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Searching for Natural Selection in a Wildflower

Evening snow (Linanthus) is an amazing little wildflower that adorns desert areas of southern California.  Its blossoms open in the evening, spreading fragrance across a harsh landscape.  Two varieties have been noticed; one with white flowers, and one with blue flowers.  Scientists noticed that the white ones sometimes grow on one side of a ravine, […]

Darwin Saves Junk, Makes Treasure Out of It

The Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week award goes to a press release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which began by personifying Evolution1 as a tinkerer in its own junkyard:   Evolution has mastered the art of turning trash to treasure – though, for scientists, witnessing the transformation can require a bit of patience.  […]

Molecular Machines Under the Nanoscope

Seeing machines just billionths of a meter long seems impossible, but cell biologists are now routinely looking into the cellular black box.  Using indirect but powerful methods, they can actually begin to visualize the gears and wheels and cogs of the protein machines that make life possible.  Some of our favorite cell gadgets were examined […]

Upsets: Assumptions About Genes, Atmospheres Challenged

It’s not fun when a whole superstructure of scientific theories and models is found to rest on a shaky foundation.  That’s just what may be happening in two very different fields: genetics and planetary science: Lateral pass to the opposing team:  Building evolutionary trees by comparing genomes was supposed to be simple.  Sure, geneticists knew […]

Genetics “Central Dogma” Is Dead

“The gene is dead… long live the gene,” announced subtitles to an article in Science News this week.1  Geneticists have come to a striking conclusion over the last few years: genes are not the most important things in DNA, if they even exist as a concept.     The “central dogma” of genetics, since Watson […]

Do Genes Reveal the Cambrian Explosion?

A Croatian geneticist believes he can find the Cambrian Explosion in the genes.  Science Daily told about Tomislav Domazet-Loso from the Rudjer Boskovic Institute in Zagreb, whose team employed a “novel methodological approach in evolutionary studies” they called “genomic phylostratigraphy.”  Looking for a “genetic trigger” for the Cambrian explosion, they hoped their method can “shed […]

Mystery of the Ultraconserved Elements, Cont.

ejerano et al reported ultraconserved elements in the human genome (05/27/2004).  These were non-coding regions that, for some unknown reason, showed no evolution between mouse and human – a time span over tens of millions of years.  Since many of these ultraconserved regions are also found in bird genomes, they added that some genetic regions […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Shark Chefs and Finger Food

A press release from University of Florida wins this week’s prize for trying to make dogmatism funny (or at least appealing to snackers): When the first four-legged animals sprouted fingers and toes, they took an ancient genetic recipe and simply extended the cooking time, say University of Florida scientists writing in Wednesday’s issue of the […]

DNA Repair Is Highly Coordinated

The remarkable ability of cells to repair DNA damage has been the subject of several recent articles.  As a long, physical molecule subject to perturbing forces, DNA is subject to breakage on occasion.  If repair mechanisms were not in place, the genetic information would quickly become hopelessly scrambled and life would break down.  Studies are […]

Darwinism Seen in Action!

An example of Darwinian evolution in action was reported by EurekAlert.  This dramatic announcement called it a “rare example” of a “controversial theory of genetic conflict” in the reproduction of certain fish: The conflict has been likened to a “battle of the sexes” or an “arms race” at the molecular level between mothers and fathers.  […]

Keep the Stem Cell News Straight

Stem cell technology continues to make news, but the phrase “stem cells” alone can mask serious ethical issues.  Adult stem cells (AS) and embryonic stem cells (ES) are both being investigated for their ability to transform into any cell type in the body.  Both are advertised as promising dramatic cures for debilitating diseases, with their […]

Cool Cell Tricks

Some cell parts act like acrobats, some like rescue workers, and some like I.T. professionals.  Here are some recent stories about the tricks that living cells perform each day. Precision formation flying:  The Scientist expressed amazement at the precision of key factors in development of the body plan in fruit flies.  The levels of expression […]

What Are Human Genes Doing in a Sea Anemone?

The genome of a sea anemone has been published, and of all things, this lowly animal has genes common to vertebrates, even humans.  Science Daily began with a conundrum, “The first analysis of the genome of the sea anemone shows it to be nearly as complex as the human genome, providing major insights into the […]

The Chimp-Human 1% Difference: A Useful Lie

Jon Cohen made a remarkable admission in Science this week.1  The popular notion that humans and chimpanzees are genetically 99% similar is a myth, and should be discarded.  Since 1975, textbooks, the media and museums have emphasized this close similarity; but now, Cohen quoted a number of scientists who say the number cannot possibly be […]

Crisis at Both Ends of Darwin’s Tree

Two assumptions about evolution – one about the earliest multicellular organisms and one about the rise of mammals – have run into trouble.  Eukarya sans Mechanista:  “In the absence of direct evidence, science should proceed cautiously with conjecture,” wisely advised Anthony Poole and David Penny in Nature.1  They scorned the researchers who glibly invent fables […]
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