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Paleoanthropologists Fight Tooth and Nail

Ann Gibbons, reporter for Science, seems to enjoy watching the fights about human ancestry.  At Science Now, she began a news item about an alleged fossil human ancestor with a joke: How many paleoanthropologists does it take to locate a molar on the correct side of a fossil jawbone?  The short answer to this joke, […]

Did Martians Win the War of the Worlds?

In the H.G. Wells version, the Martian invaders with their tripod machines and death rays, wreaking havoc on Earth, were defeated by Earth bacteria.  The new scientific plot envisioned by scientists, reported on Space.com, is that the Martians had the bacteria, and invaded Earth with it to either conquer Earth life or spread it onto […]

Introducing the Stretch & Squish Theory of Evolution

Evolution is too slow if theorists rely on single point mutations, say two biologists from U. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who published their ideas in PNAS1 (see summary on EurekAlert).  Instead, evolution proceeds by rapidly distorting, stretching and squishing what is already there, they claim.     They claim that even Darwin knew that […]

Crows and Apes Related by Convergent Evolution

Scientists have noticed that crows have some of the same tool-making skills as apes, and in fact, are even better tool makers.  How could such vastly different animals show such similar mental skills?  Science1 explains this as another example of convergent evolution: Discussions of the evolution of intelligence have focused on monkeys and apes because […]

Now We Know How Birds Fly

Elementary physical science students know how airplane wings generate lift, but bird flight poses special challenges.  The aptly-named swifts, for instance, can practically turn on a dime, dive steeply, and halt in mid-air to catch insects in ways that make a stunt pilot stall.  It’s not just flapping, and it’s not just leading-edge feather shape, […]

The Evolution of Irresponsibility

Evolutionists at the University of Minnesota have developed a theory for the evolution of impulsive behavior, reports EurekAlert.  They say that because our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, they had to grab what they could without thought of future reward or punishment: When psychologists study kids who are good at waiting for a reward, they find those […]

Haeckel Vindicated?  Parathyroid Glands from Gills?

“Human gland evolved from gills” trumpeted a BBC News science article without apology.*  It gives uncontested press to a team from King’s College that is claiming the human parathyroid glands evolved from gills.  This is claimed on the basis that they have similar functions (calcium regulation) and are located in the neck region.  Fish have […]

SETI Researcher Thinks Big: Send Internet Smut to the Aliens

Seth Shostak (SETI Institute), in an article on Space.Com, answers the question, “What do you say to an extraterrestrial?”  He said we no longer need to limit ourselves to short messages like “What hath God wrought?”,* the phrase Samuel F. B. Morse sent with the first telegraph.  The bandwidth we have available now is huge, […]

Candidates Vie for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week

Contributions for the weekly prize sometimes come in as numerous as contestants at the Boston Marathon.  You can send in your contributions or vote on the following: Evolution as sculptor:  Sid Perkins, in Science News, submitted three entries in an article on penguin evolution: Early in penguin evolution, the bones, especially in the wings and […]

Middle Earth in Indonesia?  Fossil “Hobbits” Smash Evolutionary Ring

Here we go again: another alleged human ancestor fossil that shakes up the evolutionary family tree.  No sooner had Nature1 announced a little 1-meter tall fossil female “hominin” that the discoverers classified as Homo erectus, that the science news media like MSNBC and the BBC flew into action reporting it as “fossil hobbits”  They seem […]

How Plants Wax Their Leaves

Plants have a waxy coating on their leaves, some more and some less, a fact many gardeners may notice without much thought.  A recent paper by two plant biologists in Science1 reveals that even this seemingly ordinary feature comes about only through a complex process in plant cells.  The waxy coating, called the cuticle, is […]

Disembodied Brain Flies Jet Aircraft

Researchers at University of Florida claim to have connected rat brains neurons in a dish to electrodes, which learned to run an F22 flight simulator. We can’t speak to the validity of this claim or its interpretation, but what stands out in the article is the awe over the computational abilities of the human brain: […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week

This week’s entry has a little jargon in it, but if you remember what we’ve said about the tRNA synthetase family of proteins (see 05/26/2004, 07/21/2003 and 06/09/2003 headlines), you’ll get it.  Paul Schimmel and Karla Ewalt comment in Cell1 on new discoveries by Sampath et al.2 that two of these synthetases fuse together to […]

Preventing Bird Divorce: Mates Take Different Flights, Arrive Together

A shorebird named the black-tailed godwit presents a puzzle to biologists: “arrival synchrony” (leave it to scientists to give big names to simple concepts).  The males and females of this bird mate for life, but like some humans, live apart for months at a time.  This presents two puzzles: how do they stay apart without […]

Biomimetics Dept: Wear a Pine Cone

EurekAlert says the British are developing new clothes using pine cone technology.  The fabric automatically adjusts to temperature by opening up or closing down, keeping the wearer comfortable in all environments.  “We’ve drawn upon nature,” said one designer of this “fundamental change in clothing.” Makes you wonder how a pine cone figured this out.  The […]
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