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Automatic Turnstiles Found in the Cell

One of the things students learn about in high school biology classes is active transport: the ability to control flow through a semi-permeable membrane.  Contrary to osmosis, in which the flow goes naturally from high concentration to low concentration, cell membranes employ active mechanisms to push or pull the molecules through their membranes according to […]

Biomimetics: Does It Flatter Darwin?

The imitation of natural design (biomimetics) is a cutting-edge approach to engineering these days.  Many times, the reports on attempts to mimic the amazing properties of cells, plants, and animals have no time to discuss evolution (e.g., 09/24/2010).  Once in awhile, though, scientists or reporters go out of their way to tell their readers that […]

Creationism Won’t Die

To ardent evolutionists, creationism should have died a long time ago.  Some of them are confounded, if not dumbfounded, that they cannot get rid of it.  They think (many of them) that the Dover case in Pennsylvania should have settled the issue once for all.  Well, it didn’t.  It keeps coming back like a cat […]

Biomimetics Frontier: The Wild Wet

Some animals have figured out how to turn wetness into an ally instead of a nuisance, and some research teams are hard on their heels trying to learn how to settle that frontier. Wet feet:  Geckos cling to walls and ceilings even when their feet are wet.  How do they do it?  It would be […]

SETI: To the Unknown, Full Speed Ahead

This year marks the 50th year of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).  Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and one of its most outspoken spokesmen, made the cover of Sky and Telescope’s November 2010 issue.  He stands proudly over his Allen Telescope Array in his feature story, “Closing in on E.T.” celebrating […]

Babbage’s Computer May Be Built

The “Analytical Engine,” a 19th-century computer conceived by Charles Babbage, may finally be built 140 years after his death.  The remarkable contraption was to be powered by steam and would fill a warehouse, but the eccentric old man could not get the Royal Society to back it.  His idea, 100 years ahead of its time, […]

More DNA Repair Wonders Found

One of the most phenomenal discoveries since the structure of DNA was revealed must surely be the discovery of multitudes of protein machines that repair DNA (01/04/2002).  The repair machines are themselves coded by DNA, but DNA would quickly decay into nonsense without them.  Another “fundamentally new” repair mechanism was discovered by researchers at Vanderbilt […]

Cosmology Faces More Chaos

Most of us have experience with orderly things going to chaos: an unkept room, the garden, our list of things to do.  We all work hard to overcome that universal tendency.  Clara Moskowitz reported on two cosmologists who think the universe went the other way.  She wrote in Space.com, “The universe was in chaos after […]

Cosmic Accidents Are Not Scientific Explanations

Sunday Meditation Oct 3, 2010 — The classic understanding of science is that it explains things with reference to natural laws, makes predictions, is testable, quantifiable, and falsifiable.  Depending on the branch of science, many researchers still attempt to hold to those ideals.  Eugenie Scott put it this way: “modern science operates under a rule […]

SETI Uses Design Inference

Some astronomers are concerned that we may never detect aliens.  If alien civilizations “go digital” within a short time period, as humans have in a century since the invention of radio, the possibility of detecting their radio signals may be much smaller than earlier thought.  Zoe Macintosh wrote for Live Science, “Finding E.T. May Become […]

SETI Calls Alien Signals Unnatural

It may be harder to find alien radio signals than thought.  If aliens follow the human technological path of progress, they will move from analog to digital broadcasting in a century or less.  In that case, it will be much more difficult to eavesdrop on intelligent signals, because digital signals tend to be more focused, […]

Morphogenesis: Evolution of Form Solved?

The body plans of organisms are hard to account for in linear strands of DNA.  How do you get a backbone, vertebrae, and ribs out of a chain of nucleotides?  Recognizing the mystery of morphogenesis (the origin of form), the director of the Synthetic Life Lab in New York, Stuart Pivar, has published an “Innovative […]

Mere Biochemistry: Cell Division Involves Thousands of Complex, Interacting Parts

In biochemistry, the stem -mere means “part” (as in centromere, telomere) and -some means “body” (as in chromosome, ribosome).  Biochemists are learning that these cell organelles are not -mere bit parts, but -some fit bodies. Telomeres and chromosomes:  PhysOrg reported that the chemical “caps” on the end of chromosomes, called telomeres, have a special code […]

Piston Engine Joins Rotary Engine in Cells

The rotary engine ATP synthase has been discussed frequently in these pages (e.g., 12/22/2003, 08/10/2004, 08/04/2010) as an exquisite “molecular machine” that produces the cell’s energy pellets (ATP) with a rotary, turbine-like mechanism.  Now, a piston-driven engine has been found at work in every cell’s energy factory.     ATP synthase operates at the end […]

World’s Top Chemists Can’t Match a Plant

There’s a race on: a race to get cheap energy from the sun.  “The design and improvement of solar cells is one of the most vibrant areas of science,” said the BBC News, “in part because sunlight is far and away the planet’s most abundant renewable energy source.”  Two recent articles show that top labs […]
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