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Plants Use the Perfect Propeller

What kid hasn’t played with maple seeds to watch them spin in the air like helicopters?  Scientists watch them, too.  A team from the Netherlands and California found out how they stay in the air for so long without engines to drive them.  One would think in an era of advanced aeronautical engineering the physics […]

This Place Really Has Atmosphere

Of all the bodies in the solar system, only eight have a substantial atmosphere.  If you add in those with tenuous atmospheres, you can add in Triton and Mercury, and maybe a few others, till it becomes pedantic to call it an atmosphere if there are only a few short-lived molecules hovering over a moon.  […]

Planets Can’t Grow Past the Electric Fence

In the artwork, it looks so simple: dust clumps into planets that grow into nice, orbiting solar systems – like ours.  It’s not so simple when you try to nail down the real physics.  Planet-building models have to contend with a host of variables and barriers to growth (accretion).  Another barrier was discussed in Astrophysical […]

Mudstones Make Ripples

Most of the sediments in the world are mudstones – including shales and clays.  Until recently these were thought to form only in calm, placid seas.  Now, two geologists are continuing to show that they can form in flowing or turbulent water.     Two years ago, Schieber and Southard burst a paradigm by explaining […]

Discovering Health and Technology in the Human Body

Why invent technology from scratch, when the body contains substances that point the way to high tech, and can heal almost like magic?  Several articles show that harnessing the body’s own resources is the wave of the future.     Umbilical cords were usually tossed into the maternity ward biowaste can, but now they are […]

Bees’ Knees Bridle the Breeze

Bees stabilize their flight in windy conditions by extending their hind legs.  Even though this costs 30% more energy and produces more drag, it provides stabilization against turbulence by increasing their moment of inertia (i.e., their resistance to being flipped over).     A team of scientists videotaped the insects flying when blasted by powerful […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Engine Highlighted

The smallest rotary motor in the world keeps your body humming.  It also keeps bacteria, plants, polar bears, giraffes, salmon, sea urchins and just about everything else humming.  It’s a nano-wonder called ATP synthase.  This molecular motor has been reported many times in these pages, but not recently; what’s new?  The state of our knowledge […]

Building Planets: Can’t Make Them, But Hurry

Constructing planets is a delicate business.  Trying to get tiny bits of dust to join up into balls has never been found to work.  It has to work fast, though, because unless the whole planet clears its dust lane, it will be dragged into the star in short order.  It seems you can’t get there […]

Gravity: A Theory in Crisis

Note: This is **not** a joke.  How could gravity be a theory in crisis?  Isn’t gravity one of the best-understood facts of nature?  Don’t we all avoid jumping off cliffs because of the law of gravity?  Gravity is doing just fine, thank you.  It’s our theory of gravity, and the cosmology built on it, that […]

Scientific Data Can Mislead

Some recent stories should remind scientists that data do not exist in a philosophical vacuum.  Sometimes empirical measurements can be downright misleading. Pillars of creation:  The famous Hubble photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “pillars of creation” seemed to have a straightforward explanation: nearby stars were eroding the pillars with blasts of radiation.  Scientists have been […]

Are Secular Geologists Ready to Consider a Global Flood?

Everyone knows the Bible tells the story of a global flood in Noah’s day.  Creation scientists argue that its effects would have left visible evidence today – including most of the sedimentary layers and most of the fossil record.  Secular geologists have laughed off this story since the 18th century as nothing but myth, of […]

How Valid Is Computerized Dinosaur Reconstruction?

Can you reconstruct a dinosaur on a computer?  Of course you can.  The question is how accurate it reflects something no one has ever seen.  Live Science told about Peter Falkingham at the University of Manchester who is using “genetic algorithms” and simulating evolution to figure out how dinosaurs walked.     A dinosaur’s gait […]

Geophysical King Dethroned?

There’s been a quiet revolution in geophysics.  Richard Kerr asked in Science, “Great Oxidation Event Dethroned?”1  The Great Oxidation Event (GOE) is an assumed time before multicellular life appeared when microbes had just learned the secret of photosynthesis and started pumping vast quantities of fresh oxygen into earth’s atmosphere (10/18/2006).  The GOE idea reigned like […]

Better Solar Cells with Diatoms

Let’s start with the operative quote before the subject matter: “Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools.  This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.”  OK, now the subject: how to build better solar cells, by imitating diatoms.  See the story on […]

Did Nature Dictate Biological Codes?

Pangloss was a character in Voltaire’s Candide made to caricature philosophers who give simplistic, optimistic answers to difficult questions.  Dr. Pangloss was fond of saying, a la Leibniz, that we live in the best of all possible worlds.  One evolutionist described a theory by two other evolutionists as possibly a “Panglossian argument” about the origin […]
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