VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

The Gecko in the Flight Simulator

It’s a lizard!  It’s a plane!  It’s Supergecko!  Researchers at UC Berkeley (where else) put a gecko into a wind tunnel to watch it fly.  News about gecko’s magic feet that allow it to run vertically up glass is almost old hat now (08/27/2002, 01/04/2005).  Even a gecko can lose its footing, though, and thereon […]

Animal Feats Inspire Imitation

Imagine carrying 850 times your own weight.  Step aside, Hercules, and meet the Hercules beetle: the strongest creature in the world.  Science Daily said that researchers in Belgium are not just impressed with its show of strength.  They are finding inspiration for “intelligent materials.”     The Hercules beetle has a shell that is able […]

How to Translate Darwinese

A unique culture has sprung up around evolutionary biology.  Since evolutionary theory encompasses far more than just change in living species (touching on, for instance, ultimate origins, the nature of humanity and the destiny of the universe), its supporters sometimes get a little carried away in their language.  The tendency in science reporting to embellish […]

Darwin for the Birds

Here’s a flock of bird stories that have Charles Darwin on stage or in the wings, so to speak. Was Darwin wrong?  Yes!  Contra National Geographic (10/24/2004), the science news outlets are all saying today that Darwin was wrong – but only about the origin of chickens (see EurekAlert #1, EurekAlert #2 and Science Daily).  […]

Cool Bat Tricks

Bats put on a dazzling air show.  Science Daily revealed that the acrobatic mammals have magnetic instruments.  Somehow, they are able to use the magnetite in their cells as navigational aids.  Scientists from Leeds University and Princeton conducted experiments on large brown bats.  They were able to steer the bats off course by issuing magnetic […]

Prevent Drought: Hire a Beaver

“Beavers can help ease drought,” say scientists from University of Alberta.  EurekAlert published a press release about a 54-year study that showed beaver kept open water wetlands available.  They seem to even mitigate the effects of global warming.  “Climate models predict the incidence of drought in parts of North America will increase in frequency and […]

Oldest Bat Fossil: Was It Evolving?

A bat fossil surpassing the previous record holder for the oldest by 2 million years made the cover of Nature this week.1  The news media immediately began saying that it provided insight into evolution. The BBC News announced “Bat fossil solves evolution poser.” National Geographic called it the icing on the cake, and said that […]

Migrating Birds Measure Longitude

Migrating birds are able to get back on course, even when released 1000 km east of their normal migration path.  This shows that long-distance migrating birds are capable of true bicoordinate navigation: the ability to make course corrections both in latitude and longitude.  The results of experiments, published in Current Biology,1 left the researchers baffled: […]

Animals from Junk by Chance

How to build an animal: throw junk DNA at it.  That seems to be the latest idea on where higher animals came from.  A press release from University of Bristol posted on Science Daily and EurekAlert announced, “‘Junk DNA’ Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests.”     The basic idea, coming from […]

Did Birds Evolve Aeronautical Engineering?

Two news stories on birds may not seem to flock together.  One is about their supreme aeronautical engineering.  The other ponders when they evolved.     A story on EurekAlert and Science Daily describes how engineers are eyeing birds, bats and insects for design ideas.  The appeal is clear from the following comparisons: A Blackbird […]

Indebted to Darwin

Britain’s Food Standards Agency is concerned about diminishing fish stocks and is asking citizens to consume less, reported The Telegraph.  This can only mean one thing, thinks Ulf Dieckmann (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria): it’s come time to pay the piper.  Who is the piper, you ask?  Answer: Charles Darwin. Dr Dieckmann […]

Nose Code Rockets Smell Discrimination

You have a code in your nose.  Scientists working on fruit fly olfactory systems have found that a mapping mechanism between components maximizes the fly’s ability to discriminate smells.  The coding system provides a non-linear response that appears finely tuned to maximize the information content of odor inputs.     The components of this system […]

A Step Closer to Gecko Adhesive

Scientists are getting closer to imitating the amazing wall-climbing ability of geckos.  Science Daily reports that a team from UC Berkeley manufactured tape with hard polymer fibers just 600 nanometers across that mimic the spatulae on gecko feet.     This latest attempt at imitating the gecko works only on smooth, clean surfaces, but requires […]

Horseshoe Crabs Unchanged Since Ordovician

A fossil horseshoe crab has been discovered in Canada that pushes back their origins at least 100 million years in the evolutionary timetable.  The previous record placed these marine arthropods in the Carboniferous (350 million years BP in the geologic column); others were known from the Jurassic.  “Both the Carboniferous and the Jurassic fossil discoveries […]

A Pitcher of Health, and Reasons to Love Slime

Pitcher plants contain chemicals that just might help medicine and agriculture, reported PhysOrg.  A Japanese team found a myriad of interesting proteins in this “evolutionary marvel,” a plant that eats insect meat.     Now for some slimy good news.  PhysOrg said, “You know algae.  It’s the gunk that collects on the sides of a […]
All Posts by Date