Showing posts with the label biology

Swatting Fast Flies

We're a lot smarter than flies, which probably helps us swat them.

But the insects are very good at being somewhere else when the flyswatter or newspaper hits whatever they were on.

I've run into a few reasonable speculations. One was that flies are hypersensitive to air movements, and feel an approaching object. That may be part of the answer.

Scientists found another piece to that puzzle recently. "Recently" by my standards, that is. Flies live a whole lot faster than we do. Or, in a fly's eyes, we move in slow motion....

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Editing Genes, Ethically

Scientists at England's John Innes Centre learned how to grow plants that produce polio vaccine. That sounds like a very good idea, particularly since the process should work for other vaccines, too.

The other 'genetic engineering' news raises issues that can spark strong feelings: and should encourage serious thought.

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A Mixed Bag

I picked a mix from 'science news' this week: tardigrade genes, fertility fears, and what is probably the world's oldest living culture.

Folks in Western civilization have known about our neighbors in Australia for about four centuries.

Understanding their beliefs became easier, I think, when some of us realized that respecting them makes sense.

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Oldest Human Fossils?

Humanity's current model may be a whole lot older than we thought.

A team of scientists say that remains found in Morocco are human, Homo sapiens. The scientists also say these folks lived about 300,000 years ago.

If that's confirmed, they were around 100,000 years earlier and about 2,000 miles away from where we thought Homo sapiens showed up.

Other scientists say T. rex may not have been fluffy. It looks like the big dinosaur lost its feathers somewhere along the line.

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Looking for Life: Enceladus and Gliese 1132 b

We haven't found life on — or in — Enceladus. But we've found organic compounds in the Saturnian moon's salt-water geysers.

Scientists detected an atmosphere around Gliese 1132 b, a planet about 39 light-years away. It's Earth-like, in terms of size; but too hot for life as we know it. We'll almost certainly learn a great deal, though, by studying its atmosphere....

...Abraham, Moses, and Minnesota
I take the Bible, Sacred Scripture, very seriously. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-133)

I don't, however, insist on believing only what I find in the Bible. That's just as well, since I live near the center of North America.

I'm pretty sure that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saint Peter, and the rest, didn't know that the land I live on exists. But I'm quite sure that the State of Minnesota is real: even if it's not "Biblical."...

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Pesticides in the Water

I live on Earth, so caring about what happens here makes sense. I've talked about enlightened self-interest, Yeats, Ehrlich, and getting a grip, before. Often, actually. (February 17, 2017; January 20, 2017; September 16, 2016; August 12, 2016)

A news item about scientists finding a particular sort of pesticide in America's drinking water got my attention. So did what they said about it: which made sense.

Whether or not this becomes a hot news item, like the "Flint Water Crisis," depends partly on how badly editors need something to angst over. My opinion.

What happened in Flint, Michigan, was real enough. There's a pretty good Wikipedia page on it. Briefly, Flint's drinking water was okay until the city started drawing from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron and the Detroit River.

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DNA and Cancer

Apparently quiet a few sorts of cancer 'just happen,' no matter how much fiber we eat, how much we don't smoke, and how far we run each day.

Or exercise, in my case. Thanks in part to now-replaced defective hips, my running days never really happened.

That doesn't mean that we're all gonna die from random cancer. I think it means we should think about paying more attention to testing before symptoms appear....

After talking about oddly-under-reported 'cancer' news, I kept going; mostly about mutations, and why being healthy is okay...

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TRAPPIST-1: Water? Life??

TRAPPIST-1's planets may support life: or not. We don't know. Not yet.

We're pretty sure that all seven are rocky worlds, like the Solar System's inner planets.

Three are in the star's habitable zone. The inner two definitely do not have one sort of atmosphere that would make life as we know it impossible.

Even if we don't find life there, we'll learn a great deal while looking.

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Philae, Jupiter, and Life

Scientists spotted Philae, the European Space Agency's spacecraft that crash-landed on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014: which will help them make sense of data sent back while the probe still functioned.

Other scientists think they’ve worked out where carbon near Earth's surface came from, and the Juno orbiter has been sending pictures of the giant planet.

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Chameleons, Crystals: and Curiosity

Chameleons may be more famous for changing color than for their rapid-fire tongues: but today I'll be talking about both....

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Sleep and Being Human

Humans sleep, which shouldn't be surprising. Just about all critters with brains sleep: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish — even insects and nematodes experience something like sleep.

Poets and playwrights have written of sleep....

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Beavers, Floods, and Yet Another Dire Prediction

Beavers are back in England, which is good news or bad news: opinions differ on that point.

Quite a few folks died when drains blocked up in Nigeria's capital. Then a gas station exploded. There's more rain in the forecast, so their troubles are far from over.

Finally, there's a new doomsday prediction in a brand-new publication. Madagascan lemurs are imperiled: but not, I think, cockroaches, rats — or humans.

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Tiny Microbes and the Tree of Life, Big Aliens

Small critters: The University of California, Berkeley, press release calls them "bacteria," but scientists may decide that they should get another label. These tiny microorganisms aren't quite like anything else that's had its DNA analyzed before, so textbooks may need to be rewritten in a few years.

