983 the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab has helped physicists probe the smallest building blocks of matter. discovermagazine.DISCOVERMAGAZINE.COM ww P H OTO G A L L E RY VIDEO Changing Planet How will climate change alter our lives? Scientists. We bring you exclusive video of the conversation. moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw. extraterrestrial life.COM Bad Astronomy Back in September 2010. discovermagazine. Ed Yong explains. discovermagazine. DAVID GAMBLE Gene Expression After getting his genome sequenced by the personal genetics company 23andMe. Phil Plait says: It may not exist.2011 WorldMags . astronomers announced the discovery of Gliese 581g. the future of Earth. covering subjects like space travel. viruses are attacking the bacteria living in your mouth. Navy wants to put giant lasers on its ships to shoot down artillery shells and cruise missiles at the speed of light.S. business leaders. John Conway writes the particle smasher’s obituary. the chemical that promotes bonding and trust. In 2011 it will be turned off for good. and Yale University. the National Science Foundation.WorldMags DISCOVERMAGAZINE. and citizens recently came together to discuss this question at a town hall meeting cosponsored by DISCOVER. NORTHROP GRUMMAN. discovermagazine. and other breaking universal news. That’s because he doesn’t think it’s going to happen. FROM LEFT: ISTOCKPHOTO. NBC Not Exactly Rocket Science Oxytocin has been labeled the cuddle hormone. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how they’re building a powerful and seaworthy “free electron laser. Zimmer discovermagazine. But first researchers need to make sure the physics are discovermagazine. How to Build the Ultimate Laser Weapon The 25 04.” Just one problem.

the signals seemed to cover every possible route.” he said. a structure located near the brain’s core. Stan Klein. observed rats as the animals traveled along a winding. As the rats ran up the midsection. is exploring this process in detail.” he explained. he probed the memory of undergraduates.N. Redish concluded. designed a series of experiments to see if foresight develops with the same timing. On the basis of his study of N. When the rat travels that route again. Neurons there become active at particular spots along the route. with only one direction leading to food. the scientists eavesdropped on the hippocampi of their test rats. and sadness—and. seemed meaningless to N. for example. For instance. e researchers saw a number of regions become active in the brains of the volunteers while thinking of the past and future. From time to time. and future.N. omas Suddendorf. Studies on children also lend support to Tulving’s time travel hypothesis.and -year-olds a box with a triangular hole on one side and demonstrated how to open it with a triangular key. they remembered the square lock and used that knowledge to project into a future in which only a square key would unlock the box. e rats were pondering lots of alternatives.N. David Redish. a psychologist at the University of California. Most of the subjects correctly picked the square key. A third group was told to imagine the process of planning a camping trip. Klein has run a series of experiments to test this hypothesis. Over the past decade. In a group led by Tom Davidson and Fabian Kloosterman. they had a choice to go left or right. to write down as many of the listed words as they could. “It’s like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go nd a chair. -meter track. In one study published last year. Davidson noticed something intriguing: Sometimes 26 DISCOVER WorldMags . e children had to anticipate what would happen when they tried to unlock it. a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia. regardless of their age. He then swapped the box for one equipped with a square lock and gave the children three di erent keys. argues that the intertwining of foresight and episodic memory may help explain how this type of memory evolved in the rst place. e older kids did much better—probably because. only after that were they o ered a choice of keys. When a rat moves around a space—be it a meadow or a lab maze—it encodes a map in its hippocampus. Klein says his results illustrate the decision-making value of memory: When students were actively planning the future. But sometimes when the rats were resting or deciding which way to turn. Scientists can get clues to its origins by studying lab rats. ring in the same order (but at times the speed) as they did when the rats were navigating the track. e students asked to plan a camping trip recalled more words than the others. but with a twist to test the children’s foresight. a neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota. had In brain scans of mental time travel. “Blank. e younger kids were just as likely to pick one of the wrong keys as the right one. It seemed that the rats were rapidly replaying their journey through the track in their heads. during these breaks the place cells became active again. paused for a few more seconds. As expected. they have found support for his hypothesis. trees. the kids were rst taken to another room to play for minutes. after spending a few minutes on other tasks. the same “place cells” re in the same order. In fact. both forward and backward. Instead of choosing a key for the square lock right away. I guess. but not the present. e researchers were able to identify place cells that red at di erent spots all along the way. “Yes. a rectangular loop with a shortcut running through its midsection. In one experiment. which they had to take back to the room with the box. In Klein’s view. en Suddendorf ran the experiment again. is time Suddendorf found a sharp break between the -yearolds and the -year-olds. e very concept of the future. the ring of the place cells indicated that they were imagining running through the maze in a di erent direction. Students in all three groups then looked at a list of words—including food.N. it could have guided our ancestors not to visit a local watering hole on moonlit nights because that was when sabertoothed tigers hung out there. he showed . children start to develop a strong episodic memory. scientists have found that volunteers use the same neural circuitry to remember the past and to imagine themselves in the future. neuroscientists at .WorldMags BY CARL ZIMMER “About what I’ll be doing tomorrow?” N. Some of the students were asked to recall a camping trip they’d taken in the past. Last year. He and his colleagues recently built a more complex rat maze. episodic memory probably arose in part because it helped individuals make good decisions about what to do next. Others were asked simply to envision a campsite. the rats would stop on the track for a rest. Santa Barbara. Previous work had shown that around the age of . Tulving proposed that projecting ourselves into the future requires the same brain circuitry we use to remember ourselves in the past. as scientists have begun to use f scanners to probe the activity of the brain.. published earlier this year. present. projecting themselves into di erent futures to help THE BRAIN time travel may have evolved in mammals more than million years ago. How would you describe your state of mind when you try to think about it?” N. the animals’ place cells red along the way as they were running the maze. with more developed episodic memories. Using implanted electrodes. their memories worked best. replied. Tulving and his colleagues had volunteers lie in an f scanner and imagine themselves in the past.

which evolved only within the past few hundred thousand years. We don’t just picture walking through a forest. Fullblown language. runs at blogs. the hippocampus is part of the network that becomes active. © 2011 Gorilla Glue Company RELIEF FOR DRY HANDS $EVROXWHO\ 2GRUOHVV u 1RQ*UHDV\ THAT CRACK & SPLIT %X\ WRGD\ RU ILQG D VWRUH QHDU \RX ZZZ2. It is possible that the transition started in our primate ancestors. *RULOOD 7RXJK 2Q $ 5ROO Incredibly strong. The Loom. the chimp collected a pile of rocks. judging from some intriguing stories about our fellow apes. brick and more. Damage to the hippocampus can rob people of their foresight. FOR THE TOUGHEST JOBS ON PLANET EARTH® 1-800-966-3458 Made in USA WorldMags Also available in a portable Handy 1" Roll. in fact. Did the chimp see itself a few hours into the future and realize it would need a cache of artillery? e only way we could know for sure would be for the chimp to tell us. is one of the traits that make us humans di erent from other species. it changed how we traveled through /theloom . e fact that chimpanzees can’t explain themselves may itself be a clue to the nature of time travel. tough and thick. a time machine we carry in our head. His blog. ey found that before the zoo opened each day.them decide where to go next.discovermagazine. zookeepers in Sweden spied on a chimpanzee that kept inging rocks at human visitors.HHIIHV&RPSDQ\FRP 1-800-275-2718 © 2010 The O’Keeffe’s Company $OVR DYDLODEOH for your feet. for example. We could now tell ourselves stories about our lives and use that material to compose new stories about our future. But our powers of foresight go far beyond a rodent’s. stone. for example. stucco. It is possible that once language evolved in our ancestors. in which we can predict how people will react to the things we do. A number of studies suggest that the hippocampus continues to be crucial to our own power of foresight. and when people with healthy brains think about their future. plaster. Carl Zimmer is an award-winning biology writer and author of The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution. WorldMags . Perhaps the literary imagination that gave rise to Dickens and Twain and Nabokov is. Scientists cannot say for sure exactly when our ancestors shifted to this more sophisticated kind of time travel. seemingly preparing ammunition for his attacks when the visitors arrived. In the s. Gorilla Tape is made to stick to rough and uneven surfaces like wood. We travel forward into a social future as well.

Her name is Taylor and she’s a cutie!” “Thanks. Is it her favorite color too?” She nodded slightly. like the mall—does she talk then?” “No. “My child isn’t talking. She looked directly at me and said. Cohen. “At home I can’t shut her up! She talks a mile a minute. I was pretty sure I knew what was keeping this child quiet. e thought back then was that these children had been traumatized in some way. Cohen. “What kind of trouble?” I asked. I turned to her mother.” Her smile broadened. but names and certain details have been changed. speech pathologists and psychologists began to recognize that 28 DISCOVER Get more medical drama from our Vital Signs Podcast when you want it. “I just don’t understand it. and then decided (“elected”) not to talk in certain settings. it was called elective mutism. But those conditions generally declare themselves before age . I am often called on to evaluate children’s speech and language. “Green Eggs and Ham—I read that when I was a kid. Is she simply shy. she. “But I think I know what’s going on here and what we can do to help. so it’s no wonder many childhood disorders express themselves in those areas. Taylor talked perfectly well when she was at home but went silent when she was away from her familiar environment. I glanced at the consultation request: Six-year-old girl with speech problem. At rst we just DISCOVER MAGAZINE . She had a classic case of a condition called selective mutism. pulling up Taylor’s medical record on my desktop computer. She wore a purple jumper over a short-sleeved white blouse. The cases described in Vital Signs are real. “Hey.” She paused. your mom is wearing a purple skirt.” I said. As a developmental pediatrician. on demand. is was probably a child with some articulation problems. Taylor! at’s a pretty dress you have on. WorldMags . She looked up at me and smiled. “Hi. “I understand your daughter is having some problems with her speech. not at all. When she was younger she talked all the time. but her mother had just given me the key. I saw a petite girl with long. Could just be a shy one.” “What about at home?” e girl’s mother shook her head with a rueful grin. is it?” “No. Not talking is a complaint I hear from parents of children who turn out to have severe speech and language disorders.” Strictly speaking.” I turned back to the girl. Realizing I had made her uncomfortable by asking a question. maybe I was wrong. Dr. Taylor didn’t have a speech problem at all. “Well. uh…she doesn’t talk. At least that’s what her teacher says.” OK. Hmmm. In the late s. M Y MEDICAL ASSISTANT PUT THE CHART ON MY DESK. “I bet you like “ is isn’t normal. and the grin faded. When I was in training. “Doesn’t talk?” “No. Seuss book.WorldMags BY MARK COHEN A 6-year-old girl cannot speak outside her home. What’s your name?” e girl continued to smile. but she would just sit there. We would go out to eat and she wouldn’t say a word the entire time we were at the restaurant. en when she was about she started getting quiet. “How about when she’s somewhere else. and her hair was tied at the back with a ribbon that matched her dress. or is some bigger problem keeping her from talking? thought she was shy and we encouraged her to talk. Those are among the most complex tasks the young brain has to master. Can you tell me what your concerns are?” e mother was also petite and neatly dressed. blond hair sitting very still on the exam table. e young woman grimaced slightly before answering. and then her smile faded and a wary look came into her eyes. I’ve had a handful of patients with selective mutism in my years of practice. I thought. She was deeply engrossed in reading a Dr. I bet you like to read. I quickly shifted gears. Something was di erent here.” Maybe I wasn’t so wrong after all. only at discovermagazine.” “Her teacher? So she doesn’t talk at school?” “Not a bit. California. but she didn’t say anything and quickly went back to her reading. and I’ve seen our understanding of this condition increase dramatically over that time. “You see?” her mother asked with a worried expression.” I said. Mary. it isn’t. Now I just needed a little more information to con rm my diagnosis.COM Mark Cohen is a developmental pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara. So we just gave up.” I said. “YOUR NEXT patient is in room five.” She smiled again and nodded vigorously. she seems to have trouble talking. “I’m Dr.” When I opened the door to the examining room.” She looked at me with a faint smile. and everywhere.” Apparently Taylor’s pediatrician had not understood it either. not a peep. Kids with developmental delay or autism commonly show up in the pediatrician’s office with a parent who simply says. “Hi. “Well.

temperament. but in anxiety disorders the perception of what is dangerous may be distorted. where her treatment would include behavioral therapy aimed at decreasing social anxiety. helps a person to rethink a frightening situation and see it as something benign. An excess or de ciency in any of these neurotransmitters can a ect the activity level of the amygdala and thereby in uence how likely we are to perceive a given situation as threatening. but some combination of behavioral therapy and medical treatment seems to work for most children. norepinephrine. either. In the name of the disorder was changed from “elective” to “selective” mutism. it also receives messages from the cortical centers of cognition and judgment. One treatment method. being in a situation where she has to talk to someone she doesn’t know induces a feeling of terror. Selective mutism is not a language disorder. Published reports indicate that most children respond well to treatment and are able to speak in public within a few months. there is no one-size.2011 WorldMags .ts-all treatment. A child with selective mutism truly cannot talk in some settings and will not improve over time without treatment. called cognitive-behavioral therapy. but I was optimistic about Taylor’s prospects. Since there are so many factors involved in the condition. “Oh. given time and support. emphasizing that the child was not making a conscious decision to remain silent but was actually unable to speak in certain situations.” that message is transmitted back to the amygdala and your level of panic drops signi cantly. Activity in the amygdala is regulated by at least three systems of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters—serotonin.WorldMags these children often demonstrated other symptoms of social anxiety and that this was the root cause of their not speaking.) Selective mutism is now considered by many clinicians to be a manifestation of a type of social anxiety or social phobia. For a child with selective mutism. Although autistic children may interact more with familiar people than with strangers. but she will usually manage to warm up. In addition to an imbalance in neurotransmitters. and environmental factors may also play a role in selective mutism. When you can tell yourself. this type of exercise can eventually help a patient overcome his or her fear of a particular situation. according to recent research. Taylor had been diagnosed and referred for treatment relatively quickly. A certain amount of anxiety is useful to keep us out of dangerous situations. Some children a ected by selective mutism have such severe anxiety that in order to bene t from cognitive therapy. ere are no good long-term studies of selective mutism. not a dangerous assailant. I was hopeful that within a year she would be able to stand in front of her class and read out loud from Green Eggs and Ham. e relative WESTEND61 GMBH/ALAMY 29 04. A shy child may nd it uncomfortable to talk with someone she doesn’t know. family dynamics. Done repeatedly. that shape is just a bush. they may rst require treatment with a medication such as uoxetine. and (gamma-amino butyric acid). which we can in uence through rational thought. Some researchers suggest that these disorders may be triggered by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in an area of the brain called the amygdala. which adjusts the levels of serotonin in the brain. contribution of each of these factors varies from child to child. is that somebody brandishing a knife—or just a bush moving in the wind?” Directors of horror movies are experts at manipulating this part of the brain. And it is completely di erent from autism. genetics. (Some children with selective mutism are mistakenly believed to be autistic by friends and family who don’t see them interacting and conversing perfectly well at home. is therapy takes advantage of the fact that the amygdala doesn’t respond just to the emotional neurotransmitter systems. exactly as if she were facing genuine danger. tice’s child psychiatry department. since children communicate perfectly well when they are in their comfort zone. e amygdala helps determine the emotional signi cance of things we perceive: “Uh-oh. It is di erent from simple shyness. although some of them continue to experience signi cant symptoms of anxiety. they have severe problems with communication and social interaction no matter where they are. Selective mutism is relatively rare: One study found it in less than percent of children referred to mental health professionals.

e Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that car crashes killed nearly . well aware of these statistics. To make matters worse.” says Lexus’s Paul Williamsen. FREEDMAN Robot cars will reduce accidents.” Translation: e car tries to get numbskulls to wake up before all hell breaks loose. without so much as glancing behind her to see if there were any Spandex-encased middle-aged men on vintage racing bikes tooling down the road just then. I am plenty familiar with the arguments against giving up direct control of our cars. people and cost more than billion in the United States last year. No. author. and load torpedo tubes if only those features were available for my model year. who trains Lexus dealers on these systems. But none of these intelligent systems is intelligent enough to cut dumb drivers entirely out of the loop. the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that nearly percent of car crashes result from drivers’ lack of attention to the road. in the car is the human brain. My brief flight through space and time inspired me to think about this sort of alarmingly frequent stupid driving trick—specifically. You can follow him on Twitter at dhfreedman. (For a great upper-body workout. I want everyone else’s cars to be highly automated. Automakers. mine—that way. For a great YouTube video. Traction control helps prevent skidding. have introduced some impressive driver de-idiotizing systems over the years. “Our primary mission is to provide better computer inputs to allow it to make better judgments. With all these sensors and trajectory calculators. 30 DISCOVER WorldMags . try it at MPH. I personally eschew power windows and locks. how things like this should by now have been rendered obsolete by automation. But it turns out carmakers may be unwilling to let your car save your butt—and more important. ease congestion. Assuming I’m allowed to drive.WorldMags BY DAVID H. Perhaps they know that if any damage occurs. and I proudly raise my Alfa Romeo’s convertible top manually. and let me just say that an SUV hood makes a surprisingly cushy landing strip. “ e smartest computer David H. trim sails. never mind automatic transmissions. programming a car to auto-stop or auto-swerve in the face of an impending crack-up should be a no-brainer. It turned out there was one. the Lexus series even features a windshieldmounted camera that monitors the lane markings in front of you and gently nudges you back into your lane.) In fact. I would happily set aps. if you drift. via electric motors that assist your steering. so they will stay out of my way when they ought to. a phenomenon that psychologists call “optimism bias” and the rest of us simply call delusional overcondence. and keep others from interfering with my excellent driving. is brings us to what should be the state of the art in keeping your car out of my way: autonomous driving. You may feel the same way. position heat shields. looking for approaching vehicles. Statistics bear it out. ready to argue in court that if the car hadn’t taken over. and longtime contributor to DISCOVER. you would have gracefully swerved around that cement mixer you failed to see barreling down on you after you ran the L AST YEAR A WOMAN LIVING DOWN THE STREET FROM ME BACKED OUT OF her driveway as if she were Danica Patrick. People tend to overestimate their skills behind the wheel and underestimate the skills of the boobs and psychopaths driving around them. try raising a top at MPH. Freedman is a freelance journalist. I wish my car had more things for me to do manually. crash-avoidance systems ing radar waves in every direction. you have a team of lawyers standing by.

and turning on the hazard lights. Shelley. has proved it can navigate treacherous terrain by satellite alone.z band (similar to Wi-Fi but faster and more secure) set aside by the to let cars “talk” to each other and to tra c lights to avoid crashes and congestion.) To help inch things along. Congress could mandate that all new cars be . wait a minute. No -year-old Alfa Romeo convertibles. they may occasionally do worse than a human driver would. radar. So the most that cars will do. (In Japan the Lexus can also slam on the brakes while on cruise control. allowing the “driver” to nap. at high speeds. ILLUSTRATION BY DAVID PLUNKERT 31 04. the recently awarded a consortium of automakers. Sure. Or perhaps it would simply make the decision for you. will take more lives than they will save. I’ll take the low-tech road. miles without signi cant incident or human intervention. text. everywhere. Shelley relied on di erential to track its whereabouts to within centimeters and used wheel sensors and gyroscopes to keep tabs on its speed and direction. or read the paper without killing anyone. e researchers involved in the project insist that the objective is not to replace human drivers but to give them smarter cars— smarter cars that will indulge your optimism bias while keeping you out of trouble. if things go well. who already seem eager to embrace any available device or food item within reach. Stanford’s robotic Audi. It would use a . it may be downright immoral to let humans drive at all. excludes intoxicated drivers and assumes that everyone on the road is driving a talking car. . govern- proved much safer than human drivers. and their imperfections will inevitably even kill people.S. known as . Each car in the convoy would measure the distance. and laser range nders to collect data on the surrounding environment and then feed the info to arti cially intelligent computers that have been able to make driving decisions just as well as humans. e cars use a suite of cameras. . Fine with me—you take the high-tech road. I’m looking forward to the even longer term. when you consider those hard statistics on dopey drivers and the trails of destruction (not to mention hyperextended middle ngers) they leave behind. z compatible by . Google already has a eet of self-driving cars on public roads across the country that have logged . in deference to that nation’s spectacular highway congestion and relative non-litigiousness. depending on make and model. Toyota. I’d still be allowed to drive. and direction of the car in front of it. Picture a car that calmly informs you of a homicidal maniac approaching an intersection at miles per hour and then calmly recommends that you hang back when the light turns green to avoid imminent death. One study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that crash-avoidance technologies could reduce fatal car accidents by one-third. Add coordinates and such cars could even predict crashes before they happen. it is hard to argue that automatic systems. But. But the reason I can hardly wait for automated cars is so I can nally drive around anywhere without worrying that some lunkhead is about to—Hey. the latter being blessedly clear of.WorldMags stop sign while text-messaging. says cars that talk to each other and to roadway infrastructure have the potential to eliminate percent of tra c accidents. is apply light braking and steering and prepare the vehicle for impact by. Templeton argues that once auto-drive systems are computers override the terrible decisions of terrible drivers is rather ironic. picture a car that threatens to rat you out every time you inch past the speed limit. you. he adds. . e catch is that they would be available only on certain highways and accessible only to vehicles equipped with the right communications gear. well. Indeed.S. Tell me about it.2011 WorldMags . million to out t cars with compatible radio transmitters and test them on closed courses. including Ford. and that the auto industry agrees on standardized equipment for all this chatter. Many bored drivers. Peter Appel. accident avoidance is one of the most appropriate ways to have computers intrude into our lives. while. In a similar vein. speed. right? Oh well. As part of its Safe Road Trains for the Environment project. e U. At least I would have a good excuse to hang onto my beloved Alfa: It will make a great home gym. potentially saving many thousands of lives a year. So Templeton is pushing for self-driving vehicle systems. and others.) Imagine a car that calmly informs you of a homicidal maniac approaching the intersection at MPH and then calmly suggests that you stop. automakers are designing vehicle systems that would let cars safely tailgate on designated highways in a trainlike procession led by a professional driver. one chunk of the industry has been working hard to perfect the technologies that make them possible. an in uential Internet entrepreneur and expert on civil rights in the digital age. Instead of preloaded maps. says Brad Templeton. when all cars self-drive all the time. bumper to bumper. unlocking doors. “Human drivers set the bar pretty low. Cars beaming short-range radio signals in degrees and broadcasting their exact position on the road at every moment could auto-drive together. administrator for the U. On the ip side. miles of hairpin turns without human assistance.” Templeton says. ment has been quietly backing an “intelligent transportation systems” scheme that would support automated driving. once proved safe. is taking a more collective approach to autonomous driving. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Even as the automotive world has studiously avoided introducing fully auto autos. handling . (Caveat: at impressive gure. that every intersection and stop sign in America can join in the conversation. at least for the next few years. feet to the summit of Pike’s Peak. he concedes. pulled from a study commissioned by the National Highway Tra c Safety Administration. In September the car raced . may welcome the chance to relinquish driving chores to a computer. . Two years from now. tightening up seat belts.

Buried in those numbers could be answers to the greatest questions in cosmology.WorldMags Digital sky surveys and real-time telescopic observations are unleashing an unprecedented flood of data. by PRESTON LERNER 32 DISCOVER WorldMags .

2011 WorldMags . crunching THE UNIVERSE 33 04. Top: Infrared observations from the Paranal Observatory in Chile cut through dust and gas to reveal a crisp view of baby stars within.WorldMags Contrasting views of the Lagoon nebula. Bottom: A similar view in visible light appears opaque.

“ at’s impossible!” he told Borne. who is now an associate professor of computational and data sciences at George Mason University. scours infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope for evidence of gas clouds: Participants use their computers to draw circles on cloud “bubbles” thought to result from shock waves stirred up by extremely bright young stars. galaxies in one week. the site was generating . and analyze it. On the back end. launched two years later. Moon weird things because they don’t Zoo is attempting to count every know not to ask. meanwhile. his boss almost choked. Oxford doctoral candidate Kevin Schawinski. individual researchers or small groups dominated astronomy. oversees more than “Nonexperts end up discovering volunteers engaged in a variety of astronomical projects. an astronomy professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Equally if not more important. and our picture of the universe has changed with them. en Sloan came along. ‘Hey. Amazing discoveries might be in sight. most notably Hanny’s Voorwerp Hanny’s Voorwerp (right).” says Robert Brunner. exhausted from classifying . Since . a statistical process called “cleaning clicks” searched for and eliminated the inevitable bogus and mistaken classi 34 DISCOVER WorldMags NASA. computers have replaced darkrooms. Computational analysis of Sloan’s prodigious data set has uncovered evidence of some of the earliest known astronomical objects. experiments. PREVIOUS PAGES: ESO/VVV e interface was so intuitive that even Galaxy Zoo participant Matthew Graham’s -year-old could grasp it. Gone are the days of photographic plates that recorded the sky snapshot by painstaking snapshot.” says Borne. An upgraded Galaxy Zoo . Its volunthat over there in the corner?’ ” teers have so far classi ed more says Lucy Fortson. decided to solicit help from the robust community of amateur astronomers. an associate than . the million Sloan Digital Sky Survey at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico has imaged more than one-third of the night sky. which ted it. Nowadays.” The tools of astronomy have changed drastically over just the past generation. Planet Hunters. collected million classi cations from tens of thousands of users in months. “ at single experiment had produced as much data as the previous . ese new capabilities provide a much more meaningful way to understand our place in the cosmos. another astronomer asked him if the center could archive a terabyte of data that had been collected from the sky survey. W. It has produced two dozen scienti c papers and identi ed several previously unknown objects. galaxies dubbed the Green Peas. classi cations an hour. galaxies and . using a technique known as crowdsourcing. and suddenly there was this huge data set designed for one thing. “She thought it was a game. e resulting project. ESA. million images from professor at the University of ’s Lunar Reconnaissance Minnesota and project manager Orbiter. allowed volunteers to classify images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey on their home computers. a peculiar intergalactic blob named after the Galaxy Zoo has since morphed Dutch schoolteacher who spotinto the larger Zooniverse. At a conference. “Don’t you realize that the entire data set has collected over the past years is one terabyte?” “ at’s when the lightbulb went o . SEE FOR YOURSELF: zooniverse. Within hours of its debut. quasars. plenty of desktop computers can store a terabyte on a hard drive. and a class of hyperactive .” he says. And with the advent of digital detectors.WorldMags F . from radio waves to gamma rays. and even mapped out the three-dimensional structure of the local universe. yet hidden within all the information. “Before Sloan. AND THE GALAXY ZOO TEAM. scientists are using the classi cations made by Zooniverse participants to develop more accurate machine-learning algorithms so that computers will be able to do this kind of work in the future. I realized then that we needed to do something not only to make all that data available to scientists but also to enable scientific discovery from all that information. . puts citizen scientists to work analyzing readings from ’s Kepler space telescope. Maryland . but they have also unleashed a baffling torrent of data. determined that most large galaxies harbor supermassive black holes. a project designed to study mysterious cosmic bodies that emit very little light or other radiation. OF ALABAMA). “You’d go to a telescope. But when Borne ran the request up the flagpole. e Milky Way Project for the Citizen Science Alliance. Galaxy Zoo. But Galaxy Zoo is much more than a toy. but people were ZOONIVERSE DATA TO THE PEOPLE In . tion revolution began years ago while he was working at ’s National Space Science Data Center in Greenbelt. designed to nd Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. what’s crater on the moon. KEEL (UNIV. get your data. Today more than a dozen observatories on Earth and in space let researchers eyeball vast swaths of the universe in multiple wavelengths. capturing information on more than .

ose snapshots will be stitched together over a decade to eventually form a motion picture of half the visible sky.WorldMags The Antennae—a pair of galaxies in the midst of a violent collision 62 million lightyears away—seen in a composite of X-ray. and for each object we might measure thousands of attributes in a thousand dimensions. who in the past endured fierce competition to get just a little observing time at a major observatory. You can get a data-mining package o the shelf. but if you want to deal with a billion data vectors in a thousand dimensions. producing terabytes of data nightly. Chile. optical. “It’s not just data volume. aims its . times a night. Trouble is. So you have this sea change in astronomy that allows people who aren’t a liated with a project to ask entirely new questions. using it for all kinds of other interesting things. “For the rst time in history. an astronomy professor and codirector of the Center for Advanced Computing Research at Caltech. A major sky survey might detect millions or even billions of objects. .2011 WorldMags . billion-pixel digital camera (the world’s largest) at the night sky in . e . When the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope ( ) in Cerro Pachón. we cannot examine all our data.” A new generation of sky surveys promises to catalog literally billions and billions of astronomical objects. and infrared data. will become the centerpiece of what some experts have dubbed the age of petascale astronomy—that’s bits (what Borne jokingly calls “a tonabytes”). you’re out of luck even if you own the world’s biggest supercomputer. It’s also the quality and complexity. The challenge is to develop a new scienti c NASA 35 04. The data deluge is already overwhelming astronomers. there are not enough graduate students in the known universe to classify all of them.” says George Djorgovski. it will capture an area times as large as the moon in each -second exposure.

No results to 36 DISCOVER WorldMags ESO/S. most are also inherently incompatible. no results to show. “ ere was no science involved. About years ago. the resulting data sets are archived in many locations all over the world. so merging them requires a lot of painstaking labor. the virtual observatory is more a framework than a physical thing—a research environment linking data from a wide array of telescopes and archives and providing the tools to study them. In the United States. an experimental version (the National Virtual Observatory) launched in . but it will make them possible. “People who wanted to do science. e will not produce breakthroughs on its own. just plumbing. GUISARD VIRTUAL ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY . a group of astronomers started talking about creating a uni ed.WorldMags TELESCOPES WITHOUT BORDERS To learn as much as possible about distant objects.” says Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski. nobody wants to use it. astronomers observe them with telescopes that “see” in various wavelengths. Nobody wants to use it. million over ve years to nally bring the Virtual Astronomical Observatory ( ) online and continue to develop tools for sharing data with astronomers worldwide. myself included. Like the Internet. global virtual observatory. a member of the virtual observatory’s science advisory council. Kirk Borne likens it to the protocol used to surf the Internet: “ e Internet changed the world. Unfortunately. but the lack of good data-analyzing tools made it di cult to use.” e prospects for virtual astronomy improved dramatically last May when and the National Science Foundation kicked in funding of .” SEE FOR YOURSELF: usvao. But made it possible. which makes them di cult to access. got impatient and went to work on their own projects.

such questions were addressed by eyeballing photographic plates. and even “learning” on the job. is approach is not only faster but more accurate. we cannot examine all our data. data mining is useful for classifying and clustering information. On the flip side. In a sense.” says Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski. composed from 1.” methodology for the st century. extremely distant and luminous objects powered by supermassive black holes. 37 04. e ability to say with statistical certainty that something is out of the ordinary allows astronomers to focus on the exceptions that prove the rule. only images. For instance. He did it the old-fashioned way—with pencil and paper and laborious trial and error.” The backbone of that methodology is the data-crunching technique known as informatics. is it spiral or elliptical? If it is elliptical. Setting algorithms loose on larger samples not only makes it easier to recognize patterns but also speeds the identi cation of outliers. is it round or at? Not so many years ago. Research scientist Matthew Graham of the Center for Advanced Computing Research at Caltech recalls trying to identify a few hundred quasars in for his doctoral thesis on large-scale structures in the distant universe. just a lot more quickly and accurately. “ ese days. It’s also the quality and complexity. which divides light from an object into its constituent wavelengths. With computers powering through a billion objects. two critical techniques in an astronomer’s tool kit.WorldMags complicated when you are trying to make sense of billions of objects. informatics is a remarkable tool for collecting statistics on the norm and using the tools of probability to gure out what the universe is like as a whole. Classi cation is not a big deal when you are working with hundreds of extrasolar planets or thousands of supernovas. it will be far simpler to assemble a data set of millions of quasars. nding them is largely a matter of luck. Astronomers hope informatics will do the same for them. astronomers have traditionally estimated the distances to remote galaxies using a spectrometer. astronomers can search more methodically for such extreme quasars—or for any other type of unusual object. highlighting patterns and anomalies. When the is completed. there were about objects without spectra.2011 WorldMags . For example. “It’s not just the volume of data. informatics merely enables astronomers to do what they have always done. Algorithms can scour terabytes of data in seconds. Right now. e basic idea is to use computers to extract meaning from raw data too complex for the human brain to comprehend.200 images taken over the course of 200 hours by the Very Large Telescope in Cerro Paranal. Is an object a star or a galaxy? If it is a galaxy. “ is will For the first time in history. Chile. one in a million objects is a serendipitous discovery. giving them a much bigger data set for studying the -D structure of the universe. “You just happened to have the telescope pointed at the right place at the right time. It has already transformed medicine.” Graham says.” This is often the case in the search for “high-redshift” quasars. But for every spectrum produced by Sloan. but it becomes hugely Mosaic view of the center of the Milky Way. allowing biologists to sequence the of thousands of organisms and look for genetic clues to health and disease. So Brunner put astroinformatics to work: He developed an algorithm that allows astronomers to estimate an object’s distance just by analyzing imagery. visualizing key information.

