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Not Lamarck Again

Remember Lamarck?  He was the pre-Darwin evolutionist whose theories we were all taught were overthrown by Darwin’s superior theory of natural selection.  Lamarck’s theory of “inheritance of acquired characteristics” was shown to be demonstrably false by the dramatic experiments of Weismann, right?  It was never really so clear-cut as that, as evolutionary historians know, but […]

Darwin’s Sweatshop: Why Ethiopia Made People Hairless

Five scientists think they have figured out why people walk upright and don’t have fur like other mammals.  They had to evolve in Ethiopia, where it is hot.  This led to the loss of body hair, and the evolution of sweat glands and other adaptations to deal with the heat.     It’s not that […]

Plants Have Memories

June 09, 2010 — Have you ever noticed how plants have an uncanny ability to know, without eyes or brains, when the time has come to bloom?  Even when spring comes early or late in some years, they sense the right time, and out come the flowers.  This is even more remarkable when you consider […]

Making Model Earths

Modeling how the earth got here can be fun.  One doesn’t have to be right, just creative.  There are certain accepted paradigms to work within, and certain accepted constraints that are taken as a given.  Beyond that, there is a lot of leeway.  This is illustrated by two teams who published in two different journals […]

Not Life on Titan Again

Something weird is going on at the large moon of Saturn.  “What is Consuming Hydrogen and Acetylene on Titan?” teased a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory”s Cassini mission: Two new papers based on data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft scrutinize the complex chemical activity on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.  While non-biological chemistry offers […]

Get a Life with Nature

Feeling bored, low on energy, exhausted?  Don’t reach for a cup of coffee.  Get out into nature.  Researchers at the University of Rochester ran some controlled experiments on college students and found that those who spent a little time outdoors felt happier and more energetic.  “Spending time in nature makes people feel more alive,” the […]

Jupiter Scores Another Hit

Amateurs saw Jupiter get struck by something again on June 3.  Last year, an asteroid also hit the giant planet.  Good thing Jupiter caught it and not Earth.  The asteroid, believed to be about 500 meters across, left a scar as big across as the Pacific Ocean.  National Geographic and the BBC News have photos […]

Your Nerves and Heart Depend on Cellular Pulleys, Latches and Switches

Biologists continue to peer closer and closer at cellular machines that work just like man-made ones, only at scales so tiny, they control individual atoms.  Of particular interest have been the gates in the membranes of cells that allow certain atoms in but keep others out.  A recent paper in Cell by an Australian team […]

Whale Evolution: Hurry Up and Wait

Whales evolved really fast, then just swam around with nothing to do for tens of millions of years.  “Whales Evolved in the Blink of an Eye” wrote Brett Israel for Live Science about a new study that claims “Whales evolved explosively fast into a spectacular array of shapes and sizes” about 35 million years ago, […]

Venter’s Synthetic Plagiarism Deflated by NY Times

How significant was Craig Venter’s achievement of a so-called synthetic genome?  Somewhat significant, but it pales in significance to creating life from scratch.  It was only like “peering over a fortress that is the mighty cell,” wrote Natalie Angier for the New York Times Monday, May 31.     The article was accompanied with a […]

Catching Up to Butterflies for Improved Security, Optics

Butterflies do it better, but at least they provided the inspiration, and thanks to them, we may have cash that is more secure.  PhysOrg headlined, “From butterflies’ wings to bank notes – how nature’s colors could cut bank fraud.”     Scientists at the University of Cambridge were intrigued by the Indonesian Peacock or Swallowtail […]

Fooling Around with OOL

Origin of Life (OOL) research is one of those areas in science where one doesn’t have to make any real progress, as long as he or she looks busy.  Anything the scientist says, no matter how speculative, or even foolish, is likely to be taken seriously, because the alternative – creation – has already been […]

Stem Cells: Hope, Politics, Charity, and Clarity

Those promising little cells that can differentiate into almost any tissue continue to make news – but they also continue to generate controversy.  Actually, only some of them generate controversy: the embryonic stem cells.  Not all of the articles about stem cells make that clear.  Defining life:  With the stroke of a pen, South Korea […]

Science Explains Why the Universe Exists

They’ve done it again – those clever scientists have figured out why the universe exists.  What would we ever do without them?  Michael Bolen at Yahoo News had to share the good news, “Scientists discover explanation for why the Universe exists.”  Space.com explained it as a victory in an ancient contest: “Why We Exist: Matter […]

The Factor Economists Neglected in their Models: Integrity

Is economics a science?  It’s on that borderland that has many things in common with the sciences; it is highly law-governed (law of supply and demand, for instance); it uses mathematical models; it uses experimental methods; it develops theories.  Granted for the time being that it is a kind of science (albeit a “soft science” […]
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