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Animal Magnetism and Other Wonders

What is it that so attracts us to animals? Is it animal magnetism? Some animals do have magnetic senses that can guide them across oceans. The more we learn about animals, the more we should admire their high-tech equipment. Here are some recent examples of amazing animals, some of them suitable for Halloween decorations.

Amazing Bird Tricks

“Angry Birds” are perhaps the best known species among electronic bird-watchers these days, but we should never forget that real birds are amazing creatures. Incredibly diverse (think ostrich to hummingbird to penguin), they continue to fascinate scientists and laymen. Here are some recent science stories about our feathered friends.

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?

Biomimetics to the Rescue of Science

The booming field of biomimetics (imitating nature’s designs) is fascinating not only for the amazing products it promises, but for the fresh new opportunities it provides for science and engineering. From viruses to mammals, everything in the living world is now being seen in a new light: agents of innovation that humans can learn from. Here are just a few examples in recent news, arranged in order from large to small inspirational creatures.

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.

Media Respond Predictably to Latest Ape-Man

A new law of nature has been revealed: the Law of Predictable Media Reactions to Missing Link Announcements. Once again, the science news media have gone ape over the latest bone story emerging from the paleoanthropology industry. In keeping with tradition, reporters are saying this will “rewrite the steps of our evolution.” And once again, a contender gets his 15 minutes of fame, showered in media hype. If the LPMR law holds, we can expect to see his claim discredited when the next contender gets his or her turn.

Early Man Was Like Us

Human evolution theory has been dealt more body blows this month, raising questions whether it can sustain any more injuries after a decade of repeated punches and concussions. How many times can a theory take the “everything you know is wrong” body slam? We’ve already seen Neanderthals promoted to fully human status. Now, some evolutionists are claiming that the “missing links” on the way to modern humans were all interfertile with us.

Living Fossils Rise from the Dead

The oxymoron “living fossil” is suggestive. Seeing a plant or animal come to life, when it was only known from fossils, might seem miraculous. Perhaps, though, the phrase was invented to rescue Darwinian theory from the vast ages it requires. Is it credible to believe the time gaps? Here are two recent stories about creatures long thought dead, only to be found doing “Quite well, thank you.”

Would Wood Evolve?

The woods. We call them by their primary substance: wood. But would wood evolve from plants lacking woody stems? Was there some evolutionary pressure to force plants to grow tall to reach the sun, so that lucky mutations found a way to produce lignin and the other building blocks of wood? What other mutations did the blind evolutionary algorithm have to find to organize the components into trunks for trees? Two discoveries, a fossil and a mechanism, offer evolutionists a way to enhance their woody story.

Archaic Humans Are One With Us

According to the biological species concept, two varieties of anything are considered one species if they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Applied to humans, new evidence suggests that Neanderthals and the recently-discovered Denisovans were members of the human species. According to New Scientist, “On the western fringes of Siberia, the Stone Age Denisova cave has surrendered precious treasure: a toe bone that could shed light on early humans’ promiscuous relations with their hominin cousins.” Since one can only be promiscuous within the same species, this puts enormous pressure on evolutionary timelines that assume the Denisovans split from the Neanderthals 300,000 years ago.

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.

Hobbits Were Brain Diseased Modern Humans

The discovery of fossils of miniature humans in Indonesia, designated Homo floresiensis but nicknamed Hobbits, was one of the most exciting and controversial announcements of 2004. Since then, interpretations of the fossils have fallen into two camps: those who think the skeletons represent normal humans with the brain-defective disease microcephaly, and those who think they represent evolutionary missing links. A new paper compared skulls of H. floresiensis with those of modern humans, Homo erectus, and humans with microcephaly. The result favors the interpretation that the Hobbits most likely were diseased modern humans.

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.
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