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Cassini Photographs Earth from Saturn, Discovers New Ring

A new ring, geysers from a distance, and our home planet from 930 million miles away – these and more wonders are visible in new photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.  Now at opposition (facing the sun), the orbiter’s cameras can pick out fainter details in backlighting.  Highlights of the three published photos […]

The Trouble with Neanderthals

If nothing else, the scientific investigation of Neanderthal Man is valuable for illustrating how fluid scientific opinion can be.  Since we found out Sept. 1 that Neanderthal genes may be lurking among us, two more unexpected claims have been made about these wrestler-build members of genus Homo. Hideouts and Holdouts:  Some Neanderthals may have lived […]

Marine Mimics Found Off Thailand

Live Science reported findings from a rich seascape off the coast of Thailand: “Scientists combing through undersea fauna off Indonesia’s Papua province said Monday they had discovered dozens of new species, including a shark that walks on its fins and a shrimp that looks like a praying mantis.”     National Geographic posted even more […]

What’s Inside a Spore?  Nanotechnology

The spores that are emitted from fungi and ferns are so tiny, the appear like dust in the wind.  Who would have ever thought such specks could exhibit nano-technological wonders like scientists have found recently: Evapo-Motors:  Scientists at U of Michigan were intrigued by how ferns turn the power of evaporation into launching pads.  The […]

Voles Throw Evolutionary Genetics Into Disarray

What is it with voles?  These little gopher-like furballs with beady eyes, short tails and tiny ears are giving evolutionary geneticists fits.  A press release from Purdue University states, “Purdue University research has shown that the vole, a mouselike rodent, is not only the fastest evolving mammal, but also harbors a number of puzzling genetic […]

Record Dino Trove in Mongolia

67 dinosaurs in a week: that’s what diggers from Montana State University found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.  The team effort was led by veteran dinosaurologist Jack Horner.  Most skeletons were Psittacosaurs, thought to be predecessors of the horned ceratopsids, like Triceratops.  Seeking to understand the developmental biology of dinosaurs, the team was less […]

Ethane Cloud at Titan: Too Little, Too Late?

Those following the Titan exploration by Cassini-Huygens have wondered where the ethane went.  Oceans of ethane hundreds of meters deep, if not kilometers deep, were predicted but not found, as reported previously (see 04/25/2003 and 10/16/2003 pre-Huygens reports, 01/15/2005 and 01/21/2005 Huygens early results, and 12/05/2005 review; see also New Scientist analysis of the “total […]

Plant Protection: A Modern Medieval Castle Story

Vigilant guards stand at the gates.  In times of peace, they let down the drawbridge, and the townspeople carry on their trade.  Farmers bring in their crops for the marketplace, and local craftsmen and pedlars keep the local economy bustling.  Yet the sentries maintain a watchful eye, aware that numerous interlopers are about.  Aliens constantly […]

Another Rotary Machine Found in Bacteria

A molecular “garbage disposer” in the cell membrane bearing some resemblance to the rotating motor ATP synthase has been described in Nature.1  This machine, called AcrB, expels toxins from the cytoplasm through the cell membrane to the outside.  Like ATP synthase, it has three active sites at one end where the binding occurs, and it […]

Do Mammals Depend on Virus Help?

Researchers found that sheep depend on a retrovirus to become pregnant.  Retroviruses (those that can insert themselves into a genome of a host cell) include the dreaded HIV and generally have a bad reputation.  Remnant retroviruses are prevalent in many animal species and have been considered a class of “junk DNA,” having mutated away their […]

Patients in Vegetative State May Be Aware

Remember the arguments put forth for why Terry Schiavo should be allowed to die?  They revolved around the awareness of those said to be in a persistent vegetative state.  Now, researchers reported in Science1 that a patient diagnosed in a vegetative state was aware of what was going on: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging […]

Historian Reveals Isaac Newton as Biblical Economist

The image of Isaac Newton as pure mathematician and physicist ignores a big part of his persona, said Georgia Tech Professor Kenneth Knoespel in a press release reported by EurekAlert.  Living in an era when alchemy was still considered a serious subject for natural philosophers, Newton viewed alchemical research as part of his Biblical vision […]

Nature Backpedals Over Stem-Cell Hype

After Nature printed an upbeat press release last month that stem cells could be extracted without killing an embryo (see 08/25/2006), critics found that the experiment did indeed kill the embryos.  Also, it turns out none of the stem cell lines survived, and that more than one cell had been extracted from the embryos, contrary […]

Is the Fruit from Darwin’s Tree Edible?

Darwin’s “Tree of Life” fruit stand found an upbeat salesman in John Roach at National Geographic this week.  In his update on the “Assembling the Tree of Life” (AToL) project, he reported cheerfully that “New cures, supercrops, and secrets of evolution may emerge from the fast-growing branches of the ‘Tree of Life,’ scientists say.”   […]

Whistling in the Dark Matter Debate

Who’s right?  Douglas Clowe’s team at U of Arizona claimed two weeks ago that they found dark matter in the Bullet Cluster – they even had a picture of it.  The Chandra X-Ray Center called it “direct proof” of dark matter.  Two days later, EurekAlert posted a story about a new proposal to bring back […]
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