PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER SWANN, BIOSPHOTO
PHOTO: DESMOND BOYLAN, REUTERS
PHOTO: ALEX SABERI
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Jayne Harris-WallerOxford, England
Kathy ParkerRobe, Australia
Echolilia All parents love their children. But what do you do when you can't connect with them? In my case, I started making photographs of, and with, my son Elijah, who has autism spectrum disorder. This series—the title is from "echolalia," a clinical term for the mimicking aspect of his condition—shows the bridges we've built on our shared journey of wonder, discovery, and understanding.
We began this project when Eli was five. He was doing well at school but fixating on odd things, lashing out, speaking repetitively. My wife and I couldn't figure him out. Then I started taking pictures of him around the house. It was an instinctive act for a photographer: Point your camera at something in order to make sense of it. But a curious thing happened. As I documented what Eli was doing and creating, he became interested in the images I was making. I was learning how he thinks; he was learning what I like and value.
We soon had a system. Eli would do something unusual, one of us would notice, and we'd make a photo of it together. The pictures we took over three years were more raw and feral than anything I'd done as an editorial or advertising photographer. And more personal. This is, after all, the story of a father and his son.
Timothy Archibald's book, Echolilia: Sometimes I Wonder, was published last year by Echo Press. See more of his work at timothyarchibald.com.
One Christmas we collected logs at a park and brought them home to use in our fireplace. Eli became obsessed with the shape of one and asked us not to burn it. I wanted to make some pictures with the log outside, but he took it into his room instead. As a photographer— and as a parent—I often like to let him lead.
Why Eli put these needle-nose pliers in his mouth I can't tell you. Maybe they reminded him of a bird's beak. To me, their sharp edges and his bare skin imply danger. Working with him, I find myself questioning boundaries. Am I his parent now or his collaborator? Am I empowering my kid, or am I overpowering him?
At a point in this series I started to focus on the settings we were using. Our living room is great because it gets so much light. We cleared the floor and took all the toys out of this plastic bin. Eli was delighted to learn he could get his whole body into it—so he curled up and pretended he was sleeping inside an egg.
I sometimes think of Eli as having a huge book of odd knowledge in his head. In real time the contents can be hard for people to understand. But when he sat with a big dictionary in his lap, hands spread as though reading braille, I saw the metaphor come to life. The blur is courtesy of a one-second exposure.
Tarantulas are among the largest, most primitive, best known spiders. Yet how these hairy crawlers negotiate steep, slippery surfaces has been a tangled web for arachnologists. Some say climbing tarantulas—too heavy and fragile to rely on sticky foot hairs as other spiders do—release silk from their feet when they lose their grip. Others insist silk comes only from abdominal spinnerets; the feet merely distribute it when a tarantula goes vertical.
Enter Newcastle University biologist Claire Rind. This year she and her colleagues studied several species, including a Chilean rose (pictured at right) that they put in a glass tank lined with microscope slides. When the bin was tilted and jostled, the spider slipped but hung on. A video verified that only its feet had touched the slides, which bore silken footprints. The final test was a hard look at molted exoskeletons, whose feet had silk traces and what looked like nozzles among the setae, or hairs.
Though some experts remain skeptical about silk-shooting foot spigots, Rind says she's pushing on. The next strands she hopes to unstick: whether nozzles exist on smaller or juvenile tarantulas—or even on other spider species. —Jeremy Berlin
Seen through an electron microscope, a tarantula's foot has sticky hairs and what some believe are thin, silk-secreting spigots.
An adult tarantula reaches the top of a glass pane.
photos: david liittschwager; claire rind (inset)
After roughly 30 years of service, the remaining space shuttles are headed for the final frontier: retirement. Museums around the country have been clamoring for a chance to take one home.
When the Apollo program ended, the Smithsonian had right of first refusal for surplus NASA artifacts, from astronaut diapers to lunar landers. But for the shuttles, NASA issued a special proposal. Museums that wanted an orbiter could apply for one, but they had to say how the ship would be displayed, how their exhibit would "inspire the American public," and—most important—how they would raise the $28.8 million needed for cleaning and transport.
As a result, the California Science Center will soon be one of only four museums to house a space shuttle: Endeavour is due to land in Los Angeles in 2012. "We have the honor of being stewards of something that we all hold as part of our national heritage," says the museum's aerospace science curator, Kenneth E. Phillips. "It's an overwhelming feeling." —Victoria Jaggard
Discovery is taken apart for a thorough cleaning at Florida's Kennedy Space Center before its eventual display in Virginia.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
Stretching 60 feet long, the shuttle's cargo bay transported payloads into space, including the Hubble telescope, solar arrays, and parts of the International Space Station.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
A peek beneath Discovery reveals its nose landing gear, plus dark tiles that protected the craft from temperatures of more than 2000° Fahrenheit during reentry.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
Switches like these surrounded the shuttle commander and pilot in the cockpit. Danger labels and switch guards helped prevent accidental activation of the switches.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
Multicolored pipes in the aft compartment carried liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the external tank to the three main engines that provided power for launch.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
Near the shuttle's tail is a compartment for some of its key engines. These have been removed and will be replaced with nonworking reproductions for display.
PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
Whether plopped from a can (at right) or plated as a freshly made compote, cranberries will grace many an American table on November 24. The scarlet fruit wasn't tied to Thanksgiving until the 19th century, says food historian Andrew F. Smith, who cites an 1817 newspaper reference. Yet it's been part of our diet since the 1600s, when Native Americans introduced it to English settlers. Today the tart berries are marketed year-round in both juice and dried form. They're also touted as a health food, because they can keep bacteria from clinging to the urinary tract and may even play a role in cancer prevention.
One of just a smattering of fruits indigenous to the U.S. (blueberries and pawpaws are among the others), cranberries are harvested "dry," by lawn-mower-like machines that comb the vines, or "wet," which involves flooding a bog with water and corralling the floating fruit. Native to the Northeast, cranberries also flourish in developed bogs farther west. In fact, with 18,000 acres, Wisconsin now reaps more of the crimson crop than any other state. —Catherine Zuckerman
Skydivers reach a top speed of more than 100 miles an hour.
photo: cary wolinsky. art: jason lee
It's long been a staple of Irish rural life:
the earthy warmth of burning peat. For
centuries families relied on turf bricks
cut from raised bogs (left) and dried for
fuel. Now a move by the European Union
to enforce a 1997 directive to protect
these disappearing ancient habitats—rich
in decomposing plants and rare species—
has turf cutters bristling.
The EU designation of dozens of large
bogs for conservation, part of a push to protect environmental diversity, went largely unenforced due to rural Irish sensitivities. But evidence of extensive cutting led the EU to threaten heavy fines last year. Industrial interests continued to cut, citing jobs. A tentative peace was reached this past summer, with contractors agreeing to halt activity for the rest of the year. But the ground remains unsteady; Irish legislator and turf cutter Luke Flanagan promises a fresh fight next year. —Erin Friar McDermott
Water in a cumulus cloud
of this size weighs about
as much as 400 elephants.
A turf cutter pauses on a raised bog in Achill, in Ireland's County Mayo.
photo: chris hill. NGM Maps. Graphic: NGM Art
Whiskers at Work
Not much gets by a harbor seal. That's because its whiskers, or vibrissae, pick up highly detailed data about the animal's environment. A seal's snout hairs protrude from follicles containing about ten times as many nerve endings as a rat's sensitive whiskers. Sensory biologist Wolf Hanke of the University of Rostock says seal vibrissae have adapted over 25 million-plus years to read minute changes in water movement.
Hanke and colleagues study this phenomenon with Henry, a trained harbor seal (at left). Wearing a blindfold and headphones, Henry has shown that he can detect the traces of an object in calm water even 30 seconds after the object has passed. And the latest trials reveal that he can also distinguish among shapes and sizes—using just his whiskers. Other species likely share this ability, which, Hanke posits, helps seals nab darting fish. It even lets them "see" the meatiest prey in the murkiest waters, for a more fruitful chase. —Jennifer S. Holland
KOI STORY Legend has it that a fish named Hanako was the world's longest lived. After swimming for 226 years in Japan, the story goes, the scarlet koi died in 1977. Her scales were said to determine her elderly age—a notion that holds water with science today. Much as trees have rings, fish have microscopic "zones" within their scales that reflect seasonal growth patterns. In summer, when food is abundant, fish grow quickly and produce wide zones. Winter lines are narrow. A pair of zones represents one year. In Hanako's case, adding them up must have taken an eternity. —Catherine Zuckerman
PHOTO: WOLF HANKE, MARINE SCIENCE CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF ROSTOCK. ART: MARC JOHNS
A harbor seal named Henry is outfitted for sensory studies at a lab in Rostock, Germany.
We trash countless umbrellas each year, grumbling about how easily they flip or fail us in strong storms. Now several novel designs attempt to confront the classic canopy's downfalls. To avoid inversion, Dutch designer Gerwin Hoogendoorn made his Senz umbrella (at left) aerodynamic enough to withstand wind tunnel gusts of 70 miles an hour. Greig Brebner, a tall New Zealander alarmed by the onslaught of eye-level spokes he faced while living in London, came up with the Blunt umbrella, with enclosed points that make it both safer and stronger. And for that romantic stroll in the rain, there's even a tandem umbrella.
The boldest revision comes from U.S. entrepreneur Alan Kaufman: Nubrella, a transparent bubble that rests on one's shoulders or, soon, in a backpack. Sure, it looks a bit odd. But "in real bad weather," says Kaufman, "not many people are looking at you." —Amanda Fiegl
Avoid the elements—or turn heads at least—the hands-free way.
