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Noah’s Ark on Mars

We apologize for this improbable headline to draw attention to two stories making the rounds: new claims about Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, and new claims about life on Mars.  Headlines on these topics show up periodically in the news.  What do the subjects have in common?  How do they differ?  Do the most recent […]

New Theory on Evolution of Bat Flight

How did bats evolve the ability to fly?  Evolution helped them out by providing them with higher energy.  After all, “Flight is among the most energy-consuming activities” in the animal kingdom, said a team of Chinese and Canadian scientists reporting in PNAS,1 so it’s obvious that evolution must have provided the genes to get the […]

Cosmologist Suffers Paranoid Delusions: Media Promotes His Views

“They’re coming to get us, and I’m sure of it, because I know everything.”  What would you think of someone who talked like that?  What if he were one of the most famous cosmologists alive today?  The man is Stephen Hawking – that wheelchair-bound math wizard who talks with a speech synthesizer and once fell […]

To Sleep, To Dream: To Dream, Perchance, to Learn

When you have learned a complex task, take a nap and dream about it.  A new study shows that dreaming helps consolidate the memory in your mind and helps you perform the task better next time around.     Science Daily reported on research by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  They tested 99 […]

Dinosaurs Lived in Vast Ecological Zones

Don’t think of dinosaur species living in small ecological zones.  Their habitats covered vast areas, according to a new study: “Researchers at McGill University are unlocking the mysteries of the little-known habits of dinosaurs in discovering that the entire western interior of North America was likely once populated by a single community of dinosaurs,” reported […]

Update on Interplant Internet

One of the early “amazing” stories reported in these pages concerned the startling observation that plants use a kind of “email” system in their own interplant “internet” (see 07/13/2001).  What has been learned in the nine years since that story appeared?  Quite a lot, and another fascinating article about plant communication appeared this week in […]

Blood Clotting Fibers May Lead to Better Networks

We all know that blood clotting has kept us alive many times.  We would never have survived childhood scrapes and cuts had it not been for a cascade of responses in blood that builds a network of fibers quickly upon which a scab of tissue stops the flow of blood and begins repairs.  That first […]

What Can Fossil Leaf Measurements Tell About Evolution?

Flowering plants burst on the scene in the fossil record 140 million years ago in the geologic timescale, creating an “abominable mystery” for Charles Darwin.  What can be learned by measuring the stems and leaves of fossil specimens?     Dana Royer and colleagues from Wesleyan University in Connecticut embarked on a project to measure […]

Maxwell’s Demon Helps Run Your Muscles

James Clerk Maxwell once speculated that the second law of thermodynamics could be violated if an agent or “demon” could sort the hot and cold molecules at a barrier, thus overcoming the tendency toward thermal equilibrium.  Something like this has been found at work in the molecular machines in our muscles.  The actin-myosin motor is […]

Genetic Subcode Discovered

Computer programmers know all about subroutines.  One master program can easily call other programs, which can return results back to the master program.  That’s very 1960s.  Today’s modular software responds dynamically from disparate sources and responds to feedback from embedded triggers.  They can call routines written in other codes or languages.  We’re beginning to find […]

Psychologists Portray I.D. as a Form of Evolution

No need to draw a line between design and evolution, say two psychologists at the University of Iowa.  Intelligent design is really a lot like evolution.  They think we need to “better appreciate the actual forces that unite the processes of change across both evolutionary and developmental timescales.”     This strange theory was announced […]

Darwin as Canary in a Coal Mine

The state of evolution teaching is like the fabled canary in a coal mine, Sean Carroll told Science.1  That’s why the molecular biologist from the University of Wisconsin, Madison is cutting back on his research and undergraduate teaching to concentrate on his new appointment: vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  […]

SETI and other Pointless Gimmicks

Astrobiologist Paul Davies sure knows how to ask interesting questions, and ruffle feathers in the process.  His new book about SETI, The Eerie Silence, reviewed by Leslie Mullen in Astrobiology Magazine, defaced some long-standing notions.  But are his suggestions any improvement?     Davies thinks the Voyager record was a “pointless gimmick.”  He thinks that […]

Conflicting Reports About Earthlike Planets

Are earth-like planets rare or common?  Your opinion might depend on which news stories you read.  “Polluted Old Stars Suggest Earth-like Worlds May Be Common,” reported Space.com and Science Daily.  The idea is that hydrogen in the atmospheres of white dwarfs might have come from water, which might be remains of rocky planets that got […]

Venus May Be Hot with Active Volcanoes

We already know Venus is hot from its suffocatingly dense atmosphere, but additional heat could be coming from underground.  Results from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express orbiter suggest that volcanoes have erupted any time between now and 2.5 million years ago, a “geologically recent” time compared to the assumed age of the planet (4.5 […]
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