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Science Grab Bag

Here's a random assortment of things floating around in the science news media – some fascinating, some informative, some disgusting. We’ll let the readers decide which is which. Since it’s Friday the 13th, a day to enjoy like any other day, we’ll give you a baker’s dozen to sample.

Titanosaur Bones Found in Antarctica

Strange as it seems, large sauropods of the Titanosaur variety have been found in Antarctica. This is the highest latitude sauropod ever found. It means that the large reptiles inhabited every continent; they walked the globe.

What Do Scientists Know About Prehistory?

Evolutionary biologists and geologists speak of events happening millions or billions of years ago as concrete facts. They are not observational facts, though; they are inferences from indirect evidence. Indirect evidence can often lead to different conclusions; in fact, some philosophers like Duhem and Quine argue for “under-determination of theory by data,” meaning that data can never converge to support just one theory. Some can demonstrate logically that there are an infinite number of theories that can explain a set of data. Evolutionary scientists counter that there are only one or a few that are reasonable (implying that theirs is among the limited set of reasonable ones). Recent discoveries that threaten to overturn past reasonable theories, though, cast doubt on their confidence.

Nature Does It Right

Scientists and engineers continue to find well-designed features in living things that are worth imitating.

Dino Expert Plays Chicken

Jack Horner, the dinosaur hunter who was science advisor to the Jurassic Park movies, wants to create a real dinosaur. He won’t use the movie method, trying to extract blood from Jurassic amber, because “DNA degrades too quickly,” he said. But he has a method he thinks will work: un-evolve a chicken back into its dinosaur ancestor.

Simplest Explanation: Dinosaurs Drowned

Why are dinosaur skeletons so often found with head arched backward? The simplest explanation, according to one experimenter, is that they drowned in water.

New Fossils and Upsets

One important fossil and two stories about fossils were announced this week. They demonstrate that the fossils themselves mean nothing apart from an interpretive context.

Amazing Fossils: What Do They Mean?

Almost every week, on continents around the world, remains of once-living creatures come to light. Here are just a few of the fascinating fossils that have been reported this month. What do they suggest about life in their day?

Stretching Credibility in Evolutionary Stories

Improbable events happening numerous times; selective extinctions; voodoo phylogenetics – at what point do evolutionary explanations exceed the threshold of credibility a trusting public grants to the gurus of the culture, scientists?

Grebe Left Imaginary Dinosaur Feathers in Amber

“Dinosaur feathers” are all over the news again, thanks to a paper in Science revealing feathers in amber found in Canada. But whose feathers are they? Inferences from other sources, not from the amber, were brought into the interpretation, even though the discoverers admitted, “There is currently no way to refer the feathers in amber with certainty to either birds or the rare small theropods from the area.” And modern-looking feathers of diving birds like grebes were also found in the same amber, leading to numerous questions about what can rightly be inferred from the fossils themselves. No matter; most of the media loved the evolutionary implications and trotted out their headlines that feather evolution from dinosaur to bird has been proven.

Big Birds Lived with Dinosaurs

The largest flying bird is the California Condor with a wingspan of 2.9 meters. The largest flightless bird is the ostrich, up to 1.7 to 2.8 meters tall. These are shrimps compared to extinct birds that lived with dinosaurs. A fossil jaw from a Cretaceous bird has been found in Kazakhstan. The BBC News said, “If flightless, the bird would have been 2-3m tall; if it flew, it may have had a wingspan of 4m.” The find raises questions about what scientists know about the age of dinosaurs.

Cold Dinosaurs Resembled Warm Dinosaurs

Cold dinosaurs were just like warm dinosaurs, scientists have found. Species living in the Antarctic, with up to six months of winter darkness, show no major differences in bone structure than those who lived in temperate climates. This was a surprise that falsified earlier studies. Whatever adaptations the high-latitude dinosaurs had did not show up in their bone structure.

Archaeopteryx Reclassification Raises Fear of Creationists

Archaeopteryx isn’t the first bird. At least, not today. It may be reclassified again, but Xing Xu, the man who brought a panoply of “feathered dinosaurs” to the world’s attention, has announced another Chinese fossil that led him to shuffle the bird evolution tree around, putting Archaeopteryx, an “icon of evolution” since its discovery in1861, onto a branch that includes dinosaur terrors like Deinonychus. At least, today. The backstory behind the shuffling of family trees, an upset that raises questions about everything evolutionists that they knew about the evolution of birds, is political, not scientific. Evolutionists are worried about how creationists are going to “spin” the news.

Dinosaur Protein Is Primordial

Scientists from 10 universities and institutions have verified that the collagen protein in dinosaur bone is primordial – i.e., from the dinosaur, not from later contamination. By first studying the molecular packing of collagen in living animals, and using X-ray diffraction modeling, they matched the surviving collagen molecules to those that would most likely survive degradation. They feel this establishes the authenticity of the protein fragments against claims of contamination and simultaneously offers a mechanism for its resistance to degradation.

Fossil Finds Feed Facile Fables

Remarkable fossils continue to come to science’s attention, yielding clues about past ecological conditions. Once in awhile, whole fossil specimens – even graveyards of many organisms – are uncovered, but most fossils are mere fragments. Placing fossils into interpretive stories requires knowledge of other fossils and comparisons with living species. Even then, the history of life is not directly observable. Fossils, being silent, can only show their current state; the lack of access to the past, combined with ignorance of all the clues, leaves room for alternative interpretations. Evolutionists, in their desire to fit fossils into a preconceived story, sometimes go far beyond what the actual fossil evidence is capable of saying – and some of their explanations border on the miraculous.
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