Solar System News

A flurry of discoveries about the Sun’s family has some scientists smiling and others furrowing their brows.  Astrobiologists, as usual, are wielding their divining rods, looking for water.  Some of these reports surfaced at the European Planetary Science Congress last week at Potsdam, Germany; see agenda and press releases at Europlanet. Basalt assault:  How did […]

Two Ways to Look at a Fin

Two science articles this month showed very different ways to look at a fish fin.  One looked for evolution; the other looked for design.  One tried to trace an evolutionary story with no practical application; the other tried to find ways to improve our lives.     The evolutionary story involved a fossil coelacanth.  Science […]

Photosynthesis Requires the Right Kind of Star

Where can photosynthesis occur?  The answer depends on the energy of starlight, the atmosphere, the amount of water vapor, and the organisms equipped to harvest it.     A new kind of photosynthetic bacterium was just discovered in a Yellowstone hot spring (see Science Daily).  Exciting as this is (and the discoverer felt he had […]

Stars Found Almost as Old as Universe

A new record was set by a Caltech team using the Keck telescopes on Hawaii: they detected a galaxy nearly as old as the universe.  The consensus age for the universe is 13.6 billion years.  The light from this galaxy, they claim, is over 13 billion years old – “a mere 500 million years after […]

Cosmologists in Search of Dark Ghosts

Dark matter and dark energy: do they exist?  Cosmologists and physicists are spending large amounts of money building huge and expensive detectors to find them, but so far have found nothing.  This raises profound questions about the limits of science, the interaction of observation with theory, the presuppositions behind scientific models, and the sociology of […]

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 […]
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