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A TIMES OF INDIA PUBLICATION Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125 SCIENCE

A TIMES OF INDIA PUBLICATION

Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125 SCIENCE • HISTORY • NATURE •
Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125
SCIENCE • HISTORY • NATURE • FOR THE CURIOUS MIND

Endless

ENERGY

How the latest scientific breakthroughs will help us beat fatigue

meet your second
meet your second

Go with your gut!

CUPS OF TEA, CURRY &

Cricket

How India became popular in Victorian England

R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422

From the

edit

r
r

LET’S EXPLORE OURSELVES!

It’s our seventh anniversary and we’re celebrating it by rediscovering the fascinating human body with you. Join us as we investigate our 30 trillion cells (The A to Z of You), find always-welcome tips to banish fatigue (Endless Energy), discover how scents can be sexy (The Science of Chemical Attraction) and give in to our gut feelings (Meet your Second Brain). If you’d rather not be so body-focussed, find out how predictive policing works (The Future of Fighting Crime), why the Victorians loved India (Cricket, Curry & Cups of Tea), how rishis have been perceived through the ages with Devdutt Pattanaik in our Indian Mythology section, and why you should know the work of Kamala Das, in Urvashi Butalia’s Know your Indian Author series. And, if all else fails, you’ll find cuddly creatures to coo over in Wombat Hospital on our Portfolio pages.

to coo over in Wombat Hospital on our Portfolio pages. Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza Editor & Chief Community

Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza Editor & Chief Community Officer, BBC Knowledge

EXPERTS THIS ISSUE
EXPERTS THIS ISSUE
EXPERTS THIS ISSUE
EXPERTS THIS ISSUE

EXPERTS THIS ISSUE

EXPERTS THIS ISSUE

wildlife photographer based in California. She is well known for documenting rescued animals. Find out moreChief Community Officer, BBC Knowledge EXPERTS THIS ISSUE at www.suzieszterhas.com. Suzi Eszterhas is an

at www.suzieszterhas.com.

Suzi Eszterhas is an award-winning

Devdutt Pattanaik is a writer, illustrator and lecturer of mythology, who draws attention to its relevance in modern times. Based in Mumbai, he has over 30 books, and over 800 articles to his credit. Devdutt Pattanaik To know more, visit www.devdutt.com. To know more, visit www.devdutt.com.

Padma Shri Urvashi Bhutalia is

publisher. In this issue, she lays out the life and works of Kamala Das, one of India’s firebrand writers.visit www.devdutt.com. Padma Shri Urvashi Bhutalia is a renowned Indian author and SEND US YOUR LETTERS

a

renowned Indian author and

SEND US YOUR LETTERS

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

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CONTENTS A TIMES OF INDIA PUBLICATION Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125

CONTENTS

A TIMES OF INDIA PUBLICATION Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125 SCIENCE
A TIMES OF INDIA PUBLICATION
Volume 8 Issue 1 • December 2017 ` 125
SCIENCE • HISTORY • NATURE • FOR THE CURIOUS MIND
Endless
ENERGY
How the latest scientific breakthroughs
will help us beat fatigue
meet your second
Go with your gut!
CUPS OF TEA, CURRY &
Cricket
How India became popular
in Victorian England
R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422

52

Cover Story

Endless Energy

Never feel tired again! Our experts tell you how to recharge your energy levels

FEATURES

experts tell you how to recharge your energy levels FEATURES 46 The A to Z of
experts tell you how to recharge your energy levels FEATURES 46 The A to Z of

46 The A to Z of You

The Human Cell Atlas programme

aims to map all of the 30 trillion cells in our body

58 The Science of Chemical Attraction

Why do some aromas ignite passion and some nauseating feelings? Our expert breaks down the science behind scents

feelings? Our expert breaks down the science behind scents 60 Meet your Second Brain Your gut

60

Meet your Second Brain

Your gut does more than just digest

your food; it makes decisions for you!

66 Cricket,Curry and Cups of Tea

Find out how Indian tea, curry and cricket became an integral part of Victorian England

and cricket became an integral part of Victorian England 70 10 Scientific Wonders to See before
and cricket became an integral part of Victorian England 70 10 Scientific Wonders to See before

70 10 Scientific Wonders to See before you Die

Have a sense of adventure to explore the unusual! Bring your sense of awe as you explore the planet’s hidden natural wonders

82 The Future of Fighting Crime

Future criminal masterminds better watch out; scientists are creating smarter technology to catch them

of Fighting Crime Future criminal masterminds better watch out; scientists are creating smarter technology to catch
REGULARS 8 Q&A: Your Questions Answered How do mussels stick to wet rocks? Is gravity

REGULARS

8 Q&A: Your Questions Answered

How do mussels stick to wet rocks? Is gravity getting weaker? Can photosynthesis be recreated in the lab? These questions and more answered by our panel of experts

18 Snapshots

Enthral and inform yourself with these amazing photographs!

22 Discoveries & Innovations

38

amazing photographs! 22 Discoveries & Innovations 38 78 Get your science news and updates here and

78

amazing photographs! 22 Discoveries & Innovations 38 78 Get your science news and updates here and

Get your science news and updates here and check out the coolest tech we’ve seen this month

36 On the Shelves

All the best and newest in books out there

38 Portfolio: Wombat Hospital

See the tireless efforts of the wombat rescue hospital in Australia to reinvigorate the wombats of the Outback

78 Indian Mythology: Rishis

Mythology expert Devdutt Pattanaik decodes the mystery behind the mystics of Indian mythology

90 Know your Author: Kamala Das

Urvashi Butalia writes on firebrand author Kamala Das

93 Puzzle Pit

82

Let's get those grey cells churning 96 In Focus: Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla is one
Let's get those grey cells churning
96 In Focus: Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla is one of the most underappreciated
inventors in science
70
96 In Focus: Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla is one of the most underappreciated inventors in science

18

5
5

DECEMBER 2017

HERE’S HOW TO GET IN TOUCH TEAM INDIA Chief Executive Officer Deepak Lamba Chief Community

HERE’S HOW TO GET IN TOUCH

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A Times of India publication Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125 October SCIENCE HISTORY
A Times of India publication Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125 October SCIENCE HISTORY
A Times of India publication Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125 October SCIENCE HISTORY
A Times of India publication Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125 October SCIENCE HISTORY
A Times of India publication Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125 October SCIENCE HISTORY
A Times of India publication
Volume 4 2014 Issue ` 6 125
October
SCIENCE HISTORY NATURE FOR THE CURIOUS MIND
A TAKE
TRIP
TO
HELL
VALLEY
how Japanese
Find
macaques
out sub-zero
battle
temperatures
p40
R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422
TRIP TO HELL VALLEY how Japanese Find macaques out sub-zero battle temperatures p40 R.N.I. MAHENG/2010/35422

PHOTOS: GETTY X3, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY X2

PHOTOS: GETTY X3, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY X2 questions & Answers 8 Q & A Dr Alastair
PHOTOS: GETTY X3, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY X2 questions & Answers 8 Q & A Dr Alastair

questions

& Answers

8
8

Q

& A

Dr Alastair Gunn Astronomer, astrophysicist

Alex Franklin-Cheung Environment/ climate expert

Prof Alice Gregory Psychologist, sleep expert

Prof Mark Lorch Chemist, science writer

Dr Helen Scales Oceans expert, science writer

Luis Villazon

Science/tech writer

Prof Robert Matthews Physicist, science writer

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

WHY CAN’T PENGUINS FLY? Even the very smallest penguin, the fairy penguin, weighs 1kg, which
WHY CAN’T
PENGUINS FLY?
Even the very smallest penguin, the fairy
penguin, weighs 1kg, which is about as much
as a herring gull. But herring gulls have a 1.4m
wingspan, compared with just 32cm for
the fairy penguin. Water is 784 times denser
than air, and, around 62 million years ago,
penguins began evolving adaptations for
swimming underwater. Their bones are filled
with heavy bone marrow rather than air
and they have much larger stomachs
for undergoing long fishing trips away
from the nest. LV

DECEMBER 2017

than air and they have much larger stomachs for undergoing long fishing trips away from the
HOW LONG DOES DNA LAST? A study of DNA extracted from the leg bones of
HOW LONG DOES
DNA LAST?
A
study of DNA extracted from the leg bones
of
extinct moa birds in New Zealand found
that the half-life of DNA is 521 years. So,
every 1,000 years, 75 per cent of the genetic
information is lost. After 6.8 million years,
every single base pair is gone. Bacterial RNA
is much tougher and sequences have been
Unlike other flightless
bird species,
moa skeletons have
no trace of wingbones
or wishbones
recovered from ice crystals that are
419 million years old. These are only short
fragments of 55 base pairs though. LV

WHY ARE MOST PASSENGER PLANES PAINTED WHITE?

The main reason is that it protects the aircraft from the effects of solar radiation. Aircraft struggle to stay cool while loading and unloading passengers at airports in hot countries, and brilliant white paint helps bounce back some of the sunlight. It also helps protect aircraft parts made out of composite materials from damage through ultraviolet radiation, which is substantially higher at altitude. RM

WHY DO HUMANS LIE?

is substantially higher at altitude. RM WHY DO HUMANS LIE? Most people lie occasionally, although there

Most people lie occasionally, although there are individual differences in how often lies are told. Lying is a part of normal child development, emerging early in life. Research published in 2016 by Prof Timothy Levine, a communications expert, investigated reasons for lying. Most lies were told for selfish reasons, such as covering up a personal transgression or gaining an economic advantage. Lies were also told to protect the feelings of others and to maintain social politeness. Overall, it seems that lies occur when the truth poses an obstacle that someone wants to overcome. AGr

CAN THE BODY SELF-REPAIR NERVE DAMAGE? Up to a point. If the body of the
CAN THE BODY
SELF-REPAIR
NERVE DAMAGE?
Up to a point. If the body of the neuron is still
intact, the branches that extend out from
the cell body can regrow at a rate of about
2cm per month. If the surrounding
membrane of a nerve bundle is still intact,
the neuron can grow along this, to its original
target. But muscle cells left disconnected
for too long won’t accept new nerve
connections. LV
The myelin sheath
(yellow) on a nerve cell
increases the speed at
which nerve impulses
travel. Here, the myelin
of the nerve cell
on the right has
become damaged
IS GRAVITY GETTING WEAKER? Over the years, theorists have proposed modification to Einstein’s theory of
IS GRAVITY
GETTING
WEAKER?
Over the years, theorists have
proposed modification to
Einstein’s theory of gravity that
allow this fundamental force to
vary with time. In the 1930s,
the eminent British physicist
Paul Dirac suggested that gravity
might get weaker as the Universe
expanded, prompting
astronomers to look for evidence.
During the 1970s, studies of the
Moon suggested it was moving
away from the Earth. Most of
the increase in distance could be
explained using standard theories
of how the gravity fields of the
Moon and Earth interact. But
some of the increase pointed to
a weakening of the force of gravity
itself, as Dirac had predicted.
The claim attracted a lot of media
interest, but, by the early 1980s,
experiments involving precise
timing of signals from planetary
probes found no evidence for
changes in the strength of gravity.
The original claim is now thought
to be the result of faulty analysis
of the Moon’s orbital motion. RM

PHOTOS: GETTY X2, ALAMY, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY

X2, ALAMY, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY questions & Answers 10 WHY IS BIG BEN

questions

& Answers

10
10
WHY IS BIG BEN BEING TURNED OFF FOR FOUR YEARS? The Elizabeth Tower and the
WHY IS BIG BEN
BEING TURNED OFF
FOR FOUR YEARS?
The Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock are being
completely renovated. Although the clock will only
be out of action for two years, the bells have to
be silenced for the entire renovation period to protect
the workers’ hearing. The Big Ben bell weighs 13.76
tonnes and chimes at 118 decibels. At that volume,
you will suffer hearing damage after just 14 seconds
of exposure. To stop the bells, the weights that drive
the mechanism have to be lowered to the bottom of
the tower and secured. This takes half a day to do,
so it isn’t practical to restart them after each workday.
But the chimes will be re-enabled for New Year’s
Eve and Remembrance Sunday. LV
WHAT’S IN
WHAT’S
IN

the MMR Vaccine?

The active ingredient of vaccines can vary dramatically – they might take the form of live (but weakened) viruses, completely inactivated viruses or just fragments of a virus or bacteria. There are numerous ways the vaccine might be administered, for example, orally, nasally or by a jab. These factors require different components to make the vaccine easy to produce, effective and stable. Let’s take a single dose of a measles, mumps and rubella jab as an example. ML

dose of a measles, mumps and rubella jab as an example. ML Water 464.4mg (93.47 per

Water

464.4mg

(93.47 per cent)

Recombinant human albumin

about 0.3mg (0.06 per cent) Another stabiliser made by bacteria engineered to produce a human protein

Hydrolysed gelatin

15mg (3 per cent) A stabiliser that protects the viruses from the effects of changing temperatures during preparation and storage

Sucrose

2mg (0.4 per cent) Yet another stabiliser!

Live virus particles

about 0.003mg (0.0006 per cent) The smallest component of the vaccine are the weakened measles, mumps and rubella viruses.

Sorbitol

15mg (3 per cent) This is more commonly used as an artificial sweetener. Here, it acts as another stabiliser.

Sodium phosphate

0.3mg (0.06 per cent) This keeps the whole thing at a pH that the viruses need to stay alive.

NUMBERS

217 The number of mice spotted in the Palace of Westminster in the first half

217

The number of mice spotted in the Palace of Westminster in the first half of 2017

100m

The number of black holes in the Milky Way, according to a new census

2

The age at which kids should start learning to code, according to computing pioneer Dame Stephanie Shirley.

DECEMBER 2017

The age at which kids should start learning to code, according to computing pioneer Dame Stephanie

PHOTOS: GETTY X5, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY

GETTY X5, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY HOW DO MUSSELS STICK TO WET ROCKS? Hundreds

HOW DO MUSSELS STICK TO WET ROCKS?

Hundreds of sticky threads, known as byssus, glue mussels to slippery, wave-pounded rocks. Mussels make the threads by squeezing quick-setting liquid protein into a groove in their muscly foot. The key ingredients are called ‘mussel adhesive proteins’, or MAPs, which form weak bonds with the rock. They’re being investigated as the chemical inspiration for surgical glues that would work inside living bodies, and for the production of hard- wearing, self-healing polymers to manufacture replacement hip and knee joints. Synthetic MAPs may even be used to fix anti-fouling chemicals to the bottoms of boats, to stop animals like mussels from sticking on. HS

THE

THOUGHT

EXPERIMENT

like mussels from sticking on. HS THE THOUGHT EXPERIMENT DO BLACK HOLES COLLAPSE? The Schwarzschild radius

DO BLACK HOLES COLLAPSE?

The Schwarzschild radius (event horizon) of a black hole is sometimes thought of as the black hole’s ‘size’. It is proportional to mass, which means that more massive black holes have bigger Schwarzschild radii. Left alone, black holes lose mass due to ‘Hawking radiation’, so that their event horizons are slowly shrinking. A typical black hole would take many billions of times the age of the Universe to completely ‘evaporate’ and disappear. But, the interior of the black hole, or its ‘singularity’ (the point at which all the black hole’s matter is concentrated) has already reached the limit of its density and cannot ‘collapse’ any further. AGu

of its density and cannot ‘collapse’ any further. AGu WHAT IF EVERY PERSON ON EARTH HAD

WHAT IF EVERY PERSON ON EARTH HAD A CAR?

any further. AGu WHAT IF EVERY PERSON ON EARTH HAD A CAR? 1. Manufacture There are

1. Manufacture

There are 1.2 billion cars in the world today, and 7.5 billion people. So we’ll need at least 6.3 billion extra cars to make sure everyone has their own. This will require 5.6 billion tonnes of steel, which is 3.5 times as much steel as the world produces each year.

is 3.5 times as much steel as the world produces each year. 2. Parking On the

2. Parking

On the roads, those 7.5 billion cars will occupy 36 million kilometres of road – about half the total length of all the roads in the world. Cars normally only spend about 5 per cent of their time on the road network, but there aren’t 7.1 billion parking spaces either.

but there aren’t 7.1 billion parking spaces either. 3. Fuel Even with 95 per cent of

3. Fuel

Even with 95 per cent of them parked, the world’s cars currently use 6.5 billion litres of petrol a day. If this demand scales linearly up to 7.5 billion cars, the oil industry will need to increase output more than five times, sending oil prices to hundreds of dollars per barrel.

times, sending oil prices to hundreds of dollars per barrel. 4. Exhaust Cars today emit 2.5

4. Exhaust

Cars today emit 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. If driving habits stay the same, increasing the world fleet to 7.5 billion cars will add another 13 billion tonnes per year. That’s nearly half the current CO2 produced globally by humans.

ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY

PHOTOS: GETTY X4, ALAMY X3

ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY PHOTOS: GETTY X4, ALAMY X3 questions & Answers 12 HOW DO SCHOOLS OF

questions

& Answers

12
12
HOW DO SCHOOLS OF FISH SWIM IN PERFECT UNISON? A fish decides where and how
HOW DO SCHOOLS OF FISH
SWIM IN PERFECT UNISON?
A fish decides where and how to move
relative to its position in the school.
If the fish behind gets too close (less
than two body-lengths), it speeds up;
if the fish in front gets closer than that,
it slows down. Schooling fish watch
one another and also feel the waves
their neighbours make as they swim,
with pressure-sensitive pores along
their body called the lateral line.
And each fish has its preferred spot
in the school. Some are natural leaders
and tend to hang at the front and guide
the whole school, while others choose
to follow. HS

DO OTHER PLANETS INFLUENCE EARTH’S TIDES?

to follow. HS DO OTHER PLANETS INFLUENCE EARTH’S TIDES? Earth’s tides are dominated by the combined

Earth’s tides are dominated by the combined

effect of the Sun and the Moon’s gravitational pull. But the other planets, since they have

a gravitational pull of their own, also have

a small effect on the tides. Venus is the

strongest because it happens to come closest to Earth. However, even at its maximum, its influence is 10,000 times less than that of the Sun and Moon together. Even the giant planet Jupiter exerts a force less than one- tenth that of Venus. So, for all intents and purposes, the effect of the planets on Earth’s tides is imperceptible. AGu

This wide selection of wildlife can be found on California’s coastlines
This wide selection
of wildlife can be
found on
California’s
coastlines

HOW DO SCIENTISTS KNOW 86 PER CENT OF SPECIES REMAIN TO BE DISCOVERED?

You can estimate the total number of species in the world by graphing the decreasing number of new species discovered each year to predict the end point. Or you can extrapolate the number of new species found per hectare of rainforest, to the number of hectares that haven’t been studied. Or you can graph the body size of each new species found, on the assumption that larger species tend to be discovered sooner,

and extrapolate that. The different statistical models over the years have been gradually homing in on a figure of 8.7 million total species. Currently, 1.64 million have been named, so that’s 81 per cent left to find (the 86 per cent figure was based on 2011 totals). This only covers eukaryotes (animals, plants and fungi) though. A 2016 study estimated that bacteria could add almost another trillion species. LV

DECEMBER 2017

plants and fungi) though. A 2016 study estimated that bacteria could add almost another trillion species.

WHAT

HAPPEN S

IN

MY

BODY

WHAT HAPPEN S IN MY BODY WHEN I VOMIT? Your body vomits when it senses various

WHEN I VOMIT?

Your body vomits when it senses various different threats. These threats can take the form of toxic chemicals or stress hormones in the blood, swaying motions, or an upset stomach. Chemicals and hormones are detected by the brain’s chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ), swaying motions are detected by the inner ear, while an upset stomach is identified by the vagus nerve. Once the signal for a need to vomit arrives at the CTZ, it sets off a chain reaction.

1. Brainstem 2. Salivary glands 3. Diaphragm The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) receives a stimulus
1. Brainstem 2. Salivary glands 3. Diaphragm The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) receives a stimulus
1. Brainstem 2. Salivary glands 3. Diaphragm The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) receives a stimulus

1.

Brainstem

2.

Salivary glands

3.

Diaphragm

The chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) receives a stimulus that might warrant vomiting. The vomiting centre begins a choreographed sequence of actions.

Your mouth suddenly begins producing extra saliva. This is slightly alkaline and forms a buffer to protect your mouth and teeth from incoming stomach acid.

You take a deep breath to avoid getting vomit in your lungs, then the diaphragm contracts in a few short pulses, squeezing the stomach to create pressure.

few short pulses, squeezing the stomach to create pressure. 4. Glottis 5. Abdominal muscles 6. Skin
few short pulses, squeezing the stomach to create pressure. 4. Glottis 5. Abdominal muscles 6. Skin
few short pulses, squeezing the stomach to create pressure. 4. Glottis 5. Abdominal muscles 6. Skin

4.

Glottis

5.

Abdominal muscles

6.

Skin

The glottis closes, sealing the airway. Nothing enters or leaves the lungs. Diaphragm contractions without vomiting cause dry heaves.

The abdominal muscles contract to further increase pressure. The pyloric sphincter at the bottom of the stomach is held closed.

The sympathetic nervous system raises your heart rate and makes you sweat across your whole body, to shed the heat from this

The only way out is upwards.

sudden exertion.

COULD JUPITER BECOME A STAR?

Jupiter is often called a ‘failed star’ because, although it is mostly hydrogen like most normal stars, it is not massive enough to commence thermonuclear reactions in its core and thus become a ‘real star’. But the term ‘failed star’ is a bit of a misnomer. Theoretically, any object at all could be made into a star, simply by adding enough matter to it. With enough mass, the internal pressure and temperature of the object will reach the threshold needed to start thermonuclear reactions. That threshold is the least for the simplest element, hydrogen. In order to turn Jupiter into a star like the Sun, for example, you would have to add about 1,000 times the mass of Jupiter. But, to make a cooler ‘red dwarf’, you would only need to add about 80 Jupiter masses. Although the exact numbers are still a bit uncertain, it is possible that a ‘brown dwarf’ could still form (in which deuterium, rather than hydrogen, fuses in the star’s core) with only about 13 Jupiter masses. So, Jupiter cannot and will not spontaneously become a star, but, if a minimum of 13 extra Jupiter-mass objects happen to collide with it, there is a chance it will. AGu

PHOTOS: GETTY X3 ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY

PHOTOS: GETTY X3 ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY questions & Answers CAN PHOTOSYNTHESIS BE RECREATED IN THE LAB?

questions

& Answers

GETTY X3 ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY questions & Answers CAN PHOTOSYNTHESIS BE RECREATED IN THE LAB? Photosynthesis
GETTY X3 ILLUSTRATIONS: RAJA LOCKEY questions & Answers CAN PHOTOSYNTHESIS BE RECREATED IN THE LAB? Photosynthesis

CAN PHOTOSYNTHESIS BE RECREATED IN THE LAB?

Photosynthesis is the process of using light energy to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates. Plants and bacteria have been doing this happily for billions of years. In 1912, an Italian chemist called Giacomo Ciamician had the idea to copy nature. Eighty years later, the Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis was established to work on the problem in earnest. Since then, artificial photosynthesis has been a major area of research all around the globe. The tricky things are making it efficient at the relatively low concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and turning the lab-based science into a working technology! ML

DO CHILDREN HAVE A BETTER SENSE OF SMELL THAN ADULTS?

Newborns can only smell a few different things, such as their mother’s body smell. Sense of smell improves up to about the age of eight. But, from the age of 20 (or even 15, according to some studies), the sense gently declines. Yet, some studies have found that children can’t detect certain musk odours until they reach puberty. LV

WILL ELECTRIC CARS REDUCE POLLUTION?

Electric vehicles’ engines don’t churn out polluting fumes, making them the obvious choice for improving local air quality in towns and cities. But, although they have the potential to drastically cut pollution, they are only as green as the electricity they run on. Given that most electricity globally is still produced by burning fossil fuels, charging an electric car can indirectly generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases to a petrol-powered vehicle, particularly in countries that rely heavily on coal power. As the world embraces renewable energy, electric cars will increasingly gain the upper hand in years to come. AFC

embraces renewable energy, electric cars will increasingly gain the upper hand in years to come. AFC
14
14

DECEMBER 2017

embraces renewable energy, electric cars will increasingly gain the upper hand in years to come. AFC
WHY ARE WATER AND ELECTRICITY A DEADLY COMBINATION? Water itself doesn’t conduct electricity particularly well,
WHY ARE WATER AND ELECTRICITY
A DEADLY COMBINATION?
Water itself doesn’t conduct electricity particularly well, it’s the chemicals
dissolved in it that are the source of the trouble. For example, the salt content
of seawater makes it a million times better at conducting electricity than ultra-pure
water. Even so, even a trace of water can prove fatal with high voltages.
People have been killed thinking they can move live cables using
a freshly-broken tree branch. RM

WHAT

CON N ECTS

WHAT CON N ECTS KOALAS AND TABLE MANNERS? 2 ENERGY But 1 KOALAS Koalas mostly eat

KOALAS

AND

TABLE MANNERS?

WHAT CON N ECTS KOALAS AND TABLE MANNERS? 2 ENERGY But 1 KOALAS Koalas mostly eat
WHAT CON N ECTS KOALAS AND TABLE MANNERS? 2 ENERGY But 1 KOALAS Koalas mostly eat

2 ENERGY

But

1 KOALAS Koalas mostly eat

eucalyptus leaves. These have a high water content, so koalas hardly need to drink. This lets them stay in the trees, safe from predators.

This lets them stay in the trees, safe from predators. eucalyptus is a low energy food.
This lets them stay in the trees, safe from predators. eucalyptus is a low energy food.

eucalyptus is

a low energy

food. Even

though

koalas eat over 1kg of leaves per day, they must spend 18-20 hours a day sleeping, to conserve energy.

3 BRAIN POWER Their low-energy lifestyle

means koalas can’t sustain a large

brain. At just 0.2 per cent of body weight, koala brains are one

of the smallest of any mammal.

weight, koala brains are one of the smallest of any mammal. 4 TABLE MANNERS Their tiny

4 TABLE MANNERS Their tiny brains can’t deal with

unfamiliar situations. If you give koalas eucalyptus leaves on a flat surface, like

a plate, they won’t recognise them as food and won’t eat them.

PHOTOS: GETTY X3, ALAMY X2, ANDREI REINOL

PHOTOS: GETTY X3, ALAMY X2, ANDREI REINOL questions & Answers 16 DECEMBER 2017 WH O R

questions

& Answers

16
16

DECEMBER 2017

X2, ANDREI REINOL questions & Answers 16 DECEMBER 2017 WH O R EA L LY I

WH O

R EA L LY

I N V EN T ED ?

Answers 16 DECEMBER 2017 WH O R EA L LY I N V EN T ED

TELEVISION

DECEMBER 2017 WH O R EA L LY I N V EN T ED ? TELEVISION

JOHN LOGIE

BAIRD

O R EA L LY I N V EN T ED ? TELEVISION JOHN LOGIE BAIRD

PHILO

FARNSWORTH

Transmitting signals over long distances was one of the greatest triumphs of 19th-century inventors. Yet even their ingenuity failed to solve the ultimate challenge:

the transmission of clear sound and images. Many tried, leading to a long list of supposed ‘pioneers’ of television, the most famous being the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. In January 1926 he gave the first-ever demonstration of the transmission of moving images, and, by 1929, Baird was selling ‘Televisor’ sets for £25 – equivalent to £1,500 today. Baird’s design offered small, flickering, black-and-white images and involved the use of a spinning, perforated disk invented in 1894 by German engineer Paul Nipkow that scanned images for transmission as electrical signals. The technology needed to give television its mass appeal is generally credited to the brilliant American inventor Philo Farnsworth. While still a teenager, he realised that emerging electronic technology could scan images far faster and more finely than any mechanical device, and, in 1927, he demonstrated the first electronic television. A bitter patent dispute with the US electronics company RCA then broke out. Despite ultimately winning and being awarded a settlement plus royalties, Farnsworth and his key role in the invention of television are now largely forgotten. RM

Post-war German

television

are now largely forgotten. RM Post-war German television QUESTION OF THE MONTH WHY ARE MOST PEOPLE
QUESTION OF THE MONTH WHY ARE MOST PEOPLE RIGHT -HANDED?
QUESTION
OF
THE
MONTH
WHY ARE
MOST PEOPLE
RIGHT
-HANDED?

Many animals show a preference for one side of the body over another, but the split between right- and left-handed varies. Seven out of 10 chimpanzees are right-handed, but almost all kangaroos are left-handed. In cats, males are nearly all left-handed and females are nearly all right-handed. Humans have a higher proportion of right-handers than any species, with left-handers making up just 10 per cent of the population. This is because we are a tool-using species, and also highly social. The very earliest flint tools, around two million years ago, don’t show a strong bias towards left- or right-handed versions. But it’s a big advantage if you can use the tools someone else has made, and, from about 1.5 million years ago, we seem to have standardised on the right- handed versions. It’s not exactly clear why right-handedness won, but it may be that one side of our brain was already specialised for fine-motor control. One theory why left-handedness hasn’t been completely eliminated is that it provides an advantage in combat, precisely because it is rarer, and, therefore, unexpected. You can see this today in sports like tennis, where left-handed professionals are more common than in the general population. LV

WHAT

IS

TH IS?

WHAT IS TH IS? ON ICE Sadly, this isn’t an alien world. These weird formations are

ON ICE

Sadly, this isn’t an alien world. These weird formations are ice-covered wooden poles emerging from the sea at low tide. The poles are all that remains of a dock on the Paljassaare peninsula in Tallinn, Estonia. It must have been chilly on that day, because seawater requires temperatures of -2°C to freeze, which is a little colder than the 0°C required by freshwater.

snapshots Nature 18 DECEMBER 2017 Snapshots

snapshots

Nature

18
18

DECEMBER 2017

snapshots Nature 18 DECEMBER 2017 Snapshots

Snapshots

PHOTO: EYEVINE

PHOTO: ALAMY

Tunes in

the dunes

ORDOS, NORTHERN CHINA

China’s first desert resort, the striking Whistling Dune Bay, sits among sand dunes with a rather special ability: they can sing. When the wind strikes them, the dunes produce a sound described as humming, booming, or roaring, which led merchant traveller Marco Polo to think they were possessed by evil spirits. In reality, the noise is caused by an avalanche of sand grains. “The sand grains in the avalanche rub against each other, creating small bursts of sound due to shearing,” says Dr Nathalie Vriend, a geophysicist at Cambridge University, the UK. “These bursts of sound can amplify due to the dune’s unique internal structure, creating the booming sound that can be heard from miles away.” Guests at the hotel are invited to hear the unearthly sounds for themselves by sliding down the dune to produce a rumble reminiscent of an aircraft, or squeezing a handful of sand to make an unusual croaking noise.

snapshots Nature 20 Strange things are afoot This alien-like appendage is the foot, or tarsus,

snapshots

Nature

20
20

Strange things are afoot

This alien-like appendage is the foot, or tarsus, of a mosquito. While mozzies’ legs may not look like much to the naked eye, this scanning electron micrograph image was taken at 800 times magnification to reveal the tarsus’s intricate microstructure. Incredibly, each of the bizarre- looking formations serves a particular purpose. “The two tarsal claws that are clearly visible allow the mosquito to grip onto most surfaces, like walls, plants or your leg. The surrounding structures, the ‘socks’, act as buffers, allowing the mosquito to land gently and accurately on all manner of surfaces,” says BBC presenter and entomologist Prof Adam Hart. “It isn’t just about physical prowess – the hairs on the feet also act as sensory structures, effectively allowing them to taste with their feet!” The image is one of the top 100 selected to tour the UK as part of the Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for Science. Visit www.rps-science.org for more details.

DECEMBER 2017

Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for Science. Visit www.rps-science.org for more details. DECEMBER 2017
Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for Science. Visit www.rps-science.org for more details. DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO: STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/RPS

PHOTO: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

PHOTO: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Science Discoveries 22 DISCOVERIES DISPATCHES FROM THE CUTTING EDGE MEDICINE HUMAN STEM

Science

Discoveries

22
22

DISCOVERIES

DISPATCHES FROM THE CUTTING EDGE

MEDICINE

MEDICINE HUMAN STEM CELLS USED TO FIGHT PARKINSON’S DISEASE IN MONKEYS Clinical trials in humans are

HUMAN STEM CELLS USED TO FIGHT PARKINSON’S DISEASE IN MONKEYS

Clinical trials in humans are now being prepared after Japanese researchers improved the symptoms of
Clinical trials in humans are now being prepared after Japanese researchers
improved the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in monkeys for up to two years
P ARKINSON’S disease is
a
progressive disorder that attacks
a
group of nerve cells in the brain
known as dopaminergic (DA)
neurons. These are responsible for
transmitting dopamine – a vitally important
chemical used to send signals to the parts
of the brain that control movement. As the
disease progresses and more neurons are
lost, sufferers develop trembling limbs,
speech changes and balance problems.
There is currently no known cure.
Now, a team at Kyoto University in Japan
has successfully used reprogrammed
human stem cells to restore brain function
in long-tailed macaque monkeys suffering
from Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and hope
to begin clinical trials in humans in as little
as a year.
The researchers were able to produce
functioning DA neurons using induced
pluripotent stem cells (iPS) – cells that are
Parkinson’s-like
symptoms
in macaques have
been reduced for up
to two years by the
new stem cell therapy

DECEMBER 2017

symptoms in macaques have been reduced for up to two years by the new stem cell

PHOTOS: FIONA ROGERS/NATUREPL.COM, GETTY

Neurons created from stem cells could stall the progress of Parkinson’s disease
Neurons created
from stem cells could
stall the progress of
Parkinson’s disease

created by ‘reprogramming’ skin or blood cells into an embryonic state, allowing them to be grown into any kind of human cell. They created DA neurons from four people without Parkinson’s and three people with it, and injected them into the brains of seven different monkeys. All of the animals showed a marked improvement in their movements. However, the results depended on the quality of the implanted cells rather than the quantity, which is often the case in stem cell therapies. “We made DA neurons from different iPS cell lines. Some were made with iPS cells from healthy donors, others were made from Parkinson’s disease patients,” said researcher Dr Tetsuhiro Kikuchi. “Each animal received cells prepared from a different iPS cell donor. We found the quality of donor cells had a large effect on the DA neuron survival.” The monkeys were given drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting the new cells, and were then observed for up to two years without issue. The team is hopeful that it can begin recruiting patients for this iPS cell-based therapy before the end of next year.

