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Building Planets: Can’t Make Them, But Hurry

Constructing planets is a delicate business.  Trying to get tiny bits of dust to join up into balls has never been found to work.  It has to work fast, though, because unless the whole planet clears its dust lane, it will be dragged into the star in short order.  It seems you can’t get there […]

Gravity: A Theory in Crisis

Note: This is **not** a joke.  How could gravity be a theory in crisis?  Isn’t gravity one of the best-understood facts of nature?  Don’t we all avoid jumping off cliffs because of the law of gravity?  Gravity is doing just fine, thank you.  It’s our theory of gravity, and the cosmology built on it, that […]

Scientific Data Can Mislead

Some recent stories should remind scientists that data do not exist in a philosophical vacuum.  Sometimes empirical measurements can be downright misleading. Pillars of creation:  The famous Hubble photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “pillars of creation” seemed to have a straightforward explanation: nearby stars were eroding the pillars with blasts of radiation.  Scientists have been […]

Are Secular Geologists Ready to Consider a Global Flood?

Everyone knows the Bible tells the story of a global flood in Noah’s day.  Creation scientists argue that its effects would have left visible evidence today – including most of the sedimentary layers and most of the fossil record.  Secular geologists have laughed off this story since the 18th century as nothing but myth, of […]

How Valid Is Computerized Dinosaur Reconstruction?

Can you reconstruct a dinosaur on a computer?  Of course you can.  The question is how accurate it reflects something no one has ever seen.  Live Science told about Peter Falkingham at the University of Manchester who is using “genetic algorithms” and simulating evolution to figure out how dinosaurs walked.     A dinosaur’s gait […]

Geophysical King Dethroned?

There’s been a quiet revolution in geophysics.  Richard Kerr asked in Science, “Great Oxidation Event Dethroned?”1  The Great Oxidation Event (GOE) is an assumed time before multicellular life appeared when microbes had just learned the secret of photosynthesis and started pumping vast quantities of fresh oxygen into earth’s atmosphere (10/18/2006).  The GOE idea reigned like […]

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 […]

Did Nature Dictate Biological Codes?

Pangloss was a character in Voltaire’s Candide made to caricature philosophers who give simplistic, optimistic answers to difficult questions.  Dr. Pangloss was fond of saying, a la Leibniz, that we live in the best of all possible worlds.  One evolutionist described a theory by two other evolutionists as possibly a “Panglossian argument” about the origin […]

Early Large Galaxies Stun Cosmologists

Cosmology has a kind of Cambrian Explosion of its own to grapple with.  Contrary to expectations, some of the earliest galaxies appear as large as current ones, if not larger.  Astronomers, using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, examined five galaxy clusters with ages estimated at 5 billion years after the Big Bang.  Statements in a […]

Tall Dinosaurs Couldn’t Lift Up Their Heads

In Jurassic Park, the huge sauropods were pictured grazing on the tops of tall trees.  This would have been physically implausible, said an Australian biologist in a letter to Science.1  A brachiosaur’s head would be 9 meters above its chest.  That would require 750 mm (Hg) of blood pressure.  The problem of circulation, not only […]

Evolution of Photosynthesis: A Theory in Crisis

“Although the last word on the origins of oxygen-making photosynthesis isn’t in,” writes Mitch Leslie in Science,1 “researchers say they are making progress.  One thing is for certain, however: Without this innovation, Earth would look a lot like Mars.”  That’s the end of his story.  What did he say in the beginning and middle?  Not […]

Whoops, the Wrong Star Exploded

“Our understanding of the evolution of massive stars before their final explosions as supernovae is incomplete, from both an observational and a theoretical standpoint.”  That’s how a paper in Nature begins.1  Avishay Gal-Yam was not kidding; a star exploded that theory says was not supposed to.     The famous supernova 1987A was already an […]

Crystal Mysticism Invades Astrobiology

Mystical ideas about the life-giving power of crystals usually go with New Age movies and storefronts.  Science is above all that, right?  Then what is a reader supposed to think of this opening line by Leslie Mullen on Space.com? One of the greatest mysteries about the origin of life is how the necessary ingredients consistently […]

Physicists Bow to Darwin

What’s Darwin got to do with physics?  Presumably, if you dropped his statue off the leaning tower of Pisa, it would fall at 32 feet per second squared, but the man is remembered for his speculations about biology, not physics.  Why, then, did Nature Physics devote a special issue to Darwin?  Here’s what it presented. […]

Evidence for Inflation, or Inflating the Evidence?

Cosmic inflation has become an accepted truth in cosmology, but its appeal is primarily philosophical and theoretical.  Something as weird as a universe jumping 26 orders of magnitude in size in one trillion trillion trillionth of a second (see 02/21/2005) should raise eyebrows in any scientific circle.  Is there any evidence for it?  Live Science […]
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