US ERE HIGHLIGHTS THIS MONTH
WHAT FUTURE DO WE WANT?
Humans have deeply transformed the Earth. Our skills could be used for the better, but will we succeed? How will future generations judge us? A fictional retrospective of the future.
GRAZIL, RASANT AND IN BIG HAZARD
Cheetahs are the most endangered big cats in Africa. In Namibia live about 3500 animals. Scientists fight for their survival - with the help of dogs. display
THE MEASUREMENT OF THE WORLDS
The results of the search for exoplanets show that in the Milky Way there are more planets than stars. An estimated at least 20, 000 of them are similar to Earth.
COAST INSTEAD OF CORRIDOR
The first immigrants of America did not colonize the continent by foot through a breach in the inland ice, as has long been suspected - they came by boat along the Pacific coast.
A PLACE TO TAKE
Criminals are less and less likely to remain undetected: with a 3D scanner, the scene of a crime can be preserved to the smallest detail. So many years later police experts can still seek traces and clues at the crime scene. There is also considerable progress in DNA analysis and the attempt to differentiate truth and lie by technical means.
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There are more than 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are more than 100 billion galaxies like the Milky Way - perhaps more than a trillion. If you multiply both numbers together, you get a number with 22 or 23 zeros that makes it unimaginable how many stars there are. Planets circle around several stars. Because the planets do not shine themselves, they are hard to spot. But in the past 20 years, astronomers have tracked down around 3, 500 of them. Even around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, at least one planet is taking its course.
Some of these exoplanets are in the so-called habitable zone, where life is possible in principle, but that does not mean that they are actually inhabited (see our report on page 30). But thinking of the huge number of stars in the universe, one gets the idea: It is unlikely that all these planets are frozen, dead worlds. With ever better telescopes and analytical methods, we will probably get some reliable information on habitable and inhabited worlds within a few years.
How we should deal with such a discovery would be the next problem. But in the present many pressing questions await an answer. This includes dealing with the new methods of genetic engineering. We asked the author Marc Elsberg what is fact in his thriller "Helix" and what is fiction (from page 10 onwards). Much of what we have just imagined so far has come within reach thanks to the astonishingly simple genetic engineering method CRISPR,
And in our cover story, six scientists cast a glimpse of the future back to our present and show the potential consequences of our decisions. They are all about dealing with the resources of our planet.
If you like such mind games as me, then I invite you to a chat with the authors of our title theme: on February 15 in Stuttgart. You will find more about this on page 49.
Your Alexander Mäder
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