Custom Search

Monday, May 25, 2009

Physicist Lawrence Krauss explains to Canadian science communicators: There are NOT two sides to a story (just his side?)

Particle physicist Lawrence M. Krauss* of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, addressed the gathering at the Canadian Science Writers' Association 2009 conference in Sudbury,

I made some notes of Dr. Krauss's remarks in "Star Trek Physics" in a darkened cavern, the Inco Cave at Science North, though I do not have a transcript.

His talk was billed Star Trek Physics, and the PowerPoint revealed physics bloopers spotted in Star Trek, the X-files, and other film resources.

It was certainly entertaining, but not riveting, at least for me. Anyone who gets their physics from sources clearly labelled science fiction or UFOlogy, well ...

But Dr. Krauss had advice for science communicators:

Read the rest here:

Darwinism vs. design: More from the "intricate structures can all just sort of happen" files

By comparing the timing of retinal cell proliferation in the two species, the researchers found evidence that an extended period of progenitor cell proliferation in the owl monkey gave rise to an increased number of rod and other associated cells that make its eyes adept at night vision; the eyes also evolved to be large, with bigger light-gathering and light-sensing structures needed for nocturnal sight.

"The beauty of the evolutionary mechanism we have identified is that it enables the eye to almost toggle back and forth between a nocturnal and a diurnal structure," said neurobiologist Michael Dyer of St. Jude's hospital. "It is an elegant system that gives the eye a lot of flexibility in terms of specialization."
Once the need was identified, everything just fell into place via natural selection acting on random mutation - even if the intricate machinery did not exist at the time. Uh, right, prof.

Labels: ,

Human evolution: Water flows uphill? Science journalists protest latest hype, don't just fall in line ...

Here's what's really interesting about the current "Ida" freakout (= the supposed "missing link" between primates such as humans and earlier animals). Some science journalists, instead of falling in with the hype, have started to try to rescue the discipline of paleontology from the raves of pop science.

Could've happened sooner, but never mind.

In "Origin of the Specious", TimesonLine (May 24, 2009), Jonathan Leake and John Harlow write
Such finds are usually unveiled to the world through the sober pages of an academic journal but for Ida nothing less than a glittering press conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York would do.

There, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, stood beside Ida’s glass box, his arm around a schoolgirl who was wearing a T-shirt advertising a television tie-in. It read: “The Link. This changes everything.” The mayor repeated the missing link claim.

Later the scientists who have studied Ida outlined the details of their research. Their pronouncements were just as extravagant.
But that's not what they said to other scientists:
... in the research paper detailing the discovery, the scientists had painted a rather different picture. Ida, they said, “could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates (including humans) evolved but we are not advocating this here”.
In fact,as Leake and Harlow detail, it is a huge PR hype. The also report,
Robert Foley, professor of human evolution at Cambridge University, believes many people misunderstand the huge timescales involved in assessing fossils.

“This animal lived around 47m years ago but human-like creatures only appeared in the last 2m years,” he said. “That’s a gap of around 45m years with many other species lying between us and that era. Any one of them could be called a missing link. Really, the term is meaningless.”
Not only that, we have no way of knowing whether "Ida" just died out, and didn't leave any descendants. Primates could just as likely - or more so - have descended from one of many similar species.

Ida "changes everything" only in a world where hype replaces science. Good for Leake and Harlow for refusing to be intimidated by blowhards, and talking about this. There are enough scandals in science already.

See also:

Human evolution: Hype, tripe, trumpets, and (lagging some way after, way out of breath) truth and realism

Human evolution: The spin machine in top gear

Related issue: Human evolution: Quest for primitive human backfires

Labels: ,

Now junk DNA "assists" evolution

Some excerpts from a recent Science Alert:

"Current theory doesn't tally with fossil evidence"

"Dr Greene, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, said current evolutionary theory, which assumed biological lineages evolved by the slow accumulation of adaptive mutations, did not tally with the fossil record.

"However, the “Genomic Drive” theory provided a significant explanation for the way new species arose abruptly and periodically.

"The theory also fitted with fossil records which showed intermittent and long periods of stasis – where many species stood still or remained the same."

Here's Princeton:
Now researchers from Princeton University and Indiana University who have been studying the genome of a pond organism have found that junk DNA may not be so junky after all. They have discovered that DNA sequences from regions of what had been viewed as the "dispensable genome" are actually performing functions that are central for the organism. They have concluded that the genes spur an almost acrobatic rearrangement of the entire genome that is necessary for the organism to grow.

Remember when junk DNA "proved" Darwin's theory by being junk? It's not safe to forget that, because you have to believe two contradictory things at once for now.

More stories here at the Post-Darwinist on junk DNA.

See especially:

Junk DNA: Sorting through the trash

Junk DNA: I told you, keep those documents in the packaging ... are you listening NOW?

Junk RNA just like junk DNA? Stuff you should NOT have thrown out with the packaging?

Intelligent design vs. Darwinism: Junk DNA as the genes' antique shop?

By the way, junk DNA is the new vestigial organs - the ones you supposedly didn't need, but actually do.


Who links to me?