DISCOVER Magazine’s December Issue

*Why Aren’t You Beautiful?  — New research, based on a study of deer in Scotland, suggests that sexual antagonism is a way to maintain genetic diversity – and could explain why natural selection has not led to a flawless population (Page 16).

*No-More Tangles – A French physicist discovers that people with straight hair have about twice as many tangles as their curly-haired friends. Why? The greater the angle of intersection between strands of hair, the more likely the hair will knot (Page 20).

*Six Degrees of Autism – Schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder are among the complex neurodevelopmental diseases that have eluded doctors and researchers for years.  A new map linking these and other diseases illustrates how genetic variations could predispose certain individuals to one disorder or another (Page 24).

*When Flying Turns Fatal – When considering holiday travel plans, middle-aged women who take birth control pills should be especially wary of flying – it could prove deadly. This month’s “Vital Signs” column, based on a real-life medical case, explores the risk factors that can lead to a deadly blood clot (Page 30).

*Scientist of the Year 2007 – Harvard Astronomer Dr. David Charbonneau is recognized for his groundbreaking work with exoplanets, a promising lead towards the discovery of life beyond Earth.  Also honored are runners-up Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, for her work with telomeres and their relationship to cancer, and Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician whose surprising hobby is swallowing swords (Page 47).

*How to Kill a Satellite – U.S. satellites are an essential part of our nation’s defense system.  But how likely is an anti-satellite attack?  DISCOVER explores eight ways to kill a satellite, from million-dollar interceptors to signal jammers, revealing what works, what doesn’t, and why the gravest threat to our satellite security might be the cheapest (Page 56).

*Fried Mayo and Cranberry Foam…For Dinner? – In this month’s “Blinded by Science” column, Bruno Maddox explores the art of molecular gastronomy, a new approach to cooking made famous by celebrity chef Wylie Dufresne and the foodies on Bravo’s hit reality series Top Chef (Page 32).

*Can We Cure Aging? – A provocative new theory posits that the human inflammatory system, which protects us from infectious disease, may also accelerate the aging process by poisoning our organs and breaking down our tissue.  Pioneering research from the University of Vermont College of Medicine suggests that hormone therapy might turn back the biological clock.  An interview with Suzanne Somers on her use of controversial anti-aging treatments is also included (Page 58).

*20 Things You Didn’t Know About Gold – Here is some trivia: the U.S. has the world’s largest hoard of gold – but over twenty percent of the world’s decorative gold is threaded through Indian saris.  Plus, here’s a tidbit for James Bond fans: painting your body with gold can’t kill you (Page 80).