The science hullabaloo this week is that liquid water may have recently flowed on Mars, according to one interpretation of recent photography from the late Mars Global Surveyor.
2. ScienceNOW: Little Foot Not So Ancient
The australopithecine fossil “Little Foot” is now a missing link no more, according to scientists. News reports on Little Foot give an interesting peek into the apeman dating game. To see what we mean, examine the opening paragraph from the ScienceNOW report:
Like the price of oil, the age of the famous hominid fossil known as Little Foot has fluctuated dramatically in the past decade. Named for its rare foot and toe bones, the South African australopithecine was originally estimated to be 3 million to 3.5 million years old, making it one of the oldest members of the human family. Other estimates dated Little Foot back as far as 4.1 million years, or as recently as 2.5 million years. Now a team of geochronologists thinks it has finally nailed down the fossil's true age-2.2 million years old-perhaps indicating that ancient hominids arrived in South Africa much later than currently thought.
Similarly, a Telegraph article on Little Foot throws out various dates for the fossil, yet claims that “now the apeman has been dated precisely to 2.2 million years old.”
Even ignoring the problems of radiometric dating and simply looking at past “dates” for this alleged apeman, how precise do you think this latest date is?
3. firstname.lastname@example.org: Built in compass helps bats find their way home
An interesting field study has reliably demonstrated that bats have a complex inner compass for the earth's magnetic field. Princeton University researchers led by Richard Holland transported bats 12.5 miles (20 km), released them, and tracked them as they flew back to their roosts without difficulty. Next, the team used an artificially generated magnetic field to confuse the bats' internal magnets, then released the bats from the same spot. The result? The bats “all took off in the wrong direction,” though they eventually corrected their paths and found their way home.
Thanks to this finding, bats can now be listed with numerous other animals exhibiting the incredible design of an internal magnetic compass.
4. BBC NEWS: Australia overturns cloning ban
The Australian parliament has now passed legislation that will allow for the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research, BBC NEWS reports. The measure, which was passed by the Australian Senate in November, was approved in the House of Representatives by an 82-62 vote. Interestingly, one of the justifications given for lifting the ban on embryonic cloning sounds similar to peer pressure: “This work's being done in Sweden, England, the United States, in Japan,” complains Kay Patterson, author of the bill. You can almost hear the crowd whining, “And if all the other countries get to do it, why can't we!?”
The result may be that countries end up competing to offer researchers the most lax laws when it comes to protecting human life. And tragically, without a return to a biblical foundation, there may be no solution to this degradation of standards. See our Q&A: Cloning for more reading on this topic.
This opinion piece from The Denver Post is hardly worth mentioning, except for its service as a recitation of some common arguments for evolution-in particular, that teaching evolution is the foundation for our economy.
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