Table of Contents May 2014


All aboard! In the May issue of Discover, you'll check in with a team of engineers designing a plasma rocket that could taxi humans to Mars in under 40 days. Back on Earth, a gruesome facial cancer is threatening populations of Tasmanian devils, and it could destabilize an entire ecosystem. You'll also see how Mother Nature is exposing New York City's ecological weaknesses. 

This month's issue also features a bearded woman's medical mystery, nocturnal "vampire steroids" and one man's simple plan to feed the world. So dig in! There's more than enough to satiate your science appetite in May.   

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A leading researcher dishes the dirt on potentially sustainable agriculture for a growing global population.


A novel plasma engine could slash travel time to Mars — now approximately three years — to just 39 days.


A voracious cancer threatens to wipe out an iconic Tasmanian species and destabilize the island's ecosystem. Can biologists trick the disease into taming itself? 


New York City has been turning tidal wetlands into urban development for centuries. In his new book Gotham Unbound, Ted Steinberg says Hurricane Sandy showed the peril of ignoring the city's true ecological footprint.



A diabetic woman's deep voice, furry arms and bald spot point to a hormonal imbalance, but a deeper look reveals an even hairier problem. 


Medicine is finding where pain lives in the brain — and new ways to ease the anguish.


The complicated, confusing and thrilling search for alien life. 


Biologists struggle to untangle the ecological web surrounding a mysterious population decline in the national park.


From super-sniffers to electricity detectors, animals have an array of impressive sensory capabilities.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen an uptick in valley fever, a potentially fatal dust-borne infection.

Lookdowns manipulate polarized light to hide from predators.

From hurricanes to galaxies, spiral patterns seem omnipresent in our universe.

A biologist recruited the glassy-winged sharpshooter's sworn enemy, microscopic wasps, to decimate their population.

Scientists have discovered what fuels the high-energy X-rays bursting from Tycho's supernova. 

Scientists have built a device that converts brain waves into sound waves to detect types of seizures. 

An agricultural chemical disrupting fish habitats exhibits strange nocturnal behavior. 

A plant's clever engineering allows it to live in harsh, rocky habitats. 

Before modern refrigeration, people dropped frogs in their milk to preserve it. 



Our handy-dandy flowchart helps you navigate the slew of sci-fi films coming out in summer 2014.


You've probably heard about the excavated 8,000-plus statue army. Now is your chance to see them in the flesh.


Our favorite books this month cover math, microbes, Mozambique and maps.


If you're planning a road trip this summer, you might want to add one or all of these great science destinations to your itinerary. 


May is the best time of year to view Saturn — visible with the naked eye, and even better with a telescope.


A battery-powered spoon stays steady to make mealtimes easier for people who have essential tremor.


Marine archaeologists take a submersible to a WWII shipwreck site in a new Nova episode airing late May. 


All you need is a camera and an Internet connection to help researchers track bumblebee populations. 


May begins with Star Wars Day, and Mercury gives Northern Hemisphere skygazers their best evening views.

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