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Evidence for Evolution, or for Uncontroversial Variation?

Science papers and articles often announce promising new evidence for evolution.  To distinguish Darwinian evolution from creation, though, requires evidence of a certain magnitude.  The staunchest Biblical creationist allows for a great deal of variation within kinds.  When evidences for evolution are announced, do they rise to the level of change Darwin theorized – like […]

Clever Animals Inspire Lookers – And Engineers

Incredible animals provide endless delights with their antics.  Even microorganisms are capable of amazing feats.  Sometimes these living things inspire inventors, too. Coconut octopus:  Tool use was supposed to be a late marker of primate intelligence as chimpanzees were evolving upward to manhood.  That’s so 1890.  Now that we know crows can use tools (05/26/2009), […]

Taking Inspiration from Nature

In the previous entry, Darwin inspired some geologists, even though he was wrong.  Here are some news stories showing nature inspiring engineers with wonders right under their noses. Aerodynamic seed:  A plant in Java has seeds that are perfect gliders.  The BBC News said of the Alsomitra vine: “The seeds, which are produced by a […]

Hammerhead Sharks Have 360-degree Stereo Vision

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have found that the strange heads of hammerhead sharks give them exceptional binocular vision.  This has long been debated.  By placing electrodes in the eyes of three hammerhead species, and comparing the visual overlap they obtain compared to other sharks, the scientists confirmed that there is a “massive 32-degree overlap” […]

Evolutionary Explanation Is Always a Work in Progress

As evolutionary biologists examine diverse plants and animals, it seems they are never able to give a definitive answer as to how they got that way.  Their work merely begins or continues to search for clues.  Like mothers, their work is never done.  At least this provides them job security. Box jellyfish:  There are about […]

To Advance Science, Imitate Nature

Biomimetics – the imitation of nature – continues to be one of the hottest areas in science.  Here are a few of the latest findings coming from the world of living creatures. Fish robot:  National Geographic News shows a photo of the latest thing in underwater robotics: a robotic submarine modeled after the Amazonian knifefish.  […]

Trilobites Found in Fool’s Gold: What Does It Mean?

Trilobites are icons of the Cambrian and Ordovician periods.  When thousands are found in beds over a wide area encased in pyrite, with no sign of decay, what does it mean?  A team publishing their findings in Geology suggests it means rapid burial.1  Here’s the abstract from their paper: Pyritization of soft tissues is extremely […]

How the Octopus Built Its Own Brain for Better Fishing

The octopus was glad to see fish evolve, but needed a bigger brain to catch them, so it evolved one of the most complex brains in the animal kingdom.  Is that the gist of this story in the Science blog Origins?  Greg Miller wrote in the style of a children’s storybook: Cephalopods—octopuses, squid, and their […]

Nature’s Designs Are Engineers’ Finds

Nature is a treasure trove of technology.  Though engineers have garnered inspiration from nature since the Wright brothers and before, it seems that in recent years there has been a gold rush to follow nature’s lead. Wet glue:  Worms may not be very inspiring to most people, but Science News reported that scientists at the […]

Does Evolution Produce Winners?

Referees at UCLA are calling the shots in an unusual sport: the evolution game.  Mammals, birds and fish swept the medals.  The losers?  crocodiles, alligators, and a “living fossil” reptile called the tuatara.  According to the judges, the more the biodiversity, the more a group wins points; the more their species go extinct or remain […]

Evolution of Foraminifera Questioned

A long, long time ago, primitive sea creatures called foraminifera lived on the ocean bottom.  One day, some of them invaded a new ecological niche: the ocean surface.  There, they became part of the plankton zoo.  When the catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred, most of the surface foraminifera died.  But they recovered in […]

How the Animals Learned to Count

Any evolutionary article that begins with “How…” should be checked for Kipling-style just-so storytelling.  Characteristics to watch for include (1) fanciful speculation without evidence: i.e., “made-up” tales that provide an answer to a childish question without appeal to rigorous proof, and (2) statements made with dogmatic authority, like a parent would explain to a child […]

Protein Springs Keep Crabs Happy

Crabs and crayfish contain “exquisite” protein springs around their mouth parts that enhance motion, signaling, and sensing of their environment, Science Daily reported, about work done at the University of Cambridge.     The protein involved, called resilin, is almost perfectly elastic.  “The exquisite rubbery properties of resilin are known to be put to use […]

Cuttlefish Inspire Reflective Screens

“Cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to change their skin color in less than a second to hide from predators or draw in prey for the kill,” begins an article on MSNBC News.  A team at MIT, fascinated with the physics of this capability, tried to imitate it.  They found they could electrically control the […]

Better Solar Cells with Diatoms

Let’s start with the operative quote before the subject matter: “Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools.  This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.”  OK, now the subject: how to build better solar cells, by imitating diatoms.  See the story on […]
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