Fungi Shed Light on Deep Biological Mysteries
November 20, 2011
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.
Incredible Small Creatures That Deny Evolution
November 19, 2011
While the largest of animals impress us with their size and bulk, some of the most amazing are those you could hold in the palm of your hand. Here are three worth appreciating a little more.
Whale Fossils: Challenge or Support for Evolution?
November 14, 2011
When most fossils consist of small shelly creatures, finding a whale is indeed big news. Two whale fossil discoveries on opposite sides of the world are spectacular and puzzling. Do they support the theory that whales evolved from land mammals?
Selling Confabulation as Science
November 11, 2011
Science is supposed to be all about demonstrable proof through experiment. Should some scientists get away with confabulation – mere storytelling? Look at these recent headlines published on science news sites and consider whether some serious housecleaning is in order.
Animal Plan: It Works Well
November 10, 2011
There were Greek and Roman naturalists who were intrigued by what they saw in the living world, but their observational tools were limited to their five senses. Modern science has expanded our senses far beyond the capabilities known just a century ago. We are privileged to live in an age of discovery that is revealing even more wonders beneath the surface of living things, wonders worth knowing about. Here are just a few.
Your Copper Pipes
November 8, 2011
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.
Man, Mammals, and Ice Ages
November 7, 2011
What do scientists really know about early man and the creatures in his habitat? Some clues can be found by following science news in a historical fashion: that is, to look for reversals of previously-held opinions, surprises in fossils, and other evidences that scientists are not really making progress in their theories, despite the common […]
Engineers Tip Hat to Nature
November 6, 2011
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.
Vitamin C Loss Is Not Evolution’s Gain
November 2, 2011
Evolution predicts gain of function; genetic entropy predicts loss of function. A gene that helps synthesize Vitamin C provides a test between the two views.
Animal Magnetism and Other Wonders
October 30, 2011
What is it that so attracts us to animals? Is it animal magnetism? Some animals do have magnetic senses that can guide them across oceans. The more we learn about animals, the more we should admire their high-tech equipment. Here are some recent examples of amazing animals, some of them suitable for Halloween decorations.
Caveman’s Best Friend, Evolution’s Newest Upset
October 29, 2011
The evolutionary story of the dog-human relationship has had to be drastically revised in light of recent findings. The old story was that wolves tamed themselves into doggish behavior some 15,000 years ago in Asia by frequenting human garbage dumps. Evidence from caves, fossil prints, and the dog genome, though, has required a near complete overhaul of how our animal companions and their relationships to humans evolved, calling into question whether evolution was involved at all.
Amazing Bird Tricks
October 27, 2011
“Angry Birds” are perhaps the best known species among electronic bird-watchers these days, but we should never forget that real birds are amazing creatures. Incredibly diverse (think ostrich to hummingbird to penguin), they continue to fascinate scientists and laymen. Here are some recent science stories about our feathered friends.
Wave the Stripes on the Zebra
October 21, 2011
One of Kipling’s Just-So Stories is “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” In the fanciful tale for children, the sandy-colored leopard and the Ethiopian make an arrangement to share features so that they can camouflage themselves in the forest. Spots and stripes are widespread in the living world, but how do they come about? Surely science can come up with a better explanation than Kipling’s. Just so, a recent scientific paper suggests that understanding the process is still a long way off.
New Fossils and Upsets
October 19, 2011
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.
Can Biomimetics Shed Light on Evolution?
October 17, 2011
Biomimetics is part science and part engineering. The scientific part is to observe and understand the structure and function of a living thing. The engineering part is to apply that science into useful products. Science news articles today are claiming that a biomimetic flying machine modeled on insects is shedding light on evolution. Such a claim deserves some scrutiny.