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Male Imparts More to Embryo than Just DNA

A team of biologists have confirmed that male sperm RNAs are delivered to the oocyte along with the DNA.  Specifically, paternal messenger RNAs are delivered to the egg.  These might influence development and put the male’s imprint on the developing zygote.  Writing in Nature,1 the researchers speculate what the finding means: Why should spermatozoa messenger […]

Whale Flippers Inspire Aeronautical Engineers

Have you seen the bumpy flippers on humpback whales, you know, the species whose males serenade their mates?  Don’t laugh.  Scientists have found that the ungainly flippers actually have superior lift, less drag, and are less susceptible to stalling.  Engineers are imitating the whale flippers for advanced aircraft and helicopter rotors, reports EurekAlert from studies […]

Search for Evolutionary Trade-Offs Comes Up Empty

Husbands and wives know a lot about trade-offs, but according to Darwinian theory, all living things are in a constant tug-of-war between competing interests.  In evolutionary terms, a trade-off is a compromise between competing forces of natural selection.  For instance, “Simultaneously obtaining enough food to grow and reproduce while trying not to become someone else’s […]

Former “Junk DNA” Now Considered Essential

The term “junk DNA” seems to be fading with each new discovery.  Helen Pearson, reporting for Nature Science Update, leads with the line “‘Junk’ DNA reveals vital role: Inscrutable genetic sequences seem indispensable.”  They don’t know what it does yet, but the assumption is it must be important for evolution to hang onto it for […]

Searchers in the Dark Over Dark Matter

No sooner had Sean Carroll published his essay in Nature1 that dark matter proves how insignificant we are, that Geoff Brumfiel tells us in Nature Science Update that researchers can’t find the stuff.  The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search II is four times more sensitive than previous searches, but came up empty.  Carroll had just reiterated […]

Botulinum Toxin Deactivated by One Slight Change

A researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory mutated a botulinum enzyme by just one amino acid, and abolished its toxicity.  The mutation, a change from a glutamate to a glutamine at one position, increased the distance from a zinc atom to a water molecule by 0.6 angstrom, less than one tenth of a billionth of a […]

Caves Are Made by Bacteria

Caves seem like archetypes of slow, gradual, ancient processes.  Tourists have long been told that caves form slowly over many tens or hundreds of thousands of years by the slow dissolution of limestone by weak carbonic acid in water carried down from surface rainfall.  That explanation took a dramatic turn in the 1970s when scientists […]

Virus: Like DNA in a Hard Plastic Shell

A European team of biophysicists studied the mechanical properties of a virus and found the shell, made of protein, to act like hard plastic.  Writing in PNAS,1 they described the coat of a bacteriophage they studied: The protective proteinaceous shells (capsids) of viruses are striking examples of biological materials engineering.  These highly regular, self-assembled, nanometer-sized […]

Hot Jupiter!  Exoplanets Found Very Close to Stars

Two examples of Jupiter-size planets have been found by the European Southern Observatory.  They are so close to their parent stars, they orbit in less than two earth-days each.  Mercury would be 17 times farther out than one of them.  They belong to a new class of exoplanets scientists are terming “hot Jupiters.” A few […]

Fossil Hummingbird, Arthropod Look Modern

Science announced that a rare hummingbird fossil has been found in Germany and, though assumed to be 30 million years old, is indistinguishable from living New-World hummingbirds.  This upsets the standard theory that hummingbirds evolved in the New World only.  Writing in the May 7 issue,1 discoverer Gerald Mayr said, I report on tiny skeletons […]

Science Bashes I.D.

The Intelligent Design movement took another lashing by the journal Science,1 in the form of three book reviews by Steve Olson, a Washington DC area science writer.  Olsen reviewed one pro-ID book, Darwin, Design and Public Education by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, and two anti-ID books, God, the Devil and Darwin by […]

Feathered Dinosaur Exhibit Raises Doubts

Can you trust those fossils on display in your local museum, the ones showing “Feathered Dinosaurs and the Origin of Flight”?  No less than the respected journal Nature1 is concerned they may have been gathered and sold illegally, and are no more trustworthy than the 1999 Archaeoraptor hoax that embarrassed National Geographic magazine.     […]

Fish See With Electric Eyes

Biologists knew that some electric fish shock their prey and others with weak electricity can navigate with it, but they didn’t know till recently just how much information these fish can detect with their unique sense.  French and British scientists ran some experimental tests on weakly electric fish, the African elephantnose fish Gnathonemus petersii, which […]

Homology for Dummies

Current Biology likes to give its readers primers on various concepts.  The topic in the May 4 issue is homology.1  Caleb Webber and Chris P. Ponting explain this important evolutionary term for the rest of us.  The Q&A format also introduces homology’s siblings: analogy, orthology, paralogy, xenology, and synteny.     Some readers may not […]

Origin-of-Life Researcher Leslie Orgel Interviewed

The May 4 issue of Current Biology1 contains an interview with organic chemist Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute, who in 1974 published the book The Origin of Life on Earth with Stanley Miller of spark-discharge fame (see 05/02/2003 and 10/31/2002 headlines).  He considers his biggest mistake not thinking of the RNA World scenario first […]
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