MASON PRODUCTIONS INC. “Now we need some Ferraris to drive on them. For years. Such data were thought to be of secondary importance when Sloan began but actually enabled astronomers to identify times as many objects as expected. launched in . TODD MASON. in June. allows astronomers to use the Internet to assemble data from dozens of telescopes.WorldMags SLOAN DIGITAL SKY SURVEY GREATEST MAPMAKER IN THE UNIVERSE e Sloan Digital Sky Survey ( ).” Sloan scientists have made some spectacular discoveries.” a spray of stars stretching nearly one-quarter of the way across the sky. “Sloan was the single biggest player in converting people to embrace this approach. but that is changing.” he says. But independent astronomers have authored the vast majority of the . the debut of the Virtual Astronomical Observatory. BLANTON AND THE SDSS-III. This international network. Caltech hosted the rst international conference on “astroinformatics. “We’ve built the roads.” 38 DISCOVER WorldMags FROM TOP: M. Last May brought a watershed moment.” SEE FOR YOURSELF: sdss. In the project’s researchers spotted the most distant quasar ever observed.” The interdisciplinary marriage between computer science and astronomy has not been fully embraced by either family yet. -plus scienti c papers based on . ey seem to be the shreds of small galaxies that were cannibalized by the Milky Way. but even they have a hard time envisioning the kinds of insights they will be able to pull out of the bounteous new databases. “because we won’t be able to get spectra for percent of the objects. .org be really important with . “Sky surveys became respectable not only because they brought in so much data but because the content of the data was so high that it enabled so many people to do science. astronomers at Cambridge University discovered the “Field of Streams./LSST CORP. In one dramatic example. they simply use Sloan public data as the basis of their research.” Djorgovski says.” Astronomers are used to working at the limits of human imagination. e Sloan Telescope (located at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico) retraced much of the Palomar Survey but replaced photographic plates with digital imagery that could be updated and analyzed electronically. anywhere. University of Illinois astronomer Robert Brunner is still reveling in the Sloan’s expanded view of the universe: “Our techniques allow us to start inquiring into the relationship between dark matter and supermassive black holes and how they in uence galaxy formation and evolution. years in the making. scientists who needed a global sense of what was out there relied on one dominant set of photographs—the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey—created in the s.” says Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski. en. heralded the modern age of big-picture astronomy. Data mining and other tools of informatics have been particularly helpful in extracting useful information from basic brightness measurements.

and generally watch for anything that changes or moves in the WorldMags . “I made the case that we needed a group focused on data mining. Zooming in shows M33’s spiral form. spidery NGC 604. the Triangulum Galaxy. being built atop Cerro Pachón in Chile. a -year-long feature lm of the universe. The orange box at far left calls out M33. e will image the entire visible sky so rigorously that it will produce. one of the largest nebulas in M33 and home to more than 200 newly formed stars. The brownish image at far left—dubbed the “orange spider” by one team member—is one of the portraits. a member of the data management team. researchers queried the data about 60. in e ect. A further zoom brings into view green.000 times. supernovas exploding—as well as locating potentially Earth-threatening asteroids and mapping the little-understood population of objects orbiting out beyond Neptune. It is designed to probe dark energy and dark matter.” New York University astronomer Michael Blanton says. Each point in the image represents multiple galaxies. is a million megaproject that will truly cement the relationship between astronomy and informatics. map the Milky Way in unprecedented detail. a trillion-pixel set of paired portraits that covers one-third of the night sky.Smile: The Universe in 1 Trillion Dazzling Pixels WorldMags Early this year astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey released the largest color image of the universe ever made. -meter ( foot) optical telescope and a . is should lead to tremendous advances in time-domain astronomy: studying fast-changing phenomena as they occur—black holes being born. megapixel camera—the world’s largest—the will record as much data in a couple of nights as the Sloan Survey did in eight years. A dive into the image’s densely packed imagery reveals astonishing detail. machine learning. take a thorough inventory of the solar system. covering the Milky Way’s southern hemisphere. which at 3 million light-years away is one of our closest galactic neighbors. MOVIE CAMERA TO THE STARS e Large Synoptic Survey Telescope [ ].” says Simon Krugho . experts project billion objects. and visualization research to involve not just astronomers but also computer scientists and statisticians. who LARGE SYNOPTIC SURVEY TELESCOPE chairs the informatics and statistics team.” says Kirk Borne. (For those keeping score at home. It includes roughly a quarter of a billion galaxies and about the same number of stars within our home galaxy. SEE FOR YOURSELF: lsst. And so they are: In the first two weeks after the Sloan team made the map available online. Armed with an . the Milky Way. “For the rst time.) e numbers are so big and daunting that the is the rst astronomical project ever to formally incorporate informatics into its design architecture. we’re going to have more astronomical objects cataloged in a coherent survey than there are people on Earth. “Astronomers can use the data we drew on to create this image as a kind of guidepost.

Douglas Prasher Photography by Miller Mobley In December Douglas Prasher took a week o from his job driving a courtesy van at the Penney Toyota car dealership in Huntsville. along with a pair of leather shoes that a Huntsville store had let him borrow. Gina. By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee 40 DISCOVER WorldMags . ¶ Prasher’s trip would have been impossible without the sponsorship Rıse The Fall of and Alabama. when he learned that former colleagues had won a Nobel Prize for the research he began. he asked if she could leave the bottle at the table. had taken in years. His buddies back at Penney Toyota were going to love that story. to attend the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm. It was the rst vacation he and his wife. Prasher got his rst sip of a dessert wine that he had dreamed of tasting for years. Alabama.WorldMags Douglas Prasher was driving a van for a car dealership in Huntsville. sitting beneath glittering chandeliers suspended from a seven-story ceiling. he donned a rented copy of the penguin suit that all male Nobel attendees are required to wear. When the waitress was done pouring it into his glass. he thought. because the sta planned to nish it later. ¶ At the Nobel banquet. On the day of the awards. she told him. She couldn’t.

WorldMags WorldMags .

learning how to clone genes and get them to switch on inside bacteria. Squinting through sunglasses and adjusting his cap.” earning a Ph.D. Prasher’s journey from Woods Hole to Penney Toyota is a tale of individual and institutional failure. and the ability to secure funding can be as important as talent and intelligence. He’s six feet tall “ WorldMags Prasher’s vanishing act provides a glimpse into what it takes to succeed in modern-day science. but he was not able to pull it o . which was less cynical back then. student in biochemistry who was drawn to his kindness and wry sense of humor. he led me through a corridor to a body shop in the back where he introduced me to some of his colleagues.of biologist Martin Chal e and chemist and biologist Roger Tsien. Prasher learned about a species of jelly sh living in the cold waters of the North Paci c. networking. along with Osama Shimomura. when he was about to leave Woods Hole for another science job. It was at the university that he met his future wife. e jellysh is shaped like an umbrella. this light is absorbed by with a paunch that invites a fair bit of ribbing from his teenage son. where mentorship. about . Starting in the mids. “ who?” Jim asked. They all happened to be local culinary delights: “mountain oysters” (hogs’ testicles). rows of new cars glinted under the sun. it was Prasher who cloned the gene for while working as a molecular biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. liberally flecked with gray. the experience was enough for him to realize that he was not cut out for a blue-collar job. Studying liquid squeezed out from these luminescent organs. had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. And then there is the role of luck. where his father and maternal grandfather worked at the Goodyear tire factory.” he told me. stemlike extensions along the umbrella’s circumference. Prasher greeted me outside the dealership’s grubby-looking service center. Prasher had the vision before anybody else did. One day when he was in the lab. Prasher was born into a working-class family in Akron. and organs in unprecedented detail. e courtesy van was parked across from the entrance. He too worked at the factory for a summer during college. “I didn’t know what else to study. In . He stood up and thrust his blackened paw out at me with a grin. e three researchers were sharing the . He ended up 42 DISCOVER WorldMags . another body shop worker. “ ey are all self-described rednecks. who not only invited the Prashers but paid for their airfare and hotel. ey went on to perform the experiments that made and its variants into a powerful research tool.D. he gave the gene to his colleagues Chal e and Tsien. whose typical manner combines irony and earthiness. scientists began using as a tracer for studying biochemical processes. Goo Goo Clusters. e results were spectacular: The luminous protein made it possible to glimpse the inner workings of cells.” he said. When I visited him at Penney Toyota on a hot and humid Friday afternoon. Had life turned out slightly differently. . in biochemistry from Ohio State University. Gina Eckenrode. the foundation of a multimillion-dollar industry. festooned with balloons bobbing in the breeze. a biochemistry professor who was studying bioluminescence. Prasher could have been attending the ceremony not as a guest but as a laureate. Prasher proposed an experiment to see if the gene could make bacteria glow. Shimomura identi ed two proteins—called aequorin and — that worked together to emit light.” he said with a laugh. he also met Milton Cormier. and its light comes from a ring of tiny. “We’ve been teaching Douglas about the real world. tissues. The fundamental chemistry behind the creature’s glow had been worked out by Shimomura and others in the s. a Ph. guided by nothing more than a general interest in the life sciences. e cloning was the rst step in using as a tracer chemical in organisms other than jellyfish. a middle-aged man with a goatee and a golden locket. Ohio. One misplaced base pair in a sequence can de ne the gap between health and disease. small underlying variables can translate into wildly divergent outcomes. can lie a hair’s breadth apart. In life as in science. I asked Jim if Prasher had taught them anything in return—say. After Prasher got his doctorate in . listed some of the things they had educated Prasher about. too. Aequorin gives out blue light when it binds with calcium in seawater. Prasher still feels embarrassed when he recalls the moment. His vanishing act provides a glimpse into what it takes to ourish in modern-day science. More than two decades earlier. Through Cormier. Aequorea victoria. she sent him a “gorillagram”—a love letter delivered by a person in a gorilla suit. Chal e and Tsien. fried moon pies. But he failed to make it a reality. e paths leading to career success or failure. he went to work as a postdoc at the University of Georgia in Athens. dressed in a blue golf shirt and khaki pants—the company uniform. million award for the development of green fluorescent protein ( ). smiling. Jim. was bent over the headlight of a car with an open hood. Donny. a molecule that makes certain jelly sh glow. an organic chemist and marine biologist. e comment evoked a chortle from Prasher. which emitted a green glow and was one of the most intensely bioluminescent creatures on the planet. While at Georgia. If ’s progression from an obscure protein into a biological laser pointer is a quintessential scientific success story. the ability of certain organisms to produce and emit light.

As a single-unit light source. he hired Prasher. More than a year later. Prasher hoped to identify the speci c ones responsible for aequorin and . could serve as a perfect molecular tag for tracking genes and proteins in an organism. but Prasher felt that just one—the gene for —was biomedical gold.” he said. Once the team members harvested the photo-organs. who had heard about Prasher’s attempts to clone the gene. which then emits an intense green glow. they were distributed like tomatoes from a community garden. and. still doubted that only one gene was involved or that could be expressed in organisms other than jelly sh. “I knew could be incredibly useful because it would be much easier to use in living systems than what was available. One day in . rough a complicated biochemical process. Prasher immediately grasped the importance of his discovery. Prasher would freeze some of this tissue right away to take back to his lab to extract . and bad breaks. . able to light up only with the help of its chromophore. now back at his Columbia lab. He tagged each arti cial gene with a radioactive compound and then added it to a mixture of E. the sample would glow.” Gina said.” Prasher says.” he told me. Money was always tight. If a biomolecule of interest were tagged with the gene. He was one of only a handful of molecular biologists in a department populated by marine biologists and ecologists.2011 WorldMags . Other scientists would process the same tissue further to obtain the light-emitting proteins. for the most part. e company wanted to use it as a diagnostic marker for disease: If synthetic versions of antibodies could be tagged with aequorin in the lab. he called Chalfie’s lab only to learn that the researcher was on sabbatical at the University of Utah.” according to Bill Ward. ey would add a liter of the tissue to two liters of seawater and shake the mixture times—no more. Cormier had a grant from pharmaceutical giant Ho mann–La Roche to clone the gene for aequorin. the chromophore is added on to the protein. planted vegetables in the backyard. Aequorin was like that. Prasher relied on work done by Ward and others. generating light. on an island in Puget Sound. Regardless. who had already partially determined the sequence of amino acids (units of a protein) of which the bioluminescent molecules were made. Within minutes. Prasher says he left voice mail for Chalfie in Utah but never heard back. he also realized that tags could provide a way to track the production of genes and proteins writ large. then whenever they matched up with an antigen (or surface protein) of a specific pathogen in blood or tissue.” Prasher soon received a . proteins. Chal e does not recall getting any messages from him. it had to be cloned. Cormier believed. Since messenger is nothing but the imprint of the gene whose message it is carrying. Both the aequorin and genes were now identified. e couple had a young daughter. a uorescent signal would show when and where in the organism that gene or the protein it created was being put to use. who likes gardening. it wasn’t until September that Chal e. was to cultivate it inside bacteria that had been genetically engineered to contain the aequorin gene. single-stranded nucleotide sequences bearing instructions for the making of speci c 43 04. From the sizable collection of genes generated this way. To search through his gene library. Prasher. “We’d collect seaweed from the beach to put on the asparagus bed. a bioluminescence researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey who was a postdoc in Cormier’s laboratory. “It was a high-risk idea. could stand alone. It was exhausting work that Prasher dived into with esprit de corps. Gina stayed home to raise her. S to the town of Friday Harbor. he got a call from biologist Martin Chal e at Columbia. his synthetic genes and the real ones were similar enough for the base pairs to stick together. grant from the American Cancer Society to clone his synthetic gene. Most light-emitting proteins found in nature do not work alone. when Prasher nished cloning the gene. “We grew tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce. Emma. he and a group of other scientists would pin them down with a fork and spin them across a razor’s edge to slice off the light-emitting photo-organs. Prasher built libraries of jelly sh genes from the tissue he collected. however. All the signs looked promising for Prasher in when he got a tenure-track job at Woods Hole. the fluorescent molecule was a potential tool to help him investigate the sense of touch in roundworms and to explore more broadly how organisms react to stimuli. who quickly became fascinated by bioluminescence. Woods Hole was a series of missed connections. Instead they rely on a chromophore. . no less—to make “the individual light-producing cells pop out of the tissue. psychological roadblocks.WorldMags . pushed forward with his research. But rst he needed copies of the gene. e cells were ltered through mosquito netting and put through another series of steps to derive aequorin and . But he hit a brick wall at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere as he tried to fund research proving the cloned gene worked in other organisms. Many scientists in the eld. He lamented to a graduate student that he had never heard from Prasher. e only way to make aequorin on a commercial scale. To Chal e. He and Gina bought a house that was an eight-minute drive from the beach in the nearby town of Falmouth. to catch jelly sh by the thousands as they oated past the docks. then a search on a computer database turned up a recent paper by Prasher reporting the cloning of the synthetic gene. Over the course of six months. To do the cloning. Prasher created synthetic molecules that were approximate blueprints of the actual genes. which would fall into a bucket in a translucent linguini heap. Scientists called it fluorescent rather than bioluminescent because a chromophore was never needed to produce the light. it is possible to use it to chemically generate the sequence or gene it corresponds to. Like Prasher. “Very few people cared about what I was doing. coli containing most of the genes extracted from the jelly sh. a light-producing chemical unit that is analogous to the filament of a bulb. a property scientists today call bioluminescence. Every tissue in an organism contains a variety of messenger molecules. Prasher thought. After catching the jellyfish with pool-skimming nets. As he had hoped. Working backward. including Ward and Shimomura. Prasher promised that he would get in touch with Chal e once he had cloned the synthetic gene. but the family got by.

