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How Little We Know What Lies Below

Those cutaway views of the earth, with its core, mantle and crust, make nice diagrams in textbooks.  But without a Hollywood-style probe and time machine to the center of the earth, how do we know what’s down there, and how it got that way?  We know surprisingly little, admits David Stevenson (geologist, Caltech) writing in […]

Privileged Planet Website Opens

A website featuring a new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet, has opened.  The subtitle of the book is How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.  The authors take issue with pessimistic views, such as those of Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan, that our planet is “pointless” or […]

Rethinking the Geological Layers

One of the most formative ideas in Darwin’s intellectual journey was the concept of gradualism, the principle of “small agencies and their cumulative effects.”  This idea became a dominant motif in his philosophy of life.  Describing how the assumption of gradualism permeated his last book (on earthworms) shortly before his death, Janet Browne, in her […]

Anthropic Principle Won’t Go Away

The so-called “Anthropic Principle” is the observation that the universe, whether by accident or design, appears to have been fine-tuned for our existence.  Dating back decades, if not centuries, the idea has been alternately criticized and seriously pondered by the world’s greatest cosmologists.  During the 1990s the idea was ridiculed to the point that, if […]

Mercury’s Magnetic Field: Another Attempt to Save Theory from Data

Nature Feb. 121 restates a puzzle about Mercury known since the Mariner 10 encounters (1974-5): …why, against expectations, does Mercury have a global magnetic field? The planet’s diminutive size means that it should have cooled quickly after it formed.  Any molten core would have become solid, or almost completely so.  A magnetic-field-generating dynamo in an […]

Accretion: The Missing Link in Planetary Evolution

Every school child has seen artwork of planets evolving from a disk of dust and gas around a star like our sun, but there’s a missing link in the story. How did the dust particles stick together?

Must Life Drink Water?

Star Trek used to portray aliens made up of different stuff than the carbon and water chemistry which comprises Earth-based life.  For years, most scientists who considered the possibility of life in space, including Carl Sagan and Stanley Miller, admitted, somewhat reluctantly, that the periodic table of the elements admits no practical alternatives to water […]

The Magnetic Sky Is Falling

Space.Com reports that the strength of Earth’s magnetic field has dropped 10% over the last 150 years.  At that rate of decline, it could vanish in 1500 to 2000 years.  Scientists gathered recently at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union pondered whether a reversal is occurring, but a Harvard scientist claimed that would be […]

Cells Find Signal in the Noise

Parents at an amusement park know the challenge of picking out their child’s voice, or even hearing their own hollering, in the noise of the crowd.  Yelling won’t help much if the rest of the crowd is yelling also.  Acoustic engineers know that raising the volume while playing back a noisy tape amplifies the noise […]

Radioactive Dating: Science or Alchemy?

Richard Kerr had some surprising things to say about uranium-lead dating in the Sept. 17 issue of Science1 – surprising, because as a believer in the method and an evolutionist, he admitted there is a fair amount of unscientific methodology and controversy involved.  “For years, different laboratories using uranium-lead radiometric dating—the gold standard of geochronology—have […]

Mars Methane May Be Geological, Not Biological

Just when the ESA Mars Express spacecraft was collecting data on methane emissions on Mars, leading some to speculate it might be a biomarker, Science Now reported new findings that indicate methane can form naturally in Earth’s mantle by heating water, iron oxide and calcite under pressure (see also Physics Web).     This demonstrates […]

Harnessing Cellular Machines for Humans

The cell is loaded with molecular machines, so why reinvent the wheel?  or the whole truck?  Martin G. L. van den Heuvel and Cees Dekker wrote in Science that engineers ought to put the existing technology to work.1  The biological cell is equipped with a variety of molecular machines that perform complex mechanical tasks such […]

Sunshine Is for Health

51; The old wisdom: stay out of the sun.  The new wisdom: your life could depend on getting sunshine: about 10-15 minutes of exposure three times a week.     Science Daily reported that Vitamin D, produced in the skin by exposure to sunlight, provides more health to the body than previously thought.  Health professionals […]

Cellular Machines Coming to Light

51; As imaging techniques improve, cells are yielding up their secrets.  Scientists are getting closer to watching the processes in cellular factories in real time. Dynein:  PhysOrg reported, “Biologists capture cell’s elusive ‘motor’ on videotape, solving the mystery of its deployment.”  The article began, “Their experiments can be likened to restoring never-before-seen footage to a […]

Is Dark Matter Going Out of Style?

Dark matter has been a staple in cosmological theories for decades.  One of the initial reasons was that galaxy rotation curves could not be explained without it.  Another was that galaxy clusters, to be held together over long ages, needed more “stuff” to bind them.  Finally, Big Bang cosmologists invoke copious amounts of dark matter […]
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