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Planetary Radiometric Dates 1/3 Younger

The half-lives of radioactive isotopes may not be as well-known as thought. One decay rate frequently used to date solar system objects had to be adjusted down to 66% of its former assumed value, impacting theories of planet formation.

Planet Theories vs. the Evidence

Planet theorists are putting up a valiant fight against new findings, but in some cases, the evidence seems to be winning.

Paradigm Shift: Impact Didn't Kill Dinosaurs

A new study casts doubt on whether asteroid impacts led to extinctions. It's based on re-interpreting geological evidence used to identify impacts. This finding, if sustained, would undermine the theory that an impact killed off the dinosaurs and a later impact led to the extinction of many large mammals. Even more significant, an overturn of the impact hypothesis would illustrate that scientists are capable of going off on wrong tangents for decades.

Saturn Moons Continue to Shine

Saturn just passed opposition on April 15, making it a good viewing object from Earth this season. Amateur observers with telescopes may be able to make out the moons Titan, Rhea, Dione, Iapetus, Tethys, and Enceladus. They may look like beautiful little gems from Earth, but from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit at Saturn, they are no less than astonishing. Recent observations of these moons add to the astonishment.

Is This Plant Really 30,000 Years Old?

A plant said to be 30,000 years old has been brought to life in Russia. A team resurrected a fruit from a rodent burrow in Siberian permafrost, getting it to grow into a whole plant that produces viable seeds. This is now the oldest age claim, by an order of magnitude, for plant material made to live again. Other scientists are startled that plant material could remain viable for so long, since cells have to repair their DNA continually. Other botany news bring different problems to evolutionary theory.

Dinosaurs Display Death in Watery Grave

Many dinosaur fossils show the animals with neck arched backward. This appearance is so common, it has been dubbed the "dinosaur death pose." Various theories have been invoked to explain it: dessication and final death throes among the most common. A study with chickens shows the arching neck is the automatic response of immersion in water.

More Reasons to Doubt Scientific Pronouncements

It’s unsettling to hear scientists say that long-held beliefs might be wrong, but that’s the nature of science. Scientific “findings” are tentative, not absolute. Some see this as a strength of science, but unless actual progress is demonstrated, that strength is called into question. Recent news casts doubt on various scientific methods and beliefs that had been trusted for a long time.

Lunar Upsets Challenge Paradigms

Forty years after the last moonwalkers came home, new discoveries about the moon are calling into question what scientists know about our celestial partner. But is it legitimate for scientists to invoke mystery forces when a favored theory faces falsifying evidence?

Geologists 750% Wrong in Death Valley

A volcanic explosion in northern Death Valley occurred 800 years ago, not 6,000, “far more recently than generally thought,” according to new dating estimates. The event that created Ubehebe Crater is so recent, in fact, geologists think another devastating explosion could happen today.

More Evidence Cambrian Explosion was Un-Darwinian

The Cambrian Explosion (the abrupt appearance of animal phyla in the earliest fossil layers bearing multicellular body plans) remains unmuffled. Known by Darwin as a problem for his theory, it has become more problematic to his followers over time. There are now many more Cambrian fossils than Darwin knew of, and they continue the pattern: sudden appearance of complex animals, complete with legs, digestive systems, eyes, and nervous systems. Discoveries of Precambrian fossils have not helped: the ones that are more than microbial appear to be mere colonies of cells with no relationship to animals. Here are more discoveries that fit this pattern.

A Young Moon for Life

Our moon is unique in the solar system. Just the right size and just the right distance, it is positioned to stabilize the tilt of Earth’s axis, providing stable seasonal cycles. Science lacks data so far to know just how unique the Earth-moon relationship in a habitable zone is among other stellar systems. We know from the planets of our own solar system that moons come in all sizes, from tiny Deimos to massive Titan, and orbit in apparently arbitrary radii from their host planets. What astrophysicists can do is predict what would happen on earth if things were different. That’s what one scientist did. Another discovery could change the view of the moon’s surface being unaltered for billions of years.

Observations Upset Models of Stellar Evolution

Stellar evolution models go back decades. Ever since the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram came out in 1910 (graphing temperature against luminosity), showing most stars fell on a line called the “main sequence”, astrophysicists have sought to understand the life cycle of stars from birth to death. In general, the story goes, collapsing clouds of gas and dust produce main-sequence stars that burn nuclear fuel till they run out. Depending on their masses, they end up as supernovae, red giants or slowly-cooling cinders. While red dwarfs cool down slowly into the darkness, supernovae and red giants eject mass outward into space . Two new planets found close to a red giant are among new headaches for theorists.

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.
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