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Robotic Pothole Crew Keeps Your Genetic Highways in Good Repair

What a thought – a repair crew of molecular machines roaming the strands of your DNA, fixing errors 24 x 7.  It happens.  New techniques are showing the machines jumping from strand to strand like fleas, stopping at suspicious points, and fixing errors, reported Science Daily.  Dr. Bennett Van Houten (U of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) […]

Fruit Flies: From Darwin to Design

The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an icon of evolution.  Since the 1930s these poor little bugs have been mutated endlessly and watched for signs of Darwinian change.  So far, though, only useless mutants, unable to survive in the wild, have been produced.  Recently, scientists seem more enamored with their design.  Two recent articles had […]

Man Will Never Fly (to the Stars)

It’s risky to say “never” in science.  The Man Will Never Fly Society had a short life.  However, an article on Space.com makes it seem a safe bet that, Star Trek notwithstanding, warp-speed flights to the stars are out of the question for humans.  “Warp speed will kill you,” the article announced; why?  Because interstellar […]

Who’s In Control: Your Brain or You?

Do you have a self that controls your brain, or is thought a secretion of the brain, as Darwin claimed?  Do you use your brain, or does your brain operate you?  Who is in charge?  These are deep philosophical questions with a long history, that some people prefer to avoid, as in the common joke: […]

Science Proves the Morally Obvious

When scientists find that virtue brings reward and vice bring trouble, are they doing a better job than preachers and parents?  Hold that thought while reading some of the things scientists have been telling us lately about ourselves. “R-Rated Movies Increase Likelihood of Underage Children Trying Alcohol.”  Thank Science Daily for that bit of advice […]

Divining Violent gods as Natural Cosmic Creators

Ancient stargazers imagined the violent actions of gods in the heavens giving rise to the stars, earth and man.  Today’s secular astronomers engage in a similar kind of lore.  While not naming their gods after mythical heroes, they describe them as forces of nature whose violent clashes give rise to order and design.  Sometimes they […]

This Tree of Life Is Real

Imagine a tree that can provide both nutritious food and clean water.  Moringa oleifera is such a tree.  It grows in Africa and Asia and is being looked at as a life-giving plant that can reduce bacterial contamination of water by 90 to 99.99% by filtering water with its seeds.     Science Daily has […]

What Good Is Natural Selection without Progress?

Three papers recently claim to have seen natural selection.  None of them, however, identified a functional advantage that would have tied changes to novel benefits that could improve a species.  Yeast:  “New Type of Genetic Variation Could Strengthen Natural Selection,” trumpeted a headline in Science Daily.  It was about a study of two varieties of […]

Life Crams Stuff on the Long Road

This quote from UC Berkeley wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: In the long evolutionary road from bacteria to humans, a major milestone occurred some 1.5 billion years ago when microbes started building closets for all their stuff, storing DNA inside a nucleus, for example, or cramming all the energy machinery inside mitochondria. Any […]

Natural Wonders Can Be Useful

To find great ideas, look to nature.  Many plants and animals are as useful as they are ornamental.  They can show the way to solve problems of great interest to humans. Mussel power:  Want an abrasion-resistant, highly-extensible coating?  PhysOrg reported that mussels are providing inspiration to materials scientists.  They build a byssus, or network of […]

Dinosaur Evolution Is Relative

The science news media are all reporting that the “oldest known dinosaur relative” has been found.  The artist reconstructions of Asilisaurus kongwe, found in middle Triassic layers in Tanzania, make the creature look quite dinosaurian; at least it was dog-sized and walked on thick legs under its body like its famous brethren did.  Its early […]

Atheism in a Test Tube

Conflicting views on atheism by scientists show that deducing the intellectual status of atheism is not an exact science.  Are such questions even approachable by the scientific method?  What conclusions could be drawn?     National Geographic reported Kanazawa’s theory that liberals and atheists are smarter (02/27/2010) without much criticism.  Reporter Maggie Koerth-Baker only said […]

Cold Castles: Bad Climate for Imperial Science

To some people, the world would be a better place if ruled by scientists.  They could be like a benevolent oligarchy, employing the knowledge gained by the scientific method for the good of the people.  A recent editorial might shake that belief.     In Nature News this week,1 Daniel Sarewitz had some sobering thoughts […]

Ida Not a Human Ancestor

If Ida known then what I know now: the media-frenzied presentation of Ida (Darwinius masillae) as a distant relative of human beings last year has been debunked.  “Many lines of evidence indicate that Darwinius has nothing at all to do with human evolution,” said Chris Kirk (U of Texas) in an article on Science Daily.  […]

Flight Design: Flies and Birds Get it Wright

Parse the following sentence for logical consistency: “Just as the Wright brothers implemented controls to achieve stable airplane flight, flying insects have evolved behavioral strategies that ensure recovery from flight disturbances.”  That is the first sentence from a paper in PNAS yesterday about the stabilizers in fly wings.1  Ristroph et al just compared design principles […]
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