National Geographic : 2012 Sep
NOW PHOTO: MATTIAS KLUM. GRAPHICS: ÁLVARO VALIÑO A human skeleton has 300 bones at birth but only 206 by adulthood. IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE Is it possible to get hit by something falling from orbit? It's happened only once, but NASA estimates that man-made debris lands on Earth nearly every week---mostly in water. Debris can be anything from the fiber- glass rocket scrap that struck an Oklahoma woman in 1997 (she was fine) to the 350-pound satellite chunk that fell into the Pacific last year. Orbital junk is under constant watch, and no one's been hurt in 50-plus years. "It's amazing but statisti- cally consistent," says NASA's Nick Johnson. "The world's a big place." ---Luna Shyr Charms and Chips It's a culture clash for the ages: mystic snake charmers versus high-tech bureaucrats. Last year 43 snakes---cobra, python, rat snake, boa---owned by ten Delhi charmers were implanted with ID microchips. Officials hope the procedure will, among other things, help them keep tabs on who owns which snakes. Noncompliant charmers, who call the measure unfair, could be jailed. Yet even chipped snakes are illegal based on a 1972 law, says Kartick Satyanarayan of Wildlife SOS. He urges reform, not regulation: Instead of defanging and mistreating snakes, charmers could use their skills for conservation work. Herpetologist Romulus Whitaker agrees, but wonders about widespread change. Snake charming has largely left urban India, he says, though in superstition-steeped rural areas, "it's not going away for the next hundred years." ---Jeremy Berlin One 2009 estimate placed 800,000 snake charmers in India---like this one in New Delhi, with a king cobra.