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Inferring Dinosaur Family Life from Bones

Observation: a jumble of dinosaur bones in China.  Conclusion: some dinosaurs showed tender loving care to their young.  This is the gist of a paper in Nature this week (Sept. 9),1 reported also on Nature Science Update.     Discerning behavior from bones is an art, but these bones of 34 psittacosaurs from Liaoning, China […]

Classifying Eukaryotes Easier than Evolving Them

If you like stories with surprise endings, check out an otherwise boring paper by two Canadian evolutionary biologists, Alistair G. B. Simpson and Andrew A. Roger, in the Sept. 7 issue of Current Biology.1  Their subject is the real “kingdoms” of eukaryotes (that’s all creatures with nuclei, including plants, animals, and a host of single-celled […]

Cooing Doves Set Muscle Speed Record

The dove: a symbol of peace, innocence, love, and gentleness, right?  Its cooing call is a soothing song to nature lovers.  Yet hidden in the throat of the dove is one of the fastest-acting muscles in the animal kingdom, report Elemans et al. in the Sept. 9 issue of Nature.1  The cooing song contains a […]

North Pole Enjoyed Balmy Climate

In ages past, the North Pole region enjoyed a Mediterranean climate, according to Nature Science Update and the BBC News.  EurekAlert reminds us that ice cores demonstrate that Greenland, too, had one or more periods of warm weather suitable for lush plant growth (see 08/16/2004 headline).  Climate swings were abrupt enough to occur within a […]

Nature Says ID Paper Scored a Publishing Success

A news story in the Sept. 9 issue of Nature1 says, “A new front has opened up in the battle between scientists and advocates of intelligent design, a theory that rejects evolution and is regarded by its critics as another term for creationism.”  Reporter Jim Giles says the paper by Stephen Meyer of the Discovery […]

Archer Fish Learns the Laws of Optics

Imagine you’re a kid in a swimming pool, underwater with a squirt gun.  Lurking under the surface, you detect the wavy, distorted image of your big brother standing on the deck.  You sneak up, fire from below– and miss, because you didn’t know how to correct for refraction and distance through the air-water interface.  There’s […]

Natural Selection Demonstrated in European Heart-Disease Gene?

Stephen Wooding (U. of Utah) is elated.  He sees an “exciting trend” in genetic research that might, finally, demonstrate positive natural selection acting on a gene with a clear phenotypic effect (measurable outward benefit).  Writing in the Sept. 7 Current Biology,1 he mentions a few recent papers suggesting this connection, but focuses particularly on one […]

Darwin’s Finches: Researchers Tweak the Beak

Every once in awhile, a new angle on Darwin’s finches (an icon of evolution) appears in print.  Peter and Rosemary Grant, who have devoted their life to studying everything possible about these related species of birds that inhabit the Galápagos Islands – only to find that evolutionary changes are reversible (see 04/26/2002 headline) – have […]

Step Aside, Lucy; Your Distant Ancestor Walked Upright, Researchers Claim

Penn State researchers are trying to scoop the coveted title of “discoverers of the first upright-walking hominid” with a CT scan of their champion, Orrorin (see 02/23/2001 headline).  They have the ball and socket joint of the specimen (thought to be like a chimpanzee) and a bit of the bony neck that connects the ball […]

Letter: The Case Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Sometimes the letters to the editor are the most interesting parts of a magazine.  Read what John T. Durkin says about embryonic stem cell research in response to an April letter by another scientist: In his Letter “Human being redux” (16 April, p. 388),2 M. S. Gazzaniga constructs his defense of human embryonic stem cell […]

Pop Goes the Fatbubble Theory for the Origin of Life

Jack Szostak and colleagues at Howard Hughes Medical Institute have a new entry for stories about how the first life got rolling: the bubble theory.  Bubbles of fat molecules enclosing genetic material might have given rise to a primitive form of natural selection, they say; the more effective at replication the RNA inside a lucky […]

Creationist-Hating Evolutionist Chides Darwin Bulldogs

Steve Jones (Galton Laboratory, University College, London) wrote a book review in Nature this week1, that, while witty, leaves the reader wondering what he really thinks.  One thing is clear: he hates creationists with a vengeance– In a recent magazine poll, Richard Dawkins, with his trademark hobbit smile, was voted Britain’s top intellectual (a welcome […]

Are We Lost on a Speck of Cosmic Dust?

A new Copernican revolution seems to be in the works, not another “demotion” of man from the center of the universe, but a promotion back to the ancient idea of plan or purpose for our existence.  The demotions reached their nadir with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and other books that declared we are nothing special, that […]

SETI Needs to Read, Not Listen

What technology would an extra-terrestrial intelligence use to communicate with us?  For fifty years, the search has presumed that an ET would use radio waves to announce “we’re here.”  Not a good idea, says a professor of computer and electrical engineering at Rutgers.  He thinks investors on distant planets would put their money not on […]

Multispectral Galaxy Studies Contradict Theories

The latest issue of Caltech’s magazine Engineering and Science1 has beautiful pictures of galaxies taken in ultraviolet by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), and in the infrared by Hubble’s sister, the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Combining images of the same galaxy in visible, ultraviolet and infrared is helping astronomers figure out their structure, and as D. […]
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