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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 […]

Serving Up Life on the Rocks with a Twist

We’ve heard theories life arose in a primeval soup, around hot deep-sea vents, around volcanoes and other hot spots; why would anyone consider the origin of life in ice?  A scientist in Spain has suggested life may have started in ice.  The title to the Science Daily write-up finds this to be the ultimate divination: […]

Snails Walk on Water

Why is that scientist staring at a snail?  He’s watching a miracle: walking on water.  This is not our exaggeration: Matt Kaplan on National Geographic News entitled his article, “How Snails Walk on Water Is a Small Miracle.”  If we can figure out the trick, we might be able to make little robots do it […]

Science Cannot Validate Itself

Science is an unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative method for progressively uncovering truth about the natural world.  That’s the way most of us were taught to think about it in school.  Further reflection, however, produces a host of questions rarely discussed in science class.  How does science differ from other unbiased, objective, disciplined, cooperative methods of […]

SETI Could Find Design in Neutrinos

Most of the scientists involved in SETI research are very antagonistic to Intelligent Design.  Nevertheless, they find the design inference perfectly “natural” when looking for ways to comb through natural phenomena for intelligently-designed signals.     Two new methods for detecting alien messages were reported by Science News in the Oct. 11 issue.1  Both involve […]

Living Better Bioelectrically

Electric eels are inspiring a new generation of fuel cells.  Science Daily reported that a remarkable fusion of engineering and biology may lead to tiny electronic devices that run on biology’s own energy currency, ATP.  “Engineers long have known that great ideas can be lifted from Mother Nature, but a new paper by researchers at […]

Modeling Just-So Stories for Earth History

Models are only simulations of reality.  In science, they have a long history of simplifying complex physical phenomena in an attempt to understand them.  Many times, empirical evidence can correct a model.  The model then becomes a more accurate simulation, and can even provide additional insights and make predictions.  Can modeling work for the unobservable, […]

Angry Atheists Arrogate Authority in Science

Can science contribute to religious studies?  Only to destroy it, think some atheistic scientists.  “In reality, the only contribution that science can make to the ideas of religion is atheism,” announced Matthew Cobb and Jerry Coyne in a letter to Nature.1     Cobb and Coyne were taking issue with Nature’s editorial July 17 about […]

Early Magnetic Galaxies Surprise Astronomers

Astronomers reported in Nature that early galaxies have normal magnetic fields.1  That is surprising because magnetic fields were supposed to start small and strengthen over billions of years.     The team tried to be careful to distinguish intervening magnetic signatures from those in quasars.  Their measurements indicated that “organized fields of surprisingly high strengths […]

Saturn Rings: F is for Flamboyant

The Cassini spacecraft just started its extended mission on July 1.  Among its many achievements during the four-year prime mission (2004-2008) was the elucidation of complex processes occurring in Saturn’s rings.  One ring in particular, the thin outlying F-ring, attracted particular interest.  Voyager scientists from the early 1980s could hardly believe their eyes when separate […]
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