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Nature’s Designs Are Engineers’ Finds

Nature is a treasure trove of technology.  Though engineers have garnered inspiration from nature since the Wright brothers and before, it seems that in recent years there has been a gold rush to follow nature’s lead. Wet glue:  Worms may not be very inspiring to most people, but Science News reported that scientists at the […]

How the Girl Evolved Fear of Spiders

Today’s Evolutionary Just-So Story is brought to you by New Scientist: “Girls Are Primed to Fear Spiders.”  Once upon a time, while cavemen were out hunting and gathering, the women back home had to learn to avoid dangerous animals.  David Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University put this all into evolutionary terms for the rest of […]

Return of the Peppered Mice

Slight changes in the coat color of deer mice is the latest triumph of evolutionary theory, if we are to believe the BBC News and New Scientist.   The BBC announced, without apologies to Jonathan Wells, that “A tiny pale deer mouse living on a sand dune in Nebraska looks set to become an icon of […]

Feather Technology Resurrected in Printer After 40 Million Years

A fossil bird feather from Germany still shows that melanosomes – the cell organelles that produce iridescent colors in feathers – are still visible after an alleged 40 million years.  The structures were long thought to be remnants of bacteria that fed on the organic matter, but now are seen to consist of original feather […]

Does Evolution Produce Winners?

Referees at UCLA are calling the shots in an unusual sport: the evolution game.  Mammals, birds and fish swept the medals.  The losers?  crocodiles, alligators, and a “living fossil” reptile called the tuatara.  According to the judges, the more the biodiversity, the more a group wins points; the more their species go extinct or remain […]

Appendix to The Origin: “Darwin Was Wrong”

The appendix, that lowly dollop of tissue relegated to vestigial organ status by the Darwinians, is alive and well with new respect.  Science Daily announced results of the “first-ever study of the appendix through the ages.”  Conclusion: “Charles Darwin was wrong: The appendix is a whole lot more than an evolutionary remnant.  Not only does […]

Evolution of the Knuckle Head

An evolutionary anthropologist looked at the knuckles of chimpanzees.  Then she looked at the knuckles of gorillas.  Then she looked at her own knuckles.  Conclusion: humans evolved from tree climbers, not knuckle walkers.  Her theory can be read in Live Science, based on a paper in PNAS.1     Tracy Kivell and Daniel Schmitt from […]

Protein Function: It’s All in the Fold

Most chemical reactions involve atoms or molecules bumping into one another and exchanging electrons.  Proteins, by contrast, derive their immense functional repertoire from their shapes.  Several recent studies explore the amazing potential for strength, motility and catalysis that derives from the way proteins fold. Clots:  A picture of fibrin graces an article in Science Daily.  […]

Crow Fulfills Aesop Story

The fabled intelligence of the crow has been tested, and the crows passed.  Bird and Emery tested an old Aesop fable and were amazed: In Aesop’s fable The Crow and the Pitcher, a thirsty crow uses stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher and quench its thirst.  A number of corvids have […]

Sexual Selection Discounted in Toucan Bill

Darwin thought that the large bill of the toucan might be an ornament produced by his theory of sexual selection.  A new study says, rather, that the bill serves as a heat radiator the bird uses to control body temperature.  National Geographic News summarized a paper in Science that explained the process.1  The authors studied […]

Nanotech Blurs Line With Biophysics

Machines on the molecular scale – in the literature these days, one needs to dig to find whether a news article is talking about man-made machinery or the living cell.  Both employ laws of physics to do work.  Notice how seamless the connection is in the following examples. Kinesin tightrope walk:  Scientists at Northwestern University […]

Dragonflies Are Marathon Champs

Step aside, monarch butterflies: some of your fellow insects beat your distance flying wings down.  The BBC News reported on findings by a biologist in the Maldives about dragonflies that migrate 14,000 to 18,000 km from southern India to East Africa and back – including 800 km over open sea.  How these insects can navigate […]

A Rat Race to Build Whiskered Robots

Some scientists at Bristol Robotics Lab are pretty proud of themselves for building a robot with whiskers.  It can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers, just like rats do.  But they should still take their hats off to their living model, because the rat’s technology is far superior.  Science Daily mentioned several facts […]

How Did the Turtle Get Its Shell?

The cover story of Science this week is about turtle evolution.  The caption on the cover illustration, which compares the skeleton of a turtle, chicken and mouse, reads, “The turtle body plan is unusual in that the ribs are transformed into a carapace, and the scapula, situated outside the ribs in other animals, is found […]

How the Animals Learned to Count

Any evolutionary article that begins with “How…” should be checked for Kipling-style just-so storytelling.  Characteristics to watch for include (1) fanciful speculation without evidence: i.e., “made-up” tales that provide an answer to a childish question without appeal to rigorous proof, and (2) statements made with dogmatic authority, like a parent would explain to a child […]
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