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Happy Darwin Day?

Humanists hope to have a new international holiday by 2009: Darwin Day.  (Feb. 12 was Darwin’s birthday as well as Abe Lincoln’s, so it’s already set aside as a holiday in America, but promoters want this to be an international event.)  According to Robert Evans’ story in Reuters, the British Humanist Association believes such a […]

Your Internal Motors Can Run Nanotech

In each cell in your body, and in that of every living thing, there exists a tiny motor named ATP synthase that Science News1 calls “the ultimate molecular machine.”  It converts electrical to chemical energy, writes Alexandra Goho, “with amazing efficiency.”  Now, Japanese have harnessed some of these motors (only 12 millionths of a millimeter […]

“Utmost Precision” Found in DNA Repair Enzyme

The cell has many helper enzymes that can repair DNA damage.  One such enzyme, named MutY, has been described in the Feb. 12 issue of Nature.1  Reviewer Tomas Lindahl sets the stage: “Damaged DNA must be removed with the utmost precision, as mistakes are costly.  The structure of a repair enzyme bound to its substrate […]

Darwinians Excel at Games

Martin Nowak (Harvard) sure got good press for his evolutionary game theories last week.  In Nature,1 he retold the glorious story of how he and Karl Sigmund met in an Austrian mountain cottage and applied the “prisoner’s dilemma” game to a new theory for social evolution.  The same week, in Science,2 as part of a […]

Comets as Cosmic Storks

Chandra Wickramasinghe and colleagues at Cardiff University have raised the bar on tale-telling ability.  They believe that comets splatting on earth can carry away germs of life that gradually spread farther and farther out, eventually escaping the sun’s pull.  Over time, they might spread life to other worlds.  They estimate that since the origin of […]

How Snakes Lost Their Limbs

Penn State scientists have a story for how snakes, which presumably evolved from lizards, lost their legs.  They had to burrow through tight places.     Part of their story involved disproving that snakes evolved from sea-going reptiles, like mosasaurs, explains the press release from Penn State’s Eberly College of Science.  They compared genes from […]

Proof of Life in Martian Meteorite Alleged – Again

Some Aussies are trying to scoop the Mars prize, it seems from a headline in the down-under Daily Telegraph.  While two American rovers are busily sniffing about for evidence of water (as a prerequisite for life) on opposite sides of the surface of Mars, the Australians are saying, “No worries, mate,” they already found Martian […]

Georgia to Teach Evolution, but Avoid the E Word

It’s not “evolution,” it’s “biological changes over time,”  asserts Georgia Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.  But sometimes good intentions can make both sides of a dispute upset, reports MSNBC News.  Pro-evolutionists think the state is trying to water down the teaching of evolution, and anti-evolutionists think changing the word does not change the meaning.  Cox […]

For Complex Life, Just Add Oxygen

When you take in a breath of fresh air, you let in a lively but dangerous molecule that would kill you if it were not that your cells have elaborate controls to utilize its energy for good and avoid its damaging potential.  Oxygen makes forests burn to ashes but also powers your muscles.  Astrobiologists realize […]

The New Phrenology Ostracizes Neanderthals

Scientists contrasted different points on Neanderthal skulls to modern human skulls, and concluded Neanderthals were a separate species.  The New York Times report by John Noble Wilford says that not all scientists are convinced, however, by the analysis published by Katerina Harvati et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 Jan. 26 […]

Does Microevolution Add Up?

Do numerous small changes add up to big ones, like Darwin thought?  In the Jan. 15 issue of Nature,1 New Zealand kiwi David Penny (Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University) is hopeful that the new chimp genome will prove it so: The fundamental issue here is Darwin’s bold claim that “numerous, […]

Your Bacteria Ancestors

Dr. Peter Antonelli thinks he has mathematically proven that all multicellular organisms, including plants and animals and human beings, came from two ancient bacteria that met and formed a stable, consistent relationship.  His boast is explained on a University of Alberta press release.  He thinks most biologists don’t comprehend his mathematical models yet, but EurekAlert […]

Did Borax Evolve Into 20-Mule Teams?

You’re dating yourself if you remember the old TV western Death Valley Days, and its commercials about 20-Mule Team Borax.  (Mule teams actually did pull loads of borax from Death Valley to Mojave, quite a feat in those days, but that’s another story.)  In modern times, though, borax has made science news as a possible […]

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?

Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.     Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, […]
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