” Prasher did not get along with his new boss and found himself slipping into depression. in total.” The Science paper sparked a surge of interest in . Prasher told the tenure committee to stop the review process and gave himself a year to nd another job. A seminar he had given at the department earlier that year had not gone well. by orders of magnitude. The experiments con rmed that the gene could make an organism light up without the need for any other molecules unique to jelly sh.” Ward says. Chal e and his colleagues succeeded in inserting the gene into the roundworm. working on molecular detection of exotic agricultural pests. ‘Look. he might have stayed at Woods Hole. Prasher drove to the post o ce with a little tube containing the gene. remarked one day to Gina. Prasher decided to quit working on . had seen Prasher’s paper and contacted him. A few days after Chal e’s call.” Chalfie had another advantage.” Prasher told me. like Chalfie. Prasher received dozens of requests for the gene from around the world.” he says. Prasher was transferred to Beltsville. A year and a half later. tinkered with the gene to see if it could be made to 44 DISCOVER WorldMags . e money helped. “Papa doesn’t smile anymore. After three years at the center in Massachusetts. “He’s the kind of person who really needed a facilitator-type person or organization to say. Emma. his group was able to make E.’ ” Chal e had Prasher on the phone. Chalfie and Tsien had “resources way beyond mine.’ ” Along with withdrawing from the tenure process. I think you’re doing a great job. His family moved to Alabama with him. but it was no substitute for a stable scienti c career. San Diego. Prasher got a new job with A. he solved the problem in part by asking microscope salesmen to bring in demo models. meanwhile. a contractor in Huntsville. The paper would undoubtedly have boosted his chances of tenure at Woods Hole. “I just didn’t fit. and funding was very di cult. ey were both at hard-money institutions. a wave of sadness. “We were in the middle of the school year. “I was so isolated. Prasher liked the work. which his lab hastily used for real experiments. cyan.“ WorldMags produce light in any other colors. and yellow. “It was rough. Although he had quit the field. The glowing roundworm from Chalfie’s lab made the cover of Science in . didn’t have postdocs. now considered a landmark publication that helped establish as a powerful research tool. as well as a brighter green than the original . But the unpredictable nature of science funding struck again. But he plodded on. He also sent a sample to Roger Tsien at the University of California.” he told me. ‘Papa doesn’t smile anymore. making touch receptor cells fluoresce. and mailed it to Columbia. Prasher was one of the coauthors on the paper. Within a month of receiving the gene. “ e area of bioluminescence was esoteric work. Prasher and Chal e were awarded a patent for the use of as a marker of gene expression. A.” He decided to pass along his research to the few who seemed to understand it. But passing the baton seemed like the only sensible option. coli glow green. Tsien’s lab.” Chal e told me recently. I didn’t have graduate students.” he said. He had gotten so depressed by the lack of funding and mentorship that his daughter. Technolo- He was so depressed by the lack of support that his daughter remarked. Shortly afterward. he responded to every scientist who contacted him. especially because he was nally getting to collaborate in a team environment after years without it.Z. he had taken a job at a research center of the U. he was able to do the work as part of his project on touch sensitivity in roundworms. “I knew this was really the end of it for me. “I remember he sounded very surprised. nobody was interested. Doubtful that he would be granted tenure. Tsien and his colleagues were able to make variants of that glowed blue. Chal e’s lab did not own a uorescence microscope and needed to monitor the results. and I was struggling to get funding. who was at the time.” he said. “If we had done the experiment a few years earlier. “Doug doesn’t have the ‘Goddammit. He did not have to apply for a grant specifically to experiment with the clone.” e next day.S. “My frank assessment is that history would be quite di erent if Douglas and I hadn’t lost track of each other. initially sending out copies of the gene himself and later forwarding the requests to Columbia.” . In the summer of . Prasher had already made up his mind to quit Woods Hole.” He was convinced that he would struggle even if he did get tenure. “I didn’t want to have to struggle to nd funding for something that was so di cult to convince other people to support. it earned Prasher just a few hundred thousand dollars in royalties over years. It was the kind of resourcefulness that Prasher seemed to lack. you’re not going to stop me’ attitude. he did not have the strength to do his research in solitude when so few cared about his work. By designing mutant versions of the gene that they received from Prasher. Technologies. put it in a padded envelope. I immediately said yes. but by the time it appeared. His assignment was developing sensors to detect microbes in a spacecraft cabin during long ights. Maryland. but it came too late. Department of Agriculture down the street. “He asked me if he could have the gene. Chalfie’s call could have been a scienti c lifeline for Prasher. who.Z. forcing a move that was painful for his family.


gies learned it would be losing funding for the project because of a decision by to reduce support for life sciences. Prasher was laid o in the spring of , and after nearly a year of unemployment—Huntsville is not exactly a biotechnology hub—he took the driving job at Penney Toyota. On the morning of October , , as he was fixing breakfast, Prasher heard news of the Nobel on the kitchen radio. His rst reaction was to call the local radio station to tell them to correct the newscaster’s pronunciation of “Tsien.” Then he put on his Penney uniform, went in to work, and took

his regular place behind the wheel of the courtesy shuttle.

gene in the mids, “all of a sudden it became obvious that was a wonderful tool,” Chal e says. With , though, as with many scienti c breakthroughs, the tremendous importance of the discovery was not clear until many years after the initial work. Over the past years, the gene has enabled scientists to watch a plethora of previously murky biological processes in action: how nerve cells develop in the brain,

how insulin-producing beta cells form in the pancreas of an embryo, how proteins are transported within cells, and how cancer cells metastasize through the body. In a press release announcing the chemistry prize, the Nobel Foundation called “a guiding star for biochemistry.” e glow of the gene may have illuminated biology, but Prasher has remained in the shadows. Today he and Gina live on a quiet block in northwest Huntsville, about three miles from the Toyota dealership. In the backyard is a small vegetable patch; the day I arrived, Prasher excused



himself in mid-conversation to check on “a groundhog problem” that had been plaguing his tomatoes. Walking into the house, I was struck by the handsomely furnished interior, including two ovens and two dishwashers; it didn’t look like it was owned by a courtesy van driver making about a week. I learned that the Prashers had begun building the house while Douglas was still working at A.Z. Technologies. ey ended up using much of their savings to finish construction and were now using it to pay their monthly bills. When he heard the announcement of the chemistry Nobel, Prasher felt angry and disappointed, not because he had missed out on the prize but because he was “out of science and out of a job” that paid enough. In media interviews days after the prize was announced, he jokingly said that he was accepting donations. A few checks did come in from sympathizers, including , from a lady whom Prasher had driven in his van. Prasher put a sticker on the back of his own car that said “Scientist needs work” and listed his phone number. He removed it only when Karl, his teenage son, made a fuss. On the second morning of my visit, during which I stayed at Prasher’s house, I woke to nd my host padding about the kitchen in sweatpants. He was making a semolina porridge that he and Gina had first tried at the breakfast bar of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, during his Nobel trip. A book titled Winning the Games Scientists Play lay on the kitchen counter next to a framed clip from e Huntsville Times headlined “Local Scientist Misses Nobel.” e attention brought by the Nobel Prize left Prasher in a strange emotional place: pleased that his work had not been in vain, yet sullen about the way things had turned out for him. Despite his flippant request for donations, he seemed inclined to rebu any pity with scorn. After the Nobel ceremonies, Tsien asked Prasher if he would be interested in joining his lab at . Prasher declined. It felt like a handout, he told me; people would say, “Douglas can’t go anyplace else, so Roger’s picking him up.” Another reason, he said, was that he wanted to distance himself from . “ at’s in my past. at’s over,” he said, as if the protein were an addiction he was intent on ridding from his life.



“ ” over Prasher’s career. “I don’t know why Douglas didn’t get help from his former mentor, Milton Cormier,” Tsien says. Cormier, now retired, told me he “had no idea that Doug had given the gene to Roger or Martin and that he had left Woods Hole until it was all over. is was too bad; if Doug had con ded in me, I could have gotten him a position in the pharmaceutical industry.” What about reaching out to scientists at Woods Hole, particularly Shimomura, whose work overlapped his own? “It never occurred to me,” Prasher says, betraying what seemed like ignorance of the need to network in any eld, especially science. “He kept to himself and I kept to myself.” It seemed like a strange stance for somebody who didn’t want to work in isolation. I also wondered if Prasher could have sought help from some of the scientists who contacted him for the clone. “He doesn’t like asking for favors,” Gina told me. One of Prasher’s interests is Civil War reenactments, and from his perch in , he imagines a reenactment of his early career: If only he had networked with other scientists and institutions, especially when he felt isolated, he says today, he might have stayed in the eld of bioluminescence or at least in science. Many of the challenges Prasher faced were hardly unique to him. Scienti c opportunities often appear only at speci c times and places, potentially a serious impediment for a parent who doesn’t want to relocate the family. Do your work in the wrong place, or publish it in the wrong journal, and it may vanish without a trace. And once someone drops out of science, it is hard to get back in. After joining the Toyota dealership, Prasher applied for a couple of science-related jobs in Huntsville, but nothing worked out. On one occasion he had an encouraging meeting with the hiring manager at a local company working on micro uidics; when the interviewer learned that Prasher drove a courtesy van, his interest cooled. There is no way to know how many other potential researchers were driven from their studies for similar reasons, or how many potential discoveries were never made because of the psychological and practical difculties of the scienti c lifestyle. Finally in June , several weeks after my visit, Prasher’s luck changed. He e-mailed me to say he’d been offered a science job at Streamline Automation, a local research and


development company. Staffed by about people, the company does work for , the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Prasher’s first task when he started in late June was to help develop technology to sense toxic industrial gases. He began cautiously. “ ere was none of the tremendous relief you might expect,” he says. “I had been so discouraged over the years that my attitude was, this may work out and it may not.” Gradually he settled into the job. At home he occasionally took science reading to bed, something he hadn’t done in years. “A lot of the hangdog is gone,” Gina told me. In December Prasher won a six-month, , grant from the Department of Defense to develop a eld technique for categorizing tick specimens according to their mitochondrial genes, in hopes of limiting the diseases a doctor might diagnose. It brought a sense of accomplishment that had been missing from his life for a long time. In January he told me that the cloud of depression he had lived under for years was nally lifting. Science gave him a sense of purpose. Still, there were things about Penney Toyota that he would remember fondly, he told me: the time he spent with his buddies in the body shop, their amusement when he showed up for his rst day of work dressed in suspenders, the endless teasing about Prasher’s liberal views as they watched Fox News around the clock, the question one of them asked when Prasher was about to slice open a kiwi at lunch: “Are you going to eat that fuzzy potater?” These colleagues had broadened Prasher’s de nition of expertise. “Even though these people are not in a glamorous position, they are incredibly knowledgeable about what they do,” he says. In our most recent conversation, Prasher told me he was busy reading up on a new technique he could apply to the detection of food allergens. “One thing I’ve always enjoyed is browsing the literature,” he says, noting that he prefers thumbing through journals to doing keyword searches because it allows him to discover concepts he hadn’t known about before. For several years, he notes wryly, “there was very little motivation to do that.” Now there was, a reason to step back into a world of inquiry where the pursuit of an exciting idea is its own reward. After an untimely and seemingly permanent exit from science, Douglas Prasher has made his way back in, a personal triumph no less meaningful to him than a Nobel Prize.





WorldMags Warrıor by Adam Piore illustration by Sam Kennedy Silent The U.S. Army wants to allow soldiers to communicate just by thinking. The new science of synthetic telepathy could soon make that happen. WorldMags .

is part of a . and unlike his predecessors.WorldMags O .” Schalk says. He is applying hard science to an aspiration that was once relegated to clairvoyants. and astrologists have set up tables in the concourse beneath the Empire State Plaza in Albany. detect the presence of ghosts. researchers have surgically implanted electrodes in the brains of monkeys and trained them to move robotic arms at . Louis. e cavernous hall of shops that connects the buildings in this -acre complex is a popular venue for autumnal events: Oktoberfest. She is draped in a hospital gown and propped up in a motorized bed. Those wires are connected to electrodes that a neurosurgeon has placed directly on the surface of her naked cortex after surgically removing the top of her skull. But give him time. then pass through a long. is to identify the exact area of the brain responsible for her seizures. aah or ooh. “ is woman has epilepsy and probably has seizures several times a week.S. Within a decade Special Forces could creep into the caves of Tora Bora to snatch Al Qaeda operatives. e uorescent lighting ickers as he hunches over a desk to click on a computer file. Schalk explains. million U. As improbable as it sounds. e mind reader is Gerwin Schalk.” he adds. synthetic telepathy. animal communicators. A volunteer from one of his recent mind-reading experiments appears in a video facing a screen of her own. a year-old biomedical scientist and a leading expert on brain-computer interfaces at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center at Albany Medical College. just by thinking. or o . I pay a visit to a different sort of cave. the Maple Harvest Festival. I hop in an elevator within shouting distance of the paranormal hubbub. and they have developed methods to detect imagined muscle movement. she asserts. New York. and nally descend a cement stairwell to a subterranean warren of laboratories and o ces. an assortment of spiritual mediums. The Army wants practical applications for healthy people. This mind reader is not able to pluck a childhood memory or the name of a loved one out of your head.oored hallway guarded by a pair of stern-faced sentries. her head swathed in a plasterlike mold of bandages secured under the chin. snaking down to her left shoulder in stringy black tangles. For a look at the early stages of the technology.. “and we are making progress. Finding it is a workout. bare except for a single photograph of his young family and a poster of the human brain. But there is a huge added bene t: e seizure patients who volunteer for Schalk’s experiments prior to surgery have allowed him and his collaborator. Schalk says. vocalizations. so surgeons can attempt to remove the damaged areas without a ecting healthy ones. Army project to establish the basic science required to build a thought helmet—a device that can detect and transmit the unspoken speech of soldiers. have been able to extract vowels from the motor cortex of a paralyzed patient who lost the ability to talk by sinking electrodes into the area of his brain that controls his vocal cords. before Halloween. revealing a slight Germanic accent. he can point to some hard results. Schalk is sitting in front of an oversize computer screen. ence’s long-held ambition to read what goes on inside the mind. neurosurgeon Eric C. sitting in an office several floors below the concourse. The goal is to build a helmet embedded with brain-scanning technologies that can target specific brain waves. Or a platoon of infantrymen could telepathically call in a helicopter to whisk away their wounded in the midst of a deafening re ght. She is concentrating. and transmit . At Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. hundreds of miles away. Nearby. outside Atlanta. Researchers have been experimenting with ways to understand and harness signals in the areas of the brain that control muscle movement since the early s. to collect what they claim are among the most detailed pictures ever recorded of what happens in the brain when we imagine speaking words aloud.” Traffic is heavy as bureaucrats with badges dangling from their necks stroll by during their lunch breaks. a middle-aged woman is solemnly explaining the workings of an electromagnetic sensor that can. and even the speed with which a subject wants to move a limb. silently thinking of one of two vowel sounds. where intelligible speech would be project funded by the Army’s multi-university research grant and the latest twist on sci- 50 DISCOVER WorldMags COURTESY DAVID POEPPEL impossible above the din of explosions. linoleum. Leuthardt of Washington University School of Medicine in St. known as electrocorticography. Amid all the bustle and transparent hustles. Schalk is now attempting to make silent speech a reality by using sensors and computers to explore the regions of the brain responsible for storing and processing thoughts. At Brown University. e Austrian-born Schalk. is getting closer to battlefield reality. few of the dabblers at the Mystic Fair are aware that there is a genuine mind reader in the building. allowing them to communicate with one another silently. as the technology is called. Next to the Albany Paranormal Research Society table. surrounded by empty metal bookshelves and white cinder-block walls. at least not yet. e main goal of this technique. Jumbles of wires protrude from an opening at the top of her skull. along with a handful of other researchers. scientists are working on a similar implant they hope will allow paralyzed human subjects to control arti cial limbs. and today’s “Mystic Fair. translate them into words. Schalk’s bunkerlike o ce. The volunteer is clearly no ordinary research subject. But the Army’s thought-helmet project is the rst large-scale e ort to “really attack” the much broader challenge of synthetic telepathy. And workers at Neural Signals Inc. A line has formed at the table of a popular tarot card reader. communicating and coordinating without hand signals or whispered words. a “clairvoyant” ushers a government worker in a suit into her canvas tent.

