February 4, 2012
Parasitism is bad. Parasitism is evil. Parasites wage war against innocent hosts. This is our mindset. What if parasites can do good? This change of heart seems to be happening for one case, the case of transposable genetic elements. If they are only doing harm to the host, why did some biologists find that “positive selection” seems to be maintaining them? That makes it sound like the cells need them.
Liberal Bias Detected in Science Media
January 19, 2012
Incredible as it sounds, the science news media seem to have a liberal bias. This is astonishing, considering the vast majority of science professors in academia are Democrats. The following examples illustrate this trend that came to light around 1859.
SETI Finds Intelligent Humans
January 15, 2012
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is 50 years old this year. SETI’s latest scientific discovery was the detection of a human-made satellite in Earth orbit. In a sense, this counts as a success: the detection of a signal of intelligent origin from an extra-terrestrial source (beyond terra firma). The false alarm helped calibrate the instrumentation, but did little to garner support for the effort to find aliens. The SETI Institute was all SETI-ready to party hardy at the 50th anniversary of Frank Drake’s first search, but instead, found itself struggling to keep its doors open after a severe shortfall of private funds, highlighting questions about the scientific status of the long-shot project.
Science Grab Bag
January 13, 2012
Here's a random assortment of things floating around in the science news media – some fascinating, some informative, some disgusting. We’ll let the readers decide which is which. Since it’s Friday the 13th, a day to enjoy like any other day, we’ll give you a baker’s dozen to sample.
Tilt-A-World: Another Constraint on Habitability
January 12, 2012
Did you ever ride a Tilt-A-Whirl, one of those cheap carnival rides that makes you dizzy and sick? Our planet would be like that if its inclination were out of control. Without tilt stability, a new study reveals, we wouldn't be sick, we'd be dead, or never alive in the first place. It's not enough to be in the Habitable Zone. Would-be inhabited planets need to avoid a new problem, called “tilt erosion.”
Cosmologists Forced to “In the Beginning”
January 11, 2012
The late astronomer Robert Jastrow detailed in his 1978 book God and the Astronomers how cosmologists were repulsed by the idea the universe had a beginning. He found it quizzical that they would have such an emotional reaction. They all realized that a beginning out of nothing was implausible without a Creator. Since then, various models allowing for an eternal universe brought secular cosmologists relief from their emotional pains. It now appears that relief was premature.
Chinks in the Scientific Method
December 29, 2011
V & V. That’s shorthand in project design for “validation and verification.” Does the scientific method provide V & V? We are all taught to think that peer review, publication and replication help science to be self-checking, so as to avoid error. Some recent articles show that ain’t necessarily so. It may sound good in theory, but in practice, the ideal doesn’t always match the real.
December 25, 2011
Could any “useless” natural object composed of simple materials exceed the beauty of a snow crystal? As you wish for a white Christmas, think about two snowflake designers: one who makes them in a lab, and one who makes them in clouds.
Naturalizing Miracles, or Miracle-izing Nature?
December 24, 2011
Certain scientists feel a need to explain all phenomena by means of natural processes, including reports of miracles. The word “natural,” however, is slippery, taking on a variety of meanings. Is scientific reasoning, for instance, natural? If so, it is not composed of atoms and forces acting according to “natural law.” Is it possible that the tables can be turned on the naturalizers, to rescue Christmas from materialist re-interpretation?
Human Variability Can Be Rapid
December 19, 2011
All living humans are interfertile – one species by definition. People from all parts of the globe can marry and have children, even though global travel is relatively recent in human history. Yet we know there is considerable variability between tribes and nationalities. Does this variability take millions of years? Does it lead to the origin of new human species? Recent evidence shows that variations can be rapid, both genetic and acquired, without reducing interfertility.
Philosophy on the Phringe
December 17, 2011
Some philosophy is just common sense. Some is abstruse, recondite, and technically challenging. But when employed against common sense, such as to support the belief that everything came from nothing, philosophy can get downright weird.
Good Science Requires Good Ethics
December 16, 2011
Science is conducted by humans for humans. It is not done in a vacuum. Even the lone researcher working in a basement hopes to make a discovery worth sharing. The need for ethical science shows most clearly when humans experiment on humans – with or without their consent. Two recent articles underscore the indispensability of moral grounds for science, and a third raises questions about the source of morality.
The Science of Atheism
December 6, 2011
Science news sites have recently included some unusual articles: reports about the science of atheism. What can scientists say about atheism without leaving the domain of science altogether?
Methuselah Seed Now a Tree
December 4, 2011
The world’s oldest viable seed is now a tree 8 feet tall. The Methuselah palm, discovered in the 1960s as a seed at the Judean fortress of Masada, sprouted in 2005 under controlled conditions. It is the oldest seed verified by radiocarbon dating to be 2,000 years old – from the time the Romans were besieging the mountain fortress built by Herod the Great.
The Science of Thanksgiving
November 24, 2011
Should science tread into areas of virtue? Here’s how a science news entry begins: “Rather than rolling your eyes when it’s your turn to bow your head and give thanks, try being grateful. The result just might be good for you. From boosting your mood to improving your relationships, research shows that being thankful is […]