Saturn Moons Continue to Shine
April 23, 2012
Saturn just passed opposition on April 15, making it a good viewing object from Earth this season. Amateur observers with telescopes may be able to make out the moons Titan, Rhea, Dione, Iapetus, Tethys, and Enceladus. They may look like beautiful little gems from Earth, but from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit at Saturn, they are no less than astonishing. Recent observations of these moons add to the astonishment.
From Wonders of Nature to Wonders of Technology
April 22, 2012
Living things have solved physics problems like design engineers. Inventors are just now catching on to their tricks in ways that could improve our technology, weaning us off our crude, polluting past and ushering in advanced technology that is not only greener but more effective. The latest stars are two insects and a bacterium.
Cambrian Explosion: Sedimentary, My Dear Flotsam
April 20, 2012
"Then something happened." Question: are you reading a science article, or a fictional screenplay? Are you in the Science Department or the Humanities Department? Are you in the lab or the theater? Find out in today's episode of "Explain the Cambrian Explosion."
Is This Plant Really 30,000 Years Old?
February 20, 2012
A plant said to be 30,000 years old has been brought to life in Russia. A team resurrected a fruit from a rodent burrow in Siberian permafrost, getting it to grow into a whole plant that produces viable seeds. This is now the oldest age claim, by an order of magnitude, for plant material made to live again. Other scientists are startled that plant material could remain viable for so long, since cells have to repair their DNA continually. Other botany news bring different problems to evolutionary theory.
Dinosaurs Display Death in Watery Grave
February 16, 2012
Many dinosaur fossils show the animals with neck arched backward. This appearance is so common, it has been dubbed the "dinosaur death pose." Various theories have been invoked to explain it: dessication and final death throes among the most common. A study with chickens shows the arching neck is the automatic response of immersion in water.
OOL for Landlubbers
February 12, 2012
No part of the universal evolutionary scenario gets more overhauls than the origin of life. Some say it began in the sea, some on the land. Some say it began at the bottom of the sea; others say that is the worst place for life to get going. The latest idea favors freshwater hot springs on land.
More Reasons to Doubt Scientific Pronouncements
February 11, 2012
It’s unsettling to hear scientists say that long-held beliefs might be wrong, but that’s the nature of science. Scientific “findings” are tentative, not absolute. Some see this as a strength of science, but unless actual progress is demonstrated, that strength is called into question. Recent news casts doubt on various scientific methods and beliefs that had been trusted for a long time.
Lunar Upsets Challenge Paradigms
January 27, 2012
Forty years after the last moonwalkers came home, new discoveries about the moon are calling into question what scientists know about our celestial partner. But is it legitimate for scientists to invoke mystery forces when a favored theory faces falsifying evidence?
News for the Birds
January 24, 2012
Our amazing feathered friends range from tiny hummingbirds to fast-running ostriches, from penguins to pigeons. In both living and fossil forms, they provide endless opportunities for study and fascination. Here are a few recent examples of news for the birds, in both good and bad connotations of the phrase.
Geologists 750% Wrong in Death Valley
January 23, 2012
A volcanic explosion in northern Death Valley occurred 800 years ago, not 6,000, “far more recently than generally thought,” according to new dating estimates. The event that created Ubehebe Crater is so recent, in fact, geologists think another devastating explosion could happen today.
Oozing Life Up Against All Odds
January 20, 2012
The origin of life clearly requires a major leap in complexity, but not just any complexity. A conglomerate rock is complex, but not alive. Life has functional complexity – the ability to selectively take in materials to grow, move and reproduce. Life also requires growth, but not just any growth. Fire grows and reproduces, but is not alive, whereas a living cell grows and reproduces according to internal programmed instructions. Evolutionists think the origin of life by natural causes is a tractable problem that will eventually be solved. Let’s see a couple of examples of how their work is coming along.
More Evidence Cambrian Explosion was Un-Darwinian
January 18, 2012
The Cambrian Explosion (the abrupt appearance of animal phyla in the earliest fossil layers bearing multicellular body plans) remains unmuffled. Known by Darwin as a problem for his theory, it has become more problematic to his followers over time. There are now many more Cambrian fossils than Darwin knew of, and they continue the pattern: sudden appearance of complex animals, complete with legs, digestive systems, eyes, and nervous systems. Discoveries of Precambrian fossils have not helped: the ones that are more than microbial appear to be mere colonies of cells with no relationship to animals. Here are more discoveries that fit this pattern.
Tilt-A-World: Another Constraint on Habitability
January 12, 2012
Did you ever ride a Tilt-A-Whirl, one of those cheap carnival rides that makes you dizzy and sick? Our planet would be like that if its inclination were out of control. Without tilt stability, a new study reveals, we wouldn't be sick, we'd be dead, or never alive in the first place. It's not enough to be in the Habitable Zone. Would-be inhabited planets need to avoid a new problem, called “tilt erosion.”
What Do Scientists Know About Prehistory?
January 9, 2012
Evolutionary biologists and geologists speak of events happening millions or billions of years ago as concrete facts. They are not observational facts, though; they are inferences from indirect evidence. Indirect evidence can often lead to different conclusions; in fact, some philosophers like Duhem and Quine argue for “under-determination of theory by data,” meaning that data can never converge to support just one theory. Some can demonstrate logically that there are an infinite number of theories that can explain a set of data. Evolutionary scientists counter that there are only one or a few that are reasonable (implying that theirs is among the limited set of reasonable ones). Recent discoveries that threaten to overturn past reasonable theories, though, cast doubt on their confidence.
Nature Does It Right
January 4, 2012
Scientists and engineers continue to find well-designed features in living things that are worth imitating.