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Still in the dark, microbes in training, Smokey the Chimp, and more!
Dark matter: it’s mysterious, elusive (if it does exist), controversial—and now verified? Three weeks ago, we wrote, “Creationists have no inherent (i.e., biblical) reason to stand for or against the existence of dark matter. But as it is, dark matter is largely a speculation driven by big bang beliefs.” Our words were in comment on a news item that warned us that an upcoming announcement pertaining to the discovery of dark matter would be “of marginal statistical significance.”
We’ve responded before to the claim that antibiotics cause microbes to “evolve” resistance (as if it didn’t exist before). Is the idea that disinfectants “train” microbes to become resistant any different? A team at the National University of Ireland studied the response of bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa to a disinfectant. P. aeruginosa commonly infects those already ill, resulting in opportunistic infections in hospital patients—so it is already a prime target of hospital disinfectants. But when subjected to “increasing amounts of disinfectant” in the lab, P. aeruginosa cultures developed resistance not only to the disinfectant but also to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin—even though the cultures were never exposed to ciprofloxacin.
If molecules-to-man evolution is a myth, why does evolution seem to explain some scientific observations? Or can mechanisms underlying fish “evolution” be understood without appealing to molecules-to-man evolution? In October 2008 we covered research into the “evolution” of fish known as cichlids in Africa’s Lake Victoria. New research from the same team further investigates cichlids, showing how “over 60 species of cichlid fish from Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria have adapted their visual sensitivity in response to specific ecological factors, including what they eat and the clarity of the water in which they swim.”
When it comes to fires, chimpanzees keep their cool. Does this “reveal a primitive hominid trait”? Iowa State University primatologist Jill Pruetz has drawn on personal experience in recent research that suggests chimpanzees “conceptualize” fire. When in Senegal in 2006, Pruetz followed a band of chimpanzees as they calmly worked their way around a savanna fire. “I was very surprised at how good they were at judging the threat and predicting the behavior of fire,” she explained. The chimps’ calm behavior sets them apart from many animals that would quickly become agitated and race off in response to flames.
It’s news of another “bird-like” dinosaur—but this time, it’s snake-like as well. Scientists publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describe Sinornithosaurus, a dinosaur that is “a venomous bird for all intents and purposes,” according to University of Kansas paleontologist Larry Martin. Martin and colleagues in the U.S. and China discovered characteristic depressions on the sides of Sinornithosaurus’s face that are thought to have housed poison glands. The poison would be delivered via long teeth in the dinosaur’s jaw.
The researchers made the discovery after noting similarities between the structure of the fossil’s teeth and jaw and those of modern snakes. They also noted a similarity to the venom system of Heloderma lizards as well.
Perhaps ironically, the prey of the turkey-sized, supposedly bird-like Sinornithosaurus is thought to have been birds as well as other small dinosaurs. But while Martin insists Sinornithosaurus “was almost certainly feathered,” such an evolution-driven supposition goes against the obvious facts. The similarity of Sinornithosaurus to modern reptiles reflects the reptilian status of dinosaurs, and perhaps the small Sinornithosaurus would hardly look out of place in an exhibit with modern lizards at a zoo.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!