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Another Strange Chinese Fossil Found: Dinosaur or Bird?

Feathers and wings are among the most distinguishing characteristics of birds.  “Integumenary features” have been found on some dinosaur fossils, and true feathers have been found on some strange-looking extinct birds.  The news media often try to marry the two into a committed relationship using exaggerated artwork.  They have been found imagining feathers on fossils […]

How Not to Teach Evolution

Current Biology usually interviews a scientist for each issue.  In the October 14 issue,1 the subject was Dyche Mullins, a molecular biologist at UC San Francisco.  His story of how evolution was taught in high school should make teachers and parents take notice.     After the usual anecdotal fluff about what kind of cookies […]

Journalist Advises Scientists to Tell Stories

Caltech may be the egghead capital of America.  The prestigious university where Einstein and Feynman hung out may be weak in sports and arts, but is unsurpassed in science and engineering.  Caltech graduates are so adept with mathematics and advanced physics, many of them would probably have a hard time at parties telling their relatives […]

Nonsense and Nonscience

For an enterprise that prizes itself on objectivity and careful thought, science occasionally makes some outlandish claims.  Here are some things that slipped past the scientific method into the popular news media. As good as it gets:  Steve Jones says men have stopped evolving.  Better enjoy what you have, because it’s not going to get […]

How Cells Thread a Needle

Your challenge today is to invent a machine that can push a wet noodle through a straw.  It can’t pull it.  First it has to grab the end, then push it through without breaking it.  Oh, and there’s a catch; the straw has a plug at the far end and a constriction inside.  Give up?  […]

Science Cannot Validate Itself

Science is an unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative method for progressively uncovering truth about the natural world.  That’s the way most of us were taught to think about it in school.  Further reflection, however, produces a host of questions rarely discussed in science class.  How does science differ from other unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative methods of […]

Selling Stem Cells to Voters

If you thought embryonic stem cell research became moot after researchers found they could induce skin cells to become pluripotent, these news stories show the push is still on to open up more funds for embryonic stem cells.  A ballot measure in Michigan is a bellwether for how scientists still feel about these tantalizing objects […]

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 […]

Plants Have Thermostats

Plants, being stuck in the ground, have few options when it gets hot.  They may not be able to move into the shade like animals, but they know how to cope.  They have a built-in thermostat that acts like a fire prevention department.  Science Daily tells the story.     Researchers at Michigan State identified […]

SETI Could Find Design in Neutrinos

Most of the scientists involved in SETI research are very antagonistic to Intelligent Design.  Nevertheless, they find the design inference perfectly “natural” when looking for ways to comb through natural phenomena for intelligently-designed signals.     Two new methods for detecting alien messages were reported by Science News in the Oct. 11 issue.1  Both involve […]

Birds Need Beaver

Things go better with Beav around.  Science Daily has a delightful entry about the ecological benefits that beaver ponds provide for migratory birds.  It says that beaver are not just beneficial for our feathered friends; they are vital.  Because of the rich streamside habitat that grows around beaver ponds, the formula is simple: the more […]

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 […]

A Turtle Missing Link: Are We Missing Something?

Everyone knows the iconic drawing of the parade of human evolution (see 09/23/2008 commentary); now, its turtle counterpart is making the rounds.  An article on New Scientist shows the march of progress from lizard to turtle.  The title says, “Fossil reveals how the turtle got its shell.”  Something is missing from the article, though: a […]

It’s Fun Seeing Evolution Falsified

“Mysterious Snippets Of DNA Withstand Eons Of Evolution” is the strange title of an article on Science Daily.  Gill Bejerano and Cory McLean from Stanford are wondering why large non-coding sections of DNA are very similar, or “ultraconserved,” from mice to man (see 08/18/2007).  Evolutionary theory would expect that non-functional genetic material would mutate more […]

Are We Getting Biased Science?

Much more scientific research is being done than ever gets reported, say three researchers in a story reported by Science Daily.  High-impact journals tend to report selectively from a large field of medical and laboratory research.  As a result, “only a small proportion of all research results are eventually chosen for publication, and these results […]
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