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Thermodynamics: The Real Theory of Everything

Need a theory of everything?  Try thermodynamics.  Mark Haw reviewed a new book by Peter Atkins on the subject in Nature,1 Four Laws that Drive the Universe (Oxford, 2007).  He had high praise for the achievements of the “19th century grandees” Joule, Maxwell and Kelvin: Thermodynamics ought to be the cornerstone of any scientist’s understanding […]

Dust to Dust, or Dust to Life?

National Geographic gave prominent press to last month’s theory of living dust (see 08/10/2007, bullet 1).  Criticisms were mild; scientists were quoted who thought this claim raises interesting questions about the definition of life.  Tsytovich’s ideas were described by Mihaly Horanyi (U of Colorado) as “amazing.”  He said, “This is a very original, very intelligent […]

Dark Matter Sheds Light on Invisible Stars: Come Again?

Can one unknown shed light on another unknown?  That’s what some UK astronomers seem to be saying.  Before describing their model, consider this conundrum with which they ended a story in the BBC News: “We don’t know what the dark matter is, we don’t know what the first stars are.  If we bring these two […]

Eyes Do Precision Digital Sampling

What is the shutter speed of the eye?  Have you ever considered this question?  After all, the eye functions like a camera in some respects.  Shutterbugs know that shutter speed and aperture are factors in proper exposure.  Most of us know that the iris of the eye controls the aperture, but what controls the shutter […]

Saturn’s Iapetus Takes Cassini’s Spotlight

Scientists are eagerly poised for Cassini’s long-awaited ultra-close flyby of Iapetus on September 10.  The previous visit in 2005 was over 77,000 miles away; this flyby will skim the surface from less than 1,000 miles.  Moreover, it will see a portion of the moon only vaguely imaged by Voyager and Cassini before.  Jet Propulsion Laboratory, […]

Solar System News

A flurry of discoveries about the Sun’s family has some scientists smiling and others furrowing their brows.  Astrobiologists, as usual, are wielding their divining rods, looking for water.  Some of these reports surfaced at the European Planetary Science Congress last week at Potsdam, Germany; see agenda and press releases at Europlanet. Basalt assault:  How did […]

Two Ways to Look at a Fin

Two science articles this month showed very different ways to look at a fish fin.  One looked for evolution; the other looked for design.  One tried to trace an evolutionary story with no practical application; the other tried to find ways to improve our lives.     The evolutionary story involved a fossil coelacanth.  Science […]

Photosynthesis Requires the Right Kind of Star

Where can photosynthesis occur?  The answer depends on the energy of starlight, the atmosphere, the amount of water vapor, and the organisms equipped to harvest it.     A new kind of photosynthetic bacterium was just discovered in a Yellowstone hot spring (see Science Daily).  Exciting as this is (and the discoverer felt he had […]

Stars Found Almost as Old as Universe

A new record was set by a Caltech team using the Keck telescopes on Hawaii: they detected a galaxy nearly as old as the universe.  The consensus age for the universe is 13.6 billion years.  The light from this galaxy, they claim, is over 13 billion years old – “a mere 500 million years after […]

Cosmologists in Search of Dark Ghosts

Dark matter and dark energy: do they exist?  Cosmologists and physicists are spending large amounts of money building huge and expensive detectors to find them, but so far have found nothing.  This raises profound questions about the limits of science, the interaction of observation with theory, the presuppositions behind scientific models, and the sociology of […]

It’s Not a Bird, It’s a Plane

Look to the birds of the air, and they will teach you aeronautics.  That’s what designers of the Robo-Swift did.  PhysOrg reported about a new plane that imitates a swift thing on the wing: RoboSwift is a micro airplane fitted with shape shifting wings, inspired by the common swift, one of nature’s most efficient flyers.  […]

Mosquitos Are Water-Walking Champions

We hate ’em, but in one sense we should admire them: mosquitos are the water-walking champions of the animal kingdom.  They even beat out water striders, reported Live Science and EurekAlert based on research from Physical Review E.  Science Daily wrote of “miraculous mosquito legs” and had a picture of the intricate fan-shaped superhydrophobic structures […]

The Daily Planet

This entry is not about birds or planes; it’s supernews from the solar system. Sponge Blob:  Hyperion, an oddball moon of Saturn between Titan and Iapetus, was featured at Jet Propulsion Laboratory last week (see stunning image from Sept. 2005 at the Cassini imaging team website).  Two papers in Nature July 5 analyzed its sponge-like […]

Nature Celebrates Bizarre “Many-Worlds” Cosmology

The cover of Nature this week (July 7) looks like a comic book.  And well it might: it celebrates the 50th anniversary of one of the weirdest beliefs ever submitted by a physicist: Hugh Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics.  The bottom line is that every time you observe a coin toss or any other […]

Lord Kelvin’s Core Values Defended

Myth: Lord Kelvin held back the progress of geology for 100 years by insisting the Earth was younger than geologists and evolutionists believed. Myth debunked here.
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