Natural History

A magazine of scientific research and education in nature and culture. Features articles, book reviews, and general information about the natural world and its inhabitants.

Articles from Vol. 115, No. 1, February

Bookshelf
BOOKSHELFUs and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind by David Berreby Little, Brown and Company, 2005; $26.95The stereotype," as the journalist and political commentator Walter Lippmann wrote in his 1922 book, Public Opinion, "saves time in a busy life,"...
Cosmic Cosmetics
Astronomers have found lots of nail-polish remover and sunless tanning lotion in space.It's Earth-year 6526 and you find yourself cruising interstellar space. But-drat!-your nail polish is chipped. And how will you ever restore your earthy, bronze-goddess...
Exoplanet Earth
What would Earth look like from deep space if inquisitive aliens were scanning for planets?Whether you prefer to crawl, sprint, swim, or walk from one place to another, you can enjoy close-up views of Earth's inexhaustible supply of things to notice....
Fly on the Wall
The alien body part pictured on our cover is nature's answer to gravity. Note the hairlike structures bristling from the base of the large green hemisphere in the center. Each little hair exudes a spot of fluid, the better to cling to surfaces pitched...
Going with the Flow
An underground stream links two scenic spots.As natural attractions "worth a detour" (as the guidebooks have it), Grand Gulf and Mammoth Spring live up to their names. They also share a physical connection, though they lie miles apart in two different...
Islands Generate Bird Biodiversity
Island life sounds quite appealing in winter months as many of us migrate to warmer and lusher locales. Islands and their flora and fauna also hold a special fascination for scientists and naturalists, as they've discovered islands' rich biodiversity...
Letters
Stupid DesignI am an engineer, not a biologist, but I agree with the point made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in his article "The Perimeter of Ignorance" [11/05]: we are not engineered intelligently. A good engineer would have placed a single ear on top of...
March of the Weevils
How a Mexican beetle launched a hundred-year attack on United States cottonMore than a hundred years ago, a curiouslooking insect appeared in the United States that would dramatically transform the economy and landscape of the cotton-dependent South....
Museum Events
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORYEXHIBITIONSDarwinThrough May 29, 2006Featuring live animals, actual fossil specimens collected by Charles Darwin, and manuscripts, this magnificent exhibition offers visitors a comprehensive, engaging exploration of...
Safe House
Would you trust your beloved heirlooms to an institution that could not ensure their safety or whose environmental conditions were hazardous to their survival? Presumably not. Yet according to a recent study by Heritage Preservation, a nonprofit conservation...
Shoe Fly
To walk on walls and ceilings, your feet have to stick, but they have to get unstuck, too.My mother is a rock climber, the familial human fly. She practices endlessly on walls and cliffs, refining her ability to stick to vertical surfaces and overhangs....
Stunt Double
Science museums are not always the sedate repositories you stroll through on your tour of their galleries. Exciting research goes on behind the scenes, out of sight of visitors. Sometimes even long-held samples from the collections take a star turn in...
The Butterfly Bird
A legendary hummingbird draws bird-watchers to the Peruvian Andes, but the details of its biology and ecology remain largely unknown.Allá está, el colibrí que la mariposa le sigue! ("It's over there, the hummingbird that the butterfly follows!"). The...
The Origins of Life
Have too many cooks spoiled the prebiotic soup?Twenty-five years ago, Francis Crick, who codiscovered the structure of DNA, published a provocative book titled Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature. Crick speculated that early in Earth's history a civilization...
The Sky in February
At the beginning of February Mercury has just passed behind the Sun and sets too soon after sunset to be seen. But by the 9th the speedy planet should be visible to viewers with binoculars, just above the west-southwestern horizon near where the Sun...
Wave Files
nature.netFor anyone not affected by the Indonesian tsunami, memory of the catastrophe has begun to fade. Nevertheless, a year later, it's worth remembering the tragedy and asking what's being done to save people from future killer waves. The tsunami...