decoding full. North Carolina. and Japanese sword ghting. Above the volunteer’s head is a black bar that extends right or left depending on the computer’s ability to guess which vowel the volunteer has been instructed to imagine: right for “aah. E. Many of those present dismissed Schalk’s findings as blasphemy and stood up to attack it. Skylark of Space. The young researcher was Gerwin Schalk.” Schalk says. In fact. complex imagined sentences with multiple words and meaning. judo. in the physiology of vision and advanced belts in karate. Above: Black lines display the strength of the brain’s magnetic field over time. bespectacled scien- 51 04. I’m mesmerized by the eerie video of the bandaged patient on the computer screen. ”all of a sudden became possible. Many neuroscientists had long believed that the only way to extract data from the brain speci c enough to control an external device was to penetrate the cortex and sink electrodes into the gray matter. Elmar Schmeisser. White bars cover her eyes to preserve her anonymity. Right: Lollipop-shaped markers tag electrical activity in the brain’s auditory cortex.” and sure enough. but she is very much engaged. He took his place at a podium facing a large. proof that the computer’s analysis of those hundreds of squiggling lines in the black rectangle is correct. Hundreds of yellow and white brain waves dance across a black backdrop. variables from each electrode location. giving the impression that she might be asleep or comatose. But even extracting two simple vowels from deep within the brain is a big advance.D. Schmeisser marched into a large conference room at Army Research Office headquarters in Research Triangle Park. a lanky.” he says. “To make sense of this is very difficult. But for Schmeisser it was a magical moment. Schalk points with his pen at a large rectangular eld on the side of the screen depicting a region of her brain abuzz with electrical activity. communicating without hand signals or whispered words. “Everything. If he could take Schalk’s idea one step further and nd a way to extract verbal thoughts from the brain without surgery. Somewhere in those squiggles lie patterns that Schalk is training his computer to recognize and decode.” he says. He was listening to a young researcher expound on the virtues of extracting signals from the surface of the brain. while Schmeisser was attending a conference on advanced prosthetics in Irvine.2011 WorldMags . Above.” left for “ooh. where red indicates the magnetic field leaving the brain and blue indicates the field entering it. By claiming that he could pry information from the brain without drilling deep inside it—information that could allow a subject to move a computer cursor. U-shaped table fronting rows Left: A machine maps electrical brain activity by measuring magnetic fields around a volunteer’s head.” e next year. She is lying stock-still.” he tells me. Schmeisser had been fascinated by the concept of a thought helmet ever since he read about it in E.” e volunteer imagines “ooh. “This is the first step toward mind reading. joined the Army Research Office as a program manager in . play computer games. He admits that he is a long way from Special Forces could creep into the caves of Tora Bora to snatch Al Qaeda operatives.” Schmeisser vividly recalls of that day. that it really hit him: Science had nally caught up to his boyhood vision.” and I watch the black bar inch to the left. It’s a lot of numbers. e volunteer thinks “aah.WorldMags tist with a receding hairline and a neck the width of a small tree. He had spent his -year career up to that point working in academia and at various military research facilities. the technology could dramatically benefit not only disabled people but the healthy as well. “Doc” Smith’s science ction classic. the bar extends right. California. and even move a prosthetic limb—Schalk was taking on “a very strong existing dogma in the eld that the only way to know about how the brain works is by recording individual neurons. As Schalk explains his vast ambitions. right: A top-down view of the magnetic-field distribution over the entire head in a split second. exhaustively investigating eyewear to protect soldiers against laser exposure. among other technologies. where the electrodes could record the ring of individual neurons. the computer gets it right “close to percent of the time. back in the eighth grade. “For each second there are . to pitch a research project to investigate synthetic telepathy for soldiers. Schalk’s lecture was causing a stir. But it was not until . thought helmet project is a retired Army colonel with a Ph. Schalk has no doubt about where his work is leading. each representing the oscillating electrical pulses picked up by one of the electrodes attached to her cortex as clusters of brain cells re. aikido. those words wirelessly to a radio speaker or an earpiece worn by other soldiers.” Schalk gestures again toward the video.

the man who had gotten him thinking about a thought helmet in the rst place. e patients were presented with words that had a relatively simple consonant-vowelconsonant structure..” e committee rejected Schmeisser’s proposal but authorized him to collect more data over the following year to bolster his case. ENEMY LEFT. chemists.WorldMags MOTOR CORTEX ELECTRODE-LINED HELMET ACTIVATED ELECTRODES WERNICKE’S AREA ENEMY LEFT. where a committee of some senior scientists and colleagues—division chiefs. For assistance he turned to Schalk. e researchers then set up a computer screen and speakers in front of the patients’ beds. grant to prove the feasibility of a thought helmet. bat.. and boot. Schalk and Leuthardt quickly recruited epilepsy patients as volunteers for their rst set of experiments. beat.. “Show us the evidence that this could really work—that you are not just hallucinating it. they seized the opportunity. such as bet. ENEMY LEFT. exploring their patients’ ability to play video games.. The two men were eager to push their research further and expand into areas of the brain thought to be associated with language. directorate heads.. particle physicists. Schmeisser had minutes and six PowerPoint slides to address four major questions: Where was the eld at the moment? How might his idea prove important? What would the Army get out of it? And was there reason to believe that it was doable? e rst three questions were simple. each patient had the top of his skull removed and electrodes a xed to the surface of the cortex. Schalk and Leuthardt had been conducting mind-reading experiments for several years.. move cursors. “Does this really work?” Schmeisser remembers the committee asking him. ey were asked to say the words out loud and then to simply imagine saying 52 DISCOVER WorldMags ELISABETH KELLY . mathematicians. so when Schmeisser o ered them a . It was that last one that tripped him up. As I had seen in the video in Schalk’s o ce. and Pentagon brass in civilian dress—waited for him to begin. and type by means of brain waves picked up via a scanner. computer scientists. OCCIPITAL CORTEX AUDITORY CORTEX DATA ACQUISITION BOX of chairs.

yet he also knew that demonstrating even a rudimentary thought helmet capable of discerning simple commands would be a valuable achievement. perhaps at a distant command post. what the subjects were thinking. a militarygrade thought helmet would function like a wearable mind-machine interface: When activated. Fire!” Any of those phrases could be life-saving. requires no surgery. the motor cortex went silent while the auditory cortex and Wernicke’s area remained active. led by Mike D’Zmura. sensors inside would scan thousands of electrical signals from brain regions associated with specific thoughts and bits of imagined speech. e auditory cortex and an area in its vicinity long believed to be associated with speech. The electrodes provided a precise map of the resulting neural activity. the raw results were an important start. For Schmeisser. “We could start there. e second group. sensors inside would scan the thousands of brain waves oscillating in a soldier’s head. Like o . As he conceived it. Calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. Irvine. A microprocessor would apply pattern recognition to decode those signals and translate them into specific sentences or words. and what it meant. The words or sentences would reach a receiver that would then “speak” the words into a comrade’s earpiece or be played from a speaker. Schalk was intrigued by the results. just by looking in their direction. this practicality was critical. When the subjects imagined words. Those instructions were conveyed visually (written on a computer screen) with no audio.2011 WorldMags . the electrodes attach painlessly to the scalp. what they were doing. requires only a handful of speci c words. e possibilities were easy to imagine: “Look out! Enemy on the right!” “We need a medical evacuation now!” “ e enemy is standing on the ridge. at least roughly. a cognitive scientist at the University of California. G them. attaching electrodes beneath the skull. a noninvasive brain-scanning technique that was far better suited for an actual thought helmet. the helmet would function as a wearable interface between mind and machine. planned to use electroencephalography ( ). To maximize the chance of success. He ultimately wanted answers to the big neuroscience questions that would allow researchers to capture complicated thoughts and ideas. a micropro- Schmeisser’s o ce. After all. was pursuing the more invasive o approach. e next step was obvious: Reach inside the brain and try to pluck out enough data to determine. which would show it as words on a heads-up display—all in just the time it would take a soldier to think the message. soldiers often use formulaic and reduced vocabulary to communicate. Schmeisser also proposed adding a second capability to the helmet to detect the direction in which a soldier was focusing his attention. directed by Schalk. a radio would transmit the message to another helmet. and a radio would transmit the message. such as “Enemy left!” After that. Although it was unclear why those areas were active. Schmeisser presented Schalk’s data to the Army committee the following year and asked it to fund a formal project to develop a real mind-reading helmet. were also active. when the subjects vocalized a word. Think Quick! As researchers conceive it. relies on brain signals picked up by an array of electrodes that are sensitive to the subtle voltage oscillations caused by the firing of groups of neurons. The first team. called Wernicke’s area.WorldMags cessor would apply pattern recognition software to decode those waves and translate them into speci c sentences or words. The function could be used to steer thoughts to a speci c comrade or squad. the data indicated activity in the areas of the motor cortex associated with the muscles that produce speech.” Schmeisser says. he decided to split the Army funding between two university teams that were taking complementary approaches to the telepathy problem. Unlike o . and again vocally with no video. As one might expect. When activated. 53 04. is time the committee signed o . for instance.

. out the need to remove part of a subject’s skull. As happens so often in this eld of research. scalp. when a subject was asked to imagine speaking a word rather than hearing it. After guiding subjects into the device. “When you plan to speak. “That is really bizarre. a graduate student working with D’Zmura. shorts. With his research partner Greg Hickok. Poeppel was initially stumped by the results. you activate the hearing part of your brain before you say the word. Lappas’s face was a mask of determined focus as he stared silently at a screen while military commands blared out of a nearby speaker. he noticed something unusual. at part was no surprise. When the brain sends a command to the motor cortex to. During one experiment last November. and then demonstrate how that response is connected to activity in the brain. Poeppel re ected.” the Army asked Schmeisser. that some of the researchers who signed on to the project harbored private doubts about whether it could really be used to extract the signals associated with unspoken thoughts. the auditory cortex ashed an almost identical red and green pattern. Solving this problem would call for a new experimental method. sat in his office on the second oor of the New York University psychology building and realized he was unsure even where to begin. previous studies had linked the auditory cortex to imagined sounds.” he explains. six-foot-tall machine resembling a huge hair dryer that contained scanners capable of recording the minute magnetic fields produced by the firing of neurons. often volunteers to be a research subject. for instance. Poeppel and Tian would guide subjects into a three-ton. “Ready Baron go to red now..” a recorded voice intoned. e sheer size of a machine would obviously be impractical in a military setting. a random thought could throw o the whole experiment. But there was nothing in that model to suggest how to measure something imagined. He and a postdoctoral student. so the team is testing its techniques using lightweight caps that could eventually be built into a practical thought helmet. the brain can check the muscle output against the intended action and make any necessary corrections. However. though. it also creates an internal impression. Next they asked them to imagine hearing the words. musician. “Your brain is predicting what it will sound like. and a latex cap with gel-soaked electrodes attached to it. renowned neuroscientist David Poeppel.ops. The caps are comfortable enough that Tom Lappas.” He noted. an expert on the neuroscience of language. and it is far more accurate than . he had developed a detailed model of audible speech systems. can provide roughly the same level of spatial detail as o but with- 54 DISCOVER WorldMags . it was still unclear where in the brain researchers should even look for the relevant signals. In fact. At the center of the room sat a oneton. one of D’Zmura’s key collaborators. Xing Tian. in fact. Poeppel realized. “Ready Eagle go to red now…Ready Tiger go to green now.WorldMags “We could start below that. “Why should there be an auditory pattern when the subjects didn’t speak and no one around them spoke?” Over time he arrived at an explanation. If the brain held on to a copy of what an imagined thought would sound like if vocalized. known as an e erence copy. e data can be so messy. back in . his auditory cortex lit up the screen in a characteristic pattern of reds and greens. As a subject imagined hearing words. the researchers would ask them to imagine speaking words like athlete. at way. a computer recorded I . then paused. Poeppel believed he was looking at an efference copy of speech in the auditory cortex. Trying to measure imagined speech was much more complicated. reach out and grab a cup of water. decided to take advantage of a powerful imaging technique called magnetoencephalography. speech experimentation had followed a simple plan: Ask a subject to listen to a speci c word or phrase. it might be possible to capture that neurological record and translate it into intelligible words. more invasive methods because the skull. That blurring also makes the signals harder to detect at all. for instance. Building a thought helmet would require not only identifying that e erence copy but also nding a way to isolate it from a mass of brain waves. however. Lappas sat in front of a computer wearing ip. that it does not require a terribly complicated message to call for an air strike or a missile launch: “ at would be a very nice operational capability. and lunch. For more than years. parts of which were widely cited in textbooks. each discovery brought with it a wave of new challenges. and cerebral uid surrounding the brain scatter its electric signals before they reach the electrodes. “Show us the evidence that this could really work—that you are not just hallucinating it. e exact location of neural activity is far more di cult to discern via than with many other. to do their reconnaissance work. ’ spent the past two years taking baby steps in that direction by teaching pattern recognition programs to search for and recognize speci c phrases and words.” As Lappas concentrated. or . When Poeppel sat down to analyze the results.” The relative ease with which can be applied comes at a price. beige-paneled room constructed of a special alloy and copper to shield against passing electromagnetic elds. of what the resulting movement will look and feel like.” e potential signi cance of this nding was not lost on Poeppel. Scientists had long been aware of an error-correction mechanism in the brain associated with motor commands.” he recalls thinking. measure the subject’s response to that word (for instance. how long it takes him to repeat it aloud).

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WorldMags 56 DISCOVER WorldMags .

ozone. by David Kirby CREDIT TK TK TK TK 57 04.2011 WorldMags . the fast-growing economies of Asia are filling the air with toxins that circumnavigate the globe. Even as America tightens emission standards.WorldMags Made in China: mercury. and flu-laced desert dust. black carbon. sulfates.

says Jennifer Turner. blended. though. All regions of the world contribute pollutants. but it has to go somewhere. where he rst learned about acid rain. ozone. First he gathered the necessary equipment. that somewhere often means right here. emphysema. he notes.S.” Jaffe says.¶ Ja e and a new breed of global air detectives are delivering a sobering message to policy makers everywhere: Carbon dioxide.” he recalls. and we had satellite imagery to show that. especially in babies and the elderly. The intensity of the current change is truly new. and the mass migration of that population to urban centers. e incoming pollution has sparked a fractious international debate. China now emits more mercury than the United States.lled cities are ringed with heavy industry. and desert dust—over the ocean each year. China in particular stands out because of its sudden role as the world’s factory. the predominant driver of global warming. black carbon. and soot into the air. “It’s like nothing the world has ever seen. but University of Washington atmospheric chemist Dan Ja e says it with conviction: None of the contamination we pump into the air just disappears. the same facts are seen through a di erent lens. Some of this atmospheric junk settles into the cold waters of the North Paci c. I asked the question: Could we see those pollutants coming over to the United States?” Jaffe’s colleagues considered it improbable that a concentration of pollutants high enough to significantly impact American air quality could travel thousands of miles across the Paci c Ocean. but much of it eventually merges “ T highways are crawling with the newly acquired cars of a burgeoning middle class. including neurodegenerative disease. Still. Officials in the United States and Europe have embraced the warnings of the soft-spoken Ja e. ozone. all crucial to that fast-growing economy even as they spew tons of carbon. “And we noticed our upstream neighbors in Asia were developing very rapidly. ese contaminants are implicated in a long list of health problems. Ja e set out to nd the proof.” Jaffe says. but Jaffe’s work shows that we are environmentally bound to the world’s fastest-rising nation as well. with the global air pollution pool that circumnavigates the planet. director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The fledgling environmental investigator began chatting with fishermen around New England. As pollutants coming from Asia increase. And much of the emissions are generated from making products consumed by the West.” Development there is racing far ahead of environmental regulation. “All these old-timers kept telling me the lakes had been full of fish that were now gone. or chemically transformed. clean up later” can be the general attitude. it becomes harder to meet the stricter standards that our new laws impose. they expected he would nd just insigni cant traces. “it’s unfair to put all the blame on China or Asia. And when it comes to pollutants produced by the booming economies of East Asia. there is no way it just goes somewhere else. and we did a project in the Blue Hills area. “What’s different about China is the scale and speed of pollution and environmental degradation. its enormous population. “Pollute rst. Prevailing winds across the Paci c are pushing thousands of tons of other contaminants—including mercury. and coal. and it is not unusual for a developing nation to value economic growth over environmental regulation.” says Xinbin Feng of the Institute of Geochemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Growing up near power plants.” Turner says. million people. metal smelters. China’s smog. equivalent to the entire U. he liked to sh in local wetlands. sulfates. they reach North America within days. Despite their skepticism. and his interest had taken a slant: Could pollution reaching his city be blowing in from somewhere else? “We had a hunch that pollutants could be carried across the ocean. the mainland of the United States. Dust. Pollution and production have gone hand in hand at least since the Industrial Revolution. It might get diluted. In China. a government-associated research facility. And when wind and weather conditions are right. We found that the acidity of the lake was rising. with ecks of red and gray in his trim beard. who. is not the only industrial by-product whose e ects can be felt around the world. however. Our economic link with China makes all the headlines. China’s about air pollution since childhood. “Standards in the United States have gotten tighter because we’ve learned that ever-lower levels of air pollution a ect health. That mobilized me to think about when we burn fossil fuels or dump garbage. and perhaps even pandemics like avian flu.WorldMags . metals. and mercury can be pulled to earth through atmospheric sinks that deposit it across large swaths of land. and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins. “I had a great science teacher. looks every bit the part of a sober environmental watchdog.” By Ja e was living in Seattle. gases. population. and Europe combined. cancer.” Gertrude Stein. where economic expansion has run at to percent a year since . 58 DISCOVER WorldMags . India. will be moving to its cities over the next years.

