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Titan’s Atmosphere Is a Hydrocarbon Factory

A press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the discovery of complex hydrocarbons in Titan’s atmosphere.  Some molecules have up to seven carbon atoms.  The discoveries came from the recent flyby on April 16, the closest yet, at just 638 miles above the surface.  Swooping into the upper layers of the atmosphere, the spacecraft came […]

Hubble Telescope Celebrates 15th Birthday with Stunning Images

Fifteen years old this month, the Hubble Space Telescope showed off new images of the Whirlpool Galaxy and Eagle Nebula (see ESA press release).  Engineers at JPL who built the WFPC-2 (Wide Field and Planetary Camera), the camera that took most of those famous images that adorn our walls and calendars, took great satisfaction today […]

Bacterial Hydrogen Fuel Cell May Yield Cleaner World

Scientists at Penn State are working on a new, improved fuel cell.  Its secret?  Bacteria that can be coaxed with a little electricity to produce “four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.”  Will you someday be able to harness hydrogen from organic waste to drive […]

Giant Carnivorous Amphibians Found in African Fossil Deposit

Meat-eating amphibians shaped like crocodiles?  Be glad you didn’t live in West Africa 250 million years ago, say scientists at McGill University.  Two species were described, one with large and small fang-like teeth, and another with curved horns on the back of its head. The fossils didn’t come with dates on them, and since amphibian […]

In the Beginning, Hydrogen: Was It Miller Time?

A press release from University of Colorado says that the spark-discharge experiments of Stanley Miller in the 1950s (see 05/02/2003 entry) might be relevant again.  Why?  Researchers used new models to estimate the amount of hydrogen in the early earth’s atmosphere, and came up with numbers 100 times higher than before.  If hydrogen did not […]

Evolutionists Plan Secret Weapon for Kansas Debate

Pro-evolution scientists have changed their mind and decided to join the hearings about the Kansas science standards, but haven’t released a list of witnesses.  Those in favor of the new standards, which call for critical thinking about evolution, have published a complete list.     On March 31, Geoff Brumfiel in Nature1 reported, “Biologists snub […]

How to Get Asteroid Dust Ponds in Mere Millennia

A team of U. of Colorado and MIT scientists modeled the formation of the smooth dust ponds found in some of the craters on the asteroid Eros by the NEAR spacecraft (see 02/13/2001 entry).  They calculated that micrometeoroid settling from impacts was too slow a process, and instead ran experiments with electrostatic levitation of fine […]

Butterflies Really Know How to Fly

The path of a butterfly may appear haphazard to us, but there is a method to the fluttering.  A UK team of scientists put transponders on butterflies and monitored their flight paths.  They found that the looping paths appear to help with orientation and food detection.  The rest of the time, they flew straight at […]

Temple Mount Debris Yields Artifacts from Solomon’s Temple

Israelis were shocked and outraged when Palestinians undertook an illegal construction project in 1999 on the Temple Mount, and threw the debris into the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem, but there was little they could do about it.  Though this “archaeological disaster” caused irreparable damage to the site, the holiest place for the Jews, some Israelis […]

Dinosaur Fossilized in the Act of Laying Eggs

Two eggs, with shell material still attached, were found inside the oviducts of a theropod dinosaur, a Chinese team reported in Science.1  This first-time discovery of intact eggs in the body of the female “suggests that theropod dinosaurs had two functional oviducts (like crocodiles) but that each oviduct produced only one egg at a time […]

Gorilla or Hominid?  Toumaï Controversy Continues

Michel Brunet’s controversial Toumaï skull (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) made the cover of Nature last week,1,2 but rivals contend it was not part of the human line.  The skull he found in Chad in 2002 (see 07/11/2002 and 10/09/2002 entries) was badly disfigured and needed reconstructive surgery, leading to criticisms that any interpretations were subjective.     […]

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Academic Bill of Rights?

Why would Nature claim that academic freedom is a threat to academic freedom?  In the April 7 issue,1 Emma Marris titled her news item, “Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content – Academics are fighting right-wing ‘bills of rights’.”  The academic freedom the professors want is their own freedom to control lecture content, […]

Molecular Motors Do Ballet

Scientists at University of Illinois studied dynein and kinesin – the tiny molecular trucks that ferry cargo inside the living cell – and found that they are not just individualists: they cooperate in a delicate yet effective performance.     Some scientists had thought that the two machine types, which travel in opposite directions, were […]

Go to the Roach, Thou Robotics Designer

Most of us can’t step on them fast enough, but of cockroaches, engineers at Johns Hopkins say “the pesky critters are excellent role models” – for robotics.  Classroom exercises include building obstacle courses for cockroaches and observing how they use their antennae to navigate, even in the dark.  Said one student, experienced in trying to […]

Solar Eclipse Probabilities Calculated

The probability, on average, that the spot you are standing on will see a total solar eclipse is once every 360 to 375 years, says Joe Rao, a lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium, writing for MSNBC News.  Some cities, though, like Los Angeles, have to wait 1565.9 years, and some rare spots may not see […]
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