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Defeat Spam: Imitate the Body’s Defenses

Your body’s immune system is inspiring the next generation of email spam-fighters.  The University of Southampton reported that “An algorithm for spam recognition inspired by the immune system will be presented at the first European conference on Artificial Life (ALIFE XI) being held in Winchester this week.”     The idea is that “in the […]

Phoenix Did NOT Find Mars Life

A media snafu has NASA spokespersons rushing to deny that life has been found on Mars, reported Space.com.  For example, Live Science reporter Leonard David said that the White House has been alerted to the potential for new information about life on Mars based on findings from the Phoenix Lander.  The apparent secrecy has teased […]

Scientists Bemoan Research Fraud

A commentary entitled “Repairing research integrity” published in Nature June 181 struck a nerve.  Three letters to the editor in the July 31 issue said the problem is worse than Titus, Wells and Rhoades indicated when they said many issues of research fraud go unreported, and suggested principles to fix the problem.     The […]

How Much Is Known About Climate History?

Scientific papers on earth history can seem very erudite and confident, filled with jargon and named periods that appear carved in stone.  Every once in awhile, though, a surprise discovery raises questions about how sound their timelines and models really are.  Get a load of this opening to a review by Jacqueline Flückiger,1 an environmental […]

Wet Cave with Fossils Found in Dry Desert

The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest places on earth – it gets about 1mm of rainfall per year, if that – but scientists just discovered a wet cave there.  Robert Roy Britt reported for Live Science that these desert caves can contain water, and at least one is loaded with fossils […]

What’s SETI Got to Do With It?

The science news outlets are all posting a story from Space.com about how you can adopt a scientist.  Mark Showalter is an interesting guy – astronomer, scuba diver, amateur naturalist, award-winning photographer, and specialist in planetary rings.  But why was this story posted in the SETI column?     There doesn’t seem to be anything […]

Ethane Lake Found on Titan

Liquid ethane has been detected in a lake near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, reported JPL yesterday.  This confirms long-held suspicions that ethane, a byproduct of methane disruption by the solar wind, accumulates on the surface of the large atmosphere-shrouded moon.  A problem remains why there is so little of it.  Pre-Cassini predictions […]

Dinosaur Soft Tissue: Fooled by Slime?

The claim made in 2005 that soft tissues in dinosaur bone had been discovered (see 03/24/2005) has been challenged by new research published in PLoS One.1  Maybe the pliable stuff is just slime.     Thomas Kaye from the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle with two colleagues were actually hoping to find more […]

Leaf Assumption Challenged: Affects Climate Modeling

A reasonable-sounding assumption has been overturned, leaving climate models in upheaval.  The assumption was that leaf temperature stays in equilibrium with air temperature.  It doesn’t.  Leaves are hotter than assumed during active periods of growth, such as at midday in the growing season.  They maintain a relatively constant temperature through their own biological air conditioning, […]

History Channel Airs Evolve

A new 13-part series on the History Channel, called Evolve, begins with an episode on the evolution of the eye.  To sell the story, the blurb needed to cast Evolution as an inventor: They are one of evolution’s most useful and prevalent inventions.  Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes and they […]

Gems and Hot Ideas About Life’s Origin

It seems that origin-of-life speculations are constantly looking for new plot lines.  PhysOrg published a new idea that life started on diamonds.  Yes, “Diamonds may have been life”s best friend on primordial Earth,” it began, raising the interesting question whether friendship was a concept before consciousness emerged.  Since diamonds are thought to be among the […]

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 […]

Lick Your Wounds

Saliva contains a powerful anti-infection protein, say scientists from the Netherlands.  Science Daily reported that if this compound could be mass-produced, it offers hope for those with diseases, burns and injuries prone to infection.     Saliva is a complex concoction with many kinds of molecules.  With controlled experiments, the researchers were able to identify […]

Dinosaurs Placed in Big Tree

Dinosaurs didn’t take advantage of the big rise in diversity at the end of the Cretaceous, say British researchers.  Their big “supertree” of dinosaur evolution shows that the dinosaurs were just evolving at a regular speed while flowering plants, social insects, birds and mammals were evolving like crazy.     Science Daily and New Scientist […]

Did Lyell Lie a Little?

Science is supposed to be a collective process involving presentation of arguments by many people making reference to observational data.  Ideally, no one person’s world view should dominate what other scientists think.  Yet in the history of geology, the figure of Charles Lyell has loomed large as a guiding influence.  With rare exceptions, his principle […]
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