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Early Large Galaxies Stun Cosmologists

Cosmology has a kind of Cambrian Explosion of its own to grapple with.  Contrary to expectations, some of the earliest galaxies appear as large as current ones, if not larger.  Astronomers, using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, examined five galaxy clusters with ages estimated at 5 billion years after the Big Bang.  Statements in a […]

Tall Dinosaurs Couldn’t Lift Up Their Heads

In Jurassic Park, the huge sauropods were pictured grazing on the tops of tall trees.  This would have been physically implausible, said an Australian biologist in a letter to Science.1  A brachiosaur’s head would be 9 meters above its chest.  That would require 750 mm (Hg) of blood pressure.  The problem of circulation, not only […]

Whoops, the Wrong Star Exploded

“Our understanding of the evolution of massive stars before their final explosions as supernovae is incomplete, from both an observational and a theoretical standpoint.”  That’s how a paper in Nature begins.1  Avishay Gal-Yam was not kidding; a star exploded that theory says was not supposed to.     The famous supernova 1987A was already an […]

Evolution of Photosynthesis: A Theory in Crisis

“Although the last word on the origins of oxygen-making photosynthesis isn’t in,” writes Mitch Leslie in Science,1 “researchers say they are making progress.  One thing is for certain, however: Without this innovation, Earth would look a lot like Mars.”  That’s the end of his story.  What did he say in the beginning and middle?  Not […]

Crystal Mysticism Invades Astrobiology

Mystical ideas about the life-giving power of crystals usually go with New Age movies and storefronts.  Science is above all that, right?  Then what is a reader supposed to think of this opening line by Leslie Mullen on Space.com? One of the greatest mysteries about the origin of life is how the necessary ingredients consistently […]

Physicists Bow to Darwin

What’s Darwin got to do with physics?  Presumably, if you dropped his statue off the leaning tower of Pisa, it would fall at 32 feet per second squared, but the man is remembered for his speculations about biology, not physics.  Why, then, did Nature Physics devote a special issue to Darwin?  Here’s what it presented. […]

Evidence for Inflation, or Inflating the Evidence?

Cosmic inflation has become an accepted truth in cosmology, but its appeal is primarily philosophical and theoretical.  Something as weird as a universe jumping 26 orders of magnitude in size in one trillion trillion trillionth of a second (see 02/21/2005) should raise eyebrows in any scientific circle.  Is there any evidence for it?  Live Science […]

The Moon Has Core Values

Did the moon have a molten core?  There has been “a long-held consensus that objects in the solar system smaller than than [sic] Mars, can’t sustain magnetic fields,” said National Geographic News based on a paper in Science January 16.1  Apollo rock samples seem to indicate the presence of long-lived magnetism.  It suggests a molten […]

2009 Is Looking Up

Astronomy is looking up this year; in fact, it’s looking heavenly.  The United Nations and the International Astronomical Union have designated 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009).  The IYA2009 website explains, The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, highlighted by the […]

Comparing Geological and Biological Patterns

Beehives have hexagons.  So do lava flows.  Is there any difference in how they form?  Science Daily shows a picture of polygon-shaped tops of basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.  Similar formations are found in the Grand Canyon, at Devil’s Postpile in California, and in many places around the world.     Researchers […]

Water, Water Everywhere

A press release from the Max Planck Institute says that water has been detected at a distant quasar 11.1 billion light-years away – the farthest detection of water yet.  “The water vapour is thought to exist in clouds of dust and gas that feed the supermassive black hole at the centre of the distant quasar,” […]

Thanks to Clam Design, Stronger Materials Are Coming

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have produced a lightweight composite material 300 times stronger than its constituents.  How?  By taking inspiration from clams.     The team, writing in Science,1 described nacre, the shiny mother-of-pearl found inside clam shells.  Because of the way it sandwiches crystalline aragonite with layers of protein (07/26/2004), nacre resists […]

Another Attempt to Explain Life’s Handedness

Life uses only single-handed (homochiral) molecules for proteins and DNA.  How that came about when mixtures of life’s building blocks contain equal amounts of both hands is a puzzle that confounds origin-of-life research.  Science Daily reported on new studies at the Argonne National Laboratory that show that molecules in space on a magnetic substrate exposed […]

Ganymede Age Threatened by Magnetism

The biggest moon in the solar system is Ganymede, the third large moon out from Jupiter.  Larger than Mercury, Ganymede has a heterogeneous surface of dark and light areas (picture), grooved terrain, abrupt changes of landforms, and bright splashes where impacts have scarred its icy surface (gallery).  What goes on inside, though, is more surprising: […]

Far-Out Science

The following list of bizarre stories coming from science news outlets is jarring on two fronts: it shows how little scientists understand, and calls into question what counts as science these days.  Some stories illustrate one or the other; some both. Roar of the aurora aura:  Both Saturn and Mars turned up auroras that are […]
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