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Does Hedonism Belong in Science?

What’s an article advocating hedonism doing on Science Daily?  Sure enough, an article entitled “Hedonism As the Explanation of Value” appeared today on the science news site without controversy or debate.  The entry gave David Brax of Lund University a platform to preach that “pleasure is the only thing that is valuable in itself.”   […]

Useless Evolution

Most people think of evolution producing useful traits.  But isn’t it also supposed to get rid of useless ones?  Science Daily reported work by researchers trying to figure that out.     The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina sponsored a team seeking to explore the removal of useless traits by natural selection […]

Velociraptors as Tree Climbers?

Remember those sickle-shaped claws on the feet of Velociraptor that terrified visitors in the Jurassic Park movies?  New Scientist reported a radically different theory about them.  They weren’t for eviscerating their prey; they were for climbing trees.  Phil Manning (U of Manchester) previously showed they were insufficient for tearing dinosaur skin.  Now he is suggesting […]

Your Eye Sees Trouble Before You Do

In slapstick comedy, the fall guy gets the pie in the face when the clown in front of him ducks.  It’s funny because most of us instinctively duck when we see something coming.  But two recent experimental studies are revealing new automated capabilities built into the eye and brain that are quicker and more automatic […]

Human Evolution Story Confounded – Again

Human fossils in Georgia (Asia) have confounded the timeline of human evolution again.  The UK newspaper Independent reported that the 3 skulls of Homo erectus are rewriting the history of man.  If these are as old as claimed (1.8 million years), it would toss overboard the long held belief that modern humans first emerged in […]

Do You Need a Darwinian Doctor?

Visualize a cartoon of Charles Darwin as Hippocrates.  It accompanies a book review in Science by Peter T. Ellison (Harvard).1  Ellison realizes that the mass of material doctors need to master is formidable, but thinks that “Evolutionary biology, however, is no longer an expendable topic in medical education.”     The book is Principles of […]

Earth Size Gives Life Edge

The earth seems to be holding onto its status as a privileged planet.  New Scientist reported that a rocky planet’s size is linked to its ability to sustain a magnetic field and plate tectonics.  This means that some of the “super-earths” found around other stars (5-10 times the size of earth) may not be habitable.  […]

What Darwin Does to Psychology – And Humanity

“Traits that we may find unsavory are nevertheless also products of our evolutionary history.”  This quote stands out boldly in a call-out from an article by psychologist Jerome H. Barkow (Dalhousie University) in a review of evo-psych (evolutionary psychology) in PNAS.1 Barkow acknowledged controversy about the premise that the evolutionary history of our psyches produces […]

New Recipe for Life: Zinc & Zap

Two scientists are overturning the Miller icon of the origin of life – you know, the illustration in almost every textbook showing sparks zapping gases and amino acids emerging from the goo.  That doesn’t wash any more, claim Armen Mulkidjanian (University of Osnabrueck) and Michael Galperin (U.S. National Institutes of Health).  Instead, Astrobiology Magazine reported, […]

Permian Extinction Recovery Story Stretches Credibility

It goes without saying that Darwin’s theory fits hand in glove with the geological dating scheme, but how reliable is the latter?  The textbook age names – Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Eocene and all the rest – have taken on their own life as assumed truths.  Every once in awhile, though, papers are published that require […]

Molecular Machines on Parade

Scientific papers continue to exhibit the exquisite mechanisms in the cell for handling all kinds of situations, through the operation of molecular machines.  Here are a few recent examples from this week’s issue of Nature (Sept 3, 2009). Molecular sieve:  What happens when a cell gets bloated?  Too much water entering a cell can increase […]

Mutation: Not a Bug, a Feature

Evolutionary biologists are sometimes risque with the way they discuss mutations.  They treat them almost like magic wands, able to produce wondrous new organs and functions by accident. Health to them, death to you:  One article on Science Daily discussed a mutation that causes congenital heart disease in humans, but may have been a stepping […]

Milking the Martian Meteorite

One would think everything has been told about ALH 84001, the Martian meteorite that made a splash in 1996 with claims it contained fossils of living organisms.  That claim was essentially discarded in subsequent years.  Its major contribution was giving life to a new science called astrobiology and energizing NASA’s Mars program.  Now, a new […]

Emergence of Genetic Code Touted

Most origin-of-life researchers have acknowledged the extreme improbability of the genetic code arising by chance.  Their approaches to get around this problem have varied considerably since the Miller experiment succeeded in generating a few amino acids.  Despite the celebrations that 1953 experiment generated (05/02/2003), it did not even begin to approach the problem of solving […]

Your Throat Has Tasteful Antennae

Our airways are lined with cells that have beating oars called motile cilia.  Like galley slaves on a Roman ship, they beat in coordinated waves, setting up currents that propel dust and foreign matter out toward the mouth.  Scientists just found out another amazing capability of these motile cilia: they can “taste” toxic chemicals and […]
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