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What Mean These Observations?

Science news outlets report many interesting findings every week.  It’s not always clear, though, whether the conclusions drawn from them are warranted by the data.  Here are some recent cases: Jaws of steel:  A skull labeled Australopithecus robustus was studied for the force its jaws could generate.  Interpretation: “Early humans had jaws of steel.”  With […]

Darwin Still Doesn’t Do Well in Polls

British Darwin defender Richard Dawkins is gnashing his teeth over the latest poll in Britain that shows “More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a ‘designer’ must have lent a hand,” according to the UK Guardian and UK Telegraph.  Dawkins […]

Corn Is Fuel in More Ways than One

There’s been controversy lately about the diversion of corn crops from food for humans to ethanol for engines.  Why not both?  A new pilot program announced by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft saves the corn cobs for eating but makes ethanol out of the straw.  If so, this would make the whole plant an energy factory for the human […]

The Early Bird Gets the Just-So Story

If a catastrophic world event wiped out the dinosaurs, why did birds survive?  They’re smaller and more delicate, it seems.  National Geographic published a new hypothesis: they out-thought the doomed dinosaurs.  “Birds survived the global catastrophe that wiped out their dinosaur relatives due to superior brainpower, a new study suggests.”     A couple of […]

Titan Methane Age Still a Problem

“Our new map provides more coverage of Titan’s poles, but even if all of the features we see there were filled with liquid methane, there’s still not enough to sustain the atmosphere for more than 10 million years.”  So said Elizabeth Turtle, lead author of a paper in Geophysical Research Letters,1 in an article on […]

Darwin Praise Service Begins

The celebrations in honor of Charles Robert Darwin for his 200th birthday (Feb. 12) and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his influential book On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection (Nov. 29th) are well underway.  It is hard to think of any other scientist who gets the kind of gushy adulation heaped […]

Obama and Stem Cells: Hope Chest or Pandora’s Box?

Any day now, as he promised, President Obama will likely lift funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research imposed by former President Bush.  Bush had sought the council of leading scientists and ethicists before making his decision.  Obama, by contrast, will be yielding to the opinions of the scientific societies who have clamored for years […]

SETI Has a Long History

Astrobiology Magazine provided a historical look at attempts to communicate with aliens.  Like the weather, people talked about life in outer space, but nobody did anything about it – at least till technology made such talk a little less crazy.  Michael Schirber’s survey includes some interesting characters – Kepler, Gauss, Tesla and Einstein – along […]

Plant Lignin Found in Red Algae

Time to rewrite the textbooks again.  The story of plant evolution is wrong.  Lignin, a chemical that gives wood its stiffness, was thought to be unique to land plants.  Now it has been found in red algae, reported Science Daily, with the title, “Billion-year Revision Of Plant Evolution Timeline May Stem From Discovery Of Lignin […]

Is Natural Selection Losing its Appeal?

Some recent science reports sound like they are ready to cast Darwin’s key phrase natural selection overboard, or at least demote it from its leading role in evolution.  These articles each hint that long-held beliefs are being challenged. Make room:  Science Daily asked, “Natural Selection Not The Only Process That Drives Evolution?”  Scientists at Uppsala […]

New Genetics Revolution Underway

The genetics of the 1950s was that DNA is the seat of all inheritance, and that genetic information traveled one way: from DNA to protein.  That “central dogma” has been changing after decades of further researchers.  Theories of epigenetics (inheritance not limited to DNA) have been gaining attention with increasing frequency.     Science Daily […]

Darwinists Frustrated at Public

“The creationists got what they wanted,” moaned Barbara Forrest in Science News of the Week (23 January 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5913, p. 451, DOI: 10.1126/science.323.5913.451b).  All they got was the right for teachers to use supplementary materials in Louisiana schools.  This followed a “wave of so-called academic freedom bills,” complained Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in his […]

The Moon Has Core Values

Did the moon have a molten core?  There has been “a long-held consensus that objects in the solar system smaller than than [sic] Mars, can’t sustain magnetic fields,” said National Geographic News based on a paper in Science January 16.1  Apollo rock samples seem to indicate the presence of long-lived magnetism.  It suggests a molten […]

Immune System Has a Code, Language and Memory

“Decoding the language of memory cells” is the title of an article in Science Daily.  A researcher at the University of the School of Medicine is using the concepts of codes, language and memory to understand the way T-cells “remember” a pathogen to prevent later infections.  “We are currently figuring out which signals are important […]

Exploring the Malleability of Evolutionary Explanation

Metal bars can be rated on how much they are malleable (able to be hammered) or ductile (able to be stretched) without breaking.  Is evolutionary theory just a very malleable and ductile idea, able to adapt to changing observations, or should it be described as a strong theory, powerful in its explanatory breadth?  Maybe some […]
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