The blue flame of burning sulfur flickers near a miner on Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java. The pungent element is mined near the crater’s highly acidic lake for such industrial uses as rubber and sugar processing.
PHOTO: OLIVIER GRUNEWALD
In New York Harbor the Statue of Liberty weathers a lightning storm against the sparkle of the New Jersey shore. Although this bolt missed the monument, a few are estimated to strike Lady Liberty each year.
On single breaths of up to a minute and a half, these Korean haenyeo, or sea women, search for conch and other edibles off the coast of Jeju Island. With fewer females free diving for a living, the storied tradition is fading.
PHOTO: DAVID HØGSHOLT, REPORTAGE BY GETTY IMAGES
Suzanne Oberheu Beard
Drawn to the surreal sight of a grand piano on a Biscayne Bay sandbar, Beard, 51, captured this image as “the pelicans crowded on it began to lift and fly away.” Her shot went viral. How did the piano get there? A local teen, abetted by family and friends, put it there for art’s sake.
Sitting on her basement floor and using a flash, Courtney, 44, took this shot of her dancing 14-year-old daughter, Emily. “To me this represents a girl learning to fly on her own as a young woman. She is going after a dream, taking a jump and seeing where it takes her.”
Today’s Daily Dozen
The Daily Dozen is selected by a National Geographic magazine photo editor each weekday, from hundreds of photos submitted to Your Shot at ngm.com daily.
Homes for Hens Does a coddled hen catch your eye? It is a curious sight. But it also represents a serious issue. Year-and-a-half-old hens in British battery farms—known as factory farms in the U.S.—are deemed expendable, despite having several years to live and many eggs to give. These images show how folks are opening their hearts and homes to these refugee birds.
I’ve always gravitated toward offbeat subjects and people. So when I learned about rescue hens, I could imagine a great visual story about a quirkily important cause. What’s more, unlike some animal-rights activists, the battery-hen advocates I’ve met in London and southern England are refreshingly open-minded, working with the farms to adopt hens and reform the system.
Next year European laws will ban conventional battery cages. Some of England’s 11.1 million battery hens will move to bigger digs. Many will need to be “re-homed.” I hope the humor and humaneness in these photographs raise awareness of the situation. —Ed Thompson
More of the London-based photographer’s work can be seen at edwardthompson.co.uk.
In Kent, England, a rescued hen—nearly featherless after life on an industrial farm—wears a hand-knit sweater. It may take months to regrow plumage.
Keeping chickens isn’t just a rural pursuit. On her rooftop in central London, Julia Stephenson—a columnist and former Green Party candidate in U.K. elections—feeds spaghetti to her rescued battery hens.
PHOTO: ED THOMPSON
With her dog at her side and a hen at her heart, Mary Allchurch stands near her country home in Kent. She and her husband first adopted hens in 2006. The three they now have can lay up to 400 eggs a year.
PHOTO: ED THOMPSON
This is “Weasel,” an IT specialist for a major insurance company, relaxing with his hens on a Sunday morning in Kent. Sadly, he had to give up his birds when the foxes near his home became a problem.
PHOTO: ED THOMPSON
Sam Bradley, 9—seen with his mother, Sarah, in their Lutton yard—bought his first rescue hen with money saved from his sixth birthday. “I really love chickens,” he told me, adding that he wants to be a farmer.
PHOTO: ED THOMPSON
In Kent, Diana Millard has re-homed 7,000 hens since 2004. Her yard is a labyrinth of runs, ramps, and sheds. When I heard her call one bird Lloyd, I really began to see each hen as a distinct personality.
PHOTO: ED THOMPSON
Heart disease doesn’t just hit humans. It’s the leading killer among male zoo gorillas, and scientists want to know why. Obesity? Perhaps, but the term has yet to be defined for the primates. Diet? Likely, and Elena Hoellein Less of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is trying to prove it. As part of a multi-zoo study, she’s been feeding her two gorillas, Bebac and Mokolo, a trial menu meant to mimic the largely vegetarian one eaten in the wild. Heavy on leafy greens, the new diet is also modeled after a heart-healthy human one, says Less. Judging by the 65 pounds each of her charges has shed so far, it’s nothing to take lightly. —Catherine Zuckerman
OLD MENU Since 2008, 22 gorillas at five zoos—in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Asheboro, North Carolina; Seattle; and Toronto—have been weaned off specially formulated biscuits (left). The edibles delivered all the right nutrients but also a starchy, caloric punch.