“All of the animals showed a marked improvement in their movements”

EXPERT

COMMENT

Prof David Dexter

Deputy research director, Parkinson’s UK, said:

“Not only did the new cells survive, and were found in later dissections, but they also integrated with the existing neuronal network – functioning like normal dopamine-producing brain cells and allowing gradually improved movement over a 12-month period. “Although this is promising quality research, and the conclusions are backed up by solid data that comes from a variety of sources, including behavioural, brain scan and histological analysis, there are still major challenges ahead. We need to understand if these new transplanted cells would succumb to the same fate as the original cells that had previously died. “There are also other types of brain cells that are affected by Parkinson’s, and additional work must be done to tackle those symptoms of the condition that are not caused by a lack of dopamine.”

PHOTO: UNSW/ANDREW KELLY

PHOTO: UNSW/ANDREW KELLY Science Discoveries 24 T H I N G S L E A R

Science

Discoveries

24
24

T H I N G S L E A R N E D MONTH

W E T H I S

BIRDS USE THEIR SENSE OF SMELL TO NAVIGATE

A team at Oxford University

temporarily blocked the sense of smell of a group of Scopoli’s shearwaters before tracking their movements. The birds were able to navigate as normal across land but became confused when flying over the ocean, suggesting they use a map of smells when lacking visual clues.

WHISKEY TASTES BETTER WITH WATER Diluting your dram with water can increase the density of flavour compounds on the drink’s surface, making it a tastier tipple, Swedish researchers say.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS TURNING BROWN BEARS VEGETARIAN

A group of bears on Alaska’s Kodiak Island have switched from eating spawning salmon to red elderberries, thanks to warmer summers causing the fruit to ripen earlier. They choose the berries as they require less energy to acquire.

THERE COULD BE SNOW ON MARS According to calculations by researchers from the University Pierre and Marie Curie in France, the Red Planet experiences mini snow blizzards.

DECEMBER 2017

Red Planet experiences mini snow blizzards. DECEMBER 2017 ARCHAEOLOGY ANCIENT CLAY TABLET SHOWS BABYLONIANS USED

ARCHAEOLOGY

experiences mini snow blizzards. DECEMBER 2017 ARCHAEOLOGY ANCIENT CLAY TABLET SHOWS BABYLONIANS USED TRIGONOMETRY

ANCIENT CLAY TABLET SHOWS BABYLONIANS USED TRIGONOMETRY CENTURIES BEFORE GREEKS

Trigonometry, the mathematics of the relationships between the lengths and angles of triangles, has long been thought to have started in earnest with the work of Hipparchus, a Greek astronomer who lived around 100 BC. Now, researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia, have found evidence of trigonometry inscribed in cuneiform script (an early system of writing) on a Babylonian clay tablet that pre-dates Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years. They believe it may have been used by ancient engineers to calculate how to construct palaces, temples and canals. Known as Plimpton 322, the tablet was discovered in the early 1900s in what is now southern Iraq by American archaeologist Edgar Banks – a man who’s said to be the inspiration behind fictional character Indiana Jones. The tablet is thought to have been made in the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa in around 1800 BC. “The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose

At 13 x 9cm in size, the Plimpton 322 tablet is about the size of a large smartphone

– why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet,” said researcher Dr Daniel Mansfield. “Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right- angled triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles [as found in modern trigonometry]. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.” The 15 rows on the tablet describe a sequence of triangles that make up a trigonometric table – a chart detailing the relationship between the three sides of a right- angled triangle. “A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet,” said researcher Norman Wildberger. “The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”

SPACE
SPACE

BLACK HOLES MAY HAVE HELPED LIGHT UP THE UNIVERSE

Shortly after the Big Bang, the Universe was completely dark. The intense expansion of the fabric of space kicked up so much hot, dense gas that light became completely trapped within it for millions of years. As the Universe expanded, it become more transparent and was gradually lit up by galaxies and stars radiating visible light. Exactly how this happened, however, is something of a mystery. Now, a team from the University of Iowa thinks it may have an answer. They suggest that the black holes that dwell at the centre of galaxies caused matter to be flung out so violently that it pierced the cloudy surroundings, allowing light to escape. “It’s possible black holes are creating winds that help the radiation from the stars escape,” said researcher Dr Philip Kaaret. “Thus, black holes may have helped make the Universe transparent.” Their theory is that the effect is due to black holes acting in a way similar to pirouetting figure skaters, who fold their arms closer to their bodies

in order to spin faster. As matter is pulled in

towards a black hole by its extreme gravitational pull, the black hole spins faster. This creates an accelerating effect, resulting in a fraction of the matter being flung away from the centre of the black hole. “As matter falls into a black hole, it starts to spin and the rapid rotation pushes some fraction of the matter out,” Kaaret said. “They’re producing these strong winds that could be opening an escape route for ultraviolet light. That could be what happened with the early galaxies.” The team proposed the theory after noticing that ultraviolet light coming from Tol 1247-232,

a galaxy located 600 million light-years

from Earth, was waxing and waning. As stars don’t typically show changes in brightness like this, other bodies had to be involved. The team now plans to look for other nearby galaxies that are leaking ultraviolet light, to help corroborate their theory.

Matter being flung from black holes could have helped light up the Universe
Matter being flung from
black holes could have
helped light up
the Universe

IN

NUMBERS

665

DAYS

The amount of time spent onboard the International Space Station by American astronaut Peggy Wilson – more than any other woman to date.

20

MILLION

The number of lives that will have been saved by vaccination efforts in the world’s poorest countries by 2020, as estimated by a team at the University of North Carolina.

6,000

YEARS

The age of traces of wine found in a terracotta jar in a cave in Sicily. It was previously thought that winemaking developed in Italy around 1200 BC.

PHOTOS: NASA/JPL CALTECH, JOSCHUA KNÜPPE, DEAN R LOMAX

PHOTOS: NASA/JPL CALTECH, JOSCHUA KNÜPPE, DEAN R LOMAX Science Discoveries 26 The outer planets in the

Science

Discoveries

26
26
The outer planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system could be home to vast oceans
The outer planets in the
TRAPPIST-1 system could
be home to vast oceans
SPACE
SPACE

NEARBY EARTH-SIZED EXOPLANETS MAY HARBOUR HUGE OCEANS

Vast quantities of water may be sloshing around on the surfaces of three potentially habitable planets, offering fresh hope of finding life outside of the Solar System. In February this year, an international team of astronomers announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, 40 light-years from Earth. Now, researchers at Switzerland’s Observatoire de l’Université de Genève have used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to estimate that the star system’s outer planets may harbour large quantities of water, including three that lie within its habitable zone – the distance from a star where the planets’ surface temperatures potentially enable them to support life. This is an important discovery because the presence of liquid water is thought to be essential for the evolution of life. To make their calculations, the researchers took advantage of

the fact that ultraviolet radiation from a star causes water molecules on a planet to break up into hydrogen and oxygen and escape through the top of the atmosphere. They say that the four outermost planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, including three in the habitable zone, don’t receive enough UV to have lost significant amounts of water – so most of the water they formed with should, in theory, still be there. However, further studies are required before they can say for sure. “While our results suggest the outer planets are the best candidates to search for water with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope,” said University of Geneva astronomer Vincent Bourrier, who led the research, “they also highlight the need for theoretical studies and complementary observations at all wavelengths to determine the nature of the TRAPPIST-1 planets and their potential habitability.”

DECEMBER 2017

at all wavelengths to determine the nature of the TRAPPIST-1 planets and their potential habitability.” DECEMBER

PALAEONTOLOGY

PALAEONTOLOGY LARGEST PREHISTORIC REPTILE FOUND TO BE PREGNANT THE DOWNLOAD FRB 121102 What’s that? An India
LARGEST PREHISTORIC REPTILE FOUND TO BE PREGNANT THE DOWNLOAD FRB 121102 What’s that? An India
LARGEST PREHISTORIC REPTILE
FOUND TO BE PREGNANT
THE
DOWNLOAD
FRB 121102
What’s that? An India
The largest known fossilised specimen of
a prehistoric species of aquatic reptile called
Post tracking number?
It’s fast radio burst 121102
Ichthyosaurus somersetensis has been found in
it turns out to be that of an expectant mother.
Although sometimes incorrectly referred to as
‘swimming dinosaurs’, ichthyosaurs were, in fact,
an entirely separate order that evolved from land-
based reptiles that had returned to the sea,
much as manatees and whales have evolved
from previously land-based mammals. They
ranged in length from 1m to over 20m.
The I. somersetensis fossil in question is of
electromagnetic signal,
originating in a dwarf
galaxy three billion
light-years away, that
was first detected in 2012.
a 3-3.5m adult female. The fossil, which dates
back some 200 million years to the Early Jurassic
Period, was originally unearthed in the 1990s,
but, until recently, languished in the collection
at the Lower Saxony State Museum in Hannover,
Germany. That was until it was spotted by
palaeontologist Sven Sachs of the Bielefeld
Natural History Museum, also in Germany.
Suspecting it could in fact be an I. somersetensis
specimen, Sachs contacted the University of
Manchester’s Dean Lomax, who, along with his
colleague Prof Judy Massare, had first described
the species. Not only did Sachs’ hunch turn out
to be correct, the specimen was also found
to contain the fossilised embryo of a baby
I. somersetensis, with a preserved section
of vertebrae measuring a mere 7cm long.
“It amazes me that specimens such as this can
still be ‘rediscovered’ in museum collections,”
said Lomax. “This specimen provides new
insights into the size range of the species, but
also records only the third known example of
an Ichthyosaurus with an embryo. That’s special.”
– a mysterious
a museum in Germany – and, in an unusual twist,
Hang on. What’s a fast
radio burst?
Fast radio bursts are
powerful radio signals,
originating in deep space,
which last for just
a few milliseconds.
Tell me more!
Only three ichthyosaur
fossils containing embyros
have ever been discovered
Only a handful of fast radio
bursts have ever been
detected, and no one has
so far figured out exactly
what they are. Current
theories range from the
radiation blasted out as
a neutron star is devoured
by a black hole, to encoded
messages from aliens.
Weird. So why are we
talking about it now?
Well, Breakthrough Listen,
a $100bn project that was
set up to listen for potential
signals from extraterrestrial
civilisations, has just
detected a series of
15 pulses from FRB
121102. If anyone is going
to decipher messages
sent by little green men, our
money is on them, so watch
this space… literally!

PHOTOS: KHAN ACADEMY, RITA FIOR/CCU ILLUSTRATION: DANIEL BRIGHT

KHAN ACADEMY, RITA FIOR/CCU ILLUSTRATION: DANIEL BRIGHT Science Discoveries 28 THE LIFE CYCLE OF HIGH MASS

Science

Discoveries

28
28

THE LIFE CYCLE OF HIGH MASS STARS

Stars begin life as clouds of gas and dust, known as nebulae. Material within these nebulae begins

to clump together due to the action of gravity, and, as the material is drawn closer together, it heats up.

A star is born when the mass of particles becomes hot enough for nuclear reactions to begin fusing

hydrogen into helium within its core.

to begin fusing hydrogen into helium within its core. MAIN SEQUENCE The first stage of a
to begin fusing hydrogen into helium within its core. MAIN SEQUENCE The first stage of a

MAIN SEQUENCE

The first stage of a star’s life is known as its ‘main sequence’. During this stage, the outward forces generated by the burning gases are balanced by the star’s gravity. Our own Sun is at this stage.

RED GIANT

Eventually, the hydrogen in the core begins to run out. Now, hydrogen begins to fuse into helium in the star’s outer layers, causing it to expand. Depending on the star’s mass, it becomes a red giant or supergiant.

SUPERNOVA

If the star is large enough, it will continue fusing heavier and heavier elements within its core until it becomes too heavy to withstand its own gravitational force. The core will collapse in a huge supernova explosion that blows away its outer layers.

NEUTRON STAR / BLACK HOLE

If the remaining core is up to

a few times the mass of the

Sun, it contracts to become a neutron star – an incredibly dense type of star. If it’s bigger than that, it contracts further and becomes a black hole.

SPACE

that, it contracts further and becomes a black hole. SPACE TINY BLACK HOLES MAY HAVE HELPED

TINY BLACK HOLES MAY HAVE HELPED TO FORGE HEAVY ELEMENTS LIKE GOLD, PLATINUM AND URANIUM

We really are all made of stardust: everything from the nitrogen in our DNA to the oxygen in our blood was made in the interior of stars. Inside a star, hydrogen atoms – the smallest element – are fused together to create helium atoms – the second smallest element – which are then fused together to create heavier elements still. However, even the biggest, most energetic stars are incapable of creating elements heavier than iron. So where do the heavier elements in the periodic table such as gold, platinum and uranium come from? Most are believed to have been created in the energetic supernova explosions that occur at the end of a massive star’s life, but astronomers at University of California, San Diego, have found another possibility:

they could be created as tiny black holes chow down

on neutron stars, the super-dense cores left behind by exploding stars. According to the team’s calculations, a neutron star could come into contact with a small black hole and become devoured from the inside out by it. The sheer violence of this event would lead to some of the dense neutron star’s matter being ejected into space and forming heavy elements. “Small black holes can invade a neutron star and eat it from the inside,” said researcher Prof George Fuller. “In the last milliseconds of the neutron star’s demise, the amount of ejected neutron-rich material is sufficient to explain the observed abundances of heavy elements. As the neutron stars are devoured, they spin up and eject cold neutron matter, which decompresses, heats up and makes these elements.”

DECEMBER 2017

they spin up and eject cold neutron matter, which decompresses, heats up and makes these elements.”
H EALTH
H EALTH

CANCER PATIENTS COULD BE GIVEN FISHY ‘AVATARS’ TO SPEED UP TUMOUR TREATMENT

It may not look like the next big thing in medicine, but, one day, this tiny fish could play a key role in saving your life. Portuguese researchers have found that implanting tumours from human patients into the larvae of zebrafish – in effect using them as a medical ‘avatar’ – could help doctors to find more effective treatments for aggressive cancers. Currently, most chemotherapy treatments are prescribed based on their success in clinical trials involving many patients. The downside to this is that the exact nature of cancer varies significantly across different patients. Tumours respond differently to different drugs and can even change over time, which complicates matters further. “In some cases, the efficacy rate of chemotherapies can be low, sometimes around 35 per cent,” said researcher Dr Miguel Godinho Ferreira. “This means that some patients risk taking inadequate drugs that weaken them, and, without

a proper test, there is no way to know who will benefit and who won’t.” In an attempt to increase these odds, the team transplanted tumour cells from five colorectal cancer patients directly into zebrafish larvae and let them develop for two weeks. They then treated the zebrafish with the same chemotherapy drug that was given to the human patients. The tumours in the zebrafish avatars responded to the treatment in the same way as the human tumours in four out of five cases. Following this promising start, the team now plans to spend the next two years testing their method in hundreds more patients. “If all goes well, we will be able to inform oncologists on the result of the different therapies in the avatars. They will always have the final word in terms of deciding which therapy to choose, but they will be able to base their decisions on individual tests,” said Ferreira.

Zebrafish larva with a tumour (red) implanted from a cancer patient

larva with a tumour (red) implanted from a cancer patient TH EY DID WHAT? ! JELLYFISH
TH EY DID WHAT? ! JELLYFISH MADE INTO ‘CRISPS’ What did they do? A team
TH EY
DID
WHAT? !
JELLYFISH
MADE INTO
‘CRISPS’
What did they do?
A team of ‘gastrophysicists’ at
the University of Southern
Denmark created a new
method for drying out jellyfish,
turning them into edible
‘crisps’.
Why did they do that?
With the world’s population
growing rapidly, it’s
imperative we look into
alternative sources of food,
they say. Jellyfish have been
eaten in Asia for thousands
of years, but the practice has
never really taken off
in the West, despite
the relative abundance
of the invertebrates.
The researchers believe this
may be due to the unusual
texture created by the
traditional processing
procedure. In an attempt to
overcome this, they used
alcohol solutions to suck the
water out of the jellyfish,
leaving them similar in texture
to potato crisps.
What did they find?
The researchers say
the mouth feel and the
aesthetic appearance of the
jellyfish have “gastronomic
potential” and that they
actually taste pretty good.
Hmm… we’ll stick to ready
salted for the time being.

PHOTOS: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WEXNER MEDICAL CENTER, GETTY, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

WEXNER MEDICAL CENTER, GETTY, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY Science Discoveries a a 30 This tiny device can

Science

Discoveries

a

a

30
30
This tiny device can turn skin cells into the building blocks of vital organs
This tiny device can turn
skin cells into the building
blocks of vital organs
MEDICINE
MEDICINE

NANOCHIP COULD HEAL INJURIES WITH “ONE TOUCH”

Researchers at the Ohio State University have designed

tiny device that genetically reprogrammes skin cells. It’s hoped it could be used to repair injured tissue, including organs, blood vessels and nerve cells. Dubbed ‘tissue nanotransfection’ (TNT), the new technique uses a coin-sized device that is placed on the patient’s skin. The device is then zapped

with a small electric charge, triggering it to deliver

package of specially engineered genes to the target

skin cells, transforming them into different types of cells

entirely. “With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch,” said researcher Dr Chandan Sen. “This process takes less than a second and is completely non-invasive,

and then you’re off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary.” In one experiment, the team successfully reprogrammed skin cells to replace blood vessels in a mouse with a badly-injured leg. Just one week after treatment, active blood vessels began to grow in the mouse’s damaged leg, and by the second week its limb was saved. In another experiment, the chip was used to create nerve cells that were then injected into mice to help them recover from brain injuries caused by stroke. Clinical trials in humans will start next year.

