Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything

Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything

by The Editors of Discover Magazine
     
 

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How much do you know about . . .

  • Obesity
  • Sleep
  • Meteors
  • Aliens
  • Bees
  • Sperm banks
  • Sex in space
  • Duct tape
  • Germs
  • Airport security
  • Death
  • Ancient weapons
  • Rats
  • The Internet
  • Birth
  • Weather
  • Milk
  • Mosquitoes
  • Your

Overview

How much do you know about . . .

  • Obesity
  • Sleep
  • Meteors
  • Aliens
  • Bees
  • Sperm banks
  • Sex in space
  • Duct tape
  • Germs
  • Airport security
  • Death
  • Ancient weapons
  • Rats
  • The Internet
  • Birth
  • Weather
  • Milk
  • Mosquitoes
  • Your body
  • Space disasters

DISCOVER'S 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything is the first book written by the editors of the award-winning DISCOVER magazine. Based on DISCOVER'S most eagerly awaited monthly column, "20 Things You Didn't Know About," this original book looks at many popular—and sometimes unexpected—topics in science and technology, and reveals quirky, intriguing, and little-known facts.

Whether you're just curious or think you already know everything, this book is guaranteed to expand your mind.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Adult/High School- More than mere trivia, less than true science, this book is based on Discover 's popular monthly column of nearly the same title, "20 Things You Didn't Know About." The first thing the editors do is apologize for the volume's title, calling it "absurd." "Everything " is indeed misleading: "20 Things about 20 Things" is spot-on accurate. The topics range widely and are presented one to a chapter in alphabetical order, from airport security to weather, with bees, duct tape, meteors, rats, and sleep among those in between. The subjects fall into the categories of technology, health, and nature more so than hard science. Written with wit and humor, the entries are fun to read and easy to understand, demanding no scientific background. For most teens, the selections will prove to be things they truly did not know. Where is the most likely spot for alien life in the solar system? What did the ancient Greeks use to treat battlefield wounds? And that tape of a zillion uses: Is it duct tape or duck tape? The answers to these and many more, similar questions can be found in this entertaining compilation.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061734335
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/08/2008
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
679 KB

Read an Excerpt

Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything
Duct Tape, Airport Security, Your Body, Sex in Space...and More!

Chapter One

20 Things You Didn't Know About Airport Security

I think arriving at or departing from any airport in America is just horrendous these days.
—Roger Moore, British actor

Anyone who travels by air has good reason to be concerned. Besides post-9/11 jitters, we increasingly hear reports of flaws in the air traffic system, overworked flight controllers, computer failures at peak traffic hours, near misses in the air and on the ground.

One carefully underreported threat (don't panic the customers) is shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles—easy to operate, inexpensive, and readily available—presently impossible for civilian airliners to defend against. Our airplanes are, if not sitting, at least slow-flying ducks for terrorists.

Cited again and again is incompetence at all levels of the agencies tasked with aviation security. Most "security measures" supposedly in place to protect air travelers are highly cosmetic. Officials at the highest levels proclaim that "the government is doing everything in its power to counter terrorism." We hope that this brief review of airport security—or lack thereof—will move readers to demand genuine, efficient action from people who know what they are doing.

There is little doubt that the main terrorist threat is not box cutters, daggers, or handguns but explosive devices. These are either obtained on the open market or improvised ("home cooked") by an ever-growing cadre ofskilled amateur bomb makers. There are endless ways to blow things up, limited only by imagination and opportunity. The terrorists' slogan: "You have to thwart us 100% of the time. We have to succeed only once."

All security people, and all people who fly, are constantly aware of this. But it's impossible to protect every target every moment of every day. So we gather the best intelligence we can, deploy our most advanced technology and assessment tools, and pray the terrorists will make mistakes. How long this strategy can keep us safe is anybody's guess.

1. The Vuitton Went Boom. The vast majority of terror killings on airlines are by bombs hidden in checked luggage. To date, less than half of all checked baggage (and almost no cargo) is screened for explosives.

El Al Airlines, with the world's most efficient security, is often consulted for anti-terror advice. In 1987 an Israeli expert drafted a thorough security plan for Pan American Airways. It involved profiling passengers, hiring only professional security staff (not minimum-wage high school dropouts), and carefully inspecting all carry-on items, checked baggage, and hold cargo.

