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Another Attempt to Explain Life’s Handedness

Life uses only single-handed (homochiral) molecules for proteins and DNA.  How that came about when mixtures of life’s building blocks contain equal amounts of both hands is a puzzle that confounds origin-of-life research.  Science Daily reported on new studies at the Argonne National Laboratory that show that molecules in space on a magnetic substrate exposed […]

That Spring in Your Step Is Semi-Automatic

Cross-country runners know the challenge of running on uneven terrain.  What they may not know is that they are executing one of the most difficult operations for robot designers: how to make an upright, walking machine make rapid decisions on irregular surfaces without falling.     Monica Daley of the Royal Veterinary College wrote about […]

Ganymede Age Threatened by Magnetism

The biggest moon in the solar system is Ganymede, the third large moon out from Jupiter.  Larger than Mercury, Ganymede has a heterogeneous surface of dark and light areas (picture), grooved terrain, abrupt changes of landforms, and bright splashes where impacts have scarred its icy surface (gallery).  What goes on inside, though, is more surprising: […]

When God Goes, Anything Goes

G. K. Chesterton once said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”  That seems to be backed up by two recent stories.     Live Science reported on a poll by a British newspaper that found more people believe in aliens and ghosts than believe in […]

Go to the Ant, Thou Farmer

We humans boast too much.  Agribusiness?  Ants have it down to a science.  “One of the most important developments in human civilisation was the practice of sustainable agriculture,” stated Science Daily.  “But we were not the first – ants have been doing it for over 50 million years.  Just as farming helped humans become a […]

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 […]

Knowledge of Light Is Power

Now that engineers are becoming adept at manipulating materials at the scale of billionths of a meter, they are taking first steps toward using a power source familiar to plants: light.  Science Daily described the first humble attempts to get light photons to drive nano-sized machines.     The article did not mention whether photosynthesis […]

It Takes a Stellar Village

Do galaxies embark on a purpose-driven life?  The language in an article about galaxy evolution in Science Daily makes such seamless use of personal terms with natural processes, it’s hard to know where the data ends and the interpretation begins.     “Galaxy Zoo, which uses volunteers from the general public to classify galaxies, and […]

How Floppy Feet Produced Marathoners

A picture of a muscle-bound furry gibbon adorns a story on Science Daily that claims, “Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked.”  The story describes how two European researchers photographed the footwork of wild gibbons to find connections to human evolution.  It turned out that gibbon footfalls are very different from […]

Far-Out Science

The following list of bizarre stories coming from science news outlets is jarring on two fronts: it shows how little scientists understand, and calls into question what counts as science these days.  Some stories illustrate one or the other; some both. Roar of the aurora aura:  Both Saturn and Mars turned up auroras that are […]

Raise Money by Accomplishing Nothing

Frank Drake is being honored on Space.com by the SETI Institute as the “Father of SETI,”  His reputation is providing an opportunity for a fund raiser.  For a lot of money, you can spend time with a celebrity whose accomplishments are questionable. It’s not often you get the opportunity to hang out with a legend!  […]

Nature Can’t Wait for Darwin Day

Darwin Day (Feb. 12, 2009) is months away, but Nature devoted a special issue to it this week.  The cover story, Darwin 200, includes 15 articles and features, some of which are available to the public.  Features include a list of celebrations and exhibitions around the world, including a re-enactment of Darwin’s voyage on a […]

Selfishness and Responsibility Are Just a Game

It’s become increasingly common for evolutionists to explain human behavior in terms of games.  Another entry in this genre was published by Science Daily, which began, “‘Game theory’ is used to predict the behaviour of individuals when making choices that depend on the choices of others.  First developed as a tool for understanding economic behaviour, […]

Turtle Vaults Over 65 Million Year Evolutionary Hurdle

The Scots are bragging about their latest missing link – a swimming turtle.  The BBC News could hardly contain the excitement over this claim to evolutionary fame: “The new species forms a missing link between ancient terrestrial turtles and their modern, aquatic descendants,” the article said.  But along with celebration, there were admissions of ignorance: […]

Is Darwinian Environmentalism an Oxymoron?

There’s something magnetic about letters to the editor.  We feel attracted to the responses of readers to what magazines print – especially when a mini-debate takes place and the author of an article replies.  In PNAS this week,1 two scientists aired a friendly squabble about the meaning of “biodiversity” and whether humans should defend it.  […]
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