Animal Plan: It Works Well
November 10, 2011
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
November 6, 2011
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.
Amazing Bird Tricks
October 27, 2011
“Angry Birds” are perhaps the best known species among electronic bird-watchers these days, but we should never forget that real birds are amazing creatures. Incredibly diverse (think ostrich to hummingbird to penguin), they continue to fascinate scientists and laymen. Here are some recent science stories about our feathered friends.
New Fossils and Upsets
October 19, 2011
One important fossil and two stories about fossils were announced this week. They demonstrate that the fossils themselves mean nothing apart from an interpretive context.
Amazing Fossils: What Do They Mean?
October 13, 2011
Almost every week, on continents around the world, remains of once-living creatures come to light. Here are just a few of the fascinating fossils that have been reported this month. What do they suggest about life in their day?
September 26, 2011
All biologists agree – creationists and evolutionists alike – that organisms show remarkable adaptations to their environment. They differ only in their explanations for how they got that way. Here are some remarkable examples of adaptation that will challenge any theory of origins.
Stretching Credibility in Evolutionary Stories
September 20, 2011
Improbable events happening numerous times; selective extinctions; voodoo phylogenetics – at what point do evolutionary explanations exceed the threshold of credibility a trusting public grants to the gurus of the culture, scientists?
Grebe Left Imaginary Dinosaur Feathers in Amber
September 15, 2011
“Dinosaur feathers” are all over the news again, thanks to a paper in Science revealing feathers in amber found in Canada. But whose feathers are they? Inferences from other sources, not from the amber, were brought into the interpretation, even though the discoverers admitted, “There is currently no way to refer the feathers in amber with certainty to either birds or the rare small theropods from the area.” And modern-looking feathers of diving birds like grebes were also found in the same amber, leading to numerous questions about what can rightly be inferred from the fossils themselves. No matter; most of the media loved the evolutionary implications and trotted out their headlines that feather evolution from dinosaur to bird has been proven.
Are Biological Clocks Like Paley’s Watch?
September 9, 2011
What is a clock made of? We think of springs, gears and moving parts made out of metal. But a clock could, in theory, be designed with almost any material. There are water clocks, sundials, and electromagnetic oscillators that all function to tell time. What difference does it make if the parts are made of liquids, laser beams, or plastic? What if a clock was made of biological material—would it be any less a device for keeping time? Would it surprise you that such clocks exist in your body and in every living thing?
Big Birds Lived with Dinosaurs
August 11, 2011
The largest flying bird is the California Condor with a wingspan of 2.9 meters. The largest flightless bird is the ostrich, up to 1.7 to 2.8 meters tall. These are shrimps compared to extinct birds that lived with dinosaurs. A fossil jaw from a Cretaceous bird has been found in Kazakhstan. The BBC News said, “If flightless, the bird would have been 2-3m tall; if it flew, it may have had a wingspan of 4m.” The find raises questions about what scientists know about the age of dinosaurs.
Archaeopteryx Reclassification Raises Fear of Creationists
July 28, 2011
Archaeopteryx isn’t the first bird. At least, not today. It may be reclassified again, but Xing Xu, the man who brought a panoply of “feathered dinosaurs” to the world’s attention, has announced another Chinese fossil that led him to shuffle the bird evolution tree around, putting Archaeopteryx, an “icon of evolution” since its discovery in1861, onto a branch that includes dinosaur terrors like Deinonychus. At least, today. The backstory behind the shuffling of family trees, an upset that raises questions about everything evolutionists that they knew about the evolution of birds, is political, not scientific. Evolutionists are worried about how creationists are going to “spin” the news.
Fossil Finds Feed Facile Fables
July 20, 2011
Remarkable fossils continue to come to science’s attention, yielding clues about past ecological conditions. Once in awhile, whole fossil specimens – even graveyards of many organisms – are uncovered, but most fossils are mere fragments. Placing fossils into interpretive stories requires knowledge of other fossils and comparisons with living species. Even then, the history of life is not directly observable. Fossils, being silent, can only show their current state; the lack of access to the past, combined with ignorance of all the clues, leaves room for alternative interpretations. Evolutionists, in their desire to fit fossils into a preconceived story, sometimes go far beyond what the actual fossil evidence is capable of saying – and some of their explanations border on the miraculous.
Flap Over Flight Evolution
June 26, 2011
Birds flap their wings when they run up ramps. It takes less energy than flying. This is uncontroversial; it is observable, and science can measure the energy cost. But for at least eight years now, Ken Dial at the University of Montana has been claiming that this behavior explains the origin of flight in birds (01/16/2003, 12/22/2003). When he first came out with this hypothesis in 2003, Elisabeth Pennisi in the journal Science said, “I imagine people will continue to argue about the origin of bird flight for a long time.” There’s been very little argument in the media over the years, though (05/01/2006, 9/22/2007, 1/25/2008); in fact, the BBC News just gave another plug for Dial’s hypothesis with no criticism at all.
If This Is Evolution, What Is Trivia?
June 24, 2011
Some science news articles appear confident about evolution, but offer little evidence except trivial change . Sometimes, they even offer evidence that contradicts their expectations. If this is evolution, what is trivia?
Follow the Leader: Nature
June 21, 2011
Ever since biomimetics (the imitation of nature) gradually emerged around 2002 and really took off in 2005, it has not slowed down. Over 90 previous entries in these pages have reported teams all over the world seeking out natural designs for ideas. The reports have accelerated in recent years to the point where there is only space for short summaries that give a taste of the wide variety of engineering work taking inspiration from plants, animals, and even cells. You yourself might inspire some inventor. Here are a few more highlights from recent adventures in biomimetics.