in China’s Hebei Province.” O cials at the U. When inorganic mercury (whether from industry or nature) gets into wet soil or a waterway. when the trajectory originated over Asia. THIS PAGE AND PREVIOUS PAGES: LU GUANG/CONTACT PRESS IMAGES 59 04. that is why the largest predator sh (sharks and swordfish. some mercury is released. ey were not calling about aerosols or hydrocarbons. A factory worker covered with coal dust in Inner Mongolia. The little mountain was an arduous ve-hour drive northwest of Seattle. for example) typically have the highest concentrations. About percent of all mercury exposure in the United States comes from Paci c tuna that has been touched by pollution. He loaded the equipment into some university trucks and set out for the school’s weather observatory at Cheeka Peak. While it is trapped it is of little consequence to human health. Nine-tenths of the mercury found in Americans’ blood is the methyl form. . sulfate-reducing bacteria begin incorporating it into an organic and far more absorbable compound called methylmercury. and most comes from sh. however. and by they were calling Ja e to talk. Jaffe’s monitors quickly captured evidence of carbon monoxide. hydrocarbons. radon. the Asian pollutants might show up. and particulates. It gets into the food chain and di uses deep into the ocean. sulfur dioxide. the next step was identifying the true source of the pollutants. aerosols. as concerning as those pollutants might be. Ja e found his answer in atmospheric circulation models. He reckoned that if he tested this reputedly pristine air when a westerly wind was blowing in from the Paci c. ozone. A paper he published two years later summarized his conclusions succinctly. vegetables. .S. Mercury is a common heavy metal. It eventually finds its way into fish. e pollutants “were all statistically elevated . ubiquitous in solid material on the earth’s surface. Previous pages: Tianjin Steel Plant. Since air from North America could not have contaminated Cheeka Peak with winds blowing from the west . nitrogen oxides.WorldMags Devices to measure carbon monoxide. and fruit. that allowed him to trace the pollutants’ path backward in time. But whenever metal is smelted or coal is burned. Instead. created with the help of data from Earth-imaging satellites. and hydrocarbons could all be bought o the shelf. especially Pacific fish. they were interested in a pollutant that Ja e had not looked for in his air samples: mercury. Environmental Protection Agency took note. As microorganisms consume the methylmercury. but it was also known for the cleanest air in the Northern Hemisphere.2011 WorldMags . rice. the metal accumulates and migrates up the food chain.

University of California.” he says. “ ey were nervous that the results would get leaked to the government. and so on. he turned to pollution detectives—a group of professional contacts he had met at conferences. lead. Streets decided to create an inventory of China’s mercury emissions. Laks detected inorganic mercury (the kind that doesn’t come from seafood) in the blood of percent of the women tested in – . because its ores contain a high concentration of He sent his spies into Chinese f se factories to determine how much mercury was enter entering cury the atmosphere. but for Streets they also quanti ed China’s mercuryladen raw materials. Los Angeles. neuroscience researcher Dan Laks has identi ed an alarming rise in mercury exposure. Especially notable. Still.” says Harvard epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean. “Factory owners had nothing to gain and a lot to lose. It was a formidable undertaking. He analyzed data on . a leading authority on the risks associated with chemical exposure during early development. or gold. Other pollutants that the fetus is exposed to can also cause toxic effects. for the year . up from just percent of women tested six years earlier. After a few days of data collection. methylmercury can cross the placenta and negatively a ect fetal brain development. “Mercury’s neurotoxicity is irrefutable. and the Chinese government was not exactly known for its transparency. Usually e. how much zinc they produce.WorldMags In pregnant women. such as zinc. and the heating process allows it to escape into the atmosphere in gaseous form. To con rm the China connection. but at least it’s a start. achieved in the United States after lead paint and leaded gasoline were banned. It’s not always percent reliable. pointed to China as the primary origin of the mercury. for example—and installed chemical detectors in smokestacks. Chinese factories turned these “spies” away.” In Streets and his team reported their first tally of humangenerated mercury emissions in China. Nevertheless.” Streets concedes. China’s provinces provide the central government with detailed data on industrial production: how much coal they burn. along with graduate students who spent time in his lab. e scientists estimated the amount at tons (the United States emitted tons).” Streets says. and other disorders. “China is very good at producing statistical data. which is set free during combustion at power plants. but he also needed to know how much actually made it into the air. turned y but every so often a ver manager let them in with the promise of anonymity. Unfortunately.” Yet some of Streets’s moles got through by guaranteeing that the data would stay anonymous. Once inside. immunological. coal contains trace amounts of mercury. “potentially leading to neurological. Prenatal exposure to mercury and other pollutants can lead to lower in children—even at today’s lower levels. Those statistics help the Chinese government monitor the economy. One of the rst scientists with feet on the ground in China was David Streets. In . he could not prove it from his data. Most of the time. Among adults. 60 DISCOVER WorldMags . Almost half resulted from the smelting of metals—especially zinc.” Laks adds. copper. Streets considered the endeavor important because China is full of the two biggest contributors to human-generated mercury. they took samples of raw materials —zinc ore in a smelting facility. a senior energy and environmental policy scientist at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. spurred by increased attention to mercury in the atmosphere. In the s he was at the forefront of the study of acid rain. they were turne away. researchers had to get snapshots of what was happening inside that country. one of the consistent contaminants is mercury. Factory foremen and provincial o cials were not above providing in ated data to make themselves look more productive. and to understand the exact sources of the pollution. Streets began by studying reports from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The statistics Streets collected were hardly airtight. Nobody had ever come up with a precise estimate. and the managers who were willing to let his inspectors take measurements were often the very ones with nothing to hide. American women collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that concentrations of mercury in the human population had increased over time. and in the s he turned his attention to carbon dioxide and global warming as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To obtain that information. Smelting facilities heat metal ores to eliminate contaminants and extract the desired metal. “ ere’s still a lot of uncertainty. Similarly. they passed the information to Streets. Streets began focusing on emissions from China about years ago and has since become such a noted expert that he helped the Chinese government clean up the smoke-clogged skies over Beijing before the Olympics in . “but we know more than we did before. and there is strong evidence for an association with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. metal smelting and coal combustion. The numbers from the statistics bureau told Streets the total amount of mercury that might be emitted. the industrial processes that produce the kinds of pollutants Ja e was seeing on Cheeka Peak should release mercury as well.

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plane custom fit with instruments for measuring pollutants like carbon monoxide. Back in the early s. INSET: ASHU DASTOOR AND DIDIER DAVIGNON . he identi ed a plume that looked very much like the ones he’d found near China the year before. and grad students took ights aboard a cavernous retired Navy C. according to John Ashton. releasing more ephemeral pollutants like carbon monoxide so that the mercury stood out even more.000 feet in April 2004. sulfur. mercury. and China designed to track dust particles emanating from the mainland. professors. Friedli set his sights across the Paci c. a climate o cial in the United Kingdom. but at . China would never allow him to do aerial studies in its airspace. The inset map is a computer model of Asian mercury emissions across the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 20. Any mercury in the air would be absorbed by the gold. He concluded those plumes must have circled the entire globe at least once.WorldMags SOUTH KOREA JAPAN CHINA TAIWAN On the Pollution Trail This NASA satellite photo of East Asia documents a common path for industrial pollutants once they enter the atmosphere. a chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research ( ) who had spent years working for Dow Chemical. Satellite images and atmospheric models such as these have helped Jaffe demonstrate how mercury and other emissions from China feed into a complex network of air currents that distribute pollutants across the globe. while atmospheric chemist Dan Jaffe was picking up significant mercury readings on Mount Bachelor (the highest concentrations are in red). Friedli sat at his station awaiting readouts from his mercury sensor: an intake valve that sucked in air and guided it over a gold cartridge within the plane. Throughout April . South Korea and Japan can receive acid rain resulting from China’s sulfate emissions. an scientist. and dust storms). By he had a full-time job tracking the toxin for . releasing any trapped mercury. With its copious mercury emis- sions (not only from industry but also from volcanoes. Asia drew Friedli’s interest. o the West Coast of the United States. “Mercury emissions in China have grown at about to percent a year.” he says. During each flight. and that percentage may be going up. Eager to follow the trail of Asian mercury plumes. What Friedli detected was just one detail of a much larger picture. Streets’s team published a subsequent inventory estimating that China’s mercury emissions had jumped to tons in . Coal-burning power plants accounted for another percent of Chinese mercury emissions. sparked an interest in wild res. a major source of mercury emissions. Mercury plumes can wobble in latitude and altitude or park themselves in one spot for days on end. Friedli had found his own path into the esoteric world of pollution forensics. but in he heard about research flights off the coasts of Japan. As recently as . Specifically.” Streets had shown that China was churning out mercury. Plumes of mercury-laced air near the earth’s surface are mixed with other pollutants. feet Friedli discovered concentrated mercury plumes soaring eastward toward North America. and indeed from every industrial 62 DISCOVER WorldMags NASA. In a series of research ights in . and ozone. researchers. The model indicates that Asian mercury can reach western North America in as little as four days. the plume had a carbon monoxide-to-mercury ratio that served as a ngerprint for gases from the same source. wildfires. along the way. Every five minutes the instrument rapidly heated the gold. Korea. but he was left with a big uncertainty: What happened to it on its journey aloft? Finding the answer fell to Hans Friedli. Emissions from China—and from the United States. Friedli convinced the research team to take him along to measure mercury concentrations in the atmosphere. China was building two new power plants a week. “It’s pretty much undeniable. a conversation with his neighbor.

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One major category is sulfates.500 environmental organizations now have legal status in China. independent auditors found that Fuguo’s Shanghai leather factory had rectified its major violations and reduced gas emissions. serve up toxic mercury around the world.” It was the first time anyone had decisively identi ed Asian mercury in American air. environmental groups publish lists of companies in violation of environmental regulations and offer to conduct a thirdparty audit if a company chooses to clean up its act. creating acid rain that falls in China. journalists. nding their way here and contributing to smog along the West Coast. they plotted their analysis of mercury in the air against satellite data showing wind currents.S. Yet some of the sulfates stay aloft. a government notorious for throwing activists in prison is allowing environmentalists an active role. Jaffe looked at his data anew.” ANDREW GRANT WorldMags QILAI SHEN/GETTY IMAGES .” Jaffe says. “ is was a real ‘aha’ moment for us. Faced with an ecological crisis. such an event would have been unheard of just a few years before.” says Jennifer Turner of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. shoe and clothing seller that is one of Fuguo’s biggest customers. hovered below the mercury plume line. he chose Mount Bachelor. Back in Washington. but Turner says these groups will force the government to keep its foot on the pedal. but it is the country’s increasingly influential green movement that is enforcing them.” ey were only starting to understand the global nature of the mercury problem. and Japan. at . “but these groups are pushing the government in the right direction. The numbers showed exactly the expected similarity. While activists there are not as vocal as their counterparts in Europe or the United States. The green movement is empowered by China’s bottom line. When sulfur dioxide exits China’s coal and oil smokestacks. e results were a shock to many scientists. which reported the factory’s violations and brought them to the attention of Timberland. With the scale of the crisis clear. Later that year they conducted a similar experiment in Okinawa. From 2005 to 2009. including the same ratio of mercury to carbon monoxide. a ski resort in central Oregon with an altitude of . Another Chinese import is black Friedli and Streets. he realized why. and environmental groups to discuss the company’s air pollution violations. because “they still couldn’t wrap their heads around the magnitude of the pollution and how dirty China’s industry was. under the supervision of environmental groups. associated with lung and heart disease. But the company’s hand had been forced by newly assertive Chinese environmental groups.5 million tons. they have made an impact by encouraging transparency and pressuring local governments and industries to adhere to new national regulations. More than 3. Clearly there is still a long way to go. a leather factory in Shanghai owned by the Fuguo company hosted an unlikely gathering: an open house for residents. Jaffe and his students huddled deep in their down jackets.WorldMags country—feed a network of air currents that. yet his operation on Cheeka Peak showed no such signal. with the toll including everything from crops destroyed by acid rain to spiraling health costs due to poor air and water quality. e levels Ja e measured suggested that Asia was churning out . In late winter . “Environmental activism has led to more aggressive action on pollution control. It is estimated that the country is losing some 8 percent of its wealth each year to pollution. bracing against a bitter gale that buffeted the chairlift ferrying them and their costly equipment to the summit. from Mount Bachelor and Japan. In a country long known for secrecy and environmental disregard. Ja e says. Seeking a higher perch.” Ja e says. Korea. “The challenges China faces are just mindboggling. lodge they installed a small computer lab and extended tubes outside to vacuum up the air. Over the years. tons a year. Through a program called the Green Choice Alliance. Conducting reconnaissance from a plane. feet. If mercury were arriving from China. Japan. because the two regions were phenomenally close. “My hypothesis was that we would see the same chemicals. as equal-opportunity polluters. and the quantities were stunning. Inside the mountaintop China’s Green Army In September 2009. Ja e’s Mount Bachelor Observatory has also monitored many other noxious pollutants wafting across the Paci c.” she says. he should be able to detect it. The peak. feet. China cut its sulfur dioxide emissions by between 22 million and 25. the U. Last year. “Sulfates are water-soluble and get removed from the atmosphere relatively quickly. it converts into sulfates in the air. the Chinese government is slowly enacting new environmental regulations.

