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Little Animals, Big Technologies

You can’t always say bigger is better.  In the animal world, some of the smallest critters have capabilities that belie their size and compare well with their less dimensionally-challenged brethren.  Bee secure:  Honeybees are being trained to sniff bombs.  Really.  Read all about it in a press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Bees were […]

ID Support from Unlikely Quarters

While Nature 11/24 described intelligent design (ID) as a threat to science, support for it came from two new scientific books reviewed in the same issue.  Both of them, while not using the phrase intelligent design, deal with concepts that imply science must reach beyond material causes. Just right universal soup:  Jim Al-Khalili (U of […]

New Technology Visualizes Animals in the Womb

Many have seen the videos of human babies developing in the womb, but what do animals look like before birth?  Rhiannon Edward began an article in The Scotsman with some glimpses: An unborn elephant, tiny but perfect in every way.  A dolphin swimming in the womb, just as it will have to swim in the […]

Scientists Force Rapid Natural Selection in Lizards

Scientists transported a predator to a Caribbean island and watched some of the lizards evolve longer legs to run faster.  Then, as some of them took to climbing trees, their hind legs grew shorter.  They are calling this a test of natural selection, and are amazed the effects took effect so rapidly – in one […]

It’s Hard to Break a Bone

People wearing a cast right now may not feel comfortable, but should be thankful it’s hard to break a bone.  Scientists at Max Planck Institute discovered “a novel construction principle at the nanoscale which prevents bones from breaking at excessive force,” making them “nearly unbreakable.”  Because of the way the rigid components of bone tissue […]

Dinosaur Bone Soft Tissue Questioned, Defended

The subject of soft tissue in dinosaur bones came up at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Meeting earlier this month, reported Science.1  Mary Schweitzer was there, defending her spectacular claim that she had discovered both medullary bone (06/03/2006) and soft, pliable blood vessels and cartilage in a T. rex leg bone (03/24/2005).  Doubters, however, brought […]

Urchin Genome Hyped by Media as Human Cousin

The publication of a new genome for a plant or animal is becoming routine.  For some reason, the news media instantly jumped on claims that the genome of the sea urchin, published in Science, means that evolution is all but figured out, and that we should each feel a special place in our hearts for […]

You’ll Love Beetle-Foot Tape

If beetles can do it, scientists should be able to: climb the wall, that is.  Some researchers at Max Planck Institute have invented an adhesive that sticks to glass like beetle feet.  The secret was to manufacture thousands of microscopic pads that adhere to smooth surfaces by van der Waals forces (the attraction of neighboring […]

Bees Make Beeline to the Headlines

The science journals and media were abuzz with honeybee stories this week.  We counted 18 press releases and half a dozen research papers related to aspects of honeybees, including the publication of the honeybee genome.  Many research labs seem to have gotten into the act of figuring out what makes bees tick.  The major stories […]

Big Bad Bird: Ten-Foot “Terror Bird” Found

What would a “terror bird” look like?  Imagine a ten-footer, able to disembowel you with a single kick and crush your skull in its jaws.  That’s what scientists from the Dinosaur Institute of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History described in Nature1 after finding the largest-ever skull of a flightless phorusrhacid (‘terror bird’) in […]

Wanted Dead or Alive: New Mammals

Do we know all our fellow mammals?  Further research has uncovered new furry creatures, fur sure.  Furthermore, some are dead and some are alive and well: Weird Tooth:  An “ancient mammal that defies classification” has been given a name, at least.  EurekAlert reported that Horolodectes sunae, found 30 years ago in Alberta, remains a mystery: […]

Oxygen YoYos and Wings

Molecular oxygen: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.  We breathe it in constantly or else we would turn blue and die within minutes.  Yet we take antioxidants because of the harm that oxygen radicals can wreak in our cells.  Like fire, it is a useful substance, but only when tightly […]

Self-cleaning Surfaces Take the Lotus Position

Photovoltaic cells and microelectromechanical systems have a problem: they collect dirt.  What to do?  Look to the lotus, says a EurekAlert article about research at Georgia Institute of Technology.  Dr. C. P. Wong and team took inspiration from the self-cleaning surfaces of lotus leaves.  “Despite growing in muddy conditions, the leaves and flowers remain clean […]

Whiskers Inspire Technology

The latest gadget on robots or Mars rovers could be whiskers.  These tactile sensors provide ways to see in 3D, says a report on National Geographic News.  Information about latitude, longitude and elevation can be gleaned from whiskers.  Rodents continually rotate their whiskers to gather information, but seals and sea lions let the ocean currents […]

Should Elephants and Lions Be Reintroduced to North America?

Believe it or not, some scientists think large mammals that existed in North America in prehistoric times should be brought back.  This is called “rewilding,” in hopes of healing some of the ecological disruption caused when early humans “played a significant role in their demise 13,000 years ago.”  A dozen scientists provided a detailed proposal […]
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