NEW MENU The gorillas now munch on many pounds a day of slimming, fiber-rich produce—including endive, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, and alfalfa hay.
*ESTIMATED FIGURES FOR DEPTH AND TEMPERATURE
SEAN MCNAUGHTON. ART: HERNÁN CAÑELLAS. SOURCE: RENEE C. WEBER, NASA
THE FIRE WITHIN | When Apollo astronauts visited the moon, they drilled no deeper than ten feet. Yet the instruments they left behind are helping us learn even today about the inner life of our celestial neighbor. The latest look at seismic data from four decades ago confirms that deep inside this cold, dry satellite is a hot, liquid core.
"The molten core tells us a lot about the evolution of the moon,” says NASA’s Renee Weber, who studied readings dating from 1969 to 1977, only a quarter of which had been analyzed since the Apollo missions. The power of modern computers enabled Weber and her colleagues to examine the remainder, with a focus on deep moonquakes. Like the Earth, the moon has a center consisting of liquid and solid layers, the innermost being the hottest yet solid due to intense pressure. But whereas the Earth’s core is convecting—that is, dynamic, giving rise to plate tectonics, volcanic activity, and a magnetic field—the moon’s is thought to be stagnant.
The liquid present in the outer core suggests the moon may have been entirely molten when it formed 4.5 billion years ago, says Weber. “Even though the Earth and moon formed at similar times, the moon is smaller, so it has lost heat and energy faster.” At some point the lunar core may have convected as well. How do we know? Magnetic traces on surface samples brought back by the astronauts. —Luna Shyr
An inside look at the moon’s molten core
Depth from surface: 25 miles
Contents: Includes olivine, peridotite, and garnet
Temperature: 1,600 kelvins (2,420°F)
Name: Partial melt zone
Depth from surface: 780 miles
Contents: Peridotite, titanium-rich silicate melt
Temperature: 1,650 kelvins (2,510°F)
Name: Outer core (liquid)
Depth from surface: 875 miles
Contents: Liquid iron alloy
Temperature: 1,700 kelvins (2,600°F)
Name: Inner core (solid)
Depth from surface: 930 miles
Contents: Solid iron alloy
Temperature: 1,710 kelvins (2,618°F)
The moon’s crust is highly uneven due to meteoritic battering of the surface.
The lunar core is about 60 percent liquid by volume, according to a new analysis of Apollo-era seismic data.
One-third empty or two-thirds full? The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) is optimistic that another serving-size option for draft pints will revive an industry whose market share is wobbling under the influence of wine and spirits.
British law has long dictated that pubs sell beer and cider only in an imperial pint (pictured), which is about 20 percent larger than a U.S. pint, or in glasses one-third or one-half that size. But this year Parliament is set to scrap several restrictions on weights and measures to encourage innovation. This would legalize a two-thirds pint—an amount some are calling a schooner based on a similar-size Australian pour. Brits drink some 23 million pints of beer a day, but sales have dropped 19 percent over the past six years, and 25 pubs close in an average week, says the BBPA’s Neil Williams. He thinks the traditional pint glass “is seen as very much a male preserve.” If the new size can win over women, the industry may find that less is more. —Amanda Fiegl
The Salt Creek tiger beetle (below) is unlovely and obscure. It scuttles, six legged, through its two-year life span in a wetland near Lincoln, Nebraska. Not even its looming demise is novel. By last year all but about 200 adults had disappeared from Little Salt Creek—more victims of urban sprawl and habitat loss, though natural flooding dilutes the salt seeps that feed the marsh.