Under the auspices of the United Nations. “It usually hangs around for about a week. Ja e explains. the trend was strongest. and yet. and crop burning and a major component of Chinese haze. It found that ozone levels above western North America creep upward every spring.” 65 04. negotiations have at least begun. People have accepted this notion when it comes to carbon dioxide or the chemicals that eat away at the ozone layer. in years that gets wiped out. The has estimated that just one-quarter of U. billion tons in .2011 WorldMags . the United States has spent considerable effort over the past half-century trying to clean up its act.S. “If people are shing in the same pond. at is a lot more pollution to come. We’ll have to keep reducing our emissions just to stay even. It’s a signi cant amount. current estimates are that less than half of all mercury deposition within the United States comes from American sources. at was the nail in the co n. but it has gotten worse with deforestation and deserti cation caused by poorly managed agriculture. To fuel its boom. those pollutants are everybody’s responsibility. recent policies encourage desulfurization and other filtering technology in power plants. Streets recently estimated that China’s use of coal for electricity generation will rise nearly percent over the next decade. en again. mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the contiguous U. and now you want to stop other countries from developing too. “ e increase was estimated at .” Jaffe says.” ’ detective work should not be all that surprising: All of the world’s atmosphere is interconnected. “We can visually see it. When it comes to some pollutants.” Chinese dust has obscured vistas in U.” Jaffe counters in his low-key way. and death. People are still coming to terms with the reality that it applies to industrial pollutants. is compounds the danger. part per billion [ppb] per year. Ja e. We’ve tried to quantify how much it contributes to the particulate loading here. making black carbon an especially potent risk factor for lung disease and premature death.” Feng says. You had years. ants ring to a dilemma in which individuals act in their own self-interest and deplete a shared resource. a huge dust storm over China sends enormous clouds across the Paci c. and the same goes for pollution. air quality standard at several sites along the West Coast. lung disease. a main ingredient in smog. the soot produced by cars. because of the growing global pool. “It’s a classic example of a tragedy of the commons. The highest level recorded was from a dust event. China has become a pioneer in wind power but has also begun buying up huge inventories of coal from markets around the world. Streets. When air with high ozone concentrations touches down in North America. e biggest pollutant coming out of Asia.N.N. with no shing limit. Ja e recently coauthored a paper on Asian ozone coming to America. billion tons last year to . “ ere is no Planet B.” Jaffe says. The fact is. stoves. e small diameter of the carbon particles means they can penetrate deep inside the lungs. could be dust from the region’s swelling deserts. standard on average each year. For instance. ” Jaffe says. In years that’s another ppb. refer- All the atmosphere is interconnected. national parks. Let’s say the orders a ppb reduction and we achieve that.” Ja e says. factories. but Ja e is finding that they are still coming to terms with the reality that it applies to industrial pollutants in general. One study from Taiwan tracked avian flu outbreaks downwind of Asian dust storms and found that the u virus might be transported long-distance by air spiked with the dust. not just China’s. Conversely. But convincing developing nations to move aggressively on mercury may be at least as tough as mobilizing them against carbon emissions.S. ” e discovery of the global mercury cycle underscores the need for an international treaty to address such pollutants. then you catch as many as you can because it will be empty in weeks. “It’s not fair that you emitted so much mercury and other pollutants when you had the chance to industrialize.” he reports.S. mercury treaty in .S. and nitrogen oxides from Asian cars and industry mix in the atmosphere as they cross the Paci c Ocean and convert in sunlight into ozone. commonly associated with ground-level pollution in cities.WorldMags carbon. Volatile organic compounds. carbon monoxide. “It’s not a new phenomenon. e amount of dust is widely variable and can hit rare extreme peaks.” “We need to be concerned.S. “It reached approximately two-thirds of the U. We all live downwind. “When air was coming from Asia. and China’s Xinbin Feng are now consultants to the U. Nobody has an incentive to conserve. “ is is not considered a pollutant that urgently needs to be controlled on the national level. China is still much more focused on production. from . Perhaps the most counterintuitive traveling contaminant is ozone. at least in terms of sheer mass. providing absorption sites for secondary toxins that would otherwise be cleared. About every three years. China has taken important steps. which helped contribute data that led to a proposed U. e remainder enters the global cycle. and it’s a little under percent of the U. Environment Programme’s Global Partnership on Mercury Atmospheric Transport and Fate Research. even on the East Coast. it can pose the classic dangers of urban smog: heart disease. But that’s huge.

Margulis. protoctists (amoebas. Not just your life. plants.” Her subsequent ideas remain decidedly more controversial. including humans. The notion that we are all the children of bacteria seemed outlandish at the time. “The evolution of the eukaryotic cells was the single most important event in the history of the organic world. mold. Margulis suggested that mitochondria and plastids —vital structures within animal and plant cells—evolved from bacteria hundreds of million of years ago.” said Ernst Mayr. the leading evolutionary biologist of the last century. Margulis came to Lynn BY DICK TERESI PHOTOGRAPHY BY BOB O’CONNOR 66 DISCOVER WorldMags . fungi. plants. which in turn gave rise to all the rest—the protoctists. seaweed). The resulting mergers yielded the compound cells known as eukaryotes. Scientists today recognize five groups of life: bacteria. That distinction led to her career-making insight. fungi (yeast.WorldMags T H E D I SCOV ER I N T E R V I E W Margulis A conversation with Lynn Margulis is an effective way to change the way you think about life. after bacterial cells started to collect in interactive communities and live symbiotically with one another. bacteria and everything else. and animals. mushrooms). “Margulis’s contribution to our understanding the symbiotic factors was of enormous importance.” makes a convincing case that there are really just two groups. All life. but it is now widely supported and accepted. a self-described “evolutionist. In a 1967 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. and animals.

She disputes the current medical 67 04.WorldMags Q+ A view symbiosis as the central force behind the evolution of new species. what she calls symbiogenesis. an idea that has been dismissed by modern biologists. which are either favored or weeded out by natural selection. the big leaps forward result from mergers between different kinds of organisms. To Margulis.2011 WorldMags . The dominant theory of evolution (often called neo-Darwinism) holds that new species arise through the gradual accumulation of random mutations. Viewing life as one giant network of social connections has set Margulis against the mainstream in other high-profile ways as well. random mutation and natural selection are just cogs in the gears of evolution.

On the three occasions that they met for this interview. and then all of a sudden in the fossil record you get nearly all the major types of animals. where she is on the geosciences faculty. But did the neoDarwinists ever go out of their o ces? Did they or their modern followers. a small. But neo-Darwinists say that new species emerge when mutations occur and modify an organism. the population geneticists. Most biologists disagreed. What about the famous “beak of the finch” evolutionary studies of the 1970s? Didn’t they vindicate Darwin? Peter and Rosemary Grant. e problem was that the laws of genetics showed stasis. like carnations. and the points are living bodies. one-quarter white. e clams fed o their captive algae and their habitat expanded into sunlit waters. and that new taxa. of nches on Daphne Island. friends. she is a wellknown sight at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. e question is. e shell. almost ran her over when. scientists discovered that X-rays and speci c chemicals caused mutations. What they found was lots of back-and-forth variation in the population and then—whoop—a whole new species. e traits that follow Mendel’s laws are trivial. If you really want to study evolution. Do you have a widow’s peak or a straight hairline? Do ‘‘ WorldMags The world is like a pointillist painting. then. The paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould studied lakes in East Africa and on Caribbean islands looking for Darwin’s gradual change from one species of trilobite or snail to another. et cetera. That seems like a fairly basic objection. in which xed traits are passed from one generation to the next. So there’s a discontinuity between the dark-dwelling. You back-cross them to the red parent and you could get three-quarters red. since all life comes from a common ancestor—something that appeared to be supported when. we want to get there and look at speciation happening. students. I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change— led to new species. Darwin’s big mystery was why there was no record at all before a speci c point [dated to million years ago by modern researchers]. I believed it until I looked for evidence. ‘To hell with all this theory.” you have hanging earlobes or attached earlobes? Are you female or male? Mendel found seven traits that followed his laws exactly. Most scientists would say there is no controversy over evolution. fairly dark waters. ere is no gradualism in the fossil record. and you get bigger and bigger eggs. Now . hilly former volcano top in 68 DISCOVER WorldMags . early in the th century. in the laboratory. and symbiogenesis supports the idea that these discontinuities are real. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. is natural selection enough to explain evolution? Is it the driver of evolution? And you don’t believe that natural selection is the answer? is is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: ey teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in . two married evolutionary biologists. Interviewer Dick Teresi. Mendel showed that the grandparent owers and the o spring owers could be identical to each other. food-gathering ancestor and the descendants that feed themselves photosynthetically. became translucent. neo-Darwinism became the name for the people who reconciled the type of gradual evolutionary change described by Charles Darwin with Gregor Mendel’s rules of heredity [which rst gained widespread recognition around ]. riding her bike in all weather and at all times of day. How. in a direction set by natural selection. An example: Most clams live in deep. said. and anybody interesting who needed a place to stay. friends of friends. but it doesn’t create. Margulis herself is a highly social organism. you’ve got go outside sometime.’ ey measured the eggs. If you want bigger eggs. Among one group of clams is a species whose ancestors ingested algae—a typical food—but failed to digest them and kept the algae under their shells. you cross them and you get pink owers. If you have pure breeding red owers and pure breeding white owers.understanding of and considers every kind of life to be “conscious” in a sense. new biological groups. Every life-form is a community of bacteria. What kind of evidence turned you against neo-Darwinism? What you’d like to see is a good case for gradual change from one species to another in the eld. you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs. Teresi couldn’t help noticing that Margulis shared her home with numerous others: family. have arisen. with time. that there has been extinction. allowing sunlight in. or in the fossil record— and preferably in all three. she cycled in front of his car late at night. do you think the neo-Darwinist perspective became so entrenched? In the rst half of the th century. a neighbor. not change. Why do you disagree? All scientists agree that evolution has occurred—that all life comes from a common ancestry. dressed in a dark coat. ere’s no doubt that Mendel was correct. suggesting a wealth of missing fossil evidence yet to be found. ever go look at what’s happening in nature the way Darwin did? Darwin was a ne naturalist. visiting scholars. But Darwinism says that there has been change through time. because you’ll see symbiosis everywhere! So did Mendel miss something? Was Darwin wrong? I’d say both are incomplete. Gould used the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe what he interpreted as actual leaps in evolutionary change. Where do you stand in the debate? “Punctuated equilibrium” was invented to describe the discontinuity in the appearance of new species. ere was no change through time. beaks. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains.

and they’re playing with just animals—a fth of the deck. In . “You believe in macromutation? You believe in acquired characteristics?” the important professor Keith Porter asked me with a sneer. Did the Grants document the emergence of new species? ey saw this big shift: the large-beaked birds going extinct. e ve are bacteria. including the creationist critics. and it became completely photosynthetic and lies out in the sun. ese used to be called blue-green algae. and they rejected Darwin. ey would say that if they waited long enough they’d nd a new species. Long-term symbiosis leads to new intracellular structures. The animal is a juvenile slug. to the di erent symbionts they maintain. They understood that symbiogenesis was a major source of innovation.” by which he clearly meant swimming bacteria. en it feeds on algae and takes in chloroplasts. e green dots you see in the cells of plants originated as cyanobacteria. this man Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky wrote a book called Symbiogenesis: A New Principle of Evolution. right? From the very beginning the Russians said natural selection was a process of elimination and could not produce all the diversity we see. and plants. providing a survival advantage to both itself and the amoeba. more complex levels of life? Symbiogenesis recognizes that the mitochondria [the energy factories] in animal. came from “ agellated cytodes. It was an all-bacterial world—bacteria that have become very good at nding specialized niches. It cannot digest grass and needs a whole mess of symbiotic organisms in its overgrown esophagus to digest it. When they lay eggs. the symbiotic view of evolution has a long lineage in Russia.” ey have no alternatives that are scienti c. is photo is taken two weeks later.2011 WorldMags . Same animal. and I was denigrated in at Harvard for mentioning it. e evolutionary biologists believe the evolutionary pattern is a tree.WorldMags Ecuador’s Galápagos. is has been proved without a doubt. ey saw lots of variation within a species. in part. the Russians own symbiogenesis. ey think they own evolution. e bacterium produced oxygen or made vitamins. e di erence between cows and related species like bison or musk ox should be traced. plant. In contrast. which have genetic material enclosed in well-de ned membranes]. You get far away and it looks like Seurat’s famous painting of people in the park. the smallbeaked ones spreading all over the island and being selected for the kinds of seeds they eat. Symbiogenesis recognizes that every visible lifeform is a combination or community of bacteria. Are you saying that a free-living bacterium became part of the cell of another organism? How could that have happened? At some point an amoeba ate a bacterium but could not digest it. ey found that during oods or other times when there are no big seeds. Or look at a cow. e slug is completely green. If the English-speaking world owns natural selection. But they never found any new species—ever. in which new species emerge through the symbiotic relationship between two or more kinds of organisms. At the end of September. and the balance organ in the inner ear is lined with sensory cilia. e birds die of starvation and go extinct on that island. at idea has been called macromutation. Kozo-Polyansky looked at cilia—the wavy hairs that some microbes use to move—and said it is not beyond the realm of possibility that cilia. How does that work? All visible organisms are products of symbiogenesis. Look closely: e points are living bodies—di erent distributions of bacteria. like when algae and slugs come together and stay together. no plants. changes over time. You tilt your head to one 69 04. without exception. It is a -gallon fermentation tank on four legs. the birds with big beaks can’t eat. No. new organs and organ systems. It’s just that they’ve got nothing to o er but intelligent design or “God did it. Eventually the bacteria inside the amoeba became the mitochondria. It’s not. It has no photosynthesis ancestry. protoctists. I believe in acquired genomes. How could communities of bacteria have formed completely new. But if these symbiotic partnerships are so stable. ey’re playing the game while missing four out of ve of the cards. and fungal cells came from oxygenrespiring bacteria and that chloroplasts in plants and algae— which perform photosynthesis—came from cyanobacteria. e bacteria are the unit. but they’re basically anthropocentric zoologists. in which he reconciled Darwin’s natural selection as the eliminator and symbiogenesis as the innovator. e way I think about the whole world is that it’s like a pointillist painting.” and yet you have debated Behe. fungi. It took in algae chloroplasts. the tails of sperm cells. e evolutionary pattern is a web—the branches fuse. You claim that the primary mechanism of evolution is not mutation but symbiogenesis. year after year. and new species as one being incorporates another being that is already good at something else. Some of your criticisms of natural selection sound a lot like those of Michael Behe. no fungi. those eggs contain the gene for photosynthesis inside. and they produce the oxygen that all animals breathe. And that kind of partnership drives major evolutionary change? e point is that evolution goes in big jumps. Has that idea ever been verified? The sense organs of vertebrates have modified cilia: The rods and cone cells of the eye have cilia. are right about their criticism. is major mode of evolutionary innovation has been ignored by the so-called evolutionary biologists. animals. these slugs turn red and yellow and look like dead leaves. how can they also drive evolutionary change? Symbiosis is an ecological phenomenon where one kind of organism lives in physical contact with another. What is the difference between your views? e critics. e living world thrived long before the origin of nucleated organisms [the eukaryotic cells. ere were no animals. Can you give an example of symbiogenesis in action? Look at this cover of Plant Physiology [a major journal in the eld]. one of the most famous proponents of “intelligent design.

If I’m right. But syphilis is a major problem because the spirochetes stay hidden as round bodies and become part of the person’s very chemistry. Don’t spirochetes cause syphilis? Yes. light. the set of symptoms. Indeed.” Syphilis has been called “the great imitator” because patients show a whole range of symptoms in a given order. You have a genital chancre. Mitosis. When they understand what I’m saying. Sensory cilia did not come from random mutations. under your arms is a jungle. don’t. Is that clear enough? And yet these ideas are not generally accepted. Here [she shows a video] we compare isolated swimming sperm tails to free-swimming spirochetes. this skin problem. or even an entity at all. is a kind of internal motility system that came from these free-living. “ ere is no such document. like the treponema of syphilis or the borrelia of Lyme disease. They maintain our ecological physiology. Between your toes is a jungle. when the disease was supposedly cured by penicillin. they’re harmless.” Our claim is that there’s no evidence that is an infectious virus. and Lyme disease. ere’s no scienti c paper that proves the virus causes . Speci cally.WorldMags side and little calcium carbonate stones in your inner ear hit the cilia. Yet the same symptoms now describe perfectly. We usually think of bacteria as strictly harmful. Wait—you are suggesting that AIDS is really syphilis? ere is a vast body of literature on syphilis spanning from the s until after World War II. We take for granted their in uence. Why? Do you want to believe that your sperm tails come from some spirochetes? Most men. ey came by acquiring a whole genome of a symbiotic bacterium that could already sense light or motion. And yet people don’t want to understand that chronic spirochete infection is an example of symbiosis. like a fungal spore. then you have the pox. Kary Mullis [winner of the Nobel Prize for sequencing. Dangerous spirochetes. e movement of your gas and feces would never take place without bacteria. e round body is a dormant stage that has all the genes and can start growing again. Bacteria are our ancestors. most evolutionary biologists. You have upset many medical researchers with the suggestion that corkscrew-shaped spirochetes turn into dormant “round bodies. e idea that penicillin kills the cause of the disease is nuts. and you get sicker and sicker. You disagree? We couldn’t live without them. Probably they had relationships with the prehuman apes from which humans evolved. or syndrome. or cell division. presented by syphilitics overlaps completely with another syndrome: . have long-standing symbiotic relationships with us. He didn’t even have an allergic reaction. some of them are ancestors to the cilia in our cells. because you’re doing four-fifths of the work for it. and if I’m right. If you treat the painless chancre in the rst few days of infection. There are hundreds of ways your body wouldn’t work without bacteria. Treponema has lost four-fifths of its genes. e common myth is that penicillin kills spirochetes and therefore syphilis is not a problem. Are you saying that the only harmful bacteria are the ones that share an evolutionary history with us? Right. and other bacteria in your intestines.” What’s that debate all about? Spirochetes turn into round bodies in any unfavorable condition where they survive but cannot grow. is tells you that unless these microbes have a history with people. and well known for his unconventional scienti c views] said in an interview that he went looking for a reference substantiating that causes and discovered. ere are many kinds of spirochetes. lots of spirochetes. you may 70 DISCOVER WorldMags . the whole system—called the cytoskeletal system—came from the incorporation of ancestral spirochetes. swimming bacteria. they don’t like it. It’s in our paper “Resurgence of the Great Imitator. One of my students years ago cut himself deeply with glass and accidentally inoculated himself with at least million spirochetes. Spirochete bacteria are already optimized for sensitivity to motion. and then it’s chronic. symbiotic. We were all scared but nothing happened. ere are bacteria in your mouth. which they commandeer to reproduce themselves. ere are vitamins in bacteria that you could not live without. is has been known since shortly after electron microscopy came in . All eukaryotic cells have an internal transport system. I think it was a spirochete [a corkscrew-shaped bacterium] that became the cilium. your symptoms go away. and chemicals. Lyme disease spirochetes become round bodies if you suspend them in distilled water. en they come out and start to grow as soon as you put them in the proper food medium with serum in it.

