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News to Note, July 26, 2008

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on July 26, 2008
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Dinos in the desert, our special solar system, famous fish orators in history, and more!

1. Yemen Fossils Discovered to Be Dinosaur Tracks

The locals in the village of Madar, Yemen, are finally learning that the fossilized footprints running around their town weren’t made by giant camels!

2. Atheist Christopher Hitchens Takes Creationist to Task

Rabid atheist Christopher Hitchens, writing in online magazine Slate, takes creationists to task for our alleged “blindness” to the “de”-evolution of sight.

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3. Space.com: “Solar Systems Like Ours May Be Rare”

Two weeks ago, we covered a Space.com article on the rarity and specialness of Earth. Now it’s time to look at the uniqueness of our solar system.

Space.com’s Clara Moskowitz writes: “a new study indicates our setup”—our solar system, that is—“may be rare indeed.” That idea may fly in the face of astronomers who claim that clones of Earth must certainly be common in our galaxy.

Moskowitz reports on a group of astronomers led by University of California–Berkeley astrophysicist Joshua Eisner. Eisner’s team surveyed stars similar to our own sun—about 250 of them—in the Orion nebula open cluster, yet the team found that not even 10 percent are surrounded by enough dust for a Jupiter-sized planet to result.

That might seem trivial for those who don’t realize that Jupiter is often credited with protecting (and fostering, in the evolutionary worldview) life on earth by acting as a high-gravity “vacuum cleaner” to keep asteroids and other debris away from Earth.

According to Eisner, astronomers have discovered that only about 6–10 percent of stars have Jupiter-size planets, consistent with the predictions of the team’s survey. Thus, in Eisner’s words, our solar system “may be the exception rather than the rule.”

Because of that, Moskowitz writes that if the predictions of Eisner’s work are correct, “it may mean that extraterrestrial life is rare as well.”

Everything we learn continues to point to the fact that Earth and its astronomical environment are anything but ordinary—in fact, our planet and solar system are unique. Other than holding on to faith that clones of Earth “must” be out there, or perhaps believing we are simply the extremely lucky winners of a galaxy-wide lottery (for hospitable conditions), the research affirms God’s special care in crafting our home in the universe.

4. ScienceNOW: “Decoding the Pale Horse”

Those beautiful white horses nearly everyone loves share a common ancestor from just over 2,500 years ago, according to research from a Swedish team.

The team identified the genetic mutation that creates light coloring on horses—though the mutation may also cause premature death. While “gray” horses (white or light gray) begin a dark gray color, a hypothetical “gray gene” causes them to lighten and turn pale gray or white by the age of eight.

The scientists analyzed parts of the genomes of 727 gray horses and 131 non-gray horses, discovering that all the gray horses—but none of the non-grays—had a duplication of about 4,600 base pairs in one gene. The gene, known as STX17, has no known function, but its ubiquity in gray horses indicates that they had a common ancestor. In fact, the team concluded humans probably selected for the gene because of the resulting color.

Sadly, three quarters of gray horses develop fatal cancer in their pigmentation cells by age 15. Investigating this, the researchers found that STX17 is more active in melanoma cells than in other tissue cells. Team leader Leif Andersson of the University of Uppsala thinks the duplication of STX17 could cause an overproduction of the pigmentation cells, leading to cancer.

The recent “development” of gray horses, along with the artificial process of selection that likely created them, is a reminder that we can easily explain the diversity of life we see around us: rapid speciation, along with natural and artificial selection, in the descendants of the animals that stepped off the Ark—themselves descendants of the original created kinds.

5. Grunting Fish a Tie to Evolutionary Vocal Cues

The latest entities speaking in favor of evolution may be 400-million-year-old fish, according to researchers reporting in the journal Science.

6. PhysOrg: “Dutch Researchers Take Flight with Three-Gram ‘Dragonfly’”

Bzzzzzz! Visitors to the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands might notice what looks like a dragonfly zipping past their ears—but it may actually be the robotic DelFly Micro air vehicle.

Weighing in at only three grams, DelFly Micro is the third in a line of small robotic air vehicles built at Delft University of Technology. The “fly” sustains flight through flapping tiny wings and has a tiny built-in camera with image recognition software. Its one gram battery will power it at a speed up to 16 feet (5m) per second for around three minutes.

Although currently designed to be flown by remote control, the engineers hope the next incarnation of the fly, DelFly NaNo, will be able to fly on its own using improved image recognition software. The engineers hope to eventually market the DelFlies as explorers into dangerous environments.

“The basic principle of the DelFly is derived from nature,” explains the Delft University of Technology press release. Indeed, such engineering “redesign” of biology is a continual demonstration of the ingenuity of the Creator, which amazes us all the more with each discovery!

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Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know 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!

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