The company rejected the idea as "overly expensive" and "intrusive to passengers." A year later, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland—from a bomb in uninspected checked baggage. Pan Am soon after went out of business.

As long as airlines continue to gamble with passengers' safety just for the sake of stockholders' dividends, we are all in danger.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 730 million people travel on commercial airliners each year. More than 700 million pieces of their baggage are screened for explosives and other dangerous items—or so they claim.

Of course, we should all be aware of what we're packing in our carry-on luggage—anything that might be considered dangerous could be confiscated at a security checkpoint.

—David Neeleman, founder, JetBlue Airways

2. Ladies and gentlemen, when boarding, please do not carry or wear anything. On average, 1 in 17 passengers is carrying what the FAA terms a "dangerous item." The TSA's loose definition of "potential weapons" includes hairspray and ballpoint pens. Extra-heavy jewelry is prohibited. Grandma's old iron brooch could be used to club a pilot; big pins, rings, cufflinks, lanyards, bracelets, or necklaces just might . . . 

Clothing with snaps = suspicion! Also, ornate belt buckles, bras with wire reinforcements (discrimination against the ample-bosomed?)—and whose throat could Tiffany's tin butterfly barrette slash? Passengers with body piercings get close screening—even pat-downs or body searches—depending upon what has been pierced and how dramatically.

If anyone wonders why the airlines are not doing well it is because flying has been made such an unpleasant and degrading experience.
—Keith Henson, U.S. scientist

3. Peek-a-boo, I see you! (And maybe your hidden explosives.) Orlando International Airport has installed Rapiscan Secure 1000, a full-body X-ray device that allows screeners to see through clothing. And Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix is testing its own system, the Backscatter, designed to scan passengers' bodies for dangerous things.

Privacy advocates are resisting these snoop technologies, delaying their inclusion in America's arsenal of anti-terrorist security devices. The ACLU says that use of the Rapiscan Secure 1000 amounts to unlawful strip search. And transgendered passengers have a set of problems all their own.

The X-ray machines can identify most known plastic or liquid explosives as well as non-metallic weapons that are often—indeed, usually—missed by the metal detectors currently in service. Sensitive to modesty issues, the Transportation Security Administration is working to adjust Backscatter's imaging to blur private areas while remaining clear in places most likely to harbor threats. Won't this just encourage terrorists to conceal weapons in the body areas most likely to be blurred?

Increased and better screening for explosives is necessary—and Congress should fund it and TSA should implement it as quickly as possible. However, that screening doesn't reduce the risk posed by a trained terrorist with an unconventional weapon.

—Dave Reichert, U.S. politician

4. Beyond smart machines. Boston's Logan International Airport has become the first U.S. airport to go beyond technology and focus on human factors. Their "behavior pattern recognition" (BPR) program was created for Israel's Ben Gurion Airport to identify suspects who may have mayhem in mind. Now Logan has trained more than 100 Massachusetts State Police in BPR to enhance security in and around the airport.

America needs to know who our enemies are and what they plan to do. Improving our intelligence capacity is essential to ensuring the safety and well-being of all our citizens.
—Todd Akin, U.S. politician

Troopers look for odd behavior, like wearing heavy clothes on very hot days, buying long-distance tickets without luggage, acting overly nervous or overly detached. In all those cases, the behavior may be perfectly innocent. What is important is that it would attract attention and lead to a casual interview by a trooper.

Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything
Duct Tape, Airport Security, Your Body, Sex in Space...and More!
. Copyright © by Michael Editors of Discover Magazine, The. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

With more than five million readers, DISCOVER is the leading science magazine aimed at the general public. Founded in 1980, this award-winning magazine publishes articles covering science, technology, and the future. New York Magazine called DISCOVER "the science magazine for the interested layman," and the Chicago Tribune said DISCOVER "is the science magazine for anyone who flunked eleventh-grade biology. It tackles topics ranging from global warming to black holes to Neanderthals with a refreshing lack of academic jargon."

Dean Christopher is a regular contributor to DISCOVER, writing book reviews and contributing to the very same column, "20 Things You Didn't Know About," that inspired this book. He has also served as editor-at-large for SPIN magazine and as a contributor to OMNI. Dean's constant yearning to learn has led him to become fluent in French and Spanish. He also spent a decade as a pianist, arranger, and composer in New York, Paris, and Madrid. Dean currently lives in Beverly Hills, California.

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