National Geographic : 2011 Jun
NEXT Voyager 1 Earth Neptune Sun Proxima Centauri PHOTO: LYNN JOHNSON. TOP: JOHN GRIMWADE GRAPHIC ; NASA PHOTO, SOURCE . OLIVER MUNDAY Sunlight in the Dark In rural East Africa, where nearly 90 percent of households are off the grid and large solar panels are costly, hazardous kerosene lamps are the norm. Enter portable micro-solar systems, which development groups are introducing for $10 to $25. These generate one or two watts---enough to power LED lights and recharge batteries---as well as income for local salespeople. And micro-solar provides another kind of power. Dorica Magomba (above), a Maasai farmer in Tanzania's Iringa Region, uses it to scare hyenas away from livestock at night. "When you have light," says photographer Lynn Johnson, who met Magomba while working in the region, "you have courage." ---Amanda Fiegl ACCENTS AND PERCEPTION When it comes to the way we speak, accents reveal more than where we come from. Researchers at Germany's Friedrich Schiller University Jena found that speech trumps looks when people categorize someone based on those two traits alone. Accents may be key to social integration, as they can affect whether listeners perceive the speaker as being one of their own or part of a different group. Says Patricia Bestelmeyer, whose research at the University of Glasgow focuses on the brain's response to different accents: "They can influence how much you prefer or trust someone." ---Luna Shyr Micro-solar Benefits Cleaner and safer than kerosene lamps and disposable batteries Cost recouped within five months; users avoid risk of rising fuel prices Creates a new industry and extends work hours, boosting the local economy 1 2 3 Launched in 1977, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is now 10.8 billion miles from the sun. At this scale the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would be about 2,000 pages past this one.