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Butterfly Wing Shimmer Done With 3-D Crystals

Those shimmering flashes of light seen on butterfly wings are not done with pigments.  They’re done with tiny, geometric crystals called gyroids stacked in 3-D patterns, scientists have found.  They are so effective at concentrating color, the scientists want to imitate the trick.     “A precise characterization of color-producing biological nanostructures is critical to […]

The Limits of Scientific Speculation

How far can a scientist speculate and get a respectful hearing, just because he or she is a scientist?  One case to examine is a story on PhysOrg, “The Chance for Life on Io” (see also Astrobio.net).  Jupiter’s innermost large moon Io might be considered the last place to look for life.  It is the […]

Planets Seen Forming! (or Dust Spreading )

Science headline writers were almost beside themselves with joy at the prospect of watching other planetary systems in the process of forming.  Science Daily nearly set a record with a large-print, bold, 22-word headline: “Zooming in on an Infant Solar System: For the First Time, Astronomers Have Observed Solar Systems in the Making in Great […]

Flagellum Replaces Parts on the Fly

A new study appears to show that the bacterial flagellum, a molecular rotary motor that has become iconic of the intelligent design movement, can repair parts of its rotor while it is rotating.  The results of the study by Oxford University were published in PNAS,1 and were also the focus of a Commentary in PNAS […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Darwin in Space without a Helmet

“Space agencies may one day have Charles Darwin to thank for the longevity of their spacecraft,” began an article in New Scientist.  This seems a strange thing to write about a biologist who knew nothing of space travel.  “The life expectancy of a popular type of ion engine has been almost doubled using software that […]
Mt. St. Helens, Washington

Mt. St. Helens Recalls Overturned Paradigms

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in May 1980 not only eroded mountains and canyons, it caused earthquake shifts in geological paradigms.

Like Magic: Spiders Convert Fluid to Steel-Strong Silk

How do they do it?  Spiders spin their webs with such ease, but scientists know they are working a kind of material magic.  Inside the storage sac, the proteins act like a fluid.  Outside the spinnerets, that fluid turns into a structural rope that is stronger than steel, but elastic enough to absorb the energy […]

World’s Strongest Animal Discovered

Scientists at the Technical University of Denmark announced the world’s strongest animal.  The strength of this animal is 10 to 30 times that of any other species.  Before revealing what it is, here are some additional hints: It is the most abundant multicellular animal on earth. It has the world’s strongest muscles, and outperforms man-made […]

Bacteria: Let’s Harness Those “Perfect Machines”

Ten Italian scientists have a novel idea.  They want to hitch up their wagons to bacteria and use them to power nanomachines.  It’s too much work to build such “perfect machines” from scratch, they said.  Why not just take advantage of what nature has already provided?     Their paper in PNAS1 is downright dreamy […]
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