PHOTOS: REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF (LEFT); JOEL SARTORE
PHOTOS: FRANS LANTING; RANDY WILDER, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM (TOP)
Spotting the Leopard Writer Rudyard Kipling imagined a leopard’s spots came from the fingertips of a human, to help it blend in with the jungle. William Allen of the University of Bristol took a digital approach to breaking the camouflage code of it and other Felidae members. After comparing photos of the cats with a mathematical model of pattern development on their flanks, Allen and colleagues concluded that the complexity of many coat patterns was related to habitat. Spotted cats are typical of closed environments like forests; plain-coated ones tend to inhabit open spaces. Behavior also plays a role. The more time a cat spends in trees and is active at night, for instance, the more elaborately marked its coat is likely to be. “In evolutionary time periods cats can change their patterning relatively easily,” says Allen. “Perhaps in the future we may marvel at striped leopards and spotted tigers.” —Erin Friar McDermott
A census of WILD TIGERS in India shows their numbers have risen 20 percent—from 1,411 to 1,706—since the last count, in 2007. • Two species of ANTARCTIC PENGUINS have declined in the past 30 years. Scientists believe krill loss is the cause. • The name ZHUCHENGTYRANNUS MAGNUS was bestowed on a T. rex-size dinosaur whose fossil was recently discovered in China. • University College London researchers suggest that POLITICAL BIASES are reflected in brain structures.
Is It a Spider or a Scorpion?
With eight legs like a spider and claws like a scorpion, pseudoscorpions come fearsomely equipped. Meet the newest addition to the few thousand known species: the Parobisium yosemite, so named for its home, California’s Yosemite National Park.
Venomous? Yes. But humans have nothing to fear. The arachnid’s claws aren’t even big enough to penetrate our skin, says James Cokendolpher, a research scientist at the Museum of Texas Tech University who helped document the species. Like many other cave-dwelling pseudoscorpions, this beast could fit on a fingernail—fully stretched, it’s about half an inch long. Slender hairs help it sense air movements, and chemical receptors on the tips of its legs and pincers help it identify any creatures it encounters. In a cave’s rocky rubble, unsuspecting tiny spiders and soft-bodied insects would translate into a tasty meal. —TP
A Radiant Shell Green doesn’t always mean go. In the case of the marine snail Hinea brasiliana, flashing green sends a clear signal to crabs and other predators: Stop. This resident of Australia’s rocky shores isn’t the only bioluminescent snail, but its shell is one of a kind, says Dimitri Deheyn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who co-authored a report on the findings late last year. Other snails have transparent shells or body parts that glow when protruding, but not this one. Its opaque yellow shell scatters green light (pictured, in study simulation) produced by tightly packed cells on the snail’s body. Deheyn believes it may be the shell’s specific crystalline and protein structure that enables it to spread the light so effectively. So when predators come knocking, the snail’s entire surface flashes like an alarm system—possibly even temporarily blinding some nocturnal intruders. —Thomas Pierce
PHOTOS: DIMITRI DEHEYN, SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY, UC SAN DIEGO (LEFT); JEAN K. KREJCA, ZARA ENVIRONMENTAL LLC
Banking on Blue Blood
It’s blue, comes from a creature more ancient than dinosaurs, and saves countless human lives. It’s the blood of horseshoe crabs, and for decades it’s proved vital to biomedical companies that must screen vaccines, IV fluids, and medical devices for bacteria that can be fatal in our bloodstream. Thanks to proteins in cells that act like a primitive immune system, the crabs’ blood coagulates instantly when it touches pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella.
So sensitive is the test derived from the proteins that it can detect amounts as slight as one part per trillion. That’s like one grain of sugar in an Olympic-size pool, says John Dubczak of test producer Charles River, Endosafe. Now Princeton University researchers are looking at another approach using synthetic molecules that replicate antimicrobial peptides found on the skin of African clawed frogs. That would take some of the heat off horseshoe crabs—if it can match the sensitivity of their millions-year-old strategy. —Luna Shyr
A test made from the blood of horseshoe crabs just might have saved your life.
