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News for the Birds

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.

Living Surprises, Living Hopes

Here are ten recent discoveries about plants and animals that are surprising and inspiring. Some of them may lead to technologies that can improve our own lives.

Science Grab Bag

Here's a random assortment of things floating around in the science news media – some fascinating, some informative, some disgusting. We’ll let the readers decide which is which. Since it’s Friday the 13th, a day to enjoy like any other day, we’ll give you a baker’s dozen to sample.

Cosmologists Forced to “In the Beginning”

The late astronomer Robert Jastrow detailed in his 1978 book God and the Astronomers how cosmologists were repulsed by the idea the universe had a beginning. He found it quizzical that they would have such an emotional reaction. They all realized that a beginning out of nothing was implausible without a Creator. Since then, various models allowing for an eternal universe brought secular cosmologists relief from their emotional pains. It now appears that relief was premature.

Titanosaur Bones Found in Antarctica

Strange as it seems, large sauropods of the Titanosaur variety have been found in Antarctica. This is the highest latitude sauropod ever found. It means that the large reptiles inhabited every continent; they walked the globe.

Body Talk

Scientists sometimes just prove the obvious, like that men and women are different. If we can talk body without talking bawdy, there are some new discoveries about body works that should put a spring in your step today about how your body works.

Nature Does It Right

Scientists and engineers continue to find well-designed features in living things that are worth imitating.

Cells Optimize Their Tasks

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.

Biomimetics for Your Christmas Wish List

Biomimetics (the imitation of nature) continues to promise cool gadgets and useful materials that will someday yield prized gifts under the tree. Some of them might even save your life.

Methuselah Seed Now a Tree

The world’s oldest viable seed is now a tree 8 feet tall. The Methuselah palm, discovered in the 1960s as a seed at the Judean fortress of Masada, sprouted in 2005 under controlled conditions. It is the oldest seed verified by radiocarbon dating to be 2,000 years old – from the time the Romans were besieging the mountain fortress built by Herod the Great.

Incredible Small Creatures That Deny Evolution

While the largest of animals impress us with their size and bulk, some of the most amazing are those you could hold in the palm of your hand. Here are three worth appreciating a little more.

Animal Plan: It Works Well

There were Greek and Roman naturalists who were intrigued by what they saw in the living world, but their observational tools were limited to their five senses. Modern science has expanded our senses far beyond the capabilities known just a century ago. We are privileged to live in an age of discovery that is revealing even more wonders beneath the surface of living things, wonders worth knowing about. Here are just a few.

Engineers Tip Hat to Nature

It’s conventional in blogging to give an HT (hat tip) to a friend who makes you aware of a cool item. Engineers are giving hat tips to plants and animals as they seek for amazing new products that do wonderful things, just like the ones in nature.

Preventing Aging Through Darwin-Free Science

Will new discoveries in biochemistry lead to longer lives? There are hopeful signs that aging can be delayed, if not prevented. Whether or not that happens in our lifetimes (causing new worries for Social Security), scientists are learning amazing things about how cells work that should give us more reason for Thanksgiving.

Animal Magnetism and Other Wonders

What is it that so attracts us to animals? Is it animal magnetism? Some animals do have magnetic senses that can guide them across oceans. The more we learn about animals, the more we should admire their high-tech equipment. Here are some recent examples of amazing animals, some of them suitable for Halloween decorations.
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