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The Evolution of Immaturity

[Guest Article]  Blame evolution for your teen’s immaturity.  The Discovery Channel has published a review of an upcoming paper by Bruce Charlton, professor of biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  Charlton is a promoter of Evolutionary Psychology, a developing field of Psychology that attempts to explain all human characteristics in light of […]

Reach Out and Touch Some Robot

The news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC News, News @ Nature, LiveScience and National Geographic News, for instance).  Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Handy Dandy Modus Operandi

Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar win the prize for this gem in Science1 from a book review of The Sensory Hand by Vernon B. Mountcastle (Harvard, 2006): In one of the first systematic attempts to describe the differences between primates and other mammals, Thomas Huxley argued that the former are distinguished by virtue […]

Escape to Reality: Turn Off the Video Games

Visitation at national parks has declined significantly, reports University of Illinois at Chicago, correlated with rising use of video games and home entertainment.  “My concern is that young people are simply not going outdoors or to natural areas,” said a biology professor at the school, “but are instead playing video games, going on the Internet […]

Doctors Deny Darwin

Doctors and medical professionals may comprise the largest block of scientists with qualms about evolution.  According to a Finkelstein poll, an average of 60% of doctors, depending on religious demographics, reject the completely unguided Darwinian evolutionary explanation for life.  A new organization, Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (PSSI), has begun a website Doctors Doubting […]

Comparing Preferences for Pain or Gain

A group of researchers published in the Journal of Political Economy introduced the idea economic loss and gain incentives are innate, not learned.  To demonstrate this concept, the researchers presented capuchin monkeys two opportunities leading to two different outcomes for the monkey: pain or gain.  The capuchin monkeys had a tendency to choose the opportunity […]

Can We Not Perform Similar Functions?

Researchers from King’s College London claim their data evidences the “Human [thyroid] gland probably evolved from gills.”1  According to speculation, gills were internalized as the thyroid gland when marine life evolved into land animals.  The possibility for this comes from the similar functions of gills and of the gland: both act as calcium level controls.  […]

No Pain, No Gain Explained: Lactic Acid Supercharges Your Engines

The old paradigm: lactic acid buildup during exercise is like poison to your muscles, producing stiffness and agony.  The new paradigm: lactic acid is your friend, a fuel additive that helps keep your mitochondrial motors in top-notch condition.  Read all about it in a press release from UC Berkeley. What are you waiting for?  It’s […]

Misfolded Proteins Cause Cascade of Harmful Effects

Understanding how proteins fold is at the leading edge of scientific research.  Proteins begin as linear chains of amino acids (polypeptides), but end as complex shapes with loops, sheets, bumps, ridges and grooves that are essential to their functions.  If you imagine a string of beads, some with electrical charges, magnets, oil droplets or other […]

In Praise of Fat

Well, great balls of fat.  Cells have spherical globs of lipid (fat) molecules that never had gotten much attention nor respect.  They have been called lipid droplets, oil bodies, fat globules and other names suggesting they were just the beer bellies of the cell.  Not any more.  Scientists have been taking a closer look at […]

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 […]

Of Talking Trees and Plant Perfumes

It’s not just Middle Earth where the trees talk.  The forests of Regular Earth have a language, too: a chemical language called the “invisible bouquet” by Pamela J. Hines, introducing a special series of articles on plant communication in Science.1  Of the thousands of different metabolites that plants can produce, many form a cloud around […]

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 […]
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