|Still Learning From da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci willed himself to knowledge, pursuing it voraciously throughout a 46-year career. He sketched to make sense of the unknown, bounding from one discipline to the next – science, the arts, medicine, technology – while seeking the links between them. Today’s experts in the very fields he studied, from surgeons to scientists to musicians and engineers, continue to reap fresh insights from his work – 500 years after his death. His greatest gift was to make knowledge visible, and nowhere is this more evident than in his study of anatomy. Although his paintings are far better known, his wealth of manuscripts and drawings reveal the inner workings of his genius.
|Little Pieces, Big Problems
Plastic waste is washing into the oceans at an average rate of about nine million tons a year. While this very visible trash crisis has created a public outcry, sunlight, wind and waves are breaking down ocean plastic into bits that are barely visible to the naked eye – and baby fish are eating it. Plastic has been found in the stomach of a fish that was just a quarter inch long. The odds against young fish are long enough already, and if their first meal is plastic, they’re not consuming what they need to sustain them until their second. A single thread of plastic in the stomach of a larval fish is potentially a killer. If the baby fish die, that means fewer big fish. And that’s a big problem. Join now ›
|On the Edge of Possible
Too often in the world of conservation, we hear only gloom and despair. The story of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park is a welcome exception. The elephant population, decimated during the country’s civil war, is rebounding, along with that of the lions, African buffalo, hippos and wildebeest.
This news is especially remarkable given the park’s history. Gorongosa was once a hunting reserve, but its remoteness became its undoing. During the country’s civil war, the park served as a refuge for rebel forces. Fighting on the ground and rocket shelling ultimately wrecked the park by the turn of the century.
But now, Gorongosa is thriving again, inspired in part by Nelson Mandela’s idea of “peace parks” for the conservation of wildlife and the benefit of local people. Join now ›
|Into the Fire
In the Alaskan interior—a region roughly the size of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana combined—the vast majority of land is accessible only by aircraft. Up to 40 percent of Alaska is boreal forest, populated mostly by highly flammable black spruce. Many remote fires are allowed to burn, but when a fire threatens lives and property, smokejumpers remain the frontline troops.
Their training is among the most demanding in the world. Of the up to 200 people who apply each year, roughly 10 are selected for rookie training. When called to a fire, they don’t know where they’re going or how long they’ll be gone. They don’t know how big the fire is or how dangerous the winds will be. They know only that they’re going into battle with one of nature’s most savage and unpredictable forces. Join now ›
Get a National Geographic Magazine membership today for as low as £6 a year.