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From Toxin to Medicine

Botulinum toxin (botox) is now big business in health and fashion, but few may remember it derives from one of the deadliest substances known in nature. Other examples show that some forms of "natural evil" can be seen in a different light.

Evolution for Men and Women

Two recent entries in the evolution literature have application to one sex or the other.

Follow the Leader: Plants and Animals

Need solutions to engineering problems? Look no further than the plants and animals around you. That's what more and more scientists are doing.

Coelacanth: Survival of the Dullest

A new fossil species of coelacanth was discovered in Canada. Scientists think from its tail fin shape that it was a fast swimmer–perhaps a hunter. Sadly, it was a "spectacular failure" in evolution. The luck of the evolutionary draw went to today's slow-moving, docile species.

Animals Have Biological GPS

Global Positioning System (GPS): that's a function. Maintaining a suite of satellites is one method for achieving the function. But there are other ways to figure out where in the world you are, and two very different animals show the way – naturally – using Earth's global magnetic field.

How the Tiger Got Its Stripes: Dunno

A leading hypothesis for morphogenesis (pattern formation, such as tiger stripes) has been shown to be oversimplified. Whatever gave a tiger its stripes is more complicated than developmental biologists thought.

Questioning the Dino-Bird Hypothesis

The scientific consensus has pretty much declared it a fact of natural history that birds evolved from dinosaurs. One evolutionary professor remains a gadfly, though. He contests the evidence on which the hypothesis is based, and also believes his maverick position is growing.

Paradigm Shift: Impact Didn't Kill Dinosaurs

A new study casts doubt on whether asteroid impacts led to extinctions. It's based on re-interpreting geological evidence used to identify impacts. This finding, if sustained, would undermine the theory that an impact killed off the dinosaurs and a later impact led to the extinction of many large mammals. Even more significant, an overturn of the impact hypothesis would illustrate that scientists are capable of going off on wrong tangents for decades.

From Wonders of Nature to Wonders of Technology

Living things have solved physics problems like design engineers. Inventors are just now catching on to their tricks in ways that could improve our technology, weaning us off our crude, polluting past and ushering in advanced technology that is not only greener but more effective. The latest stars are two insects and a bacterium.

Cambrian Explosion: Sedimentary, My Dear Flotsam

"Then something happened." Question: are you reading a science article, or a fictional screenplay? Are you in the Science Department or the Humanities Department? Are you in the lab or the theater? Find out in today's episode of "Explain the Cambrian Explosion."

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.

Small Animals Show Even More Design

Your smart phone is a triumph of miniaturization. The first computers were room-filling monstrosities; now, you can hold more computing power than a Univac in the palm of your hand. In the living world, we should't despise small creatures. They can pack a lot of technology into a small space. Here are some record-setting examples of living miniatures reported recently.

Dinosaurs Display Death in Watery Grave

Many dinosaur fossils show the animals with neck arched backward. This appearance is so common, it has been dubbed the "dinosaur death pose." Various theories have been invoked to explain it: dessication and final death throes among the most common. A study with chickens shows the arching neck is the automatic response of immersion in water.

Fish Came from the Land

If you were taught fish evolved in the ocean, think again. There's a new idea that most fish evolved on land.

Humans Evolved from Dogs

A new finding shows dogs performing better on one kind of intelligence test than chimpanzees. If evolution teaches that human intelligence is the main trait separating us from other animals, and dogs are smarter than apes, shouldn’t the conclusion be that dogs are closer on the family tree? If not, is it valid for evolutionary biologists to pick and choose the traits that matter?
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