Cells Have Dimmer Switches
June 30, 2011
A metaphor has been emerging among biophysicists: cells have rheostats or dimmer switches. The metaphor implies that some cellular regulatory processes are not just on or off; they have continuous ranges of values that can be finely tuned for the need of the organism. It's been years since our first report that gene expression is […]
Complex Arthropod Eyes Found in Early Cambrian
June 29, 2011
Complex eyes with modern optics from an unknown arthropod, more complex than trilobite eyes, have been discovered in early Cambrian strata from southern Australia. The exquisitely-preserved imprints of the eyes in shale were reported by Lee et al. in Nature. The abstract started by quoting Darwin and affirming evolution, but then revealed evidence that complex eyes go further back in the fossil record than previously thought possible.
NOMA Still Isn’t Working
June 26, 2011
Science journals and websites continue to act as if religion is a subcategory of the science department. If Stephen Jay Gould thought that NOMA was a good idea to keep peace between science and religion (see 11/05/2006), nobody paid any attention. Scientism has taken over the world. Teen religion: In “Teens Maintain Their Religion,” Medical […]
Political Science 101: Doubt Scientific Claims
June 25, 2011
Science goes through a chain of messengers from data to consumer. In between are fallible scientists, who speak often in incomprehensible jargon and often only partially understand what they observe, but often wish to gain notoriety with a major discovery (or need to publish or perish). Next, the institutional press offices decide what is significant and try to digest the jargon to layman level. The predigested stories are then delivered to science reporters, who sometimes sensationalize the filtered stories to make a name for themselves. Finally, the media outlets, prone to peer biases, dress up the products to grab the eyes of readers of their newspapers, magazines, or web pages. How much of the real scientific data remains at the end of this game of Telephone? Sometimes the bias is clearly evident, but often the product is delivered with all the presumptive authority of science. Once in awhile, a reporter comes clean about the dirty work involved.
Follow the Leader: Nature
June 21, 2011
Ever since biomimetics (the imitation of nature) gradually emerged around 2002 and really took off in 2005, it has not slowed down. Over 90 previous entries in these pages have reported teams all over the world seeking out natural designs for ideas. The reports have accelerated in recent years to the point where there is only space for short summaries that give a taste of the wide variety of engineering work taking inspiration from plants, animals, and even cells. You yourself might inspire some inventor. Here are a few more highlights from recent adventures in biomimetics.
Inner Ear Hair Cells Overcome Friction
June 19, 2011
The cochlea, that spiral-shaped structure in the inner ear, is filled with fluid. In this fluid, tiny hair cells called stereocilia are positioned in bundles along the length of the structure. These bundles sense vibrations transmitted into the fluid from the bony levers of the inner ear. The vibrations picked up by the hair cell bundles, each tuned to its own frequency, mechanically transduce the sound impulses by opening ion channels that set up electrical impulses in the auditory nerve, that travel to the brain. But motion in fluid creates friction known as viscous drag. How do the hair cell bundles overcome it? Scientists have figured out that the hair cells in the bundles are not only finely tuned to reduce viscous drag, but actually to employ it for even higher sensitivity to sound.
Biological Information Symposium a Success
June 4, 2011
Friday morning June 4, participants were on their way homes across America and in Europe from a successful conference entitled Biological Information: New Perspectives. They had come to hear leading lights in the Intelligent Design movement deliver 27 scientific presentations on a variety of subtopics under the umbrella theme of information in biology. From all appearances, everyone had a great time of fellowship, encouragement and intellectual stimulation. No protesters or critics detracted from the event—partly because it was not widely advertised, in order to protect the identity of those wanting to take part without jeopardizing their careers.
How They Do It: Amazing Organisms
May 27, 2011
The plants and animals around us seem so ordinary, but they all are so extraordinary, the extraordinary becomes ordinary simply because of their numbers. But if you expanded the sample space to include the entire solar system, what we have in earth’s biosphere should astonish everyone. Here are nine notable fellow creatures.
Carbon Units Study Carbon Unity
May 21, 2011
Life’s dependency on carbon was so distinctive to aliens in Star Trek, they nicknamed humans “carbon units.” With its four valences, carbon is able to form an almost infinite number of complex molecules based on chains (polymers) and geometric shapes. But does the presence of carbon in abundance explain the appearance of life? Evolutionists desire […]
Ups & Downs of SETI
May 15, 2011
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence arouses excitement in some, boredom in others. The SETI Institute has taken lumps recently; due to a $5 million shortfall in funding, they had to mothball a search using the Allen Telescope Array. But PhysOrg announced that an unspecified group of astronomers will be using the Green Bank Radio Telescope […]
Whos Playing Your Gene Piano?
May 12, 2011
Is your genetic code a library or a musical instrument? Scientists have long considered it to be like the former, a genetic code. Now, however, a new metaphor is emerging: a piano. Discoveries in epigenetics (beyond-the-gene), processes that determine which genes are played or silenced, are tending toward the new interpretation. In Medical […]
Intelligent Design Found in Bacteria
May 1, 2011
Poetry has been found in a bacterial genome. We know it was intentional, because we know the poet who did it: Christian Bok. The BBC News tells how Bok “encoded his verse into a strip of DNA and had it inserted into a common bacterium, E. coli.” Would scientists of the future be able to […]
SETI in Reverse
April 29, 2011
The SETI Institute has had to close down its search with the Allen Telescope Array (08/12/2010) due to lack of funds. But while incoming messages might be missed, outgoing messages are still en route. The Voyager record is approaching interstellar space. PhysOrg, Live Science and the BBC News all told about the budget […]
More Complexity in Simplicity Found
April 28, 2011
Primitive things aren’t. That seems to be a common thread in some recent stories that found more complexity in simple living things. Box jellyfish eyes: Jellyfish are among the simplest of animals, so why do box jellyfish have two dozen eyes but no brain? Some of these eyes have now been found to detect features […]
Animal Tricks Inspire
April 26, 2011
Here we are in the millennium of science, and we are still trying to figure out how animals do such nifty things. Some of their nifty tricks we didn’t even know about till researchers took a look. With high-tech monitoring tools, we might even learn the tricks for our own good. Owl fowl: The flapping […]