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The Amazing Pigeon Techno-Beak

How do homing pigeons find home?  Scientists at University of Frankfurt may have found the answer: magnetic minerals in their beaks.  A press release from Springer Publications describes the amazing pigeon techno-beak: In histological and physicochemical examinations in collaboration with HASYLAB, the synchrotron laboratories based in Hamburg, Germany, iron-containing subcellular particles of maghemite and magnetite […]

The Enceladus Problem Heats Up

How can a small icy moon produce hot-water geysers?  That is the Enceladus problem: for a small moon assumed to be 4.5 billion years old to be forcefully gushing out water from its south pole was a great surprise when the Cassini spacecraft first detected the geysers in 2005 (11/28/2005).  Ever since, scientists have been […]

Sun as a Star: How Does It Compare?

Not too many years ago, our sun was described as a common, ordinary star.  More recently, the Type G2 Dwarf Main-Sequence class, of which Ol Sol is a member, is believed to comprise only 5% of all stars.  An important paper in Astrophysical Journal is now revealing that the sun is special within its class: […]

Theories of the Moon: Looney Tunes?

The TV science channels tell it like a matter of fact: our Moon originated from the coalescing debris of a glancing impact with Earth from a Mars-sized object, sometime long ago.  They even have computer animations to show how it all happened.  How reliable is this theory, though?  This month’s Planetary Report from The Planetary […]

Tangled String: Cosmology on the Brink

The February cover of Astronomy Magazine poses an intriguing question: “What if string theory is wrong?”  Maybe you are unfamiliar with string theory.  Writer Sten Odenwald is not talking about violins or balls of string, but about the current leading theory of fundamental physics.  “Superstring theory,” Odenwald explains, “is based on three ideas that remain […]

OOL on the Rocks

An important survey of the origin-of-life (OOL) field has been published in Scientific American.  Robert Shapiro, a senior prize-winning chemist, cancer researcher, emeritus professor and author of books in the field, debunks the Miller experiment, the RNA World and other popular experiments as unrealistic dead ends.  Describing the wishful thinking of some researchers, he said, […]

Cells Perform Nanomagic

The cell is quicker than the eye of our best scientific instruments.  Biochemists and biophysicists are nearing closer to watching cellular magic tricks in real time but aren’t quite there yet.  They know it’s just a trick of the eye, but it sure is baffling how cellular machines pull off their most amazing feats.  Think, […]

Squid Eye Beats Zeiss

A squid whose scientific name means “vampire from hell” wears specs with excellent specs (that’s lenses with excellent specifications, for the pun-challenged).  Elisabeth Pennisi in Science reported on a talk given at an Arizona science conference about the vampire squid, whose “lenses are designed for seeing details, even in virtual darkness.”  Researchers studying cephalopod eyes […]

Muscles Use Gears, Automatic Transmission

Analogies may not be perfect representations of reality, but it must pique the interest of all of us the way Elisabeth Pennisi in Science1 compared muscle to cars and bicycles: One look at a ballerina as she pirouettes and poses drives home the remarkable ability of our muscles to adapt to diverse biomechanical demands.  Manny […]

What’s On ETV Tonight?

SETI researchers are building radio telescopes that might be able to catch leaking airwaves from the aliens, reports National Geographic and Space.com.  Some 1,000 stars within 30 light-years may be within the reach of an array of new radio telescopes in Australia.  SETI researchers can piggyback on this astrophysics facility to listen in on frequencies […]

This Bug Is Whiter than White, Brighter than Bright

Detergent manufacturers should get a load of this beetle.  Cyphochilus, a resident of southeast Asia, is clothed in one of the brightest white surfaces (per unit thickness) known.  British scientists reporting in Science1  were intrigued how the bug accomplishes this shining performance.  Most bright-white surfaces, such as paint and paper, need a hundred times the […]

Article:  What Hath Galileo Wrought?

For the PhysicsWeb site, philosopher and historian Robert B. Crease (State U of NY at Stony Brook) wrote a “Critical Point” article called “The Book of Nature.”  He discusses Galileo’s contention that there is a Book of Nature separate from the Book of Scripture that can be investigated on its own through the language of […]

Crisis in Comet Formation Theories

Results from the Stardust mission last week (12/15/2006) are causing quite a stir.  Detailed analysis of comet dust particles from Comet Wild 2, published in Science Dec 15, reveal the wrong stuff.  Scientists found olivine, pyroxene and osbornite – minerals said to form at high temperatures – instead of the cold volatiles expected for an […]

It’s Hard to Break a Bone

People wearing a cast right now may not feel comfortable, but should be thankful it’s hard to break a bone.  Scientists at Max Planck Institute discovered “a novel construction principle at the nanoscale which prevents bones from breaking at excessive force,” making them “nearly unbreakable.”  Because of the way the rigid components of bone tissue […]

How Not to Date a Volcano

Two teams of geologists looked at the same volcano field in Nevada, but came up with vastly different dates.
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