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Blame Hiccups on Your Inner Fish

Why do humans get hernias and hiccups?  Neil Shubin says it’s because of your inner fish.  In the Scientific American series on Darwin, the discoverer of Tiktaalik was trying to show how evolutionary theory sheds light on human anatomy.  He looked back to fish and amphibians and found insight.     “A glimpse inside the […]

Fish and Reptiles Converge on Magnetic Navigation

Two very different kinds of animal both have outstanding ability to navigate by earth’s magnetic field: salmon and sea turtles.  A new hypothesis by scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published in PNAS,1 suggests that the young are “imprinted” with their local magnetic field signature at birth. From a navigational perspective, some […]

Thanks to Clam Design, Stronger Materials Are Coming

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have produced a lightweight composite material 300 times stronger than its constituents.  How?  By taking inspiration from clams.     The team, writing in Science,1 described nacre, the shiny mother-of-pearl found inside clam shells.  Because of the way it sandwiches crystalline aragonite with layers of protein (07/26/2004), nacre resists […]

An Evolutionary Fly in the Turtle Soup

A new fossil turtle was found.  Is it a missing link?  That depends on whether you believe the popular press or the scientists.     National Geographic News and Science Daily both led off with the missing link angle, complete with an artist reconstruction of the fossil turtle found in China named Odontochelys.  “Since the […]

Lizard Hair and Other Fables

In some science reports, it’s hard to tell where the data stops and the speculation begins.  In any case, evolutionary theory usually arrives in time to take credit for whatever happened in the unobservable past (cf. 08/24/2007). Bad hair joke:  Live Science wants you to blame your bad hair days on lizards.  Why?  Because according […]

Tooth Evolution Theory Lacks Bite

The hardest substance in your body is your teeth.  The varieties of teeth among vertebrates is astounding, from the tiny incisors in a mole to the bone-crushing scimitars on a T. rex.  Many fossils are known only from their teeth.  One would think teeth are the best-studied objects in evolutionary theory, but a recent paper […]

Deep Life Is Right at Home in Total Darkness

It seems every year scientists find organisms thriving in environments thought too inhospitable for life.  A new word was coined for these organisms: extremophiles – lovers of the extreme.  Two recent discoveries push the envelope of extreme environments almost to the deep limit. Pressurized fish:  The bottoms of the deep ocean trenches of the Pacific […]

Living Better Bioelectrically

Electric eels are inspiring a new generation of fuel cells.  Science Daily reported that a remarkable fusion of engineering and biology may lead to tiny electronic devices that run on biology’s own energy currency, ATP.  “Engineers long have known that great ideas can be lifted from Mother Nature, but a new paper by researchers at […]

How the Evolution Story Became Like Jellyfish

“How the [blank] got its [blank]” is the template for story titles imitating Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So Stories: i.e., How the Camel Got His Hump and How the Leopard Got His Spots.  Kipling wrote these as silly stories to entertain children, not to be taken seriously by scientists.  Knowing that creationists often criticize Darwinian explanations as […]

How Chromosomes Pack Without Exploding

When preparing to divide, a cell has to copy all its DNA accurately and pack it into chromosomes.  A professor at U Chicago told Science Daily this is “like compacting your entire wardrobe into a shoebox.”  The cell has another difficulty in this compaction process, though: DNA, being negatively charged, resists packing.     Eukaryotes […]

Can Worms Outsmart Humans?

Worms may seem creepy to some people, but they possess some amazing abilities.  How many of you had to struggle through calculus class, for instance?  Worms know it by heart, reported Greg Soltis at Live Science.  Their brains instinctively apply the logic of calculus to input signals from sensory inputs.  A University of Oregon biologist […]

Another Evolutionary Statistic Is Wrong

Marine invertebrate diversity has not increased dramatically over time, contrary to conventional wisdom.  That’s the conclusion of a team of 35 researchers who spent a decade analyzing seashell fossils from around the world.     Science Daily reported the story July 7.  A week later, on July 14, Science Daily reported a follow-up story, entitled, […]

Flatfish Evolution Revealed

Darwin has been vindicated again, to hear the media reports.  Science Daily said, “Flatfish Fossils Fill in Evolutionary Missing Link.” National Geographic News ruled out the competition by saying, “Odd Fish Find Contradicts Intelligent Design Argument.”  In a nutshell, Science Daily said, “Hidden away in museums for more that 100 years, some recently rediscovered flatfish […]

Not Another Tetrapod Missing Link

Fossils don’t contain light bulbs, but almost every time a new one is found, scientists claim it sheds light on evolution.  The BBC News kept that tradition going with this line, “Scientists say a fossil of a four-legged fish sheds new light on the process of evolution.”  What, exactly, was found?  Whatever Ventastega curonica was, […]

An Evaluation of Evolution as an Explanatory Device

It is very common for scientists to claim this or that phenomenon “evolved.”  How well do such statements qualify as scientific explanations?  How much scientific heavy lifting is done by merely stating that things are the way they are because they evolved that way?  The following recent examples can be considered representative of the evolutionary […]
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