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It’s Not a Bird, It’s a Plane

Look to the birds of the air, and they will teach you aeronautics.  That’s what designers of the Robo-Swift did.  PhysOrg reported about a new plane that imitates a swift thing on the wing: RoboSwift is a micro airplane fitted with shape shifting wings, inspired by the common swift, one of nature’s most efficient flyers.  […]

Mosquitos Are Water-Walking Champions

We hate ’em, but in one sense we should admire them: mosquitos are the water-walking champions of the animal kingdom.  They even beat out water striders, reported Live Science and EurekAlert based on research from Physical Review E.  Science Daily wrote of “miraculous mosquito legs” and had a picture of the intricate fan-shaped superhydrophobic structures […]

The Daily Planet

This entry is not about birds or planes; it’s supernews from the solar system. Sponge Blob:  Hyperion, an oddball moon of Saturn between Titan and Iapetus, was featured at Jet Propulsion Laboratory last week (see stunning image from Sept. 2005 at the Cassini imaging team website).  Two papers in Nature July 5 analyzed its sponge-like […]

Nature Celebrates Bizarre “Many-Worlds” Cosmology

The cover of Nature this week (July 7) looks like a comic book.  And well it might: it celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the weirdest beliefs ever submitted by a physicist: Hugh Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics.  The bottom line is that every time you observe a coin toss or any other […]

Lord Kelvin’s Core Values Defended

Myth: Lord Kelvin held back the progress of geology for 100 years by insisting the Earth was younger than geologists and evolutionists believed. Myth debunked here.

Cosmic Star Formation: When Elegant Theories Are Wrong

An astronomer wrote about “cosmic train wrecks” in Science recently.1  Paolo Coppi (Yale) was speaking about galactic mergers, but he could have just as well been talking about current cosmological models.  Things once thought to be understood are coming in for new scrutiny, now that more powerful telescopes can peer deeper into the veiled hearts […]

Saturn’s Moons Are Bustin’ Out All Over

Add Tethys and Dione to the party blowers around Saturn.  Cassini found that these two moons are active, like Enceladus and Titan, though on a lesser scale.  Cassini scientists discovered the effects of outbound particles from these moons by studying the plasma fields with the Cassini plasma spectrometer (CAPS) instrument.  The results suggest surface activity, […]

The Malthus Effect on Politics and Economics

In 1798, Thomas Malthus published an essay that had a profound impact on Charles Darwin and others. But it was flawed.

OOL Study Substitutes Computer for Chemistry

Upon reading a recent origin-of-life paper in PNAS,1 you might think the authors ran experiments with real chemicals and real deep-sea rocks.  A more careful look, however, reveals that their model only worked in cyberspace.  This raises interesting questions about the ability of simulations to substitute for empirical evidence.     Their claims were dramatic […]

Details of Photosynthesis Coming to Light

New tools of science are unveiling the secrets of what was long a “black box” in biology: photosynthesis.  A paper in Nature last week1 described the structure of the plant PhotoSystem I complex (PSI) in near-atomic resolution.  Next day, a paper in Science2 described some of the protein interactions that occur when plants turn light […]

Instant Diamonds?

Talk about catastrophism: imagine a geological process creating a dyke 150 miles deep in a few minutes.  This is a new model for how diatremes formed, as described in Nature last week.1  The surprise end of the abstract by Lionel Wilson and James W. Head III states, “No precursor to the eruption is felt at […]

Seeking Explanations for Plant Fibonacci Spirals

The spiral patterns on an artichoke are enough to make a physicist choke.  How do plants like cacti, sunflowers, strawberries and artichokes produce geometric patterns of left- and right- handed spirals?  Why do these spirals follow a mathematical rule called the Fibonacci sequence?  A new theory suggests that it is the optimal energy arrangement for […]

Tweaking Mercury to Keep it Old

Mercury has a magnetic field.  That’s odd.  It shouldn’t.  If it were 4.6 billion years old, the little planet should be solid stiff by now.  Planetary scientists have published a new model of its interior with the required molten outer core that allows a dynamo to generate the observed magnetic field.  What’s interesting are the […]

Swifts Don’t Just Dream of Flying…

…they fly while dreaming.  Did you know that swifts, the aerial acrobats of the air, sleep on the wing?  That’s not all, they adapt their wing shape to turn on a dime.  Science Daily summarized the cover story of Nature this week (April 26) that examined “wing morphing” in swifts – their ability to change […]

Cosmology: Crisis or Confidence?

What is it with cosmology these days?  On the one hand, astronomers seem more confident than ever.  They speak of this as the era of “precision cosmology,” when the only task remaining seems to be refining the decimal points; e.g., the first refinements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) won John Mather and George Smoot […]
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