National Geographic May 2013, Part 3

Element Hunters, by Rob Dunn, photographs by Max Aguilera-Hellweg

Element Hunters, aside from the annoying faux-periodic-table font they used for the title (“N,” “H,” and “U” have atomic numbers thank you very much. They don’t need fake ones attached to them by the graphics layout people at National Geographic) has the also-annoying misuse of the word “hunters.” The title makes it sound like the scientists in question are looking for existing elements. They aren’t hunting for elements any more than my cousin used to hunt for poodle puppies (hint: she bred them).

The titular “hunters” are using a cyclotron to throw protons and electrons at each other in an effort to create a new element that will remain stable. So far, they all have so many particles that they are pulled apart after the tiniest fraction of a second. I kind of doubt that we’ll ever find a stable element with that many protons and electrons, but it’s a hobby, I guess.

China’s Grand Canal, by Ian Johnson, photographs by Michael Yamashita

In this article, we travel with Johnson to the city of Jining and then spend two weeks on a barge carrying a load of coal down the canal to the Yangtze. Along the way, we learn the history of the canal, which was begun when Emperor Yang wanted to carry rice from the north to the south. The major rivers of China run east-to-west, so Yang had “a million” people dig a canal running perpendicular to the rivers. The canal used to start at Beijing, but much of the northernmost section is filled in now.