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Follow the Leader: Nature

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.

How They Do It: Amazing Organisms

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.

Dinosaur Classification Is a Mess

Are there a thousand species of dinosaurs – or far fewer?  John Horner, a dinosaur hunter himself, thinks the classification is a mess and wants to clean it up.  According to Science Magazine News Horner is worred that “with almost 1000 types of dinosaurs on record and a new species being named somewhere in the […]

More Soft Tissue Found in Old Fossils

A reptile skin fossilized in rock said to be 50 million years old has been found.  According to Science Daily, scientists at the University of Manchester reported the discovery of amide molecules in “fossilized soft tissue of a beautifully-preserved reptile.”  The original paper, accessible to the public, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal […]

Amazing Animals

Three recent articles about amazing animals and fossils deserve entries of their own, but due to lack of time, will be corralled here lest, like strays, they wander off. Turtle navigation:  Wired Science has a beautiful photo of a marine turtle in an article about how they achieve a difficult navigational skill: determining longitude from […]

Bizarre Fossils Raise Questions

For decades, students have been taught that the fossil record shows a long, slow, gradual progression of increasing complexity over millions of years.  Scientific data are usually not so simple. Surprising youth in old fossil:  When you see the word unexpected in a headline, expect the unexpected.  “Unexpected exoskeleton remnants found in Paleozoic fossils,” reported […]

Fossils by Faith

Fossils are real artifacts you can hold in your hand.  The stories behind them are not.  How does science connect the one with the other?  Sometimes, it requires faith in incredible stories. Stay, sis:  Darwin portrayed a world in flux, with natural selection continually sifting and amplifying minute changes over time.  Why, then did Science […]

Dinosaur Bones Crack Open Surprises: Original Tissue

Nature is kind.  That’s nice to know; but what was the context of the statement in New Scientist?  “Occasionally, though, nature is kind and fossilisation preserves details of an animal’s soft tissue.”  But has nature been kind for tens of millions of years?  In an article called “Soft-centred fossils reveal dinosaurs’ true colours,” Jeff Hecht […]

Cute Dinosaur Forced to Support Evolution

Knee-high to a human, little Eodromaeus looks like a pet, but its discoverers are making the claim that it represents an early stage in dinosaur evolution.  Do the facts support this claim?     National Geographic announced a “nasty little predator from dinosaur dawn found.”  The BBC News said that Eodromaeus, whose name means “dawn […]

Divining Dino Dining

Some of those big, fierce-looking dinosaurs—cousins to T. rex—could have been vegetarians.  That’s a paradigm-shaking announcement being made by PhysOrg, Science Daily, and Live Science: “Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Not So Carnivorous After All.”  The revision is based on information from the Field Museum of Chicago.     A similar article on PhysOrg laments that one of […]

Mammals Partied When Dinosaurs Left

A research team headed by a biology professor at the University of New Mexico are claiming that mammals had a field day when the dinosaurs went extinct.  They got bigger and more diverse, filling in the ecological wasteland left by the missing giant reptiles.  Their analysis was published in Science.1     In addition, they […]

Kinder, Gentler Dinosaurs Envisioned

See if this statement by Tim Rowe [U of Texas at Austin] meets your mental picture of dinosaurs after a lifetime of movies: “We used to think of dinosaurs as fierce creatures that outcompeted everyone else,” he said.  “Now we’re starting to see that’s not really the case.  They were humbler, more opportunistic creatures.  They […]

Dino-Bird Link Confused by New Fossil

A “bizarre” new dinosaur fossil found in Spain with a hump on its back that resembles a fin also has quill knobs on its arms, interpreted as attachment points for feathers.  For this reason, the BBC News announced that it “may” yield clues to the origin of birds.”  It has been named Concavenator corcovatus and […]

Dinosaur Graveyards and Arctic Tortoises: Who’s Got the Context?

Science articles often go beyond the data.  A jumble of bones found on an island is boring; people want a story of what they were, and how they got that way.  Many scientists and reporters are only happy to fulfill that curiosity.  But are the stories they tell, usually presented as fact, the only way […]

Revising Dinosaurs

Reconstructing a lost world from fossils is an inexact science.  The realization that two species of dinosaur were different growth stages of the same species is just one example of the difficulty of drawing conclusions about past ecological conditions.  It raises additional questions about the mental visions we have of the world of dinosaurs.   […]
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