The double-broad canopy offers full coverage for two.
PHOTO: REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF. ART: JASON LEE
This Baby May Well Live to 100
Somewhere, an October newborn just pushed global population past seven billion, according to the United Nations Population Fund. If the birth occurred in Japan, France, the United States,
or a handful of other wealthy nations, that landmark child will likely reach another milestone: a 100th birthday. Today, says Danish epidemiologist Kaare Christensen, more than half the babies in such well-off
places are expected to become centenarians.
A typical life in an industrialized country is now about 80 years long—three decades longer than it was a century ago. In contrast, life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is a mere 53 years. Infant health worldwide has generally improved; the global gap persists largely due to gains in seniors' health in developed countries. Earlier diagnoses of illnesses, especially heart disease, and more accessible buildings have
helped improve late-life comfort and mobility. As a
result, says Christensen, most of those lucky
enough to reach 100 "would like to
have another birthday."
How best to join the hundred-
plus club? There's no single answer.
But most studies of centenarians show
that if you're a woman, a nonsmoker, wealthy,
or slim, you're off to a good start. —Brad Scriber
Number of U.S. centenarians as of April 1, 2010
Projected number of U.S. centenarians in the year 2050
More people are reaching 100, but few live much beyond that—so average life spans, even in rich nations, remain in double digits.
This one-day-old boy was born in Columbia, Maryland. Research shows U.S. babies now have better than 50-50 odds of living to 100.
PHOTO: REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF. NGM MAPS
SOURCE: POPULATION REFERENCE BUREAU. DATA SOURCE: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
Algae Solar Cells
The secret to greener, more efficient solar energy? It may lie in the shell of a single-celled, 100-million-year-old life form called a diatom. Best known as the ubiquitous algae at the base of aquatic food chains, diatoms have intricate shells—covered with a lattice of pores for optimal light capture—that are winning the attention of nanotechnologists. Chemical engineer Greg Rorrer is growing diatoms with semiconducting materials infused into their skeletons. Pumped into solar cells, they create a powerhouse unit that's 50 percent more efficient. Not bad for an old phytoplankton. —Gretchen Parker
The single-celled diatoms below—the likes of which are found in oceans worldwide—were collected with a plankton net in San Francisco Bay.
PHOTO: DAVID LIITTSCHWAGER
GRAPHIC: ÁLVARO VALIÑO
The moon's surface area is roughly 15 million square miles—only 3 million more than Africa's.
Hubble Space Telescope astronomers recently focused the instrument's powerful eye on a pair of galaxies known as Arp 273, which had spun themselves into something surreally terrestrial: a rose.
What you're seeing on this page is an interaction that occurred a few hundred million years ago, as the lower galaxy (UGC 1813) dived through the outside arms of the upper one (UGC 1810). Like a bloom unfolding, the arms of the larger galaxy were stretched apart by the gravitational pull of the smaller one. Hot blue stars formed from the compressed gas and dust.
This image may be unusual, but the action it captured is not. Astronomers say most galaxies collide with another at some point in their lifetimes. Two often merge after an average mutual orbit of 500 million years—romance in the heavens we now can see clearly for ourselves. —Gretchen Parker
The "rose galaxy," or Arp 273, is more than 300 million light-years away from Earth, in the Andromeda constellation.
3-D Mummy A young woman was scanned this past spring with the newest high-resolution CT technology. She came to the U.S. from the highlands of central Peru—where she had died some 550 years ago. Now she's the first complete mummy whose health has been probed by radiologists using such detailed CT images.
The subject appears to be in mid-scream, but she was actually bound in this position before burial. Smithsonian anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička found her in 1913 in a looted cave tomb. Today her naturally mummified body resides in San Diego's Museum of Man.
U.S. Navy medical personnel performed the scan and produced this image (bones are white, soft tissue is red). Radiologists have already identified signs of tuberculosis or a fungal lung infection. As they look deeper, they hope to better understand nutrition and diseases around the time of the Spanish conquest of South America. When they're not caring for live patients, that is. —A. R. Williams
Scanning Zebras For scientists tracking zebras, point and shoot now involves a camera instead of a tranquilizer gun. That's because they can now use those distinctive black and white stripes to count a population, bar code style.
In the field, researchers snap a photo of a zebra and upload it to a computer with StripeSpotter, a software application developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago and Princeton University. On a screen they focus on the flank, where each stripe gets broken down into vertical strands of pixels. Those combinations are as unique to each zebra as fingerprints are to humans. A database scan quickly shows if the zebra is a new find.
StripeSpotter has been used on Grevy's and plains zebras and is being tested on tigers and giraffes. It's also open to citizen scientists: Check a zebra's ID at code.google.com/p/stripespotter. —Erin Friar McDermott
PHOTO: NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER SAN DIEGO
ART: OLIVER MUNDAY