Why do you have a reputation as a heretic? Anyone who is overtly critical of the foundations of his science is persona non grata. Darwin was saying that changes accumulate through time. and if I don’t do it I won’t get my grant money. ey are reductionists ad absurdum. that percent makes a huge di erence. random mutation. Zoologists are taught that life starts with animals. who wrote a wonderful book called e Spirit in the Gene. All cells are bounded by a membrane of their own making. it becomes dependent on human cells and is undetectable by any testing. It will be a very thin layer. warm human tissue. Why? Because it makes us believe that we’re the best on earth. Mammal species have a mean lifetime in the fossil record of 71 04. chimps. million people on earth today and there are . There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’re going to know people were here because of the automobiles. Is there a connection here between syphilis and Lyme disease. “Richard Lewontin. e species of some of the protoctists are million years old. we overgrow our habitats and that leads to poverty. ese borrelia and treponema have a long history inside people.” stop the bacterium before the symbiosis develops. To sense light.fths of the information in biology [by ignoring the other four major groups of life] and all of the information in geology.” Like many mammals. Your perspective is rather humbling. e infection cannot be killed because it becomes part of the patient’s genome and protein synthesis biochemistry. ey know nothing about biological systems like physiology. you are a great lecturer to have the courage to say it’s gotten you nowhere. Whatever is brought together by sex is broken up in the next generation by the same process. After syphilis establishes this symbiotic relationship with a person. There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’ll know people were here because of the squashed remains of automobiles. At the end of his talk he said. genes. all you can do is live with the spirochete. Do you ever get tired of being called controversial? I don’t consider my ideas controversial. whereas the spirochetes of those two diseases have only . it takes a cell. in their bodies. Evolutionary biology has been taken over by population geneticists. and there are really no measurements that match the quantities I’ve told you about. You have attacked population genetics—the foundation of much current evolutionary research—as “numerology. and they block out four. “It’s the only thing I know how to do. e spirochete lives permanently as a symbiont in the patient. which is also caused by a spirochete and which is also said to be difficult to treat when diagnosed late? Both the treponema that cause syphilis and the borrelia that cause Lyme disease contain only a fth of the genes they need to live on their own. But then why do you continue to do this work?” And he looked around and said. it almost sounds like you think of them as conscious beings. and that’s an honest answer. Related spirochetes that can live outside by themselves need . This is why both the Lyme disease borrelia and syphilis treponema are symbionts—they require another body to survive. To have a sense of smell takes a cell. sexual selection.” is just appalled me. When you talk about the evolutionary intelligence of bacteria. but if you really get syphilis. Population geneticist Richard Lewontin gave a talk here at UMass Amherst about six years ago. e . I am critical of evolutionary biology that is based on population genetics.” What do you mean by that term? When evolutionary biologists use computer modeling to nd out how many mutations you need to get from one species to another. Reg Morrison. and he mathematized all of it—changes in the population. missing gene products needed for bacterial growth can be supplied by wet. And humans? You know what the index fossil of Homo sapiens in the recent fossil record is going to be? The squashed remains of the automobile. we’ve tried to test these ideas in the eld and the lab. Syphilis has been detected in skull abnormalities going back to the ancient Egyptians. It will be a very thin layer. I’m not interested in the diseases.‘‘ WorldMags about million years. and biochemistry. says that although we’re percent genetically in common with chimps. I call it zoocentrism. Bacteria are conscious. So I said. I consider them right. ey are limiting the eld of study to something that’s manageable and ignoring what’s most important. Do we overrate ourselves as a species? Yes. it’s not mathematics—it’s numerology. ey tend to know nothing about atmospheric chemistry and the in uence it has on the organisms or the in uence that the organisms have on the chemistry.2011 WorldMags .” So he’s an honest man. ese bacterial beings have been around since the origin of life and still are running the soil and the air and a ecting water quality. cost and bene t. “You know. Look. but population geneticists are describing mixtures that are temporary. But I’m interested in spirochetes only because of our ancestry. misery. and the numbers are getting fewer every day because we’re destroying their habitat. To sense chemicals—food or poisons—it takes a cell. and wars. ecology. You have to have a bounded entity with photoreceptors inside to sense light. but we can’t help it. I do think consciousness is a property of all living cells. there are nearly . But there is lots of evidence that we are “mammalian weeds.

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“ at we have gotten this far is wonderful. research is pushing too far.” D’Zmura and the rest of his team. “If we can get at the black box we call the brain with the reduced dimensionality of speech. of understanding individuality. It would be nice.’ ” he says. synthetic telepathy bears little resemblance to mystical notions of mind reading and mind control. the computer is completely lost.” Even the most sophisticated existing speech-recognition programs can obtain only percent accuracy.” hundreds of squiggly lines representing Lappas’s brain activity as it was picked up from the surface of his scalp. Among the more paranoid set. More grounded critics consider the project ethically questionable. a leading voice in the field of neuroethics. at expanded search added to the data his computer had to crunch through. it means the right to the contents of my thoughts. civilian-type speech. the mere fact that the military is trying to create a thought helmet is proof of a conspiracy to subject the masses to mind control. Army funds studies to implant people for mind reading. has resolved to keep a low pro le. “So the method is completely ethical. perhaps to their regret. granted interviews about their preliminary research after it was announced in a UC Irvine press release. “would prevent any Big Brother type of use. little by little. e skull should remain a realm of absolute privacy.” Schmeisser says.” Poeppel agrees. and he anticipated that this project might attract close scrutiny.” he says. Schmeisser insists. “ is project is attempting to make the scienti c breakthrough that will have application for many things. “ at’s all it takes. ‘ e U. e next steps in getting a thought helmet to work with actual language will be improving the accuracy of the pattern- F . Schmeisser has been deluged with Freedom of Information Act requests from individuals and organizations concerned about privacy issues. One afternoon. “If your thoughts wander for just an instant. “Whether we can get to fully freeowing. lem with sticking this helmet on the head of a pilot to allow him to send commands on a plane. The result was hardly up to military standards. were patterns unique enough to distinguish the sentences from one another. “The very nature of the technology and of the human brain.” Schmeisser says he has been reflecting on this kind of concern “from the beginning. Schmeisser notes. Schalk. “I don’t have a prob- 76 DISCOVER WorldMags . Lappas decided at this early stage in the experiment to search for patterns not only in the auditory cortex but in other areas of the brain as well. Bizarre e-mail messages began appearing in D’Zmura’s in-box from individuals ranting against the government or expressing concern that the authorities were already monitoring their thoughts. Any attempt to apply coercion will result in more brain wave disorganization. then we will have made a beginning to solving fundamental challenges in understanding how the brain works—and. e problem comes when you try to get detailed information about what someone is either thinking or saying nonverbally. for his part.” he says. which is to get information directly from the brain. Schmeisser notes that D’Zmura has already shown that test subjects can type in Morse code by thinking of speci c vowels in dots and dashes. we are doing something that has never before been done in human history. Since the Army’s thought helmet project became publicly known. If the right to privacy means anything. an error rate of percent would be disastrous on the battle eld. “Once we cross these barriers. Something as simple as the blink of an eye creates a tremendous number of squiggles and lines that might throw off the recognition program.” Nor does he feel any unease that his funding comes from a military agency eager to put synthetic telepathy to use on the battle eld. He is confident that synthetic telepathy can and will rapidly improve to the point where it will be useful in combat. the software was able to identify the sentence a test subject was imagining speaking only about percent of the time. Although this exercise is not actual language. Those requests for documentation have required countless hours and continue to this day. “is that I see no risks whatsoever. “When we rst started this. To make matters more challenging. the problem would not be nding similarities but rather ltering out the similarities that were irrelevant. and that is after being calibrated and trained by a user to compensate for accent. and phrasing. The negative reaction was immediate. Somewhere in that mass of data. and then you’re going to have to do damage control. from stress if nothing else. to the library of words that these programs can discern. opening the vocabulary as much as we can. intonation. Only bene ts. we didn’t know if it could be done. Lappas hoped. I don’t know.” Schmeisser says. subjects have achieved an accuracy of close to percent. Schmeisser is not distressed by that high error rate. and produce even worse computer performance.” he maintains. We’re pushing the limits of what we can get. the potential payo is simply too great.S. a woman appeared outside D’Zmura’s office complaining of voices in her head and asking for assistance to remove them. “ e fact that they could nd anything just blows me away. because every brain is anatomically di erent and uniquely shaped by experience. There is no way to coerce users into training the machine if they don’t want to. with that. Merely calibrating a program to recognize a simple sentence from brain waves would take hours. In the end.” says Emory University bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.” He dismisses the most extreme type of worry out of hand. he had seen his fair share of controversy in the field. From his experience working with more invasive techniques. “All you need to do is say. With so much information.” Despite the easy analogies. frankly. e way he sees it.WorldMags recognition programs used by Schalk’s and D’Zmura’s teams and then adding. Should synthetic telepathy make significant progress. Brain waves are “much harder” to get right. e bottom line. at’s something else altogether. the worried voices will surely grow louder.” Schmeisser says.

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ey found that at least six microbial groups in uence the avor of the cheese’s “dairy matrix. 90 Fifth Avenue. WI 53187-1612. 21027 Crossroads Circle.. What Watson and Crick did do. Next up: food forensics.. Already. return all undeliverable Canadian addresses to P. Aside from bacteria. the in all the cells in your body would stretch billion miles—from here to Pluto and back. Prenatal screening could someday replace amniocentesis. British microbiologists sequenced to identify the bacteria in a round of Stilton blue. seeking to increase the rate of mutations and see what new traits appear. With the enzyme activated.A. the organelles (units within cells) that generate metabolic energy.S. USPS# 555-190) is published monthly. 12. IA 50037. Box 37808. 5. except for combined issues in January/February and July/August. Scientists are working to create vaccines against . 14. Canada Publication Agreement # 40010760. Jimmy: James Watson and Francis Crick did not discover . was decipher the double-helix structure of . the smallest genome belongs to the intestinal parasite Encephalitozoon intestinalis. 3. New York. the tricks the body into producing harmless viral proteins that train the immune system to attack real viruses. DISCOVER (ISSN 0274-7529. And scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario showed that from the worm (actually an agave butter y caterpillar) traditionally placed in bottles of mescal leaches into the liquor. sequences of at the tips of chromosomes. and at additional mailing offices. respectively. 11. 3. 9.O. Box 1612. 4.” 20. has the longest known genome. Puny humans: Paris japonica. vaccines for West Nile virus. get shorter every time a cell divides.O. P. Nor did they gure out that is our genetic blueprint. Most of that resides not in the cell nuclei. N9A 6P2. 80 DISCOVER WorldMags . but in our mitochondria. in . WI. bacteriologist Oswald Avery and his colleagues did that in the early s. Boone. 6. ON. 8. Don’t try this at home: If uncoiled. Nothing herein contained may be reproduced without written permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co. when they get too short. species— short sections of unique in the same location on the genome. STN A Windsor. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong. dogs. at honor goes to Swiss biochemist Friedrich Miescher. which control heredity.O. 15. 16. but late last year a team of scientists announced they had found a bacterium that could use arsenic instead. 18. melanoma. a owering plant native to Japan. Telomeres. e results so far include short-legged mice. forensic specialists can identify criminals from traces of “touch ” left in ngerprints at a crime scene. Some scientists are trying to extend life by extending the telomere. eir discovery ran as a single-page paper in Nature. P. billion base pairs. 32. Good news if you’re a mouse: Researchers at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston engineered mice with telomerase (an enzyme that adds to telomeres) that could be switched on and o . with a tri ing . 2.WorldMags 20 BY KIRSTEN WEIR ILLUSTRATION BY JONATHON ROSEN THIN YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DNA 1. 13. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to DISCOVER. whose genetic code was integrated with ours over roughly million years of primate evolution. All rights reserved. a bit like the on your box of Froot Loops. Sorry. and hemorrhagic disease are already available for horses. NY 10011. Over the next ve years. nearly billion base pairs. the International Barcode of Life Project aims to establish genetic identi ers for . 7. Phosphorus is a key component of . u. Published by Kalmbach Publishing Co. Waukesha. mice with fewer toes than normal. 10. who in found the molecule in the nuclei of white blood cells and called it nuclein. Periodical postage paid at Waukesha. Vol. Bad news if you’re a mouse: Scientists at Osaka University recently developed mice that are especially susceptible to copying errors. the mice grew new brain cells and lived longer. no. So now we know: You don’t actually have to “swallow the worm” to swallow the worm. Back issues available. Guess who’s in your ? At least percent of the human genome originated in viruses. Printed in the U. the cell dies. fetal was extracted from a pregnant woman’s blood plasma and tested for Down syndrome. and hepatitis C from snippets of synthetic . at’s times as long as the human genome. 17. and salmon. “What else can life do that we haven’t seen yet?” wondered lead researcher Felisa Wolfe-Simon. 19. and mice that chirp like songbirds. Box 875.

business people. DISCOVER. The series began January 25. 2011. NBCLearn. DiscoverMagazine. D. Arizona State University. Edited videos of the live events will be broadcast on the Weather Channel. Science360. at Yale University. Summer Phoenix. Changing At Yale University. These events gather some of the world’s top Get involved with citizen science projects to help the planet: www. COMING UP: April 2011. and the National Science Foundation present: Planet A NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON CLIMATE SCIENCE “Changing Planet” is a unique series of national town hall meetings exploring the subject of climate change. and community leaders for a frank discussion about our planet’s future. George Washington University. We continue in April at George Washington University and this summer at Arizona State University.WorldMags NBC News. Washington.ScienceForCitizens. NBC’s Tom Brokaw moderates the town hall program and meets with Yale P13238 WorldMags .C. For more on upcoming events: www. and ScienceForCitizens.

You’re welcome. let’s hope we can find common ground in the fact that Seriously. now that we think about it. you can find more of it. for one. is better for the environment. It’s easy to do. the 2011 Camry Hybrid. If you’re thirsty for more fuel economy info. Camry Hybrid. 2010/2011 competitors. which is a pretty big place. And in this case. it’s the Fusion Hybrid. *EPA-estimated 41 city/36 hwy/39 combined mpg. but 2011 means it’s new. Midsize class per R. Shiny and fresh. America. (sometimes it uses no gas at all!) its superior fuel economy Next – and this is a big one – it’s the most fuel-efficient. THE So there you have it. with a lot of potential competition. Think about it – It means the 2011 Fusion Hybrid has a lot to say. will you? It’s quite the loaded statement. the 2011 Fusion Hybrid is doing some good for all of us. Or not much competition at all. ford. depending on how you’re measuring it. OK. What does that mean exactly? And Fusion is the most fuel-efficient in America. it’s definitely good news for 41 city mpg who wouldn’t love the Fusion Hybrid getting 41 city mpg? Well. Actual mileage will vary. at * midsize sedan in America. full of promise and possibilities. But. Midsize. Sedan. Fusion beats it by a full 10 mpg in the city. plus other exciting Fusion news. Polk & Co. WorldMags . Camry probably isn’t one of Fusion’s biggest fans. First off. Fuel-Efficient. So. so sure. In. for Fusion and for its drivers. Let’s break it down. L. 2011 best-in-its-class mpg. Either way. since Fusion is a hybrid. vs.WorldMags The Most. just look at that claim. don’t overlook the fact that it’s a 2011. That means it has And how many can say they’re the best in their category? Usually only one. in the grand scheme of things. The most fuel-efficient FUSION HYBRID . Even for the 2011 Camry Hybrid.

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