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South American Dinosaur Find Modifies Theories

A deinonychus-like dinosaur has been found in Argentina.  Representatives of this group, including velociraptor, had previously only been known in the northern hemisphere and Asia.  Since South America was supposedly on another land mass at the time, “The new discovery demonstrates that Cretaceous theropod faunas from the southern continents shared greater similarity with those of […]

Clutch Enables Your Motors to Achieve 100% Efficiency

Those little ATP synthase motors (see 01/30/2005 entry) in your body and (in all living cells) made news again in Nature1 last week.  Scientists in Tokyo performed an ingenious set of experiments to measure the efficiency of the F1 synthesizing domain.  They attached a tiny magnet to the camshaft so that they could turn it […]

State of the Cosmos Address Offered

On the occasion of the centennial of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Alan Guth, the father of inflationary cosmology, with colleague David I. Kaiser of MIT, took stock of cosmological theories in the Feb. 11 issue of Science.1  How has inflation fared since its controversial but hopeful proposal in 1981? “Inflation was invented a quarter of […]

Iraqi Marshlands on Slow Mend

The ecological disaster wrought by Saddam Hussein’s policy of drying up ancient marshes along the Tigris and Euphrates (see 08/18/2003 and 05/01/2003 entries) is still severe, reports Science,1,2 but groups are working hard on restoration.  It may take many years and will probably never be the same.  About 20% has been reflooded, with portions coming […]

Pot Shots at Hot Spots

Say that title five times, and you’ll be as flummoxed as geologists reporting in Science1 last week that long-believed assumptions are wrong.  They looked at three seamount chains in the Pacific, long thought to provide evidence of tectonic plates moving across stationary hot spots, and found that current theory cannot account for them: Our findings […]

Is Darwinism a Free Lunch Scam?

Neurobiologist William H. Calvin commented at the AAAS meeting this week about the claim that modern humans lived much earlier than thought (see 02/16/2005 entry).  To him, it means that we need to rethink our assumptions that bigger brains are smarter, according to a report on EurekAlert.  If “Homo sapiens was walking around Africa 200,000 […]

Mars Dry Most of Its Life

If Mars had liquid water, it was only briefly early in its history.  Observations from the Mars Express, which just celebrated its first year in orbit, show no hint that liquid water has existed any time recently, reports Nature Science Update.  It’s not that H2O is rare; it is abundant at the poles, for instance, […]

Introns Engineered for Genetic Repair

Scientists at Purdue University are using bacterial machines to treat cancer and other diseases.  These machines, called Group I introns, were thought to be useless: Once thought of as genetic junk, introns are bits of DNA that can activate their own removal from RNA, which translates DNA’s directions for gene behavior.  Introns then splice the […]

New Date for Edom Fits Biblical Record

The critics were wrong, and the Bible was right, according to new dates established for the kingdom of Edom southeast of the Dead Sea.  This is the gist of a report from UC San Diego that found evidence of extensive copper mining in the area much earlier than previously thought.  The area studied had “been […]

How Powerful Is Natural Selection?  “Biologists May Be Deluding Themselves”

Andrew P. Hendry (McGill University, Montreal) is no creationist; Darwinian evolution is a given in his News and Views piece in Nature1 this week.  But he cautioned his fellow evolutionary biologists not to make overconfident claims about the power of Darwin’s most famous concept, natural selection: Adaptation by natural selection is the centrepiece of biology.  […]

Jurassic Park Revision #76: Bonehead Dinosaurs Not Head-Butters

Pachycephalosaurs, or bone-heads, were dome-headed dinosaurs with skulls nine inches thick.  Interpretation: they rammed each other like rams, or head-butted jeeps filled with hapless human tourists in the movies.  Wrong, reports National Geographic in the March 2005 issue: research by Jack Horner and Mark Goodwin has shown that the thick skulls, surprisingly, could not have […]

Age of Modern Humans Revised, “Depending on Whom You Believe”

The official age of the oldest anatomically modern humans is now 195,000 years, some 65,000 years older than previously thought.  This announcement was made in Nature1 by Ian McDougall, Francis H. Brown and John F. Fleagle, based on revised radiometric dates calculated from sediments surrounding two human skeletons in Ethiopia.  These specimens, named Omo I […]

National Geographic Besieged by Letters Over Darwin Article

“Was Darwin Wrong?” the cover teased in November.  Inside, printed in huge bold type, the answer was ruthless and final: “NO.  The evidence for evolution is overwhelming” – end of discussion (see 10/24/2004 entry).  Not everybody liked this treatment.  Over 600 letters poured in, and in the March issue, NG printed six samples “chosen to […]

Honeybees Fly with Mental Maps

You can tell a honeybee to get lost, but it can’t.  You can even take it off its flight path, but it will find its way back.  Scientists writing in PNAS1 this week described experiments by a European team that wanted to test their navigating abilities.  They marked bees at feeding stations, then took them […]

Lichens: Two Designs Are Better than One

A lichen is a symbiotic organism comprised of an alga and a fungus.  PNAS1 reported a study that showed that “antioxidant and photoprotective mechanisms in the lichen Cladonia vulcani are more effective by orders of magnitude than those of its isolated partners” (emphasis added in all quotes).  Kranner et al. found: Without the fungal contact, […]
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