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Discovering Health and Technology in the Human Body

Why invent technology from scratch, when the body contains substances that point the way to high tech, and can heal almost like magic?  Several articles show that harnessing the body’s own resources is the wave of the future.     Umbilical cords were usually tossed into the maternity ward biowaste can, but now they are […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Engine Highlighted

The smallest rotary motor in the world keeps your body humming.  It also keeps bacteria, plants, polar bears, giraffes, salmon, sea urchins and just about everything else humming.  It’s a nano-wonder called ATP synthase.  This molecular motor has been reported many times in these pages, but not recently; what’s new?  The state of our knowledge […]

Scientific Data Can Mislead

Some recent stories should remind scientists that data do not exist in a philosophical vacuum.  Sometimes empirical measurements can be downright misleading. Pillars of creation:  The famous Hubble photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “pillars of creation” seemed to have a straightforward explanation: nearby stars were eroding the pillars with blasts of radiation.  Scientists have been […]

Who Needs Embryonic Stem Cells?

Cells can be “reprogrammed” to act just like embryonic stem cells, a Nature stem cell blog called The Niche reported.  This eliminates the need to use viruses or inserted DNA to induce the cells to become pluripotent.  The resulting cells are “morphologically indistinguishable” from embryonic stem cells, the article said.     The prior week, […]

Evolving Complexity

Anyone analyzing a scientific explanation should evaluate whether it explains the phenomenon or explains it away.  For instance, to say that bats have sonar because they evolved it provides little in the way of understanding of how or why that happened.  Recently, some scientific papers have directly addressed the topic of complex systems in biology.  […]

Is Horizontal Gene Transfer a Force for Evolution?

Two more genomes were published last week: the information libraries of two tiny microbes.  They are members of Micromonas, green algae less than two microns across.  The original paper and summary both bragged about how the genetic information is helping shed light on evolution, but did the data really contain any light?  If so, the […]

Evolutionary Explanations: Substance, Seasoning, or Storytelling?

A scientific theory should explain why certain phenomena in nature are the way they are.  This layman’s view, though simplistic, expects that a theory should also predict new phenomena before they are observed.  In many science reports on evolution, however, one finds evolutionary theory tacked on as an explanation after the fact, when the theory […]

Natural Selection Studies Based on Bad Statistics

Hundreds of studies claiming to show natural selection may be wrong, say scientists from Penn State and Japan.  PhysOrg reported today that “several statistical methods commonly used by biologists to detect natural selection at the molecular level tend to produce incorrect results.”  Many studies of human evolution have relied on these flawed methods.  If the […]

Crystal Mysticism Invades Astrobiology

Mystical ideas about the life-giving power of crystals usually go with New Age movies and storefronts.  Science is above all that, right?  Then what is a reader supposed to think of this opening line by Leslie Mullen on Space.com? One of the greatest mysteries about the origin of life is how the necessary ingredients consistently […]

Shedding Light on the Protein Big Bang Theory

The precise three-dimensional structure of a typical protein molecule is so complex, its origin would seem hopeless by chance.  What if evolutionary biologists were to discover a whole host of proteins literally exploded into existence at the beginning of complex life?  We can find out what they would think by looking at an article on […]

More Functional Non-Coding DNA Found

Another finding undermines the concept of “junk DNA.”  A team of scientists in Massachusetts found over a thousand functional RNA transcripts from intergenic sequences.  These RNA transcripts, coming not from genes but from regions earlier thought to be non-functional, take part in diverse functions from stem cell pluripotency to HOX gene developmental processes to cell […]

Elect Obama, Get Embryonic Stem Cells

President Obama is about to fulfill of his campaign promises: lifting restrictions on creating new embryonic stem cell lines (see Fox News).  The question now is, are they really needed?  They have yet to show any successes, while adult stem cells are enjoying an accelerating boom of amazing discoveries that could provide hope for some […]

Darwin Had Genetic Blinders

Darwin was a contemporary of Mendel, so why did he get inheritance wrong?  That question was addressed on Science Daily by Jonathan Howard of the University of Cologne, Germany.  His thesis is that Darwin had philosophical blinders on that prevented him from recognizing the significance of evidence before him.     “Why Didn’t Darwin Discover […]

Cell Motors Play Together

If one molecular machine by itself is a wonder, what would you think of groups of them playing in concert?  Recent papers and news articles are claiming that’s what happens in living cells: molecular motors coordinate their efforts.     Science Daily led off a story on this by saying, “Even within cells, the left […]

Adult Stem Cells, +2; Embryonic Stem Cells, -1

Two more successes were chalked up for adult stem cell therapies recently.  Science Daily said that sufferers from Crohn’s disease may have a new treatment option by getting injections of their own bone marrow stem cells.  This “now constitutes a treatment option to cure an intestinal disease that sometimes does not successfully respond to drugs […]
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