DECEMBER 2017

to help them recover from brain injuries caused by stroke. Clinical trials in humans will start

PALAEONTOLOGY

PALAEONTOLOGY

100-MILLION-YEAR-

OLD FLOWERS FOUND PERFECTLY PRESERVED IN AMBER

Millions of years ago, in a pine forest in Myanmar, a group of tiny flowers fell tumbling to the ground. Upon falling, they landed in a patch of tree resin, which later fossilised into crystal clear amber – keeping them in perfect condition until they were discovered by a team at Oregon State University earlier this year. Dubbed Tropidogyne pentaptera thanks to their distinctive shape (‘penta’ means five and ‘pteron’ means wing), the flowers belong to a previously undiscovered species of tree and date back to the Cretaceous Period, making them around 100 million years old. The flowers lack petals but have pronounced sepals – green leaf-like structures that protect the flower while it’s in bud – and measure between 3.4 and 5mm in diameter. “The amber preserved the floral

parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden,” said researcher Prof George Poinar Jr. “Passing dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilised into the amber.” The flowers have been placed in the family Cunoniaceae, a group of trees still common to the Southern Hemisphere, and are believed to have belonged to a rainforest tree. The closest living relative to the prehistoric tree is likely to be the coachwood tree found in Australia. This also has no petals, only sepals, can grow to heights greater than 35m, lives for centuries and produces an attractive hardwood that is used for flooring and furniture.

This little flower is an incredible 100 million years old
This little flower is
an incredible 100
million years old
This little flower is an incredible 100 million years old S PAC E TRAVEL HUMAN WASTE

S PAC E

S PAC E TRAVEL

TRAVEL

HUMAN WASTE COULD BE THE KEY TO LONG- DISTANCE SPACE TRAVEL

If we are ever going to have any chance

of making it to Mars, astronauts are going to have to make the best use of every possible

resource – even their own urine. Crew on-board the International Space Station already have

a system in place that creates drinking water

from urine. But, now, a team at Clemson University

in South Carolina has taken things a step further

by making a system that can create plastics from human urine and exhaled breath. “If astronauts are going to make journeys that span several years, we’ll need to find a way

to reuse and recycle everything they bring with them,” said researcher David Blenner. “Having a biological system that astronauts can awaken from a dormant state to start

producing what they need, when they need it,

is the motivation for our project.”

The system takes the nitrogen from urine and carbon dioxide from exhaled breath and uses them to feed a type of yeast, Yarrowia lipolytica, that has been genetically engineered

to churn out monomers – a special type of molecule that can be strung together to form plastic polymers. The plastic, in this case polyester, can then be 3D printed to make tools and replacement parts as needed.

PHOTOS: GETTY, PROFESSOR ORLIN D VELEV/NC STATE UNIVERSITY ILLUSTRATIONS: DAN BRIGHT

ORLIN D VELEV/NC STATE UNIVERSITY ILLUSTRATIONS: DAN BRIGHT Science Discoveries 32 ENGINEERING “We plan on using

Science

Discoveries

32
32

ENGINEERING

ILLUSTRATIONS: DAN BRIGHT Science Discoveries 32 ENGINEERING “We plan on using microbots as tools to manipulate

“We plan on using microbots as tools to manipulate cells and measure their properties”

Folding robots controlled by magnetic fields can be used to study microscopic objects such as cells. Prof Orlin Velev of North Carolina State University explains how they work

ABOVE:

Microbots could one day be used to target cancer cells, like in this artist’s impression

BELOW: Four cubes can be arranged in a box-like cluster, then opened and closed like Pac-Man to capture a yeast cell (marked by arrow)

What are your microbots made of? We started with so-called ‘active particles’ that can perform simple tasks such as pushing and penetrating objects. Now we’re studying complex self-folding shapes, such as cubes. Our aim is to make interesting structures for use in future technologies. Our particles are small cubes with one side coated with metal. They become magnetic when we apply magnetic fields and are able to move and change shape.

How do you build a bot? Our colleagues from Duke University make the cubes and metallise them, then we perform the research in my laboratory. We put a suspension of cubes in water into a small chamber surrounded by electromagnets, then observe their behaviour with a microscope. Originally they’re dispersed around, but, when we turn on the magnetic field, they begin assembling into different sequences. Some sequences can fold like origami and repeatedly perform opening and closing motions, which we used to demonstrate the microbot principle.

which we used to demonstrate the microbot principle. How do magnets control movement? When we turn

How do magnets control movement? When we turn the field off, cubes preserve their magnetic properties and interact with each other. Every time we turn the field on, they adopt one configuration; when we turn it off, they adopt another. So we can reversibly fold and unfold them. In addition, we can control field strength and ‘gradient’ [in which direction

the field acts] and this is what distinguishes our microbot assemblies: we can move them around and independently make them open and close. You can actually see the microbot in operation and can use it to catch cells. When four cubes are set up in a box-like cluster, the configuration stores magnetic energy. By turning the magnetic field on, it opens; when we turn the field off, it closes. It behaves like a tiny Pac-Man. We made it ‘swim’ towards a yeast cell, before closing around it. We use magnetic fields again to drag the cell to a new position and release it.

Why are microbots useful? We plan on using microbots as tools to manipulate other types of cells, and to measure their properties. We are initiating a project to investigate cells and vesicles – small lipid-based structures, similar to cells, which are used for drug delivery. One of the next applications is to characterise materials. Say you want to distinguish a cancer cell from a regular cell: you can use fluorescent dye or you can use the microbot to pinch the cells and see their mechanical properties, which may differ. So now we have a microscopic device that can be used in sorting and testing different cells in a culture. We’re not going to address treatment of cancer, at least not at this stage. The most exciting thing is that there’s still so much we can learn about how to make particles that have unique features we can use.

DECEMBER 2017

that there’s still so much we can learn about how to make particles that have unique
prepare yourself for tomorrow EAT MY DUST Meet the supercar of tomorrow: the HIPERCAR (no,

prepare yourself for tomorrow

EAT MY DUST Meet the supercar of tomorrow: the HIPERCAR (no, that’s not a typo
EAT MY DUST
Meet the supercar of tomorrow: the HIPERCAR (no, that’s not a typo – it stands for HIgh PERformance CArbon
Reduction). It’s been designed by Ariel, the British manufacturers behind the Ariel Atom, who say that, when the car
rolls out of the factory in 2020, it’ll be the most advanced, and fastest-accelerating roadcar ever made.
The car is essentially a testbed where Ariel, and two other technology partners, will try to make electric cars go faster
and further than ever before. The HIPERCAR will manage 0-60mph in an eye-watering 2.4 secs, and will hit 100mph
in 3.8 secs (that’s over two seconds nippier than the McLaren P1), before maxing out at a top speed of 160mph.
In fact, the speed and power are so monumental that simulations suggest the vehicle could end up wheel-spinning
at 100mph, so Ariel is looking at placing fans underneath the car to ‘suck’ it onto the road to give it traction.
To give it a bigger range, Ariel and its partners have developed a revolutionary 35kW micro-turbine range extender.
When the car runs out of battery, this incredibly small, petrol-powered motor will generate extra electricity.
The team behind the car hopes the affordability and size of their range extender will mean this technology will find
its way into more electric cars, making them more feasible to the general public.

PHOTOS: IVL, HYPERLOOP

PHOTOS: IVL, HYPERLOOP Science Innovations 34 Volocopter is fully electric and has been cleverly engineered to

Science

Innovations

34
34

Volocopter is fully electric and has been cleverly engineered to minimise noise

TRANSPORT
TRANSPORT

AUTONOMOUS HELICOPTER TAXIS COULD BE TAKING OFF

DECEMBER 2017

HELICOPTER TAXIS COULD BE TAKING OFF DECEMBER 2017 Volocopter’s plans to build a fleet of autonomous

Volocopter’s plans to build a fleet of autonomous helicopters for use as taxis have been covered in this magazine before. But the German company’s ambitions were recently given something of a lift in the form of $30m of investment from manufacturer Daimler. The lower half of Volocopter’s heli-taxi looks like a standard helicopter, with two landing skids, a long, narrow tail and a cockpit that can house two people. Where a standard helicopter would have rotors on the roof and tail, however, the Volocopter has, instead, a large, circular frame on which are mounted no fewer than 18 individual rotors. This innovative design is said to make the machine much more stable in the air than traditional helicopters. The Volocopter made its first manned flight in 2016, but, with help from Daimler’s investment, the company now plans to develop an autonomous version. Trials have started in Dubai this year, with a view to a fleet of the vehicles being used for personal transport in and around the city within a few years. And, if that all sounds like a far-fetched proposition, just bear in mind that many people said the same thing when engineer Gottlieb Daimler built the first motorcycle in 1885…

TECH

BYTES

EN ERGY

ROBOTS GOT SEOUL

Visitors to Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea, will soon be greeted by robots made by LG. The Airport Guide Robot will offer directions and tourist advice in Japanese, Chinese, English, and Korean, while Airport Cleaning Robots will keep the place looking smart.

IKEA IS SELLING SOLAR STORAGE BATTERIES

With more and more homes sporting solar panels

on their roofs, furniture giant Ikea is now selling

have taken a leaf out of Tesla’s book and developed a large domestic battery – similar to Tesla’s Powerwall – that can store that power for use at a later date, rather

a large domestic battery that will enable you to store any excess power generated for
a
large domestic battery that will enable you to
store any excess power generated for future use.
Ikea started selling solar panels in 2013,
but stepped away from the market when
the UK government announced that it was
scrapping solar subsidies. Last year, it returned
than forcing users to buy electricity back from
the National Grid on less sunny days.
Anything that reduces our reliance on power
generated from non-renewable sources has
to the solar fray, working in association with
to be a good thing, but the stumbling block
Solarcentury, which is one of the biggest
and longest-established providers of solar
equipment in the UK.
Until now, however, anyone who installed Ikea/
for most people is going to be the price.
A
basic Ikea/Solarcentury system consisting
of
a battery and a couple of solar panels
Solarcentury’s rooftop panels had no option
but to sell any excess power generated to
the National Grid. Now, the two companies
will cost around £6,500, while the battery
alone (if you want to add one to an existing
power generation system) will cost in
the region of £5,000.
DRONE LAWS
UK owners of unmanned
aerial vehicles will have
to register all drones over
250g with the Department
for Transport and undertake
a safety awareness test,
according to new
government plans.
The move comes after
several incidents in which
drones caused safety
problems at airports.
DRIVERLESS CARS?
NO THANKS!
India’s transport and
highways minister Nitin
Gadkari has announced
plans to ban autonomous
vehicles in the country,
Ikea’s lithium-ion
storage batteries are
made by established
manufacturer LG
in a bid to protect the jobs
of India’s bus, taxi and
goods vehicle drivers.
on the shelves Books 36 NEW READS WORDS: MOSHITA PRAJAPATI GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel

on the shelves Books

36
36

NEW

READS

WORDS: MOSHITA PRAJAPATI

the shelves Books 36 NEW READS WORDS: MOSHITA PRAJAPATI GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls Elena
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls

GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR

Rebel Girls

Rebel Girls

Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls
GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR Rebel Girls

Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo Penguin It has the distinction of being the fastest crowd-funded book in history, and comes under monumental pressure with the onus of re-writing fairy tales for little girls. Curated by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a collection of inspiring stories about heroic women from history, right from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. The book details the struggles and triumphs of 100 women – past and contemporary – who have certainly never needed rescuing and whose actions have empowered and encouraged. It begins with Ada Lovelace, the woman who is now credited with writing the first computer program code, and travels through time, covering women of all races, from diverse backgrounds and countries, disabilities, sexualities, etc. It talks about the trials of Hatshepsut – a female pharaoh of ancient Egypt, of Jane Goodall, the primatologist and wildlife conservator, of the painter Frida Kahlo, of Maria Callas, the opera singer, and Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Laureate. From India, the Rani of Jhansi and Mary Kom are profiled in the book. Each profile is accompanied by a quote and an illustration; 60 female artists from across the world contributed sketches for the book. A must-read for anyone who needs that nudge to keep imagining and achieving the impossible.

for the book. A must-read for anyone who needs that nudge to keep imagining and achieving

DECEMBER 2017

for the book. A must-read for anyone who needs that nudge to keep imagining and achieving
Nicole Kraus LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE Bloomsbury Publishing AUTONOMOUS Celeste Ng Penguin Press Annalee Newitz The
Nicole Kraus
LITTLE FIRES
EVERYWHERE
Bloomsbury Publishing
AUTONOMOUS
Celeste Ng
Penguin Press
Annalee Newitz
The quiet community
of Shaker Heights in
suburban Cleveland is
shaken out of its life of
Tor Books
A
genetics engineer-turned-drug pirate, an unlikely duo of a robot
and a former military man fighting an evil capitalist empire, all three
precise and strict rules by
new resident Mia and her
daughter Pearl. No one
unknown to each other. In the far future, in 2144, the planet is run
entirely on the basis of drug consumption and not the good kind. Zaxy
is
manufacturing drugs that makes people addicted to working to the
point of insanity. This bizarre drug epidemic is causing trains to crash,
is
more affected by the
disarray in the community
people to commit suicide, in short, it is causing mayhem in the city of
New York. Will they succeed in defeating the dark forces?
than Elena Richardson.
The plot unravels as
the community attempts
to
regain and retain its
The central theme of
the plot draws from
the conclusion that,
sometimes, one shared
journey can force two
very different people to
rediscover themselves
in a remarkable way.
The novel centres around
a young novelist suffering
from writer’s block and
an old man who knows his
days are numbered.
Their renewed sense
of self-discovery forces
them to retreat into their
past to make amends
for their future.
picture-perfect façade.
But can it, with secrets
emerging from every
window, door, and letter?
FOREST
DARK
TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN John Green THE BURNING GIRL Penguin THE This much-awaited novel
TURTLES
ALL THE
WAY DOWN
John Green
THE BURNING
GIRL
Penguin
THE
This much-awaited novel
IMMORALISTS
Claire Messud
W
W Norton & Company
promises to be as quirky and
heart-wrenching as his last
tearjerker novel, The Fault In Our
Stars (2012). Fugitive billionaire
Russell Pickett is on the run,
with a hundred-thousand-dollar
reward on his head. Ava’s friend
Daisy wants to capture him,
so the girls decide to enlist
the help of Pickett’s son Davis.
The novel promises to be
a riveting tale of love, friendship,
and unflinching loyalty.
Chole Benjamin
Tinder Press
This coming-of-age story
follows the lives of two girls,
Julia and Cassie, who
have, since childhood,
planned their escape
from their small town of
Royston, Massachusetts.
But, as they grow older,
their lives take them
down separate paths.
Will Cassie survive the dark
times that lie ahead for
her? More importantly; will
her friendship with
Julia prevail?
In 1966, a travelling
psychic comes to New
York City and word soon
spreads that, for a fee, she
will accurately predict the
day of your death. Four
children sneak out on a
summer night to find out
when they will die. Will they
live their lives differently
now that they know, or
will they test the boundary
between reality, fate,
destiny, choice
and illusion?
between reality, fate, destiny, choice and illusion? SOURDOUGH Robin Sloan MCD Lois Clary writes code for

SOURDOUGH

Robin Sloan

MCD

Lois Clary writes code for a company that exclusively creates robotic arms. Stuck in a dead-end job, her only solace in life is spicy soup, accompanied by miraculously restorative sourdough bread. When the immigrant owners of the restaurant she frequents pack up and leave, the baker leaves a crock of sourdough starter for Lois. She learns to bake, but the results are eerie

– the finished loaves have faces on them, and the dough begins to sing. Lois finds out there is a market at which people fuse technology and food together, but who are these people?

39
39

DECEMBER 2017

portfolio Wildlife 38 WOMBAT HOSPITAL An army of volunteers is working hard to rescue common

portfolio

Wildlife

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38

WOMBAT

HOSPITAL

An army of volunteers is working hard to rescue common wombats at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania. SUZI ESZTERHAS visited the animal rescue centre to find out how these fascinating marsupials are reared and returned to the wild

DECEMBER 2017

the animal rescue centre to find out how these fascinating marsupials are reared and returned to

Spring explores an outdoor area at the sanctuary. As an adult, she will be a master digger with long claws and stocky limbs and will spend a lot of time in burrows. A burrow is just large enough for a wombat and key to its survival, providing shelter, warmth and protection from predators such as dingoes

portfolio Wildlife 40 DECEMBER 2017 LEFT: Common wombats are grazers that eat grasses, sedges, herbs

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Wildlife

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portfolio Wildlife 40 DECEMBER 2017 LEFT: Common wombats are grazers that eat grasses, sedges, herbs and

DECEMBER 2017

portfolio Wildlife 40 DECEMBER 2017 LEFT: Common wombats are grazers that eat grasses, sedges, herbs and
portfolio Wildlife 40 DECEMBER 2017 LEFT: Common wombats are grazers that eat grasses, sedges, herbs and

LEFT: Common wombats are grazers that eat grasses, sedges, herbs and the bark of some trees. The sanctuary diet of seven-month-old Storm reflects what she would consume in the wild. The species is crepuscular and, therefore, usually forages at dawn and dusk

ABOVE: Sanctuary director Greg Irons strokes an orphan called Tina. He has been raising wombats
ABOVE: Sanctuary director Greg Irons strokes an orphan called Tina. He has been raising wombats

ABOVE: Sanctuary director Greg Irons strokes an orphan called Tina. He has been raising wombats for about 15 years and describes them as very affectionate when they are young. When Tina becomes independent, she will be released on to land that is managed for wildlife, preferably close to where she was found

LEFT: When orphans like Spring first arrive at the sanctuary, they go to a foster home until they are 10 months old. Pacifiers are given to joeys for comfort and they receive round-the-clock care and attention. Most common wombats arrive at Bonorong because their mothers have been hit by cars. Habitat loss and mange – there has been a massive increase in the disease in wombats in the last five years – also threaten the species

portfolio Wildlife 42 DECEMBER 2017 TOP LEFT: Storm plays with a football at a foster

portfolio

Wildlife

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portfolio Wildlife 42 DECEMBER 2017 TOP LEFT: Storm plays with a football at a foster home.
portfolio Wildlife 42 DECEMBER 2017 TOP LEFT: Storm plays with a football at a foster home.

