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Moths Navigate in the Dark Against the Wind

A moth weighs little more than a piece of paper, but it does things no paper blowing in the wind can do: it can navigate with and against the wind to get where it needs to go.     Science Daily reported on work by UK scientists who used “entomological radar” to monitor where the […]

Not Even Wrong: Darwin’s Tree Suffers Base Blow

Darwin’s “tree of life” icon is suffering another blow.  The root of multicellular life was supposed to be the simplest, most primitive animal.  Now, scientists are seriously considering that the mother of all animals was a complex animal with a gut, tissues, a nervous system and amazing light displays: a comb jelly.     PhysOrg […]

Evolution After the Fact

Many scientific theories are evaluated on their ability to make predictions.  Good theories suggest experiments that lead a researcher to discover new things.  In biology, however, “evolution” is a word often invoked as an after-market explanation for observations that emerged outside of the theory.  Here are some recent examples: Ant farm:  Science Daily reported on […]

Seeing Vision in a New Light

The eye is like a camera, right?  That picture is way too simplistic.  The eye-brain visual system does image processing and gleans information from photons in diverse and remarkable ways.  Here are some recent findings by scientists: Upward mobility:  A team of Harvard scientists found some retinal ganglion cells that sense upward motion.  Writing in […]

Squid Beak: “A Truly Fascinating Design”

A new class of flexible yet tough materials may be in our future, thanks to a study of squid beaks.  Scientists at University of Santa Barbara, reported National Geographic News and Science Daily, were curious how the squid anchors its tough, hard beak in soft tissue.  Try anchoring a knife in Jell-o and you get […]

Scientist Harnesses ATP Synthase

How would you like shorter waits at airports?  fast screening for disease?  the ability to detect biological warfare agents quickly?  That may be possible soon – thanks to an amazing man-and-nature cooperative technology reported by Science Daily.  A team led by Wayne Frasch at Arizona State is on the verge of an invention that can […]

Peacocks Don’t Dress for Success

The male peacock’s fancy feather show: an icon of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, right?  Then why did Japanese scientists tell Discovery News that the females pay them little attention?     The article claims that the male’s appearance fails to interest, much less excite, the females, who seem to pay more attention to his […]

Tuatara Genes Are Running in Place

One would expect a living fossil to show extreme stasis at the genetic level.  Not so for the tuatara, a New Zealand reptile, reported EurekAlert: researchers found that “although tuatara have remained largely physically unchanged over very long periods of evolution, they are evolving – at a DNA level – faster than any other animal […]

Electronic Nose Can’t Outsniff Yours

Electronic nose makers are smelling your dust, said Science Daily.  “Despite 25 years of research, development of an ‘electronic nose’ even approaching the capabilities of the human sniffer remains a dream,” the article said.     Biological noses are great at discriminating between volatile compounds.  We can immediately sense things that are fruity, grassy, and […]

The Gecko in the Flight Simulator

It’s a lizard!  It’s a plane!  It’s Supergecko!  Researchers at UC Berkeley (where else) put a gecko into a wind tunnel to watch it fly.  News about gecko’s magic feet that allow it to run vertically up glass is almost old hat now (08/27/2002, 01/04/2005).  Even a gecko can lose its footing, though, and thereon […]

Animal Feats Inspire Imitation

Imagine carrying 850 times your own weight.  Step aside, Hercules, and meet the Hercules beetle: the strongest creature in the world.  Science Daily said that researchers in Belgium are not just impressed with its show of strength.  They are finding inspiration for “intelligent materials.”     The Hercules beetle has a shell that is able […]

How to Translate Darwinese

A unique culture has sprung up around evolutionary biology.  Since evolutionary theory encompasses far more than just change in living species (touching on, for instance, ultimate origins, the nature of humanity and the destiny of the universe), its supporters sometimes get a little carried away in their language.  The tendency in science reporting to embellish […]

Darwin for the Birds

Here’s a flock of bird stories that have Charles Darwin on stage or in the wings, so to speak. Was Darwin wrong?  Yes!  Contra National Geographic (10/24/2004), the science news outlets are all saying today that Darwin was wrong – but only about the origin of chickens (see EurekAlert #1, EurekAlert #2 and Science Daily).  […]

Cool Bat Tricks

Bats put on a dazzling air show.  Science Daily revealed that the acrobatic mammals have magnetic instruments.  Somehow, they are able to use the magnetite in their cells as navigational aids.  Scientists from Leeds University and Princeton conducted experiments on large brown bats.  They were able to steer the bats off course by issuing magnetic […]

Prevent Drought: Hire a Beaver

“Beavers can help ease drought,” say scientists from University of Alberta.  EurekAlert published a press release about a 54-year study that showed beaver kept open water wetlands available.  They seem to even mitigate the effects of global warming.  “Climate models predict the incidence of drought in parts of North America will increase in frequency and […]
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