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Geology Roundup

Wonders under the sea highlight this roundup of recent geology news. Speaking of seas, the Dead Sea also made headlines, as well as data on the question of whether earthquakes are increasing.

Methuselah Seed Now a Tree

The world’s oldest viable seed is now a tree 8 feet tall. The Methuselah palm, discovered in the 1960s as a seed at the Judean fortress of Masada, sprouted in 2005 under controlled conditions. It is the oldest seed verified by radiocarbon dating to be 2,000 years old – from the time the Romans were besieging the mountain fortress built by Herod the Great.

Discovery Upsets Geological Dating

For a long time, geologists have used microscopic crystals called zircons as “time capsules” for dating rock strata. The tiny crystals are so durable it was believed they were virtually impermeable. Now, however, inclusions inside the zircons appear to be vastly different in age. This could have drastic effects on how certain formations are dated.

Whale Fossils: Challenge or Support for Evolution?

When most fossils consist of small shelly creatures, finding a whale is indeed big news. Two whale fossil discoveries on opposite sides of the world are spectacular and puzzling. Do they support the theory that whales evolved from land mammals?

Space Physics and Fables

Physics is supposed to be the king of “hard science” because of its precise mathematics, predictability and falsifiability. When transferred off our planet, however, it seems speculation is the order of the day.

New Worlds

Members of our solar system that were little more than points of light for decades or centuries have now become familiar family members, seen up close and personal by spacecraft. Here are introductions to three worlds that are no longer mere names in a catalog. Even the names of members in this trio may be unfamiliar to some. They’re worth getting to know.

The Blind Men and the Ape Man

“We have all seen the canonical parade of apes, each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line-up is tosh. Yet we cling to it. Ideas of what human evolution ought to have been like still colour our debates.” So said Henry Gee, editor of Nature. Are other icons coloring scientists’ views of human origins? How close are they to describing scientifically where we come from?

NCSE Takes on Creation Geologists

The science of geology operates in parallel universes. There are the mainstream, secular geologists in the Geological Society of America who have complete hegemony in the secular universities, the mainline journals and the secular press. Then there are the creation geologists, who publish in their own journals; these hardly enter the awareness of the other geologists. Once in a while, though, like disturbances in the Force, emanations from the creation universe into the secular universe are felt. The National Center for Science Education has become so alarmed at these emanations that they have warned secular geologists to (1) pay them no attention, and (2) pay attention.

Ski Enceladus

Want the ultimate in powder snow? Ski Enceladus, a little moon of Saturn. The snow is deep and vast. Drawbacks: except for occasional craters and steep canyons, the land is flat; there are no ski lifts; there is no air; you would weigh one or two pounds, and transportation will cost you billions of dollars. Other than that, science news outlets are advertising it as a great place for snow lovers!

Mercury Messenger: Surprise!

As boring as the moon? Just a burned-out cinder? Not Mercury. True to tradition for planetary exploration, the MESSENGER spacecraft has served up a plate of surprises about the innermost planet. In orbit since March, the ship is sending theorists back to the drawing board to figure out a number of puzzling phenomena, some unique to Mercury. Commentators fall into two categories: those that are flabbergasted, and those who say all is well.

Where Do Gems and Precious Metals Come From?

Gold, diamonds, and other precious metals and gems... they are found close to the surface of the earth where humans can mine them and make jewelry. But they shouldn’t be there. Heavy elements should have sunk deep into the core of the Earth soon after it was formed. Wait till you hear some of the latest ideas about how precious metals and gems arrived near the surface. Maybe they shot up from the mantle. Maybe they came from outer space.

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.

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.

Another Crash in Lunar Tunes

Our moon has two faces. One is the familiar man-in-the-moon side that always faces Earth. The other side is mountainous and heavily cratered, possessing a thicker crust with almost none of the large impact basins we see as dark maria on the Earth-facing side. The giant impact theory for the origin of the moon – that a Mars-size object hit the Earth and the debris coalesced into our planetary companion – has been controversial since it was first proposed. Will adding another impact help? It all depends on what one means by “scientific progress.”

Planetary Eruptions

Eruptions can come in two types: literal and figurative. Some planetary bodies are literally erupting. Others are causing figurative eruptions in theories. Here are some recent news stories about planets, moons, comets and other objects circling our sun and other stars. There hasn’t been much news from Mercury or Venus this month, so we’ll start on the home planet and work outward.
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