DECEMBER 2017

portfolio Wildlife 42 DECEMBER 2017 TOP LEFT: Storm plays with a football at a foster home.
portfolio Wildlife 42 DECEMBER 2017 TOP LEFT: Storm plays with a football at a foster home.

TOP LEFT: Storm plays with

a football at a foster home.

This natural behaviour is encouraged using toys. When the youngster

is 10 months old, she will be slowly

introduced to Bonorong’s enclosures, where she can develop her instincts

LEFT: A five-month-old common wombat called Ebony is fed milk formula at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania. A joey will usually leave its mother’s pouch for the first time at about seven months and will continue to suckle until it is a year old. This marsupial’s mother was hit by a car and killed. Wombats generally stay at the sanctuary until they are two years old and weigh 20kg

ABOVE: Wombats are watched carefully in the sanctuary (Storm and Ebony are pictured) and the

ABOVE: Wombats are watched carefully in the sanctuary (Storm and Ebony are pictured) and the stages of their release programme are tweaked according to the individual – some will be ready to leave earlier than others. Bonorong staff make sure the wombats are digging suitable burrows, recognising edible foods and showing disinterest in people before they are released

RIGHT: Wombats use their teeth for burrowing and can chew through tree roots that get in their way. Storm’s foster mother must keep a close eye on her while she is staying in a house – wooden doors and electric cords are no longer safe!

must keep a close eye on her while she is staying in a house – wooden
portfolio Wildlife 44 Common wombats prefer a variety of different habitats, including coastal forests, alpine

portfolio

Wildlife

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44

Common wombats prefer a variety of different habitats, including coastal forests, alpine woodlands and grasslands. This individual was photographed in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. The species can be found in most parts of the state. Released wombats are not tracked or tagged because it affects their natural behaviour

DECEMBER 2017

parts of the state. Released wombats are not tracked or tagged because it affects their natural
ABOVE: Six-month-old Spring hides in an artificial pouch. At birth, an immature young, weighing about
ABOVE: Six-month-old Spring hides in an artificial pouch. At birth, an immature young, weighing about

ABOVE: Six-month-old Spring hides in an artificial pouch. At birth, an immature young, weighing about 2g and the size of

a jelly bean, will move to the pouch and find a teat, which swells to

prevent the joey from falling out.

It will remain attached to this for

about five months. During that time, the wombat will grow a thin layer of fur

LEFT: Linda Tabone is a foster mother who works for Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. She is one of many volunteers that support this animal rescue service. Forty wombats have come into Linda’s care over the past four years and she has raised 24 through to release

the past four years and she has raised 24 through to release Suzi Eszterhas is an

Suzi Eszterhas is an award- winning wildlife photographer based in California. She is well known for documenting rescued animals. Find out more at www.suzieszterhas.com.

Airborne Event is a piece of art created by Fred Tomaselli in 2003

Airborne Event is a piece of art created by

Fred Tomaselli in 2003

PHOTO: FRED TOMASELLI - AIRBORNE EVENT 2003 - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND JAMES COHAN NEW YORK

THE

A to Z

OF YOU

Our bodies contain some 30 trillion cells, and a new project aims to map the molecular signature of every single one

WORDS: KAT ARNEY

M apping the human body is one of biology’s oldest

endeavours. By studying the battered bodies of

Roman gladiators, the 2nd-century philosopher-

surgeon Galen of Pergamon wrote medical texts

that stood as the pinnacle of anatomical knowledge

for more than 1,000 years, until the Flemish doctor Andreas Vesalius came up with more accurate works. But it wasn’t until

the invention of the first practical microscope in the mid-1600s,

a century after Vesalius’s death, that curious scientists could

finally begin to study cells – the building blocks that make up our tissues and organs. Just as studying the tiniest subatomic particles has helped physicists to unravel the workings of the cosmos, so biologists have found that zooming in on our individual cells can reveal new insights into the human body. For a long time, this has been the domain of pathologists, studying the physical appearance of cells and tissues, along with a relatively limited number of molecular markers. But, backed by the exciting new science of single-cell genomics,

a project called the Human Cell Atlas is aiming to create

the ultimate inventory of the human body, mapping every single one of our cells in intricate detail. And the resulting guidebook could revolutionise our understanding of health and disease.

CELLULAR SCIENCE

It’s long been clear that cells in different organs look and behave

PHOTOS: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY, WELLCOME IMAGES X2 ILLUSTRATIONS: ACUTE GRAPHICS

LIBRARY, WELLCOME IMAGES X2 ILLUSTRATIONS: ACUTE GRAPHICS science The Human Body 48 in their own distinctive

science The Human Body

48
48

in their own distinctive ways. For example, spherical immune cells are primed to recognise infections, while spidery nerve cells crackle with hundreds of connections. Nevertheless, each cell still has the same basic set of instructions in the form of the

human genome, encoded within our DNA. The thing that makes each cell type different is the particular set of genes active within it, producing molecular messages called RNA. And because

a particular pattern of gene activity will be unique to a specific

cell type, the RNA made within it will be unique too, acting as

a kind of molecular ‘fingerprint’. For several decades, researchers have been able to measure the activity of genes in different cell types (known as gene expression) by mashing up millions of cells and analysing the different RNAs, getting a read-out of which genes are switched on and which are off. Yet this is only an average, and this method can’t pick up differences between individual cells. It’s like looking at a crowd from a distance and only seeing a colourful blur, rather than the exact hue of each person’s shirt. But, thanks to recent advances in technology, we can now zoom right in to look at gene activity in a single cell (see diagram below). A typical human body contains around 30 trillion cells, but, while it is often said that there are around 200 different types, more detailed molecular analysis has revealed that this is a massive underestimate. Is every cell in the liver exactly the same, or have we only been measuring averages? What about the billions of neurons in the brain, or the multitude of distinct immune cells? These questions provided the spark for the Human Cell Atlas, which aims to map gene expression patterns in billions of individual cells.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

The idea flickered to life in 2012 when geneticist Dr Sarah Teichmann came to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge to set up a research group studying gene activity in single cells in the mouse immune system. Over coffee and conversation with her new colleagues, she realised that her techniques might solve a much bigger challenge. “Despite centuries of microscopy, we don’t actually fully

understand the different cell types in the body,” she says. “When

I came to the Sanger Institute, we started bouncing ideas around.

It was a bit utopian because the technology just wasn’t there yet,

HOW IT WORKS:

SINGLE-CELL

GENOMICS

In order to measure the gene activity in a single cell, you need to isolate its RNA – the molecular messages produced when genes are switched on. By comparing the sequences of these messages with the whole genome (the complete set of DNA contained inside every cell), researchers can figure out which genes are being expressed in any particular cell at that time.

DECEMBER 2017

expressed in any particular cell at that time. DECEMBER 2017 but we thought: what if someday

but we thought: what if someday it would be possible to atomise a human body – take a human and look at all their cells. Of course, you’re not vaporising a whole person, but we thought we could take tiny samples from many different people and stitch it all together into a kind of universal atlas.” With trillions of cells to analyse, this isn’t the kind of task that a single laboratory, or even a single institute, can handle alone. Teichmann and her colleagues soon realised that a number of other researchers were starting to have the same thoughts as they were – notably Dr Aviv Regev at the Broad Institute in Massachusetts – and began to build an international consortium of single-cell enthusiasts ranging from geneticists and molecular biologists to surgeons and machine learning specialists. So far, the team has committed to studying four types of tissue: the brain, the immune system, epithelial tissue (which lines the surfaces of organs and blood vessels), and foetal and placental cells. As well as cataloguing the cells of healthy people, a key part of the project will be to understand how cells change their activity when we get sick, so cancer cells are on the initial list, too.

ROBOT RESEARCHERS

The scale of the Human Cell Atlas and the accuracy required means that this is no longer the kind of work that can be done by hand. To find out more about the technology involved, I visited Dr Stephan Lorenz. He heads up the single-cell genomics facility at the Sanger Institute, where a significant proportion of the work for the Human Cell Atlas will be carried out. He shows me around several large rooms full of huge cabinets containing an army of high-tech, liquid-handling robots for preparing and processing single-cell samples, supervised by just two human staff. One impressive machine isn’t so much a sonic screwdriver as a sonic sampler, using sound pulses to whack precisely-measured microscopic drops of liquid from one plastic plate to another. Another can process more than 1,200 samples in 90 minutes. “Over the last couple of years, there’s been an explosion of methods that allow us to measure these tiny quantities of RNA that are present in a single cell,” he says. “We can now understand how cells ‘think and feel’ and see inside the ‘mind’ of a single cell. By looking at the messages in cells, we can infer their function and even their identity.” What’s more, he explains, he can even see how individual cells in the immune system change when they are

individual cells in the immune system change when they are 1 Separate tissue sample into single
individual cells in the immune system change when they are 1 Separate tissue sample into single

1 Separate tissue sample into single cells, using high-powered focused laser beams, enzymes or other techniques.

2 Break open each cell to release the RNA messages.

Modern images of blood cells taken with scanning electron microscopes (main image) offer far more detail than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845

than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845 3 Convert the RNA into DNA –
than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845 3 Convert the RNA into DNA –
than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845 3 Convert the RNA into DNA –
than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845 3 Convert the RNA into DNA –
than earlier microscope images, like these published in 1845 3 Convert the RNA into DNA –

3 Convert the RNA into DNA – this process is known as reverse transcription.

4 Amplify the DNA thousands or even millions of times to get enough material to sequence.

5 Read the DNA using next-generation sequencing tech.

6 Analyse results to work out which genes are active, producing a gene expression profile for that cell. Repeat for cells around the body!

science The Human Body 50 SENSATIONAL CELLS THE HUMAN CELL ATLAS IS INITIALLY FOCUSED ON

science The Human Body

50
50

SENSATIONAL CELLS

THE HUMAN CELL ATLAS IS INITIALLY FOCUSED ON FIVE TYPES OF CELL…

BRAIN

The brain is probably the most complex organ in the body, made up of more than 86 billion nerve cells (neurons). By mapping all the patterns of gene activity in different brain cells, researchers hope to understand how neurons wire up and communicate, and what goes wrong in psychiatric and neurodegenerative illnesses.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

There are hundreds of types of cell in the immune system alone, each with distinct roles in spotting and responding to infections or disease. Analysing each cell type will reveal the changes that happen as the immune system fires into action, and will shed light on autoimmune conditions and allergies.

EPITHELIAL CELLS

Epithelial cells are one of the most versatile cell types. They make the linings of our organs, ranging from the tubes of the gut to the delicate air sacs of the lungs. Establishing how epithelial cells carry out such a diverse range of roles will explain how organs grow and are affected by diseases such as cancer.

PLACENTA AND FOETUS

Studying these tissues will reveal how we grow and develop in the womb, and how a healthy placenta develops to provide oxygen and nutrients. This will give us vital clues for understanding what has gone wrong in babies who are born with developmental disorders, or when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage or stillbirth.

CANCER

By analysing gene activity in single cancer cells, researchers hope to identify the changes that trigger the growth and spread of tumours. They are also searching for clues to explain how these rogue cells can develop resistance to therapy, with the aim of finding ways to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment.

to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or
to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or
to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or
to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or
to prevent the disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or

DECEMBER 2017

disease coming back again after treatment. DECEMBER 2017 activated to fight infection, or watch the genes

activated to fight infection, or watch the genes that are switched on and off as one cell splits into two. Yet RNA messages aren’t the only thing that gives a cell its identity. RNA carries instructions to make proteins, which build physical structures inside cells and carry out biological functions in the body (for example, digestive enzymes in the stomach or sturdy keratin proteins that make up our skin and hair). Lorenz and his colleagues are now developing methods to analyse all the proteins inside a single cell. It currently takes about three weeks to analyse all the RNA in an individual cell, though the process is speeding up all the time. Perhaps an even bigger challenge than analysing all of the cells is coping with the quantity of data generated. Around 850,000 messages are sequenced per cell. Multiply that by millions of cells, and it quickly adds up.

“WE CAN NOW UNDERSTAND HOW CELLS ‘THINK AND FEEL’ AND SEE INSIDE THE ‘MIND’ OF A CELL”

To help with this, the Human Cell Atlas consortium secured funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (set up by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan) to develop ways to process and present the torrent of information coming from the sequencing labs. Making the Atlas searchable and useable is vital if it is to become a meaningful resource for scientists. Although Teichmann doesn’t yet know how the data will be presented, she does have one fun idea. “The really futuristic vision is that we will all be wearing virtual reality headsets and be able to look at a virtual body to point out parts that we want to see,” she says.

MAPPING THE FUTURE

It’s still early days for this incredibly ambitious project, which officially kicked off in October 2016, but Teichmann thinks it’s feasible. “I would say for a draft Atlas, we need to analyse between approximately 30 million and 1 billion cells,” she explains. “Over the last eight years, there has been an exponential decrease in cost per cell and an exponential increase in the

PHOTOS: GETTY X5, SANGER INSTITUTE

A laboratory at the Sanger Institute, where a lot of the Human Cell Atlas research will be carried out

number of cells per experiment. If that trend continues we are in good shape.” As well as satisfying our scientific curiosity about what we’re all made of, Teichmann sees the Atlas as a source of huge potential benefits for biomedical research, revealing leads for new drugs or finding molecules that act as biomarkers for diagnosing and monitoring disease. At a deeper level, she hopes it will answer fundamental questions about the links between genes and health. As an example, she mentions the harmful change (mutation) in a gene called CFTR that causes cystic fibrosis, which affects the lungs and other organs. “We know that CFTR is active in the lungs, but, in fact, is expressed in other parts of the body, too. So you could interrogate the Human Cell Atlas and find those cells, to understand why things are going wrong when it’s mutated,” she explains. “Or say you want to know the side effects of a drug that targets the product of a particular gene. You could search the Atlas to see where that gene is expressed – which organs, tissues and cells – and then predict what the

anticipated side effects might be.” Understanding exactly what has gone wrong in a wide range of diseases, quickly identifying which cells and which molecules are misbehaving, will help doctors to diagnose conditions faster and select the most appropriate treatment with less of the guesswork that goes on at the moment. Ultimately, Teichmann and her team see the Human Cell Atlas as a fundamental resource that will one day have an impact on almost every aspect of biology and medicine. Perhaps we could even call it Human Genome 2.0. “I like that!” she laughs. “The Human Genome Project was all about deciphering the DNA sequence, but the Human Cell Atlas is asking what does that sequence actually stand for? How is the genetic code read out to make a human body? It really is mind-blowing!”

read out to make a human body? It really is mind-blowing!” KAT ARNEY is a science

KAT ARNEY is a science writer and broadcaster who presents The Naked Scientists every week on BBC Radio 5 Live. Her latest book, How To Code A Human, is out now (£16.99, Andre Deutsch).

science The Human Body 52 ENDL ENERGY Hectic lives don’t have to go hand-in-hand with

science The Human Body

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52

ENDL

ENERGY

science The Human Body 52 ENDL ENERGY Hectic lives don’t have to go hand-in-hand with feeling

Hectic lives don’t have to go hand-in-hand with feeling drained. Read on to find out how the latest research will eliminate tiredness for good

Words: SIMON CROMPTON

C AN you keep your eyes open long enough to read this feature? We won’t be offended if you can’t. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that one in five of us feels unusually tired at any one time, and one in 10 feels permanently fatigued. Tiredness and fatigue are

behind 20 per cent of UK doctor consultations, according to a recent survey of GPs. No wonder doctors are regularly jotting down a handy new acronym – TATT (Tired All The Time) – in patient notes. Tiredness is no joke. Sleep deprivation brings a heavy mental and physical toll. Around 20 per cent of accidents on major roads are sleep-related, according to the Department of Transport. Plus, people who are sleep-deprived lose the ability to be positive-minded, which researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the USA, say is likely to increase the likelihood of depression. There’s also evidence that sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Even if you’re getting enough sleep, feeling constantly fatigued can be bad for you. Research from the University of Alabama has found that working hard while fatigued increases blood pressure. This is because tired people increase their effort to make up for their diminished capability when they want to accomplish a task. For those with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and cancer, it severely restricts quality of life.

DECEMBER 2017

with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and cancer, it severely restricts quality of life.

