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La Brea Tar Pits Trap Scientists

Sid Perkins of Science News dropped in at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and got stuck, not in tar, but in the sticky evolutionary interpretations of these world-famous fossil deposits.  This fossil bed, right in one of the ritziest parts of Los Angeles (adjacent to the County Art Museum), Perkins whimsically calls “L.A.’s […]

Should Cosmologists Get Worried Yet?

The unexpected finding of mature galaxies in the early universe (see 01/02/2004) has Robert Irion worried, but he seems surprised the theorists are not.  Reporting on last week’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the Jan. 23 issue of Science,1 he titles his article, “Early Galaxies Baffle Observers, But Theorists Shrug.”  He begins: “It’s […]

Minnesota Debates Darwin Teaching

Minnesota is next in line in the Darwin wars.  This science framework writing committee has taken the unusual step of submitting two drafts to the legislature, a majority report with the usual Darwin-only rule, and a minority with two improvements, according to Seth Cooper of the Discovery Institute: The first benchmark improvement proposed by the […]

Sex and Gender Cannot Be Separated

A study of male children born with a rare birth defect called cloacal exstrophy demonstrates that sexual identity is biologically determined, not a result of upbringing.  The report in Science Now shows that most of the boys identified themselves as male early on, even though unaware of their condition and “raised as girls” under doctor’s […]

Mars’ Gusev Crater May Be Dry

Preliminary indications from the spectrometer on Spirit, the rover exploring Gusev Crater on Mars, may dash hopes for those looking for evidence of past water there.  According to the NASA-JPL press release, the signature of olivine has been found.  Olivine degrades in water, even at near-freezing temperatures, and it weathers easily.  It is not known […]

Why You Need Sleep

A study in the Jan. 22 issue of Nature1 claims that sleep gives you inspiration.  Sleep is not just a waste of a third of your day; it helps consolidate memories, and provides pivotal insights.  “Insight denotes a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behaviour,” the five […]

Does Microevolution Add Up?

Do numerous small changes add up to big ones, like Darwin thought?  In the Jan. 15 issue of Nature,1 New Zealand kiwi David Penny (Allan Wilson Center for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University) is hopeful that the new chimp genome will prove it so: The fundamental issue here is Darwin’s bold claim that “numerous, […]

Fossil Worm: Does It Help Solve Cambrian Explosion Puzzle?

A soft embryo of a Cambrian worm, exquisitely preserved, makes Graham Budd (U. of Uppsala, Sweden) ask some hard questions about it and other recently-discovered embryo fossils in the Jan. 15 issue of Nature:1 These fossils raise several questions, to say the least.  First, how could they possibly be preserved?  Second, why are they concentrated […]

Centromere Shows More Gems in “Junk DNA”

A biochemist at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a colleague sequenced a hard-to-sequence part of the rice genome, the centromere, and found four genes in it.  Previously, it was thought to be a vast wasteland of repetitive, non-coding DNA.  The scientist, Jiming Jiang, thinks his work provides a “window to evolution” of the centromere, according to […]

Your Bacteria Ancestors

Dr. Peter Antonelli thinks he has mathematically proven that all multicellular organisms, including plants and animals and human beings, came from two ancient bacteria that met and formed a stable, consistent relationship.  His boast is explained on a University of Alberta press release.  He thinks most biologists don’t comprehend his mathematical models yet, but EurekAlert […]

How Enzymes Work – But Don’t Ask Where They Came From: Just Believe

Enzymes are protein machines in the cell that speed up reactions that normally would proceed very slowly or not at all.  Four biochemists publishing in the Jan. 9 issue of Science1 describe the exquisite power of these biological catalysts: “Enzyme catalysis, which can produce rate accelerations as large as a factor of 1019, involves molecular […]

Did Borax Evolve Into 20-Mule Teams?

You’re dating yourself if you remember the old TV western Death Valley Days, and its commercials about 20-Mule Team Borax.  (Mule teams actually did pull loads of borax from Death Valley to Mojave, quite a feat in those days, but that’s another story.)  In modern times, though, borax has made science news as a possible […]

“Accepted Science” or Censorship by National Park Service?

What’s a national park bookstore vendor to do?  A beautiful new book of photographs and quotations on Grand Canyon, entitled Grand Canyon: A Different View by veteran river rafting captain Tom Vail, went on sale in the national park bookstore.  One would think it would not stand out too much along with hundreds of other […]

Book

The Discovery Institute in Seattle has published a new book, Darwinism, Design and Public Education, by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, encouraging schools to teach both sides of the controversy over Darwinism vs Intelligent Design. The Darwin Party’s spin doctoring that students should be protected from the controversy over Darwinism is unpopular and […]

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?

Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.     Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, […]
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