Table of Contents October 2013


This month's cover story seeks out some of the most troubling links in our food chain: arsenic in rice, foodborne UTIs, and the 15 percent of food that comes from countries beyond our regulatory control.

Also in this issue, synthetic biologists are making DNA from scratch to feed the world and power the planet — but will the public be on board?

And finally, find out the bizarre biology of the parasitic corpse flower, what's really behind the woolly mammoth's demise, and how a hipster hacker changed the presidential election game — it's all inside.

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Super-mice bred to lack certain immune molecules display a superior ability to form new neural connections, or strengthen existing ones — and they could serve as a model for reversing brain disease.

grocery bag

This collection of stories investigates low-dose arsenic contamination in rice and other risks to food safety like toxic algal blooms, E. coli in raw meat, BPA in plastics and poisonous honey.


A Discover event highlights how scientists are engineering DNA that may one day eliminate malaria, solve the energy crisis and feed the world.



A strange case of sinus pain and transient paralysis distracts one doctor from a life-threatening condition.


How the hipster mastermind behind high-tech data-mining may have forever changed how elections are run.

Blooming corpse flower

Scientists struggle to understand the parasitic behavior of one of the world's largest and smelliest flowers before it disappears.


Researchers come up with contingency plans that could help our planet dodge a cosmic bullet.


Knock on wood or not, superstition appears to have played a positive role in evolution and it continues to affect human behavior. Lucky us.


A graphic designer walks 52.2 miles to map the quirks of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Far from fault lines, intraplate earthquakes can be sudden and surprisingly intense.

Stem cells behind the reptiles' regenerative teeth have been identified.

Climate data reveals that humans didn't act alone in the woolly mammoth's demise.

The 7,000-year-old milk residue may mark the birth of the modern dairy industry.

The brain may be more active than we think in seemingly automatic habits such as nail-biting.

NASA's next generation of satellites use cell phones as remote-operated onboard computers. 

To make their ultrasonic serenades more attractive, male mice can choose to change their tune.



A planetary physicist helps Hollywood add authenticity to its sci-fi adventures.

Elephant Seals

At this wildlife rescue hospital, no patient has insurance and fish is always on the menu.


Don't miss Mole Day, the historic tornado of flames, or an ice giant's brightest appearance of the year.


Read about revulsion, revisit the aftermath of superstorms, and watch waterfalls that wow in 360 degrees.


With the new Virtuix Omni gamers can run, jump, duck and twist in virtual reality.


When and where to look for synthetic shooting stars.