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Eyes on the Prize: Science Sees Gold in Biomimetics

A fly eye made the cover of Science this week.1  It’s not that the compound eye is interesting to entomologists; MSNBC News picked up on the real message: “Animal eyes inspire new technology – Researchers learn optics lessons from biology.”  The cover story is about biomimetics, or reverse-engineering nature.  Scientists are looking for ways to […]

Butterflies Invented LEDs First

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) were a prized invention of physicists, improved greatly in 2001, but now we find butterflies invented them first.  We already knew that butterfly wings achieve their shimmering iridescence by means of photonic crystals (01/29/2003), as do some birds (10/13/2003), but now it appears that the butterflies have even more exotic tricks up […]

News from the Cretaceous

Here are some recent stories about extinct reptiles and bird-like creatures from the age of dinosaurs. T. Rex Smelled Good:  A story in Science1 listed evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex had a large olfactory bulb, giving it a good sense of smell.  Analysis of the visual and auditory parts of the skull suggest that it also […]

Scientists Learning How to Harness Cellular Trucks

In an article that blurs the line between biology and technology, a press release from the Max Planck Institute (see EurekAlert for English translation) described the amazing performance of the nanoscopic trucks that ride the cell’s microtubule superhighways.  Kinesin and myosin motors, fueled by ATP, usually “sprint” on the trackways for short distances, but working […]

March of the Little Penguins Down Darwin Lane?

Penguins are on people’s minds since the movie, but there are other species of the handsome-yet-funny waddlers besides the reigning emperors.  The news media are saying one species demonstrates evolution – another word on the public mind these days.  MSNBC News talked about “Penguin evolution,” and Science Now proclaimed “Evolution on Ice.”  Actually, it’s only […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]

Georgia Tech “Bioneers” Plagiarize Mother Nature to Advance Science

“Copying the ideas of others is usually frowned upon, but when it comes to the work of Mother Nature, scientists are finding they can use nature as a template.”  That’s how an interesting press release from Georgia Tech begins (reproduced on EurekAlert) about a new center on campus called the Center for Biologically Inspired Design […]

Charity?  Chimps Don’t Get It – Nor Give It

The science news media took note of an experiment showing that chimpanzees don’t care to share, even when it costs them nothing (see the BBC News and Science Now, “Tightwad Primates”).  Joan Silk and a team at UCLA created an apparatus where a chimp could pull one rope to get a treat for itself, or […]

It’s Official: Mangroves Would Have Prevented Most Tsunami Damage

EurekAlert summarized a paper in Science1 that confirmed an earlier claim (02/10/2005) that intact mangrove forests along the Asian coastlines would have prevented the bulk of damage and death from last year’s mega-tsunami.  A large, diverse research team from seven nations estimated that more than 90% of the damage could have been prevented by the […]

Emperor Penguins Get More Respect

A handsomely-dressed emperor penguin made the cover of Science News this week.  Gerald Kooyman of Scripps Institute is gratified over the success of the documentary March of the Penguins; “I’ve been telling people they’re remarkable for years,” he said.  In the article, Susan Milius brought out several additional amazing facts not mentioned in the film. […]

Archaeopteryx Meets Its Younger Grandpa, and Other Flights of Fancy

Science Now said that a “slightly embarrassing gap” in the fossil record has been filled by a find in Wyoming.  The oldest known bird, Archaeopteryx was older than its presumed ancestors, the Maniraptorans, its closest dinosaurian relatives.  A team near Thermopolis, Wyoming found a maniraptoran dating from about the same time as Archaeopteryx.  This new […]

Spider Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

Sea spiders look so similar to land spiders, everyone would have thought they were related.  They differ, however, in several significant ways, said Graham Budd and Maximilian Telford in Nature:1  ’Their bodies are so slender that the digestive systems and gonads are squeezed into their limbs; they possess a forward-pointing proboscis with a terminal mouth; […]

Have We Been Sold a Bill of Goods About Feathered Dinosaurs and Bird Evolution?

Most people remember the poignant moment at the end of Jurassic Park when the professor, on a flight away from his harrowing experiences on the island of dinosaurs run amok, sees a flock of modern birds and ponders their peaceful existence as descendants of the velociraptors and tyrannosaurs that nearly killed him and his friends.  […]

Spider Blood Survives 20 Million Years – So They Say

EurekAlert announced, “Spider blood found in 20 million year old fossil.”  Science Daily repeated the story.  The articles even tell how the spider died (it was climbing a tree and was struck on the head by fast-flowing sap).  The BBC News said, “Spider is ‘20 million years old.’” At least they put quotes around the […]

Were Dinosaurs Gasping for Air?

A news story on CNN claims that “the air contained only about 10 percent oxygen at the time of the dinosaurs.”  It climbed to 23% by 40 million years ago, then dropped to its current level at 21%, said the researchers.  They feel that the rise of oxygen “almost certainly contributed to evolution of large […]
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