Loving Dark Matter Rather Than Light
December 31, 2011
There are two ways to describe dark things in science. One is phenomena we know exist, even if invisible to us, because we can measure their effects with instruments (X-rays, infrared radiation). The other is darkness as a placeholder for something not yet explained. Cosmologists have been talking about “dark matter” for decades now, and “dark energy” since the 1990s. Which category of dark ideas are they? Whether scientifically valid phenomena or placeholders for ignorance, one thing is clear from recent articles: much more knowledge is needed.
Chinks in the Scientific Method
December 29, 2011
V & V. That’s shorthand in project design for “validation and verification.” Does the scientific method provide V & V? We are all taught to think that peer review, publication and replication help science to be self-checking, so as to avoid error. Some recent articles show that ain’t necessarily so. It may sound good in theory, but in practice, the ideal doesn’t always match the real.
Cells Optimize Their Tasks
December 28, 2011
The key to design in manufacturing is optimization – hitting the “sweet spot” between competing interests. It’s not always possible to have all the elements of a product be ideal. A laptop computer, for instance, can’t have an extra-large monitor and simultaneously have long battery life and compact design. A muscle car cannot be expected to have the best gas mileage. In the heyday of “faster, better, cheaper” spacecraft, engineers often joked, “pick any two.” In the same way, living cells have to optimize their operations. A couple of recent papers explore how they find that sweet spot.
Dino Expert Plays Chicken
December 28, 2011
Jack Horner, the dinosaur hunter who was science advisor to the Jurassic Park movies, wants to create a real dinosaur. He won’t use the movie method, trying to extract blood from Jurassic amber, because “DNA degrades too quickly,” he said. But he has a method he thinks will work: un-evolve a chicken back into its dinosaur ancestor.
Humans Evolved from Pigeons
December 26, 2011
Experiments with pigeons show that their intelligence matches or exceeds that of chimpanzees. If evolutionists can infer that chimpanzees are our closest living relatives based on intelligence, why wouldn’t it be just as logical to infer that humans evolved from birds? As some recent articles show, such a whimsical story does not exceed in silliness what some evolutionists actually do claim.
December 25, 2011
Could any “useless” natural object composed of simple materials exceed the beauty of a snow crystal? As you wish for a white Christmas, think about two snowflake designers: one who makes them in a lab, and one who makes them in clouds.
Naturalizing Miracles, or Miracle-izing Nature?
December 24, 2011
Certain scientists feel a need to explain all phenomena by means of natural processes, including reports of miracles. The word “natural,” however, is slippery, taking on a variety of meanings. Is scientific reasoning, for instance, natural? If so, it is not composed of atoms and forces acting according to “natural law.” Is it possible that the tables can be turned on the naturalizers, to rescue Christmas from materialist re-interpretation?
Cambrian Explosion Louder Still
December 23, 2011
Darwin started a tradition of worrying about the Cambrian Explosion. Over time the problem has only worsened; now we know that all the animal phyla appeared suddenly in the oldest strata containing metazoan (multi-celled) animals. In recent decades, evolutionists had hoped that the strange Ediacaran fossils would provide the needed missing links. In addition, some thought they had found embryos of early metazoans in the exceptionally-preserved Precambrian beds of China. Those hopes have now been dashed, leading to moans and groans from Darwinians.
Observations Upset Models of Stellar Evolution
December 22, 2011
Stellar evolution models go back decades. Ever since the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram came out in 1910 (graphing temperature against luminosity), showing most stars fell on a line called the “main sequence”, astrophysicists have sought to understand the life cycle of stars from birth to death. In general, the story goes, collapsing clouds of gas and dust produce main-sequence stars that burn nuclear fuel till they run out. Depending on their masses, they end up as supernovae, red giants or slowly-cooling cinders. While red dwarfs cool down slowly into the darkness, supernovae and red giants eject mass outward into space . Two new planets found close to a red giant are among new headaches for theorists.
Human Variability Can Be Rapid
December 19, 2011
All living humans are interfertile – one species by definition. People from all parts of the globe can marry and have children, even though global travel is relatively recent in human history. Yet we know there is considerable variability between tribes and nationalities. Does this variability take millions of years? Does it lead to the origin of new human species? Recent evidence shows that variations can be rapid, both genetic and acquired, without reducing interfertility.
Philosophy on the Phringe
December 17, 2011
Some philosophy is just common sense. Some is abstruse, recondite, and technically challenging. But when employed against common sense, such as to support the belief that everything came from nothing, philosophy can get downright weird.
Good Science Requires Good Ethics
December 16, 2011
Science is conducted by humans for humans. It is not done in a vacuum. Even the lone researcher working in a basement hopes to make a discovery worth sharing. The need for ethical science shows most clearly when humans experiment on humans – with or without their consent. Two recent articles underscore the indispensability of moral grounds for science, and a third raises questions about the source of morality.
Hopping Fish and Other Darwin Mysteries
December 12, 2011
The chieftans of evolutionary theory insist that their doctrines have come a long way since Darwin. Discoveries in molecular biology, population genetics, biogeography, paleontology have left the Victorian concepts of evolution outdated and antiquated, they would say. Yet a look at the evolutionary literature shows otherwise. Simplistic just-so stories, Darwinian phrases like “survival of the fittest” and “missing link,” iconic fossils, and antiquated principles continue to be the rule, as the following articles illustrate.
Early Man Stories Evolve
December 11, 2011
Early man evolved, evolutionary scientists assure us. But it's not clear what is evolving more: our ancestors, or the tales told about them.
December 10, 2011
Wonders under the sea highlight this roundup of recent geology news. Speaking of seas, the Dead Sea also made headlines, as well as data on the question of whether earthquakes are increasing.