[ASC-media] COSMOS 37: How cataclysms shape the evolution of life on Earth

Wilson da Silva wfdasilva at gmail.com
Thu Feb 3 11:20:59 CET 2011

In the Feb/Mar 2011 issue of COSMOS, Australia's #1 science magazine:

Without the cataclysmic impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years
ago, humans would not be here. Explore that fateful day with a blow-by-blow
account, discover how meteorite impacts have shaped evolution and find out
where the biggest bang in the Solar System took place, in the 23-page impact
special in COSMOS.

Also: why the Internet is making you smarter; how new discoveries deep
underground may rewrite the books on physics; and see the prototype nanobots
that may one day perform surgery inside you. Plus, we'll take you to the
deserts of Syria where scientists are racing to feed the world in 2050, and
travel to the cold, misty forests of Brazil in search of the last jaguars.

They may have been agents of calamity, but meteor impacts have also been
harbingers of creation - and may even have made life possible on Earth in
the first place, as Heather Catchpole discovers.

One clear day 65 million years ago, the sky suddenly fell in, and 80% of all
life went extinct. But this cataclysm also opened the door for humans to
inherit the Earth. Wilson da Silva gives a blow-by-blow account.

Only recently has science recognised craters for what they really are:
evidence of sudden impacts from long ago. Geologists Alex Bevan and Ken
McNamara explore our rich heritage of fossil collisions.

Where was the biggest impact in the Solar System? Rick Lovett finds one
candidate not too far from home: Mars. And boy was it big.

Not all spiders were created equal. Some spin webs, some eat insects and, as
Gwyneth Dickey finds, some are primitive DNA machines that may one day swarm
through people's bodies.

The world is facing starvation as climate change disrupts food production
and the population booms. Fiona MacDonald travels to Syria where science's
last hope may be locked inside forgotten wild plants.

Breathing in polluted air is known to damage lungs and hearts. But, as Janet
Raloff finds, surprising results show it is also ravaging the minds of our

Deep underground, giant experiments are detecting something very odd. Could
this be the first real hint of dark matter? Ron Cowen reports.

Since their discovery in the 1960s, stem cells - which can develop into any
specialised cell type - have been heralded as medicine's 'next big thing'.
We catch a glimpse into the unlimited potential of these tiny cells. By
Fiona MacDonald.

The dense, high-altitude rainforest of Brazil is constantly shrouded in a
cold mist. Somewhere within, jaguars and pumas are stalking. Jacqui Hayes
joins a Brazilian scientist in a desperate bid to protect them.

Rather than making us dumber, the Internet and Powerpoint are helping make
us smarter, argues cognitive scientist Steven Pinker.

To order this issue – either print or digital editions – go to
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