ESS

ESS ILLUSTRATION: MAITÉ FRANCHI
ILLUSTRATION: MAITÉ FRANCHI
ILLUSTRATION: MAITÉ FRANCHI

PHOTOS: GETTY X2

PHOTOS: GETTY X2 science The Human Body 54 BELOW A mitochondrion, a cell’s ‘power pack’, has

science The Human Body

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54

BELOW A mitochondrion, a cell’s ‘power pack’, has a highly folded inner membrane that’s packed with substances involved in the creation of ATP, which the body uses for energy

“Some of us may simply have been born with a physical and psychological susceptibility to tiredness”

a physical and psychological susceptibility to tiredness” For millions of others, unexplained tiredness regularly

For millions of others, unexplained tiredness regularly rumbles in the background. Is there something wrong with us? Are we the victims of hectic 24-hour lifestyles? Why are we tired all the time? Until now, little has been known about the biological processes that result in what we call tiredness or fatigue. Only in recent decades, with growing concern about the prevalence of conditions such as CFS/ME, has research money been invested into the causes of long-term fatigue. And it is becoming clear that, although there is a wide spectrum of tiredness types, they are all linked and their causes interact. Prof Julia Newton, director of the Newcastle Centre for Fatigue Research at Newcastle University, in the UK, explains the causes of tiredness via a classic bell-shaped curve graph. “At the thin end of the curve, there are people who just need to get some sleep and get their lifestyle in order. At the other thin end of the curve, there are clearly people who have diagnosed or undiagnosed illness that is causing fatigue. And then, there’s everything else in the wide middle part of the curve.” The wide middle is the complex bit, covering tiredness caused by combinations of many environmental, lifestyle and health factors. And recent research is beginning to reveal how genetics, cell function, inflammation and the brain’s response to light may all have an underlying role in this tiredness ‘mainstream’.

have an underlying role in this tiredness ‘mainstream’. DECEMBER 2017 ARE YOU SLEEP- DEPRIVED OR FATIGUED?

DECEMBER 2017

role in this tiredness ‘mainstream’. DECEMBER 2017 ARE YOU SLEEP- DEPRIVED OR FATIGUED? Researchers use a

ARE YOU SLEEP- DEPRIVED OR FATIGUED?

Researchers use a simple sleep latency test to find out whether

people who are constantly tired are sleep-deprived or fatigued

for other reasons. If you lie down somewhere quiet during

the day and fall asleep within a few minutes, you are either

lacking sleep or potentially suffering from a sleep disorder.

If you don’t drop off within 15 minutes, fatigue is the problem.

don’t drop off within 15 minutes, fatigue is the problem. TIRED BODIES At a cellular level,

TIRED BODIES

At a cellular level, scientists are increasingly looking at the role of mitochondria – the power packs in every human cell – in determining how tired we feel. Mitochondria are miniature organs (organelles) that convert oxygen, sugar, fats and protein into a form of chemical energy, called ATP, which the body uses to fuel the brain and muscles. Diseases affecting the mitochondria cause fatigue, so recent reviews of research suggest that fatigue is closely associated with mitochondria not working properly because the body is not producing particular enzymes, for example. Studies into CFS/ME by American fatigue expert Dr Robert Naviaux have shown that the condition is characterised by changes in mitochondria function. Naviaux believes that these changes may be triggered by stressors such as infection, or physical and psychological trauma. Naviaux cites new literature indicating that stress can prompt metabolic changes, which make organisms go into hibernation-like states such as torpor, diapause and aestivation. “Each of these is an energy conservation state that permits survival under conditions of environmental stress at the expense of a decrease in the ability to allocate energy for daily work or activity,” he says. “Mitochondria are central control points for each of these processes.” This exploratory research about the metabolic origins of fatigue may link with other studies suggesting that, sometimes, tiredness has underlying but undiscovered physical origins. For example, recent studies have indicated that severe fatigue is associated with raised levels of leptin, a hormone produced in fat tissue, which signals to the brain that the body has adequate energy stores. This raises the prospect that too much leptin – possibly from too much body fat – means we naturally feel less energetic: if we

don’t need food, we don’t need to go out and do something about it. This
don’t need food, we don’t need to go out and do something about it. This

don’t need food, we don’t need to go out and do something about it. This links with anecdotal evidence that intermittent fasting and reducing body fat can improve people’s energy levels. It also links with research indicating that people with CFS/ME can have high levels of leptin and similar inflammation-producing substances called cytokines. Cytokines, which are also produced in fat, are released during immune responses. Studies have shown that low-grade inflammation robs mice of their energy to run on a wheel. This suggests that underlying tissue inflammation – whether it’s in response to a virus, a long-term condition or a problem with cytokine regulation – can be enough to make us feel weary. Scientists in the Netherlands have now started a major new trial to find out whether anakinra, an anti-inflammatory drug that blocks a particular

cytokine, brings an improvement in people with CFS/ME. Newton is clear that these related underlying physical vulnerabilities may be a factor in everyone’s continuing tiredness – not just those with a diagnosed condition. “The day-to-day fatigue that GPs see definitely relates to chronic illness. The two aren’t separate,” she says.

NATURALLY SLEEPY

There’s new research to suggest some of us may simply have been born with a physical and psychological susceptibility to tiredness.Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK analysed the genetic make-up of 111,749 people who indicated they felt tired in the two weeks before samples were collected for the UK Biobank. They found a genetic link between those who reported tiredness and those prone to diabetes, schizophrenia, high cholesterol or obesity. “This raises the possibility of a genetic link between tiredness and vulnerability to physiological stress,” said the team, led by Prof Ian Deary.

PHOTOS: SCIENCE PHOTOS: GETTY PHOTO X2, LIBRARY, SCIENCE GETTY PHOTO X7 LIBRARY

PHOTO X2, LIBRARY, SCIENCE GETTY PHOTO X7 LIBRARY science The Human Body 56 The eye detects

science The Human Body

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The eye detects light, sending signals to the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, where the body’s ‘circadian
The eye detects
light, sending signals to the
brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus,
where the body’s ‘circadian clock’
is housed

However, the researchers also said that the majority of people’s differences in self-reported tiredness can be put down to environmental causes rather than genetic factors. So how we live our lives, and what happens to us, is of first importance. And the significance of our relationship to daylight is becoming increasingly clear. For decades, we’ve been told that keeping regular habits and sleeping hours is important. Now, research has confirmed the importance of a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that responds to light signals fed from the eye. When it’s light, the SCN messages other parts of the brain to release hormones that make us feel alert, and, when it’s dark, it signals for the release of hormones that make us feel sleepy, like melatonin.

NEVER

BE

TIRED

AGAIN

THE SEVEN CAUSES OF FATIGUE AND HOW YOU CAN BEAT THEM

SOCIAL JETLAG LACK OF EXERCISE CABIN FEVER Many of us like to treat ourselves to
SOCIAL JETLAG LACK OF EXERCISE CABIN FEVER Many of us like to treat ourselves to
SOCIAL JETLAG LACK OF EXERCISE CABIN FEVER Many of us like to treat ourselves to

SOCIAL JETLAG

LACK OF EXERCISE

CABIN FEVER

Many of us like to treat ourselves to

Although excessive exercise can cause

Light, fresh air and stimulation are all

a

weekend lie-in after getting up early for

short-term fatigue, long-term tiredness

important for brain health and SCN

work all through the week. But going to

is associated with too little activity.

functioning, so being cooped up indoors

sleep and waking up at different times can

A University of Georgia review of research

all the time can worsen mood and lower

disrupt your circadian rhythms – the brain’s

found 90 per cent of studies agree that

energy levels. We’re particularly prone to

natural timing of sleep and wakefulness

people who exercise regularly report less

this during the winter, when days are dark,

hormone release. This ‘social jetlag’ is

fatigue than groups who don’t. Exercise

we’re stuck indoors, and short-term cabin

associated with sleepiness, feelings of

increases levels of energy-promoting and

fever can eventually become seasonal

fatigue, bad mood and health problems.

mood-enhancing neurotransmitters such

affective disorder (SAD). SAD,

A

recent study from the Sleep and Health

as dopamine, norepinephrine and

characterised by depression and feelings

Research Program at the University of

serotonin. It also resets the SCN, the part

of tiredness, is believed to be caused by

Arizona suggests that each hour of weekday

of

the brain that regulates sleep and

lack of sunlight, which disrupts the brain’s

to

weekend lag brings an 11 per cent

wakefulness hormones. And exercise

production of mood and sleep-regulating

increase in the likelihood of heart disease.

reduces fat stores, which seem to be

brain chemicals such as melatonin

associated with long-term fatigue.

and serotonin.

TIP: Avoid weekend lie-ins and late nights,

TIP: Try and find forms of exercise that fit

TIP: Try and pop outdoors every couple

and keep to the same sleep-wake pattern

in

with your lifestyle and what you enjoy,

of hours, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

whether you’re a night owl or a morning

rather than automatically investing in

It will clear your brain and may help with

lark. Using an app or a tracker to chart

a

gym membership. This way, you’ll

lethargy and fatigue. Go outside during

your sleep patterns can help.

probably be more inclined to stick to it.

your lunch break, rather than spending

 

it at your desk.

DECEMBER 2017

be more inclined to stick to it. your lunch break, rather than spending   it at
If our habits are regular, our brain adjusts to release hormones at the right time.

If our habits are regular, our brain adjusts to release hormones at the right time. If they’re not, we end up in constant conflict with our natural circadian rhythm. The blue imitation daylight emitted from computer screens and smartphones can confuse our SCN further, especially if we’re using our screens at night. Our brain is tricked into thinking it’s day when it’s not, and we end up feeling awake when we should be sleepy, so we don’t get such a good night’s rest. There’s increasing public and scientific interest in using what are known as ‘chronobiotic agents’ to adjust the body clock to counter sleep problems, tiredness and mood disorders. Studies investigating whether taking melatonin tablets reduces fatigue have been mixed, and doctors warn against overuse of the supplement. But some new types of antidepressants, such as agomelatine, work by regulating circadian rhythms and there’s evidence they improve daytime functioning and reduce fatigue.

they improve daytime functioning and reduce fatigue. Some of us are tired for the simplest of

Some of us are tired for the simplest of reasons, yet unaware of it, says Newton. She sees hundreds of patients in her fatigue clinic in Newcastle in the UK, and, for many, the cause is almost too obvious for them to see. “It’s amazing how many people don’t associate their daytime fatigue with poor night-time sleep,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of getting enough sleep. People tend to just carry on doing what they’ve always done and don’t rest properly. “People are amazed when I ask them to do an activity diary, and then I ask: ‘Well, when actually do you rest?’ And they say: ‘I’m resting here, when I’m on Facebook’. And I have to tell them, sorry, but that’s not resting. “We’re in a society on a treadmill. We’re all push, push, push. And sometimes that just isn’t sustainable, physically and mentally.”

that just isn’t sustainable, physically and mentally.” SIMON CROMPTON is a freelance writer and editor who

SIMON CROMPTON is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in science, health and social issues.

editor who specialises in science, health and social issues. DIET   CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL The trouble
DIET   CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL The trouble with drinking coffee is that you need to
DIET   CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL The trouble with drinking coffee is that you need to
DIET   CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL The trouble with drinking coffee is that you need to
DIET   CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL The trouble with drinking coffee is that you need to

DIET

 

CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL

The trouble with drinking coffee is that you need to keep drinking it: one of

 

DRUGS

 

WORRY AND DEPRESSION

Lack of sleep and fatigue are strongly linked with depression and anxiety. Some researchers believe that widespread depression could be the reason why so many of us feel constantly tired. Studies carried out by the Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience back up this link.

Researchers measured brain oxygen levels when people undertook various physical and mental tasks, and found that they fatigued more quickly when completing

Being overweight can cause tiredness because your body is having to work harder to perform everyday activities.

Fatigue can be caused by prescribed and recreational drugs. It has been reported as a side effect of statins, allergy medications, hormone therapy and many

It

also increases your risk of a condition

the commonest symptoms of caffeine withdrawal is fatigue. Research from the Johns Hopkins Medical School found that, although caffeine drinkers think their drink of choice improves their performance and mood, in fact it just counteracts the adverse effects of caffeine withdrawal by

called obstructive sleep apnoea – where the tissues in the throat collapse during sleep, causing airway blockage.

cancer treatments. According to Frank, the drug information organisation, the high experienced with drugs such as cocaine, speed and ecstasy is often followed by

comedown of tiredness and depression. Scientists at Imperial College London demonstrated that smoking marijuana

a

This leads to constant sleep interruption and daytime tiredness. What you eat is also important. Low levels of iron and

B

vitamins can cause tiredness. And

bringing them back to normal levels of functioning.Alcohol causes tiredness too. Short-term, it can result in restless sleep and dehydration. Long-term, it can lead to anxiety and depression, which are linked to lethargy and sleeplessness.

having a diet high in fast-burning sugary carbohydrates, like cakes and biscuits, can leave you feeling tired when the energy rush quickly wears off.

long-term lowers levels of brain dopamine

a chemical that plays a key role in how

complex mental activities. The brain’s resources were being divided. So stress and mental frustration are likely to make us tire more easily, the researchers say.

we experience motivation, pleasure and reward. This can result in a lack of energy and motivation.

TIP: Dietitians recommend a balanced diet, including complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, brown rice,

TIP: Test whether caffeine or alcohol are the culprits for making you tired. Don’t drink them for at least a week, so you get over any withdrawal symptoms, and see whether you start feeling better.

TIP: If you’re on prescription medications, look up possible side effects on the leaflet that comes in the box. Visit your doctor or pharmacist to discuss any concerns. For info about drugs, visit talktofrank.com

TIP: Try an NHS quiz at bit.ly/mood_quiz to help establish whether your state of mind is behind your tiredness. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from depression, visit

beans, oats and pulses, which are slowly metabolised by the body and lead to less

of

an energy dip.

   

your doctor.

science Sexy Scents 58 The Science Of CHEMICAL ATTRACTION Perfumes and other airborne aromas can

science

Sexy Scents

58
58

The Science Of

CHEMICAL

ATTRACTION

Perfumes and other airborne aromas can tell a potential partner a lot about you. SARAH CASTOR-PERRY reveals the science of sexy scents

you. SARAH CASTOR-PERRY reveals the science of sexy scents Fragrances come from peculiar places Musk (a

Fragrances come from peculiar places

Musk (a base note with a woody, animal aroma) was originally extracted from the anal scent glands of the African civet cat or musk deer. Ambergris is even weirder: it’s a waxy substance regurgitated by sperm whales in response to stomach irritation. Freshly thrown- up ambergris isn’t easy on the nose but, as it floats and ages, it develops an aromatic, earthy scent. Ambergris is so rare that, in 1908, a lump weighing 500kg sold for the equivalent of £500,000. Musk and ambergris have been replaced by synthetic alternatives because the animals that produce them are now protected.

Personality influences which perfumes we pick

In the 1980s, the ‘fragrance psychologist’ Joachim Mensing found that extroverts prefer fresh scents, such as citrus notes like bergamot (right). Introverts prefer the perfumes of eastern Asia, including sandalwood and jasmine, and those with ‘emotional instability’ like powdery florals, like roses and violets. Mensing went on to work with Estée Lauder and Davidoff.

Mensing went on to work with Estée Lauder and Davidoff. Perfumes are made from sexy secretions

Perfumes are made from sexy secretions

The ‘top notes’ of perfumes – the small, volatile molecules we smell first – are highly scented and often come from the secretions of flowers. ‘Mid notes’, which can include frankincense (above) will give perfumes an overall 'roundness', whereas base notes are heavy molecules designed to linger long after the scent is applied. The mid notes also disguise the initially unpleasant smell of base notes, whose chemical compositions are often similar to sex hormones secreted by mammals.

Flowers smell like insect pheromones

Red roses are not the only option for Valentine’s Day. Most perfumes contain floral elements, which often aim to mimic insect pheromones and attract pollinators. These secretions are extracted directly from the flower or designed to imitate their scent. From jasmine and rose to gardenia and orange blossom, floral elements form an important part of a perfume’s bouquet.

DECEMBER 2017

and rose to gardenia and orange blossom, floral elements form an important part of a perfume’s

DAVID HOSKING/FLPA, THINKSTOCK, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY X2, ILLUSTRATION BY MAGICTORCH

PHOTOGRAPH: JYOTHY KARAT

Chemists reverse-engineer natural aromas

If you love a smell, you can bottle it. Thanks to

so-called headspace technology, chemists are able to place an airtight glass sphere or flask around

a flower or object, suck out the air, and trap the

volatile scent compounds in a filter. These are analysed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to determine that scent’s 'recipe', which can then be synthesised in a lab. One example of the headspace technology created by perfume manufacturers is the ‘Living Flower’ system, invented by Braja Mookherjee of International Flavors and Fragrances in 1985.

Mookherjee of International Flavors and Fragrances in 1985. We can smell genetic compatibility In 1995, Claus

We can smell genetic compatibility

In 1995, Claus Wedekind had women sniff t-shirts worn by men for two days, then rate how attractive they thought the owners were. Genetics revealed that women prefer the smell of a man with major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes that differ from their own. More variety in MHC improves the immune system’s chances of fighting infections, so women might pick mates based on potentially producing healthier kids.

Humans produce pheromones

Some animals secrete pheromones, chemicals that affect another individual’s mood or behaviour. Detecting pheromones requires a ‘vomeronasal organ’. Despite not having a working organ, our bodies do release chemicals that could be considered ‘pheromones’. In 2007, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller showed that lap dancers get higher tips when they’re most fertile, suggesting that women give off sexy chemicals, while Saul Miller found that male testosterone levels increased when exposed to the scent of an ovulating woman.

We can also smell symmetry

In another sweaty t-shirt study, Randy Thornhill showed that women prefer the smell of men with symmetrical faces, and this preference is highest when a woman is ovulating. Symmetry is thought to reflect genetic quality and a lack of undesirable mutations. Symmetrical men have higher-quality sperm, larger bodies, more attractive faces and are socially dominant. Women are also more likely to have an affair with symmetrical men – their evolutionary urge to pass good genes to their offspring overtaking the social desire to not cheat on their partners.

