May 21, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Wonderful Lives

Biologists continue to find unexpected wonders in living things.

Cancer dogs:  Dogs have a 98% success rate detecting products of prostate cancer in urine, Science Magazine says.  “Nearly foolproof,” the dog sniffers beat out the best man-made detector by a wide margin.

Pretty spider:  The British Tarantula Society has an award winner for prettiest tarantula, National Geographic reports with a photo and video of the winner.  Some feel the spiders make ideal pets.

Comb jellies:  With a genome of a “sea gooseberry” or comb jelly (ctenophore) in hand, evolutionists are stunned.  Could it be this graceful creature evolved a nervous system independently of other animals?  Nature News puzzles over this mystery; National Geographic calls it “strange findings” that “uproot the animal family tree.”  One biologist calls the creatures “aliens who have come to earth.”

Amazing FactsMuscle ants:  How do ants lift many times their own weight?  Scientists are using the Ohio Supercomputer Center to figure out the biomechanics behind “amazing ant strength.”  The work “might unlock one of nature’s little mysteries and, quite possibly, open the door to advancements in robotic engineering.”

Migrating birds:  “Nature is an extraordinary testbed,” DARPA researchers say in an article on Live Science.  That’s why they are studying birds who migrate by the earth’s magnetic field.  “We think it’s possible that over millions of years of evolution, biological organisms have developed systems that exploit quantum physics.

Jungle gym:  A variety of animals, from mice to frogs to slugs, seem to enjoy running on hamster wheels.  Science Now discussed the experiment where the treadmill wheels were placed accessible to wild animals.  They were surprised how many different creatures took turns with the exercise device, apparently just for fun.

Tall redwoods:  How do coast redwoods grow so tall?  New work reported by Science Magazine shows that the cell structure of the needles changes from bottom to top.  The top leaves contain more pore spaces that hold water and less xylem vessels, allowing the top leaves to absorb more water from the fog.

Jumping frogs:  In time for the Calaveras County Fair’s Jumping Frog contest made famous by Mark Twain, New Scientist reports about these “amphibian olympians” and their secrets.

Octopus knots:  Why don’t octopuses get all tangled up?  Live Science reports on new work that shows several mechanisms that keep them untangled, from neural programs to secretions in the skin that keep their suckers from sticking to their own arms.  The neural program also keeps the arms from inserting themselves into the animal’s mouth, even though an octopus will eat amputated arms from other individuals.

Shark skin:  By trying to recreate the texture of shark skin, scientists are learning how it makes them swim so fast.  Tiny “denticles” in the skin reduce drag, Live Science says.  By reproducing this texture with 3-D printing, researchers reduced drag of swimsuit material by almost 7 percent.

If scientists would just look at nature from a design perspective, they would have a lot more fun.  Saying nonsense like “it’s possible that over millions of years of evolution, biological organisms have developed systems that exploit quantum physics” is stupid and worthless.  Good grief; anything is possible.  If pigs had wings, they could fly.  If jumping frogs had buckshot, they could develop pogo sticks.  If cows had rockets, they could jump over the moon.  What good is that kind of talk?  Study what is, and you will know design when you see it.


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