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More to a Fly than Meets the Eye

Flies and spiders, members of the arthropod phylum, may seem small and “less evolved” than the larger members of the animal kingdom.  One shouldn’t let size alone be the measure of ability. Fly supercomputer:  Did you ever think of the brain of a fly as a high-speed computer?  That’s what PhysOrg called it: “the minute […]

Productive Science Imitates Nature

Examples continue to accumulate that some of the most interesting and fruitful science projects involve copying design principles found in nature.  This “biomimetics” approach not only pleases the consumers who can look forward to greener, cheaper, better products, but leads to deeper understandings of nature’s workings. Gecko adhesives:  PhysOrg published a story on the ongoing […]

Fossils Without Evolution

New fossils continue to turn up around the world.  Many of them have an amazing characteristic in common: they look almost exactly like their living counterparts, despite being millions of years old, according to the evolutionary timescale.  It’s interesting sometimes to hear how the evolutionists explain the remarkable lack of evolution in all that time. […]

Butterfly Wing Shimmer Done With 3-D Crystals

Those shimmering flashes of light seen on butterfly wings are not done with pigments.  They’re done with tiny, geometric crystals called gyroids stacked in 3-D patterns, scientists have found.  They are so effective at concentrating color, the scientists want to imitate the trick.     “A precise characterization of color-producing biological nanostructures is critical to […]

Butterfly Wing Veins Are Not in Vain

Inventors made an artificial butterfly modeled on the tiger swallowtail.  First they made the wing without veins.  It didn’t fly as well as when they added veins like the real butterfly, according to a short video clip in an article on New Scientist.  The veined wing provided more lift.     The inventors at Harvard’s […]

Like Magic: Spiders Convert Fluid to Steel-Strong Silk

How do they do it?  Spiders spin their webs with such ease, but scientists know they are working a kind of material magic.  Inside the storage sac, the proteins act like a fluid.  Outside the spinnerets, that fluid turns into a structural rope that is stronger than steel, but elastic enough to absorb the energy […]

Leapin’ Lizards: Giant Lizard Discovered

A large species of lizard unknown to science has been discovered alive and well in the Philippines.  The BBC News has a picture of the monster, a class of monitor lizard, that measures 2 meters from snout to tail.  That makes it about 2/3 the size of its famous cousin from Java, the Komodo Dragon.  […]

Snakes Alive!  An Evolutionary Tale

Blind snakes that look like worms: they rule the world.  They’re everywhere.  Where did they come from?  “Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms,” admits Blair Hedges, professor of biology at Penn State University.  “Nonetheless, they tell a very interesting evolutionary story.”  So reported Science Daily.  National Geographic […]

Biomimetics: Science for Now

Do you want science that makes a difference in our lives?  Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems.  That’s where researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs. Shellfish materials:  Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to the imitation of oysters and shellfish.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at the University […]

Beetle Pulls 1,141 Times Its Weight

Ever watch those contest shows for the World’s Strongest Man?  Compared to dung beetles, they’re wimps.  Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London found that the strongest beetle tested could pull an astonishing 1,141 times its own weight – “the equivalent of a 70kg person lifting 80 tonnes (the same as six full double-decker buses),” […]

Fruit Flies: From Darwin to Design

The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an icon of evolution.  Since the 1930s these poor little bugs have been mutated endlessly and watched for signs of Darwinian change.  So far, though, only useless mutants, unable to survive in the wild, have been produced.  Recently, scientists seem more enamored with their design.  Two recent articles had […]

Flight Design: Flies and Birds Get it Wright

Parse the following sentence for logical consistency: “Just as the Wright brothers implemented controls to achieve stable airplane flight, flying insects have evolved behavioral strategies that ensure recovery from flight disturbances.”  That is the first sentence from a paper in PNAS yesterday about the stabilizers in fly wings.1  Ristroph et al just compared design principles […]

Spider Hair: The Perfect Water Repellant Surface

To keep dry, make like a spider.  “Engineering researchers have crafted a flat surface that refuses to get wet,” began a press release from University of Florida.  “Water droplets skitter across it like ball bearings tossed on ice.  The inspiration?  Not wax.  Not glass.  Not even Teflon.”  The audience waits breathlessly for the answer.  “Instead, […]

Life Is Smarter Than We Know

How can toads calculate?  How can cells without a brain or central nervous system figure out a balanced diet?  How can bugs navigate the wind for optimum flight time?  These are some of the questions that can arise from observations of the living world.  The more we learn about life, the more we find unexpected […]

For His Birthday, Darwin Gets a Scrambled Arthropod Tree

If Darwin lost his tree last year (01/22/2009), it would seem any corrections or rearrangements would be academic.  Nevertheless, eight evolutionary biologists at Duke University tried rearranging one of the biggest branches on Darwin’s tree of common ancestry – the highly diverse group known as arthropods (animals with jointed appendages).  Arthropods comprise the largest number […]
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