Noses detect

vibrations

How do the molecules in scents produce the ‘smell’ we perceive? Some scientists claim that olfactory receptors in our noses respond to the shape of scent molecules. But biophysicist Luca Turin believes we distinguish between molecules based on how they vibrate at different frequencies. Turin has supported this theory by showing that two molecules with different shapes can both have a sweet, tobacco- like smell. This allowed him to create synthetic, useable alternatives to molecules that smell nice, but are too toxic for perfumes.

molecules that smell nice, but are too toxic for perfumes. Hairy armpits show off scents Underarm
Hairy armpits show off scents
Hairy armpits
show off scents
are too toxic for perfumes. Hairy armpits show off scents Underarm skin contains apocrine sweat glands

Underarm skin contains apocrine sweat glands (above) that release – mainly odour- free – sweat and pheromones. Hair provides a great breeding ground for bacteria, which will work on secretions in our underarm body odour and enhance their natural aromas. In the 1950s, dermatologist Walter Shelley found shaved armpits were less likely to be described as “odourous.”

science The Human Body 60 Your digestive system is home to a ‘second brain’, the

science The Human Body

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60

Your digestive system is home to a ‘second brain’, the Enteric Nervous System, that may affect mental processes such as mood

DECEMBER 2017

is home to a ‘second brain’, the Enteric Nervous System, that may affect mental processes such

PHOTO: GETTY

MEET YOUR

SECOND

Decision-making, mood, disease… scientists are discovering that the network of neurons in our gut is involved in a lot more than just digestion

WORDS: ROBERT MATTHEWS

BRAIN

Y OU’RE facing a big decision – whether that’s to go into a business partnership with a friend, say, or put money into a promising new idea. It’s a tough call, as there are very few hard facts to go on. So it’s time to use your second brain. Don’t worry, you’ve probably used your

second brain countless times before; it’s just that, when you did, you more likely referred to it as ‘gut instinct’.

New research is showing that this age-old phrase is surprisingly accurate. We really do have a second brain that influences our judgement, and much else besides. Known as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) – enteric meaning ‘to do with intestines’ – it’s an extensive network of brain-like neurons and neurotransmitters wrapped in and around our gut. Most of the time, we’re unaware of its existence, as its prime function is what one would expect: managing digestion. Yet the presence of all that brain-like complexity is no coincidence. The ENS is in constant communication with the brain in our skull via the body’s own information superhighway – the vagus nerve. And it’s now becoming clear that all those signals flowing back and forth can influence our decisions, mood and general well-being.

PHOTOS: NAOMI TJADEN, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS ILLUSTRATION: ACUTE GRAPHICS

TJADEN, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS ILLUSTRATION: ACUTE GRAPHICS science The Human Body 62 “Your gut has capabilities

science The Human Body

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“Your gut has capabilities that surpass all your other organs, and even rival your brain,” says ENS specialist Dr Emeran Mayer of the University of California, Los Angeles, who is author of a new account of the science of the ENS, The Mind-Gut Connection. “This second brain is made up of 50-100 million nerve cells, as many as are contained in your spinal cord.” Researchers worldwide are now racing to explore the implications. The results are revealing the key role of the ENS in everyday health – and also what happens when it malfunctions. Links are emerging between the ENS and a host of disorders ranging from obesity and clinical depression to rheumatoid arthritis and even Parkinson’s disease. That, in turn, is opening up new approaches to treating these conditions, with some quite promising results already appearing.

GLORIOUS GUTS

The ENS and the brain-gut connection look set to become a major focus for 21st-century medicine. Yet the first hints of its

The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) centres on the vagus nerve and the digestive tract ABOVE
The Enteric
Nervous System
(ENS) centres on
the vagus nerve
and the digestive
tract
ABOVE RIGHT:
Stimulating the
vagus nerve
externally via an
ear clip can help
with depression

DECEMBER 2017

via an ear clip can help with depression DECEMBER 2017 importance actually emerged over a century
via an ear clip can help with depression DECEMBER 2017 importance actually emerged over a century

importance actually emerged over a century ago, when researchers began making some strange discoveries about our digestive system. Experiments by British doctors on animal organs revealed that the stomach and intestines have the bizarre ability to work autonomously, processing food even after they’ve been removed from the rest of the body. The ENS, it seemed, was clearly far more sophisticated than just a bag of nerves surrounding various organs, though the reason for its complexity was far from clear. Then, in the 1980s, researchers made another startling discovery: the ENS is awash with neurotransmitters, the biochemicals that are vital to brain activity. By the late 1990s, researchers began talking of the ENS as the body’s second brain. That led to some misconceptions, says Mayer: “There was a lot of hype around the idea that the ENS may be the seat of our unconscious mind.” The reality is more nuanced and involves another of the key targets of current medical research: the microbiome. This vast array of bacteria, viruses and other organisms is found throughout the body, but the biggest and most diverse collection is in the gut. Like the ENS, these microbes are principally focused on the complex business of dealing with digestion. But their behaviour in the gut is constantly monitored by the ENS, and the information is relayed via the vagus nerve straight to the brain. A clue to the key role the state of our gut plays in our well-being comes from the fact that around 80 per cent of the vagus nerve is dedicated to reporting information to the brain. Suddenly, the idea of having a ‘gut instinct’ no longer seems so ridiculous. We’ve all experienced sensations like queasiness and butterflies when faced with challenges, or felt ‘sick to the stomach’ when things don’t go well. According to Mayer, the brain labels memories of such situations with the effect they had on our gut. The result is a rapid-access library that helps

around 80 per cent of the vagus nerve is dedicated to reporting information to the brain. Suddenly, the idea of having a ‘gut instinct’ no longer seems so ridiculous

VAGUSof having a ‘gut instinct’ no longer seems so ridiculous NERVE ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM Cerebellum Medulla

NERVE

‘gut instinct’ no longer seems so ridiculous VAGUS NERVE ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM Cerebellum Medulla vagus nerve

ENTERIC

NERVOUS SYSTEM Cerebellum Medulla vagus nerve Liver Stomach Pancreas Small Intestines Colon
NERVOUS
SYSTEM
Cerebellum
Medulla
vagus nerve
Liver
Stomach
Pancreas
Small
Intestines
Colon

THE BRAIN YOU NEVER KNEW YOU HAD

If you thought the only brain in your body is in your head, think again. Your grey matter is in constant communication with a vast network of neurons and neurotransmitters in your gut making up the so-called Enteric Nervous System (ENS). And the two are linked by an information superhighway known as the vagus nerve, which runs down each side of your neck and into your chest, branching out across your entire gut.

PHOTOS: GETTY, ISTOCK, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

PHOTOS: GETTY, ISTOCK, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY science The Human Body 64 Better knowledge of the ENS

science The Human Body

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Better knowledge of the ENS could help us treat conditions such as arthritis (pictured) BELOW:
Better knowledge of
the ENS could help us
treat conditions such
as arthritis (pictured)
BELOW: The
intestinal muscles are
full of nerve cell
bodies (black) and
their axons and
dendrites (yellow and
orange)
(black) and their axons and dendrites (yellow and orange) DECEMBER 2017 assess new challenges based –

DECEMBER 2017

axons and dendrites (yellow and orange) DECEMBER 2017 assess new challenges based – literally – on

assess new challenges based – literally – on gut feeling rather than conscious, rational thought. That’s not to say you should always go with your gut. “The quality, accuracy and underlying biases of this gut-brain dialogue vary between different individuals,” says Mayer. While fast, its response can also be warped by other life events or even what you ate. And, sometimes, it’s just plain wrong. Faced with a huge financial decision, cool-headed analysis is a better bet than a snap gut decision.

ELECTRIC FEEL

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the ENS influences our brain at deeper, more subtle levels as well. Evidence is emerging that the ENS influences our mood, and even plays a role in depression. Exactly how it does this is still unclear, but researchers are currently focusing their efforts on one of the many neurotransmitters that are found in the ENS:

serotonin. Imbalances in serotonin have been implicated in depression for a long time, which is why it is the target of many drugs that have been developed to treat the condition, such as Prozac. Yet around 95 per cent of the body’s serotonin is produced not by the brain, but by the ENS, and is affected by what we eat, the state of our microbiome and the signals sent along the vagus nerve to the brain.

By stimulating the gut to produce serotonin, it’s possible to affect eating behaviour, alleviate anxiety and even enhance brain functioning

This mind-brain connection is now leading to new approaches to treating depression. Studies have found that sending electrical pulses along the vagus nerve can influence the brain’s use of serotonin, helping to alleviate severe depression. Until recently, fitting patients with the necessary pulse-generating implant required invasive surgery. But researchers at Harvard University, the USA, and the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, China, have now developed a device that stimulates the vagus nerve externally, at the point where it’s most easily accessible: the ear. Tests of the clip-on device with 34 patients with clinical depression has already produced promising results, says research team member

HOW TO HACK FAT

Wave goodbye to treating obesity with gastric bands and bypasses

The obesity epidemic sweeping the world has led to a surge in the use of bariatric surgery to help the most seriously obese. The idea seems simple enough: by removing up to 75 per cent of a patient’s stomach, even small meals will be filling.But studies of patients undergoing such operations have revealed a more subtle effect:

the surgery also affects the vagus nerve connecting the enteric nervous system with the brain. This has opened the way to less radical methods of tackling obesity, by blocking the vagus nerve signals controlling appetite. A study published earlier this year reported that by using an implanted device developed by US company EnteroMedics, obese patients lost around a third of their excess weight over a year, with a quarter losing at least 50 per cent. Researchers in France have now set up a trial to see if similar success can be achieved using a device that does not require surgery.

Dr Peijing Rong: “This non-invasive, safe and low-cost method of treatment can significantly reduce the severity of depression in patients.” Recognition of the key role of the vagus nerve in gut-brain communication is leading to other conditions being treated in similar ways – including obesity. In July, the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences published the results of an international study of vagus nerve stimulation among patients with the crippling disease rheumatoid arthritis, which affects half a million people in the UK alone. The technique, which currently requires an implant, appeared to benefit some patients by reducing inflammation in the body, a phenomenon also linked to many other conditions including ulcerative colitis and cancer. Meanwhile, evidence is emerging for surprising links between the gut and other disorders usually thought to start elsewhere, such as Parkinson’s disease. A team led by Dr Elisabeth Svensson at Aarhus University, Denmark, recently reported that patients whose vagus nerves had been severed to treat other medical conditions benefited from a substantially reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s. Work is now underway to understand this link, and use it to treat or even prevent the degenerative nerve disease. “To be able to do this will naturally be a major breakthrough,” says Svensson.

REAL-TIME DATA

The explosion of research interest in the ENS is impressive, but it’s still early days in the quest to understand precisely how it works. Most of the trials of vagus nerve stimulation are pilot studies whose positive results may fade in bigger trials. The sheer complexity of the gut-brain connection is daunting,

says Dr Xiling Shen of Duke University, the USA:

“Disorders like irritable bowel syndrome are only diagnosed by symptoms, but their causes and mechanisms are completely unknown.” Together with colleagues at universities across the US, Shen is working on a key tool for unlocking the mysteries of the body’s second brain: a device capable of monitoring the action of the ENS in real time. The prototype, which is currently being used in animal studies, features an electronic implant that can show how the ENS responds to different neurotransmitters, drugs and diseases. This is already casting new light on how the second brain interacts with the one in our skull. According to Shen, by stimulating the gut to produce serotonin, it’s possible to affect eating behaviour, alleviate anxiety and even enhance brain functioning. And this is just the start, explains Shen:

“We are currently developing non-invasive ENS recording technology that will allow personalised and precision treatments.” At this rate of progress, we may all have to prepare ourselves for the day when our family doctor clips a device on our ear with the words:

“I just want to check on the state of your second brain.”

just want to check on the state of your second brain.” ROBERT MATTHEWS is visiting professor

ROBERT MATTHEWS is visiting professor in science at Aston University, Birmingham.

history India in Victorian Britain 66 & Cricket, curry cups of tea As Queen Victoria’s

history India in Victorian Britain

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&

Cricket,

curry

cups of tea

As Queen Victoria’s friendship with her Indian attendant is explored in the new film Victoria and Abdul, SHOMPA LAHIRI examines how the queen helped popularise India’s cultural influence in all areas of British society, from polo to pyjamas

in all areas of British society, from polo to pyjamas Indian princes and British Army officers
Indian princes and British Army officers in a polo team, c1880 ADVERTISING ARCHIVE/GETTY/ALAMY
Indian princes
and British Army
officers in a polo
team, c1880
ADVERTISING ARCHIVE/GETTY/ALAMY

DECEMBER 2017

pyjamas Indian princes and British Army officers in a polo team, c1880 ADVERTISING ARCHIVE/GETTY/ALAMY DECEMBER 2017
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Indians were visible everywhere, from Britain’s docks and buses to Inns of Court and medical schools

docks and buses to Inns of Court and medical schools 1 An advert from the 1890s

1 An advert from the 1890s exhorts

Britons to “drink & enjoy” Lipton’s teas

2 An 1888 painting of Abdul Karim,

Queen Victoria’s Indian assistant

T HEY cooked up Indian curries, played Indian sports, draped themselves in Indian textiles and even voted for Indian politicians. The Victorian era saw Britons falling in love with the culture of the subcontinent, and it seems that the people took their prompt from the very top. Queen Victoria herself declared a great interest in the empire’s largest possession and greatest trading partner, helping to popularise Indian delicacies, fashion, jewellery

and architecture. The genesis of this passion for India can be traced back to the 16th century, when British merchant adventurers began to import spices, dyes and, most importantly, textiles from India via newly-discovered sea routes. From 1600, the East India Company controlled this trade, and, from the 1750s, the commercial interests of the company were consolidated into outright political and territorial domination. After a massive rebellion against foreign rule in 1857, the British government decided to place India under the direct control of the crown the following year. Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India in 1877. Victoria’s interest in India sprang, at least in part, from her Indian assistant Abdul Karim, who came to Britain in 1887 to serve the queen. He rose within Victoria’s affections, as well as in status to the title of ‘Munshi’ (teacher or clerk), teaching the queen Hindi and Urdu and advising on all matters concerning India. Karim was one of a steady stream of Indian migrants coming to Britain during the 19th century (estimates suggest more than 110,000), including domestics, maritime workers, petitioners, performers, royalty, social reformers, students and travellers. Concentrated in Britain’s port cities, especially London, Indians were visible in Britain’s streets, docks, buses, trains, Inns of Court, medical schools, universities, exhibitions and parliament. Britons were most attracted to those aspects of Indian culture that they could readily consume, such as food and textiles. But this relationship wasn’t always mutually beneficial. While consumers profited from innovations in textile production in Britain, British machine-made textiles destroyed the Indian textile industry that had inspired them, and impoverished Indian weavers. For good and bad, Indian influences were discernible in all aspects of Victorian society, from novels such as the The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins to politics, sports, popular culture, fashion and diet.

FASHION AND HOME
FASHION AND HOME

A craze for the east

Victorians loved ‘Indian’ designs, which were produced all over Britain

Victorian fashion was heavily influenced by India – thanks to the use of Indian fabrics, including cotton and silk, in the making of British clothes. Britons also adopted and imitated Indian patterns, style, motifs and even garments – such as pyjamas and the Kashmir shawl. British women had worn the Kashmir shawl – to provide a little extra warmth over short-sleeved, lightweight dresses – since the mid-18th century. Soon, it had become a symbol of status, respectability and fashion, but one that was well out of the reach of all but the wealthiest women. However, in the mid-19th century, everything changed. By then, the demand for the shawl had reached such a crescendo that mills in Norwich, Edinburgh and Paisley, near Glasgow, began producing imitations. Suddenly, women of limited means could acquire shawls that, to the untrained eye, appeared to be made in India. Several emporiums opened in London to cater to the demand for both British and Indian-made shawls, among them the Liberty department store. Opening on Regent Street in 1875, it had soon expanded its range of Indian goods to stock not just shawls, cloaks, scarves and jewellery to adorn the body, but Indian fabric, furniture, carpets, rugs, incense burners and brasses to decorate the home as well.

history India in Victorian Britain 68 POPULAR CULTURE A shoemaker at the Empire of India

history India in Victorian Britain

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POPULAR CULTURE
POPULAR CULTURE
A shoemaker at the Empire of India Exhibition in White City, one of Victorian Britain’s
A shoemaker at
the Empire of India
Exhibition in White City,
one of Victorian
Britain’s many displays
of Indian culture

Passion ‑ and ignorance

India’s style was everywhere, yet Britons still knew very little about the country

Britons were continuously exposed to imperial propaganda through advertising, the press, education and the church, as well as popular culture. Theatrical productions with Indian themes – such as The Grand Mogul (1884), The Nautch Girl (1891) and Carnac Sahib (1899) – enjoyed long runs. The Indian pageant performed at Earl’s Court’s 6,000-seat Empress Theatre was particularly successful. Outside the theatre, Victorians were entertained by Indian street jugglers and musicians – or ‘Tom Tom players’, as the drummers were known in London. According to the Strand Magazine:

“Ask the average man for what India is most celebrated, and chances are 10 to one that he will ignore the glories of the Taj Mahal, the beneficence of British rule, even Mr Kipling, and will unhesitatingly reply in one word, ‘Jugglers’.” Another way ordinary Victorians encountered India and Indians was through exhibitions. Some 5.5 million people visited the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886. All aspects of Indian art, architecture, commerce and industry were exhibited, including a living exhibit of Indian ‘village’ artisans, who were, in fact, prisoners of Agra gaol. As this example proves, it was not just Indians who were put on display during the exhibition: Britons’ ignorance about Indian life was also subjected to the harsh light of satirical scrutiny.

