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Is This Plant Really 30,000 Years Old?

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.

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.

Nature Does It Right

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

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.

Fungi Shed Light on Deep Biological Mysteries

Fungi are among the least studied and least understood organisms. Elevated from plants to their own kingdom in 1969, they are extremely diverse yet difficult to observe, since many species cannot be grown in the lab. The gaps in our knowledge of the fungi are being filled by new efforts to catalog them, but one of the most interesting findings may come from analysis of their genomes. A new study shows that introns (intragenic regions) are more dynamic than previously thought.

Your Copper Pipes

Each of us is part metal. Our bodies contain iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and even nickel like the coins in our pockets or purses. Unlike the other common elements of life (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus), our metals are not synthesized and recycled, but must be imported and handled with care. Copper is a good example of a biological metal that performs multiple useful functions – that is, unless something goes wrong with the machinery handling it.

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.

New Fossils and Upsets

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.

What Is It About Africa?

What’s wrong with Africa? The answer is, of course, nothing – at least not with the continent itself. Africa is a bountiful land of incredible diversity and productive potential, boasting the largest mammals, the great apes, geological diversity, vast panoramas of beauty, and numerous spectacular plants and animals. What comes to mind to many westerners, though, is starvation, drought, disease, war, genocide, and a long history of slavery, exploitation and corruption. For decades the charities have assaulted our emotions with heart-wrenching images of starving children with distended stomachs and flimsy arms, covered in flies and mosquitoes. Is Africa to blame? No; these are mostly human-caused problems, offering hope of solutions. A diverse continent with vastly different political systems, Africa offers striking contrasts of riches and horrors.

Biomimetics to the Rescue of Science

The booming field of biomimetics (imitating nature’s designs) is fascinating not only for the amazing products it promises, but for the fresh new opportunities it provides for science and engineering. From viruses to mammals, everything in the living world is now being seen in a new light: agents of innovation that humans can learn from. Here are just a few examples in recent news, arranged in order from large to small inspirational creatures.

Amazing Adaptations

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.

Evolution Fits Any Data

At first blush, it might seem a wonderful thing when many different kinds of evidence can be explained by one simple, elegant theory. Actually, though, too much confirmation can be a theory’s downfall. When a theory explains too much – even opposite things – it really explains nothing. For instance, everything in the universe can be explained by the phrase, “Stuff happens.” Such a theory is useless, even if true. That’s why any theory that explains too much should be looked at askance. Here are some recent observations offered in support of the theory of evolution:

Venus Flytrap De-Darwinized

Darwin had a fascination for the Venus flytrap, but is it appropriate to conjure up his ghost when talking about it? The carnivorous plant still defies evolutionary explanations, especially now, when a recent paper drew attention to more amazing design features from macro to micro. For some reason, writers still feel a compulsion to mention Darwin’s name when talking about a plant that defies his evolutionary ideas.
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