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Age Estimate for Oldest Glacier Revised Way Down

Deposits from Antarctic glacial ice thought to be 8.1 million years old have been re-dated at not more than 310,000 years old, and maybe as little as 43,000, reports a team writing in the Feb. issue of Geology.1  Ng (MIT), Hallet, Sletten and Stone (U. of Washington) analyzed cosmogenic helium-3 and calculated the rate of […]

Genes Evolving Downward

Those assuming the evolution of eukaryotic genomes has progressed upward in complexity may find the following abstract from PNAS1 startling: We use the pattern of intron conservation in 684 groups of orthologs from seven fully sequenced eukaryotic genomes to provide maximum likelihood estimates of the number of introns present in the same orthologs in various […]

“Bird Brain” No Longer an Insult

“Birds can perform amazing tasks beyond the reach of cats and dogs,” begins an article in the BBC News.  So pay a little respect.  You can still call your boss a bird brain, but had better quickly explain why that is a compliment.  See also the longer article on MSNBC News.     In a […]

Teachers Getting Reluctant to Teach Evolution

Cornelia Dean in the New York Times worries that, to stay out of trouble, more and more biology teachers are avoiding the discussion of evolution. Dean quotes someone who claims “the practice of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many people adhere to fundamentalist faiths.”  But why would teachers fear discussing it […]

Editorials Lukewarm to ID, but Not as Hot to Darwin

A subtle shift seems to be taking place in media coverage of intelligent-design controversies in school boards across the country.  Darwinists used to be the unchallenged kings of the hill.  Alternatives, whether creationism or intelligent design, were disqualified before they reached the starting gate.  It also used to be “open season” on anti-Darwinists.  No vituperative […]

Your Motors Are Turbo-Charged

Think how fast 6000 rpm is.  It would redline on most cars.  Yet you have motors in your body that make that speed look like slow-mo.     The Japanese have taken great interest in the cellular machine ATP synthase since its rotary operation was discovered in 1996 (see 12/22/2003 entry).  Maybe it’s because they […]

Astrobiology: 0 Steps Forward, 3 Steps Back

Astrobiology, the science in search of a subject, has major hurdles to overcome in its quest to explain everything from hydrogen to high technology.  Despite being one of the most active interdisciplinary research projects around the world (see 01/07/2005 entry), a leading researcher this week conceded that several promising leads of the past are now […]

Bat Theory Strikes Out

An international team of biologists set out to write the family history of bats, a story that is “largely unknown,” they admitted in Science.1  They didn’t have much to go on.  “The fossil record is impoverished,” their research confirmed, so they tried to piece together a phylogenetic story by combining all that is known about […]

Medical Professionals Lambaste the Nature of Ethics

Nature’s editorial on religion and ethics last month (see 12/09/2004 entry) motivated two medical professionals to write in and give the journal a piece of their mind.1  Apparently indignant over the editorial’s patronizing view of religion and its simplistic view of ethics, they made it clear that the scientific establishment is no judge of truth […]

Venus Flytrap Is Snappy-Fast

One tenth of a second is all the time the fly gets.  The traps of the Venus flytrap, an insectivorous plant Charles Darwin called “one of the most wonderful in the world,” somehow responds to stimuli quickly without muscles.  The entire mechanism is still largely unknown.  A team of French, UK and American scientists set […]

Shroud of Turin Debate Reopens

The shroud was from the 13th century, concluded earlier researchers, using carbon 14 dating methods.  Now, other experts are claiming the methods were flawed, because the researchers dated a mended patch made by medieval monks.  The BBC News reports a new claim that it is older than thought: between 1300 and 3000 years old.  National […]

Trail + Trail Mix = Health Mix

Peanuts, a staple ingredient in trail mix, are “rich in good chemicals,” reports the BBC News.  They have as many antioxidants as fruits, are high in protein and “good” monounsaturated fat.  So take some along and go on the trail, because, according to Southwestern Medical Center, “Exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression,” and EurekAlert reminds […]

Hippo to Whale: Missing Chain

Despite claims to the contrary,2 whale and hippo evolution are poorly understood.  That’s the gist of a paper in PNAS this week1 that tries to connect the dots between hippopotami (artiodactyls) and whales (cetaceans) and other groups of mammals.  There’s lots of missing dots:  The origin of late Neogene Hippopotamidae (Artiodactyla) involves one of the […]

Newspaper Editorials Lead Revolt Against King Charles

Some columnists and editorial writers are gaining boldness to attack the Darwin-only rule in science education.  Some examples: Senator Rick Santorum (R., Pennsylvania) in The Morning Call advocated a balanced approach to teaching evolution. Brian Fahling in The Union Leader took up the charge to defend Georgia’s “critical thinking” stickers (see 01/13/2005 entry). Neal McCluskey, […]

Spinach Leaf: “One of Nature’s supreme examples of nanoscale engineering”

Under the peaceful summer sun, plants deal with a life-or-death situation: too much sun.  Those of us with legs can take cover, but a poor spinach plant out in the furrow must deal with the excess energy or die.  Since it usually doesn’t die, what’s its secret?  A process called photosynthetic feedback de-excitation quenching, if […]
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