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More Pow in the Cambrian Explosion

Scientists have found more fossil evidence for sudden emergence of animal body plans in the Cambrian strata.  Two papers in Geology discuss evidence on opposite sides of the world.  One team found bryozoans in Mexico 8 million years older than the record-holders in China,1 and another scientist found diverse echinoderms in Spain dating from the […]

Archer Fish Sees Clearly Up and Down

The archer fish, which lives in mangrove swamps and rivers, is able to spit insects off leaves above the water with remarkable accuracy (09/30/2002, 09/07/2004, 10/10/2006).  Scientists have been fascinated by this ability because in order for the fish to calculate the trajectory of its missiles, it needs to take into account both chromatic aberration […]

Blind Fish Lead the Blind

Imagine miniature subs that can negotiate tight spaces or murky waters in the dark.  Meet Snookie: a device created by researchers at the University of Technology Munich, who took their inspiration from blind cave fish.     The report on Live Science says that the blind Mexican cave fish Astyanax mexicanus is born with eyes […]

Biomimetics: Science for Now

Do you want science that makes a difference in our lives?  Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems.  That’s where researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs. Shellfish materials:  Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to the imitation of oysters and shellfish.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at the University […]

What Good Is Natural Selection without Progress?

Three papers recently claim to have seen natural selection.  None of them, however, identified a functional advantage that would have tied changes to novel benefits that could improve a species.  Yeast:  “New Type of Genetic Variation Could Strengthen Natural Selection,” trumpeted a headline in Science Daily.  It was about a study of two varieties of […]

Life Leads the Way to Invention

Here’s a factoid for the party: a cell is 10,000 times more energy-efficient than a transistor.  PhysOrg tells us that “ In one second, a cell performs about 10 million energy-consuming chemical reactions, which altogether require about one picowatt (one millionth millionth of a watt) of power.”  This and other amazing facts lead to an […]

Scientists Divine Deep Time in Dead Fish

Scientific experiments can certainly take on a wide variety of methods, from recreating the atmosphere of Titan to testing a drug on a genetic disease.  But if educators want to encourage students to become scientists, they had best keep silent about “some very unpleasant experiments” at the University of Leicester reported by the BBC News.  […]

What Value Do Evolutionary Explanations Provide?

We want value for our science dollars.  We know artists are into self-expression, but scientists need to offer more than just artistic prose: they are supposed to be in the knowledge generation business.  So we expect to gain one of two things from their scientific explanations.  One, we would like to gain practical knowledge that […]

Tiktaalik Demoted to Has-Been

The highly-publicized tetrapod missing link or “fish-a-pod” that made headlines in 2006 (05/03/2006) has been dethroned by new findings in Poland.  Trackways said to be 18 million years older than Tiktaalik, showing digits and alternating steps, were announced today in Nature.1  The authors said, “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental […]

Evidence for Evolution, or for Uncontroversial Variation?

Science papers and articles often announce promising new evidence for evolution.  To distinguish Darwinian evolution from creation, though, requires evidence of a certain magnitude.  The staunchest Biblical creationist allows for a great deal of variation within kinds.  When evidences for evolution are announced, do they rise to the level of change Darwin theorized – like […]

Clever Animals Inspire Lookers – And Engineers

Incredible animals provide endless delights with their antics.  Even microorganisms are capable of amazing feats.  Sometimes these living things inspire inventors, too. Coconut octopus:  Tool use was supposed to be a late marker of primate intelligence as chimpanzees were evolving upward to manhood.  That’s so 1890.  Now that we know crows can use tools (05/26/2009), […]

Taking Inspiration from Nature

In the previous entry, Darwin inspired some geologists, even though he was wrong.  Here are some news stories showing nature inspiring engineers with wonders right under their noses. Aerodynamic seed:  A plant in Java has seeds that are perfect gliders.  The BBC News said of the Alsomitra vine: “The seeds, which are produced by a […]

Hammerhead Sharks Have 360-degree Stereo Vision

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have found that the strange heads of hammerhead sharks give them exceptional binocular vision.  This has long been debated.  By placing electrodes in the eyes of three hammerhead species, and comparing the visual overlap they obtain compared to other sharks, the scientists confirmed that there is a “massive 32-degree overlap” […]

Evolutionary Explanation Is Always a Work in Progress

As evolutionary biologists examine diverse plants and animals, it seems they are never able to give a definitive answer as to how they got that way.  Their work merely begins or continues to search for clues.  Like mothers, their work is never done.  At least this provides them job security. Box jellyfish:  There are about […]

To Advance Science, Imitate Nature

Biomimetics – the imitation of nature – continues to be one of the hottest areas in science.  Here are a few of the latest findings coming from the world of living creatures. Fish robot:  National Geographic News shows a photo of the latest thing in underwater robotics: a robotic submarine modeled after the Amazonian knifefish.  […]
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