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Comparing Preferences for Pain or Gain

A group of researchers published in the Journal of Political Economy introduced the idea economic loss and gain incentives are innate, not learned.  To demonstrate this concept, the researchers presented capuchin monkeys two opportunities leading to two different outcomes for the monkey: pain or gain.  The capuchin monkeys had a tendency to choose the opportunity […]

Experimental Biologists Look to Animals for Inspiration

Whether insects, fish, birds or mammals, animals have a lot to teach scientists and engineers.  Here are some recent stories that begin to answer, “How do they do that?” with hopes that humans might be able to mimic their feats. Hard sponges:  Aimee Cunningham in Science News (03/25/2006; 169:12, p. 184) described the astonishment Joanna […]

Lazarus, Come Forth: Living Fossils Rise from the Dead

An animal goes extinct.  Millions of years pass.  The animal is found living in some remote jungle.  Scientists call this the “Lazarus effect,” after the man Jesus raised from the dead (see John 11).  Others call these finds “living fossils,” long thought to be extinct but now thriving in isolated ecological niches.  There are many […]

Jurassic “Beaver” Raises Fur

Another mammal has been found smack in the middle of the age of dinosaurs.  Science reported the discovery of Castorocauda lutrasimilis, an aquatic mammal about 17” long, found in China and dated according to evolutionary reckoning to 164 million years old – some 40 million years older than the previous record holder (see also 04/01/2005 […]

Treasure Trove of Rare Species Found in Papua New Guinea

There are still untouched areas on our planet.  Scientists announced the discovery of a “lost world” of new species of birds and mammals in a remote section of Papua New Guinea with no sign of trails or roads.  The news media are all abuzz with the exciting announcement: see MSNBC, National Geographic, BBC News, EurekAlert […]

A Whale of a SETI Tale

Disney’s Fantasia 2000 had an episode that pictured whales gliding through the air as if in outer space.  Lawrence Doyle of the SETI Institute connected whales with space in another way.  His article discussed whale language as a sign of intelligence.  Appealing to information theory and entropy, Doyle discussed how scientists deduce the syntax and […]

The Evolution of Spite

Since everything evolves, according to consensus science, why not attitudes like spite?  The BBC News reported about a University College London study on attitudes of revenge between the sexes.  They found that men seemed to get more satisfaction out of hurting foes than women.  This is all part of an evolutionary explanation for altruistic behavior […]

Observing Animals for Fun and Profit

Whether scientists watch Animal Planet for inspiration or not, they often are fixated on the wonders in the animal kingdom and want to understand and imitate them.  Here are some recent examples: Waddle of the Penguins:  Max Kurz at U of Houston enjoys watching cuddly penguins like most of us, but wonders how they waddle […]
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