In South Carolina, horseshoe crabs are gathered for their unique bacteria-detecting blood. About 20 percent of each crab’s blood is collected before it’s returned to the water.
PHOTOS: MARK THIESSEN, NGM Staff
Innovation has gone global. In 2009 American inventors received nearly 53,000 patents abroad, while inventors based in other countries were the recipients of more than half the 167,000 U.S. patents granted. By comparison, in 1900 less than 15 percent of U.S. patents went to nonresidents.
Yet there’s no such thing as a universal patent. That’s because national standards—including the very definition of what can be patented—vary. And although the trend is toward harmonizing systems by sharing information, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a global patent isn’t likely anytime soon.
Today’s inventors also are stymied by long waits. In the U.S. alone, 1.2 million applications are pending. Congress is now working to streamline the system. Brian Pomper, whose Innovation Alliance represents small companies seeking new patents, hopes it happens soon. “The backlog is a drag on the economy,” he says. “All inventions have the potential to create jobs, but if you have to wait three years in legal limbo, pendency is a killer.” —Shelley Sperry
THE STROOP EFFECT
Glance at the image to the left and, as quickly as you can, name the animal whose shape is pictured. Chances are you had to stop and think, even if imperceptibly. The reason is the Stroop effect, a type of interference that occurs when the brain has to resolve conflicting meanings. Interpreting what a word means is automatic, so overriding “fish” with “pig,” say, likely takes a split second. Named for the psychologist who described the phenomenon, the Stroop doesn’t affect everyone—like those who can’t read the words in the first place. —Luna Shyr
ART: OLIVER UBERTI, NGM STAFF; SOURCE: U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE; OLIVER MUNDAY (LEFT)
Number of genes in the human genome
Number of genes in the water flea genome
Little Big Genes Humans fancy themselves complicated, but when it comes to genes, we’ve got nothing on a nearly microscopic water flea. In fact, the international Daphnia Genomics Consortium now reports that Daphnia pulex, a critical freshwater species, has the most genes of any animal yet sequenced. And it uses them to perform remarkable feats. Daphnia’s genome responds to environmental triggers, including predators, and spurs the growth of helmets and spikes for self-defense—in just one generation. And as a voracious filter feeder, Daphnia reacts swiftly to chemical cues, adapting itself to toxins.
Consortium scientists say humans share much common stock with this not so simple water flea. We may not be able to sprout defensive spines like Daphnia, but thanks to its outsize genome, we may learn how our own genes interact with pollutants—and whether we need to give our water quality a closer look. —Gretchen Parker
*COUNTED AS OF MAY 2011
PHOTO: PAUL HEBERT, BIODIVERSITY INSTITUTE OF ONTARIO
A Thousand Words a Frame
Love, music, and math have all been called “the international language.” But nowhere is a lingua franca more vital than in places of conflict, where a failure to communicate can be fatal.
With that in mind, the U.S. military has issued pamphlets like this one to Army units serving in Afghanistan. Produced by a Virginia firm with input from linguists, graphic designers, military consultants, and technology engineers, these booklets can help troops and locals get their point across in terms that are purely visual.
John Clark, an Army helicopter pilot stationed in Afghanistan, says nonverbal dialogue is key in a country with multiple languages and dialects. “In the event of a crash,” he adds, a simple picture could be “an invaluable tool to the survivor trying to make it back to friendly lines.” —Jeremy Berlin
Where Is the Bomb? A complex concept or question can be shown in a few frames. By pointing to these pictures, an American soldier with no knowledge of Pashto can tell an Afghan man that information about a bombmaker will translate into a monetary reward.
Wales plans to produce GENETIC BAR CODES for all of its 1,143 species of native flowering plants. • Scientists have observed FOG ON MARS courtesy of NASA’s Phoenix lander, bolstering evidence of a water cycle similar to our planet’s. • Five new genes linked to ALZHEIMER’S have been identified, providing new clues about the roots of the disease. • A global monitoring network reveals that THUNDERSTORMS strike the Earth approximately 760 times every hour.
PHOTO: REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF. GRAPHIC: KWIKPOINT