FOOD AND DRINKS
FOOD AND DRINKS

Curry finds favour…

… plus, it’s thanks to cheaper Indian tea that the Great British tea break is invented

MARY EVANS/ADVERTISING ARCHIVES/NATIONAL ARCHIVES
MARY EVANS/ADVERTISING ARCHIVES/NATIONAL ARCHIVES

It was during the Victorian period that Britons fell in love with curry, a culinary concoction that is today Britain’s favourite dish. Though it was initially the preserve of the elite, by the 1860s, spicy food had percolated down into the middle and working-class diet. During that same period, curry powder, pastes, chutneys and pickles became available on a mass scale, manufactured by companies such as Crosse and Blackwell. Curry was also perceived to be nutritious and economical – particularly when used with leftover meats. Curry wasn’t the only Indian delicacy to delight the British palate. By 1900, Indian and Sri Lankan tea accounted for 90 per cent of Britain’s tea imports, a fact reflected in a marketing campaign for Lipton tea, which featured an Indian female plantation worker and sandwich-board men dressed as Indians. Like other colonial goods from India, tea was no longer restricted to an affluent minority. In fact, it became a staple of Victorian Britain, playing a central role in the rituals of daily life. It helped to structure the working day in the form of the tea break, and, among working-class families, it was even employed as a term to describe the meal at the end of the day. New forms of sociability developed around the beverage, which was drunk in a wide range of locations, including family gatherings, political meetings and, of course, tea shops.

An advert hails Indian curry relish as “delicious, piquant and appetizing,” 1890s

DECEMBER 2017

of course, tea shops. An advert hails Indian curry relish as “delicious, piquant and appetizing,” 1890s

BRIDGEMAN

POLITICS
POLITICS

Indians storm the barricades of parliament

and

they ask difficult questions about Britain’s attitude

to their homeland

The Victorian era saw the election of two Indians to the House of Commons. Dadabhai Naoroji became Liberal MP for Finsbury Central in 1892, while Mancherjee Bhownagree was elected Conservative MP for Bethnal Green in 1895. Naoroji was elected by just a few votes, earning him the nickname ‘Dadabhai narrow-majority’. Despite this, he was to become a household name – thanks, in part, to the Tory prime minister Lord Salisbury’s public declaration of doubt that Britons would elect “a black man”. Naoroji was a fierce critic of the Raj, arguing that British rule was draining India of up to £300m in the form of lost revenues, interest on loans and excess of exports over imports. By contrast, Bhownagree, known in India as ‘Bow-and-Agree’, was a supporter of British colonialism in India. The two men may not have shared the same views on Britain’s relationship with their homeland, but their rise to power ensured that India was discussed and debated at the symbolic heart of Victorian political life: parliament.

SPORTS
SPORTS

Reinventing cricket…

… and how the ancient art of Indian club swinging entered the classroom

Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji was arguably the most celebrated of all Indians in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, feted

as a sporting hero and adored by the British public. And that was because he was a master of a British obsession: cricket. Ranjitsinhji – or Ranji, as he was popularly known – achieved three notable firsts. He was the first Indian to gain

a place on a university cricket team, Trinity College, Cambridge; the first to captain a county cricket team, Sussex; and, most significantly, the first to represent England in test cricket. Widely acknowledged as one of the finest batsmen of the Victorian era and beyond, he brought innovation and style to cricket and changed the face of British sport. Yet, despite his legions of fans, Ranjitsinhji remained exotic, described in the British press “as graceful as a panther,” with “wrists supple and tough as a creeper of the Indian jungle” –

a man who turned cricket “into an oriental poem of action.” While cricket would go on to be widely popular, polo was

a more elite activity, introduced to Britain by Indian army

officers in the 1870s. Another subcontinental pastime brought to Britain in the 19th century was Indian club swinging. Originating from Hindu physical culture, this became

very popular form of gymnastic exercise for both men and women, spreading from the upper to the middle classes. Club swinging spawned exercise classes and competitions and became a part of physical education in schools.

a

and became a part of physical education in schools. a Shompa Lahiri is a research fellow

Shompa Lahiri is a research fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. Her books include Indian Mobilities in the West, 1900-947 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Indians in Britain (Frank Cass, 2000)

Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji’s prowess on the cricket pitch earned him 15 test caps and the adoration of the British public

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earth Travel 70 DECEMBER 2017
earth Travel 70 DECEMBER 2017

PHOTO: STEVE WINTER/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGES

SCIENTIFIC WONDERS TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE

Inspired by the USA’s recent solar eclipse? These equally impressive events and activities will activate your wanderlust…

WORDS: JAMIE CARTER

EXPLORE CRYSTAL CAVES INSIDE A GLACIER

Drive along Iceland’s iconic Ring Road and you’ll pass many enormous glaciers. Inside some of them are glorious ice caves with translucent walls that produce weird light in hundreds of shades of blue. It’s a photographer’s dream. “Most of them [the caves] are formed by water running either through tunnels in the ice, or on the ground underneath the glacier,” says landscape photographer Iurie Belegurschi at Iceland Photo Tours, who takes groups into the ice caves within the vast Vatnajökull glacier in southeastern Iceland. Although there are many ice caves in Iceland, Vatnajökull’s are the most accessible. Safety is still important, though. “It’s safe to visit ice caves from November to March when it’s coldest outside and they’re stable,” says Belegurschi. “But always get a professional, local ice cave guide, who will provide you with all the safety gear and know exactly which caves are safe to enter.”

WHERE TO GO: Southeastern Iceland WHEN TO GO: November-March

earth Travel 72 2 WITNESS A DESERT SUPERBLOOM Occasionally, the normally arid Mojave Desert, Sonoran

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WITNESS A DESERT SUPERBLOOM

Occasionally, the normally arid Mojave Desert, Sonoran Desert, and Chihuahuan Desert will burst into a carpet of yellow, purple,

and pink flowers. This is a superbloom, and it happens if there’s significant rainfall between September and January. “Each big bloom is different – it all depends on how much rain falls, and where,” says Ed Madej, a retired geographer, botanist and volunteer researcher at Death Valley National Park. “There’s one substantial wildflower bloom every 5.3 years on average, and

a superbloom on average once every 11.2 years.”

WHERE TO GO: Death Valley National Park, California, the USA WHEN TO GO: February-March

3

Park, California, the USA WHEN TO GO: February-March 3 WATCH ROCKETS LAUNCHING “Every launch is very

WATCH

ROCKETS

LAUNCHING

“Every launch is very impressive and exciting because you don’t know what will happen until the last moment,” says Dr Ken Kremer,

a science journalist and veteran

of over 80 rocket launches. “You hear the fire and fury for several minutes – seeing a launch in person is

a billion times better than watching on TV.”

You could do worse than visiting NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, or Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The current hot

ticket, though, is going to watch a SpaceX reusable rocket launch, then land back at Cape Canaveral.

WHERE TO GO: Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia or Kennedy Space Center, Florida BEST TIME TO GO: Check www.kennedyspacecenter.com or www.nasa.gov

DECEMBER 2017

www.kennedyspacecenter.com or www.nasa.gov DECEMBER 2017 BEHOLD A NEVERENDING LIGHTNING STORM Think lightning never

BEHOLD A NEVERENDING LIGHTNING STORM

Think lightning never strikes twice? The odds are more generous over the mouth of the Catatumbo River at Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, which hosts lightning storms for up to 297 nights a year, thanks to some freakish topographical conditions. Lake Maracaibo is a huge body of water surrounded by warm swamps, and encircled by the Andes. The intense solar radiation heats up the water, slowly saturating the atmosphere with water vapour. When cold winds push down from the Andes, they force this warm, moist air upwards, creating the perfect conditions for the development of dense, lightning-bearing cumulonimbus clouds. “Watching the Catatumbo lightning is an experience you will get nowhere else,” says Jonas Piontek, a German photographer who has travelled to Lake Maracaibo twice to capture the storms. “You are basically isolated from everyone: no network, no internet, no real civilisation around for a radius of at least 50km. It’s just you and nature, and one of the best shows on Earth.”

WHERE TO GO: Catatumbo Camp, Venezuela (www. catatumbotour.com) WHEN TO GO: October-November

4 PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, ALAMY, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
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PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, ALAMY, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

PEER INTO HELL

As attractions go, the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert is as strange as it is scorching. Back in 1971, Soviet geologists were searching the area for oil fields. Unbeknown to them, they had started their exploratory drilling on top of a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground collapsed, swallowing their equipment and opening up a huge crater. Fearing that toxic gases could harm local people, it was set on fire. This is called ‘flaring’, and is a familiar way of dealing with such a problem. But it backfired at Darvaza. Instead of burning for the expected two weeks, it’s been blazing non-stop ever since it was ignited. At around 60 x 20m, the largest crater is now a tourist attraction, which is referred to as the ‘Gates to Hell’. It’s best visited from Ashgabat, the country’s capital, about 250km south. Take an organised tour, specifically one that visits the crater at night when it’s at its most spectacular.

WHERE TO GO: Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan

WHEN TO GO: Anytime

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earth Travel 74 6 GA ZE AT LIQUID FIRE “So you’re walking through a valley

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GA ZE AT LIQUID FIRE

“So you’re walking through a valley and all of a sudden a waterfall catches on fire,” says photographer Dave Gordon. He is speaking about a phenomenon that takes place in Yosemite Valley’s Horsetail Falls during late February, when light from the setting Sun causes the flowing water to glow yellow, orange and red, mimicking fire. “It occurs once a year, for a few days in a row, each lasting mere minutes,” says Gordon. “So in total your chance of seeing a Yosemite waterfall turn into what looks like lava, or flowing fire, is about 60 minutes per year.” The spectacle relies on many things; the angle of the Sun as it sets, recent rainfall levels that feed the waterfall, and a clear sky. “There is something spiritual in being able to visually witness the astrophysics of our Solar System play out,” says Gordon. “How many points in time had to line up perfectly to make this exact moment happen? It’s nature at its absolute best.” Yosemite National Park also happens to be one of the most photogenic locations on the planet, making the Horsetail Falls phenomenon a favourite with photographers, so expect a stake-out if conditions are right.

WHERE TO GO: Yosemite National Park, California, the USA WHEN TO GO: Late February

DECEMBER 2017

are right. WHERE TO GO: Yosemite National Park, California, the USA WHEN TO GO: Late February

PHOTOS: GETTY X2, ALAMY

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OBSERVE HUNDREDS OF SHOOTING STARS

When comets tumble through the Solar System, they leave dust and rock in their wake. As Earth orbits the Sun, its path takes it through this debris. These chunks of space rock burn up as they pass into Earth’s atmosphere, causing a mesmerising light show. Although you can see a shooting star on any given night, there are a number of predictable meteor showers throughout the year. In December, stargazers watching the Geminids meteor shower can enjoy more than 100 shooting stars an hour. Meanwhile, May’s Eta Aquariids and October’s Orionids are worth a look – both are leftovers of the last visit of Halley’s Comet in 1986. However, the top choice is August’s Perseids, whose meteors often leave mesmerising trails in the sky. They’re the leftovers of Comet Swift-Tuttle’s passage through the Solar System in 1992. “Your best chance to see shooting stars is after midnight because then you are on the nightside of Earth as it hits the meteors head-on,” says John Barentine, programme manager at the International Dark-Sky Association in Phoenix, Arizona, the USA.

WHERE TO GO: Dark Sky Parks (www,darksky.org) WHEN TO GO: August or December

SEE COLOURFUL LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT SKY

The Northern Lights are more familiar, but the Southern Lights are well worth a visit too. “Dunedin in New Zealand is probably the easiest place to go if you want to see the Southern Lights, but it’s only got about as much chance as northern Scotland or England,” says Dr Melanie Windridge, author of Aurora: In Search Of The Northern Lights. Other good locations include Ushuaia, South Georgia Island, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica. “The trouble with the Southern Lights is that they happen mainly over the ocean or in Antarctica,” says Windridge. Auroras occur when charged particles emanating from the Sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, causing the electrons of the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. “When they hit oxygen they emit green, and also red higher up, while nitrogen emits blue and purple colours,” says Windridge.

WHERE TO GO: Dunedin, New Zealand WHEN TO GO: March-September

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emits blue and purple colours,” says Windridge. WHERE TO GO: Dunedin, New Zealand WHEN TO GO:

PHOTOS: GETTY X2, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGES

PHOTOS: GETTY X2, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IMAGES earth Travel 76 WATCH A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE Don’t worry

earth

Travel

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WATCH A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE

Don’t worry if you couldn’t make it out to the USA, this summer to witness the solar eclipse – they happen somewhere on Earth every 18 months. The spectacle is brief, but dramatic. “The sky suddenly darkens, and, if you’re watching with eclipse glasses, you will see the crescent of the Sun rapidly shrink and break up into a series of beads,” says eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler. “Then you see a beautiful diamond ring around the Moon.” Moments later, the Sun’s corona – its super-heated outer atmosphere – appears as an ice-white halo. To catch the next one, head out to Chile or Argentina for July 2, 2019.

WHERE TO GO: Chile or Argentina

WHEN TO GO: July 2 2019

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out to Chile or Argentina for July 2, 2019. WHERE TO GO: Chile or Argentina WHEN

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CHASE STORMS IN TORNADO ALLEY

“I’ve been a storm chaser and spotter since I was little,” says Nicholas Langley from the group Tornado Alley Chasers and Spotters. “I would sit outside my house in Tennessee watching storms roll in. It fascinates me how clouds can form out of thin air, then explode into monster supercells.” A tornado is caused by updraughts and downdraughts of unstable air during a thunderstorm, when a wind shear tilts to form an upright vortex. However, storm chasing comes with huge risks, particularly traffic accidents. “You get tunnel vision out there and you don’t see the surrounding area – you just see the tornado,” he says. Tornado Alley is generally regarded to include the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Tornadoes are typically active in those states between March and late May. Other areas of the world where violent tornadoes are frequent include an area of the Pampas lowlands in Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil, and coastal Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal.

Brazil, and coastal Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal. WHERE TO GO: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or

WHERE TO GO: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Nebraska, the USA

BEST TIME TO GO: March-May

history Indian Mythology They are the ones who saw what others could not see, writes

history

Indian Mythology

history Indian Mythology They are the ones who saw what others could not see, writes mythology

They are the ones who saw what others could not see, writes mythology expert DEVDUTT PATTANAIK, in the second part of this series on Indian mythologies

Sketches: Devdutt Pattanaik
Sketches: Devdutt Pattanaik
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DEVDUTT PATTANAIK , in the second part of this series on Indian mythologies Sketches: Devdutt Pattanaik

Ÿ Myth is a belief, an article of faith, which cannot be verified scientifically. Believers think it is true; non-believers feel it is false. While science restricts itself to ‘how’ questions (how did the world come into being, how are we born), myth answers ‘why’ questions (why does the world exist, why do we live, or die). Fiction is nobody’s truth. Fact is everybody’s truth. Myth is somebody’s truth. Ÿ Mythology is the vehicle of myth; it is a set of stories, symbols and rituals that communicates the myth that binds a community. The community transmits these stories, symbols and rituals over generations. Religious mythologies speak of god, demons, heaven, hell, soul, and rebirth. Secular mythologies speak of rights, justice, equality, and diversity. Ÿ Mythologies from India are the major mythologies that originated in India:

Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Belief in rebirth, hence karma, is common to all three of them.

in rebirth, hence karma, is common to all three of them. I F you have seen
in rebirth, hence karma, is common to all three of them. I F you have seen
in rebirth, hence karma, is common to all three of them. I F you have seen
in rebirth, hence karma, is common to all three of them. I F you have seen

I F you have seen films like The Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars, you would have seen characters who are called magicians and sorcerers, who seem to have a deep understanding of the world, and knowledge of spells by which to manipulate the forces of nature.

They are mysterious and powerful beings, very different from sword- and bow-wielding warriors. In Celtic mythology, they were known as druids. In Abrahamic mythology, they are known as prophets, with direct access to God. In Jain and Buddhist mythology, they are the arhats. In Hindu mythology, they are the rishis. Hindus believe that knowledge (veda, in Sanskrit) comes not from a human source, but from nature at large. This knowledge reveals itself to one who is clear in mind and pure of body. Such a person is called rishi, which means ‘one who can see what others overlook’. Rishis transmit knowledge through mantras or hymns. They have given the world techniques to converse with the forces of nature (mantra- samhita), the ancient lore of the gods and kings

(puranas), technology of space (vastu-shastra), time (jyotisha-shastra), and body (Ayurveda), detailed manuals on warfare (dhanur-shastra), theatre (natya-shastra), governance (dharma- shastra), economics (artha-shastra), aesthetics (kama-shastra), and liberation (moksha-shastra). These are special beings whose knowledge makes them even greater than the gods. Historians, however, believe that rishis were poets (kavi) who composed the thousand-odd poems that make up the Rig Veda. These included several women, known as rishikas, such as Lopamudra and Apala. The Vedic hymns were, over time, given melodies in the Sama Veda, and attached to rituals in the Yajur Veda. A similar set of poems that functioned as skills to solve mundane household and personal problems was compiled in the Atharva Veda. People who transmitted this Vedic knowledge were called brahmins, the wisest of whom were often confused with rishis. As time passed, scholars (shastri), teachers (acharyas), mendicants (