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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.

You’ll Love Beetle-Foot Tape

If beetles can do it, scientists should be able to: climb the wall, that is.  Some researchers at Max Planck Institute have invented an adhesive that sticks to glass like beetle feet.  The secret was to manufacture thousands of microscopic pads that adhere to smooth surfaces by van der Waals forces (the attraction of neighboring […]

Strange Exploding Star Continues to Puzzle Astronomers

The Hubble took another image of the expanding shell of star V838 Monocerotis (see ESA and Hubblesite).  Four years after the first dramatic sequence (see 05/29/2003), astronomers are still puzzled by this star, with the most dramatic light echo ever photographed.  Leading hypothesis now is that two stars collided before the outburst.  The image made […]

Will Cosmology Emerge from the Dark Ages?

To cosmologists, the “dark ages” were not after the fall of Rome, but the time between the release of the microwave background radiation, and the light from the first stars.  In a feature article for the November Scientific American, Abraham Loeb discussed how astronomers hope to shed light on this epoch with new telescopes measuring […]

Mars Life: Hope Against Hope

Good news: the Viking landers (1976) may have been unable to detect life on Mars if it were present.  Bad news: the dust devils on Mars probably would kill anything alive on the surface.  These contrasting stories recently tugged in opposite directions on hopes to find life on the red planet.  A report on PNAS1 […]

New Titan Ethane Theory Proposed

They wonder where the ethane went (see 09/14/2006 and its links).  The case of the missing ethane on Titan has only gotten more puzzling since the Huygens Probe landed last year and found almost none, when oceans a mile deep were anticipated.  In Nature last week,1 D. M. Hunten (U of Arizona) posited a new […]

Archer Fish Shoot Efficiently

Archer fish, the sharpshooters of the underwater world, have another trick in their blowguns: energy efficiency.  Three German scientists were curious how they knew how hard to shoot at targets of differing mass.  Publishing in Current Biology,1 the team first determined that the prey’s ability to cling to its leaf or stem is proportional to […]

Mars Radiation Would Fry Astronaut Brains

Imagine the first Martian astronauts coming home confused, impaired and demented.  This is the risk from solar radiation on Mars, say a group of NASA medical researchers (see RxPG News).  Among the gravest risks of a manned flight to Mars ranks the possibility that massive amounts of solar and cosmic radiation will decimate the brains […]

Bacteria Generate Hydrocarbon Reservoirs

Ethane and propane have been detected in ocean depths near the Galapagos, reported EurekAlert.  These heavy energy-rich hydrocarbons may be widespread in ocean sediments.  The authors of a paper in PNAS1 believe it is formed by bacteria metabolizing acetate from organic material in the sediment, and that this “upsets the general belief that hydrocarbons larger […]

Ethane Cloud at Titan: Too Little, Too Late?

Those following the Titan exploration by Cassini-Huygens have wondered where the ethane went.  Oceans of ethane hundreds of meters deep, if not kilometers deep, were predicted but not found, as reported previously (see 04/25/2003 and 10/16/2003 pre-Huygens reports, 01/15/2005 and 01/21/2005 Huygens early results, and 12/05/2005 review; see also New Scientist analysis of the “total […]

Flagellar Swimmers Attain Mechanical Nirvana

Those little germs that scientists love, E. coli – you know, the ones with the flagella that intelligent-design folk get all excited about – well, they move through the water pretty efficiently with those high-tech outboard motors of theirs.  Some Pennsylvania physicists reporting in PNAS1 measured the “swimming efficiency of bacterium Escherichia coli” and concluded, […]

Yoke Up Those Bacteria

My, how history repeats itself – often in unexpected ways.  In ancient times, our ancestors got the heavy work done by hitching oxen, horses or slaves (like Samson, see pictures 1 and 2) to a harness and making them turn a grinding wheel.  The same principle is now on the cutting edge of modern applied […]

Big Bang Fails Prediction: Is the Theory in Trouble?

Astronomers looking at WMAP data (03/20/2006, 05/02/2003) of the cosmic background radiation failed to find shadows predicted by the big bang, reported Science Daily.  So what?  Here’s what Dr. Richard Lieu (U of Alabama) said this means: “Either it (the microwave background) isn’t coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown […]

Stellar Habitable Zones: Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Astronomers concerned with the origin of life on earth have long thought about the “habitable zone” (sometimes called continuously habitable zone, or CHZ) of our solar system.  They’ve discussed this aerobee-shaped zone around our sun – or any star – mainly in terms of locations where the temperature would permit water to exist as a […]
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