Big aliens: Ever since reporters garbled a 1950s UFO sighting, "little green men" has meant "space alien." We still don't know whether there's life, intelligent or otherwise, elsewhere: but a scientist says that if we've got neighbors, they're probably bigger than we are.

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Strange Critters, a Dinosaur, and Early Permian Night Hunters

We're learning more about life on Earth: and finding that there's more to learn.

For example, those aren't mushrooms. Scientists think they're animals. Probably....

...God Thinks Big
If you've read other posts here, you probably know why I think God works on a cosmic scale, isn't overextended, and doesn't mind if we use our brains. (September 5, 2014; June 6, 2014)

If you haven't: here's what I think about God's universe....

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Neanderthal Art, DNA MREs, and Sliding Rocks

About 39,000 years back, maybe more, Neanderthals made a mark that looks like a hashtag. Maybe it was a 'you are here' sign, the first tic-tac-toe game, or something completely different.

I think humanity's back-story, implications of DNA's high phosphate levels, and why rocks (occasionally) move in Death Valley, are fascinating. Your experience may vary....

...Folks have known that God's creation is vast and ancient for thousands of years: and seemed confident that God wasn't overextended. ... I figure that part of my job is appreciating God's creation: not telling the Almighty how it should have been designed....

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Regeneration: Getting Closer to Growing Lost Organs

Too many folks die, waiting for a compatible donor organ. We can't coax a patient's body into growing a new heart or kidney: yet.

But we can build made-to-order bladders, and scientists have grown a new thymus: inside a mouse. It's a first step....

...If starfish and some mice can regenerate complete missing parts: why can't we?

Right now, we don't know. Not for sure. It probably has something to do with our immune system, and the way our bodies deal with injury....

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Lukewarm Dinosaurs, the Earliest Known Fish, and Durable Faces

Instead of wring about the World Cup, I decided to take a look at lukewarm dinosaurs; the earliest fish that we've found so far; and a pretty good explanation for why men's faces don't, on average, look like women's.

God, Clay, and Me
Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," a best-seller in 1859, brought evolution to the attention of a great many folks, and still upsets some.

I can understand why dedicated secularists use tightly-wound Christians who insist that much of what we've learned over the last few centuries is a lie as proof that religion is 'unscientific.'

What's less understandable is why some Christians insist that science threatens faith.

I'm not shocked and horrified at the idea that humanity comes from something that's not human. As a Christian, I pretty much have to believe that God made us from the stuff of this world. All that's changed is how much we know about the "clay" God used. (Genesis 2:7; Catechi…

Ticks in Amber, Mutant Crickets, and Paleolithic London

Studying ticks preserved in amber, mutant crickets in Hawaii, and flint tools from paleolithic London give scientists a few pages from Earth's story: and help us understand how this astounding world works....

...Living Amid Ancient Splendors
(From NASA; ESA; G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch, University of California, Santa Cruz; R. Bouwens, Leiden University; and the HUDF09 Team; used w/o permission.)

About a half-dozen centuries after Sargon of Akkad became the first known emperor, quite a few folks thought we lived on a circular plate, surrounded by a cosmic ocean. That's where we get the Old Testament's poetic imagery about this universe. (January 3, 2014)

More recently, a 17th century Calvinist decided that God created the universe at nightfall before October 23, 4004 BC. A remarkable number of folks still think he was right. (April 4, 2014)

I'll grant that, as far as my personal experience goes, the universe might be no more than a few thousand miles across:…

Life in the Universe: Focusing the Search

Scientists have found at least a dozen planets where life might exist. They're learning more about biosignatures: signs of life.
Understanding Life's Limits"...An Enormous Quantity of Creatures of Every Kind...""...So Much We Still Don't Understand"A Growing Catalog of Known WorldsEarth-Sized Planets: Billions of ThemSearching the Sky: Frustration and Vindication Life on Other Worlds: Imagined
(From "Quatermass and the Pit," via Tales of Future Past, used w/o permission)
('That's odd: he doesn't look German.')

Some science fiction movies strayed from the man-in-a-rubber-suit style of space alien. But most extraterrestrials in the movies look at least vaguely human.

I don't mind, since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Last Starfighter," and "Spaced Invaders" are entertainment: not documentaries....

...Angels are persons, too: beings of pure spirit, with no bodies. They "are personal…

The Oldest Known Heart; Tweaking Bacteria; and Looking for Life in the Universe

A 520,000,000 year old fossilized heart caught my eye this week: so did genetically engineered bacteria, and the continuing search for life in the universe....

...I don't need an iPad to be Catholic: which is just as well, since I don't own one. My son has smartphone, and that's another topic.

Catholics coped quite well without WiFi gadgets in their pockets: and without pockets, for that matter. But our faith doesn't depend on avoiding new ideas and technology.

We've even been at the cutting edge of new tech a few times: like Gothic cathedrals, stone buildings with walls made mostly of stained glass. The pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses of Gothic architecture are traditional now, but 12th century traditionalists were horrified at the 'barbarous' style.

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