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Why You Have Snail Shells in Your Ears

The inner ear has a part, the cochlea, that resembles a snail shell.  Why is that?  First, let’s talk about iPods and stereos.  In recent years, manufacturers have hyped “mega-bass” and other buzzwords that boast about how their devices beef up the bass frequency for that sound that rocks.  Scientists have wondered if the cochlea […]

Space Travel Too Hazardous for Humans

Astronomy magazine’s March 2006 issue contains a couple of sobering articles for those who like to dream of humans mastering the universe.  Asking “Will moon dust stop NASA?”, Trudy E. Bell described the dangers of space dust: “it sticks to spacesuits, wreaks havoc on equipment, and may be physically harmful,” she wrote, citing the experiences […]

Where Did Humans Learn Geometry?

In Plato’s dialogue Meno, Socrates illustrated his view that certain foundations of knowledge are innate rather than learned.1  He took an untutored slave boy and, with a series of sketches in the sand, got the boy to deduce the Pythagorean Theorem by his own reasoning (see Encarta).     In a modern version, Harvard scientists […]

Why Your Brain Has Gray Matter, and Why You Should Use It

Vertebrate brains have an outer layer of “gray matter” over the inner “white matter.”  Why is this?  “By borrowing mathematical tools from theoretical physics,” a press release from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announced, two researchers found out. Based on no fewer than 62 mathematical equations and expressions, the theory provides a possible explanation for the […]

These Feet Were Made for Walking (and Running)

We usually walk or run.  When walking, we roll from heel to arch to toe and rock our arms back and forth.  When running, we bounce up and down slightly while pumping our arms.  Did you know that many other gaits are possible?  Why do we use only two?  A team of specialists in bio-robotics […]

How You Tune In

Studies on rats have shown there are certain neurons that respond to changes in the background sound (see LiveScience story on MSNBC News).  We humans probably have these, too.  Rather than firing continuously, they search for changes in the auditory landscape that might be of interest: changes in pitch, loudness or duration in single sounds […]

Eyesight: More Reasons to Be Thankful

So much is going on in your body when you look at that sliced turkey and raise it to your salivating mouth, a human mind can only fathom bits and pieces of the story.  Everyone knows the eye is the quintessential example of a complex organ, but Current Biology1 focused on one of the wonders […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]

Red Blood Cells Are Master Contortionists

Biophysicists have analyzed why red blood cells are able to squeeze through tight spaces on their journeys through our tissues, reports the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.  Their membranes contain a network of 33,000 hexagons arranged in a complex geodesic dome formation.  Each hexagon vertex is joined with flexible lines to a central maypole-like proto-filament, […]

Are Brains Evolving Bigger, or Fatter?

Two papers in Science Sept. 9 claimed that human brains may still be evolving.  According to the authors, two genes related to brain size appear to be under “positive selection” in certain people groups.  One team said their variant occurred the same time as the emergence of art, music, religious practices and sophisticated tool use, […]

How Proteins Build Teeth Like Glass on a Mattress

Here’s something to chew on.  Tooth enamel is hard, like crystal, but is bound to dentin underneath, which is pliable, like a mattress.  Your teeth can last a lifetime only because the ceramic-like enamel is cemented to a foundation of softer dentin, and because both of these materials are built to the right hardness specs […]

Chimpanzee Genome Published: Is There a Monkey in Your Genes?

Nature’s cover story September 1 is about the publication of the chimpanzee genome.  Evolutionists are digging through the data for evidence of human common ancestry.  Have they found it?  The results, as usual, are mixed: MSNBC News states the situation concisely: “Genome comparison reveals many similarities – and crucial differences.”  Here is the gist of […]

Your Brain Has Perfect Pitch

Scientists have a knack for asking questions about things most of us take for granted.  “The whole orchestra tunes up to an A note from the oboe – but how do our brains tell that all the different sounds are the same pitch?” asks Robert J. Zatorre in Nature.1  This is a puzzling question to […]

Body Scan: How Precision Engineering Aids Human Acumen

Often the most interesting science stories are the ones about us– how our bodies and minds function.  Actions we perform each day without much thought are made possible by precision engineering, sometimes at the molecular level.  Here is a selection of news briefs about human superpowers. Electrical engineering: We have untold myriads of electrical voltage […]

Brain Is Faster Than the Blink of an Eye

You blink about every 4-6 seconds, says David Burr in Current Biology,1 adding to over 17,000 blinks a day.  Each time the world goes black for 100 to 150 milliseconds, as the eyelids attenuate the light a hundredfold.   Why don’t we see the world like a flickering movie?  We generally perceive an uninterrupted stream of […]
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