National Geographic : 2013 Feb
photo: paul hilton. graphic: Álvaro valiÑo. Source: naSa. art: Marc JohnS NEXT Toxic Shark Fins? university of Miami neurologist Deborah Mash found an unsavory ingredient in the fins of seven shark species: a neurotoxin with possible links to parkinson’s, alzheimer’s, and lou gehrig’s disease. called beta-methylamino-l- alanine (BMaa), the molecule is made by cyanobacteria, often called blue-green algae, and can accumulate as it travels up the food chain. previous research in guam found that BMaa in bats eaten by locals was the likely cause of a neurodegenerative illness; the bats fed on the seeds of cycad trees with bacteria-harboring roots. Because the bacteria are ubiquitous in the ocean, Mash turned to marine species. Some controversy remains about BMaa detection methods, but Mash believes that with cyanobacterial blooms on the rise, more BMaa will be on the menu for sharks—and possibly people too. — Elizabeth Preston In Bangkok shark fins hang on hooks to promote the sale of shark fin soup. New Views of Pluto Astronomer Alan Stern rejects the 2006 demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet and thinks it will command more respect once people see the first close-up pictures from the spacecraft New Horizons, due in July 2015. “We’ve been blown away every time we’ve been to a new planet,” says Stern, who’s using a Hubble census of nearby objects to ensure the ship doesn’t get hit by any en route. —EP With the earth’s rotation, a person standing at the equator moves at more than a thousand miles an hour. WOW!