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News to Note, June 7, 2008

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

on June 7, 2008

Dancing the two-step, smelling a rat in radiocarbon dating, and all things extraterrestrial!

1. Missing Link May Have Shuffled on Its Way to Bipedalism

Might the missing link have done a dance move on its way to bipedalism?

2. Radiocarbon Dating and New Zealand Rats

The subject is radiocarbon dating, and we think we smell a rat!

3. Extrasolar Planets Give Hope For Those Who Believe in Extraterrestrials

The finding of the smallest known extrasolar planet yet is giving hope to those who already believe aliens are out there.

4. ScienceDaily: “Possible Ice On Mars Seen By Phoenix Lander Robotic Arm Camera”

Despite continued disappointments, scientists have latched on to another “could be” sighting of water!

The story starts off like so many others concerning water on Mars: “Scientists have discovered what may be ice . . . ” (emphasis added). The “discovery” came when NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars, blowing soil away as the robotic arm camera snapped a shot of the landing.

Robotic arm co-investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis explained the uncertainty:

We could very well be seeing rock, or we could be seeing exposed ice in the retrorocket blast zone. We’ll test the two ideas by getting more data, including color data, from the robotic arm camera. We think that if the hard features are ice, they will become brighter because atmospheric water vapor will collect as new frost on the ice.

The NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release also describes some of the other equipment on board Phoenix, as well as procedures and tests the scientists will be conducting with Phoenix. But it’s telling (though perhaps not surprising) that this latest “could-be” discovery leads the story and is the basis for the title.

5. Salt Content of Mars Bad For Life

Yet another door slams on the idea of Martian life, thanks to a new report in the journal Science.

6. ScienceNOW: “The Milky Way Gets a Facelift”

Although we can’t actually see our galaxy from the outside, the latest calculations have shifted our understanding of the Milky Way’s shape once again.

While the Milky Way’s famous spiral shape hasn’t been challenged, the latest research suggests our galaxy is not the “simple and elegant” spiral we usually imagine, writes ScienceNOW’s Phil Berardelli.

Since we’re on the inside looking out, researchers have to observe other stars in the Milky Way to judge the overall size and shape, running calculations for the orbits of millions of stars.

Now, two teams have used the latest in telescopic technology to update the orthodox view of the Milky Way. One team, using the Spitzer Space Telescope, discovered that two of the galaxy’s four spiral arms aren’t really arms at all; rather, they’re just “small side-branches,” Berardelli reports. However, that team also discovered that the bar-shape center of the galaxy is actually twice as big as was thought.

The other team, using the Very Long Baseline Array collection of radio telescopes, learned that many of the “young” stars in the Milky Way’s spiral arms are orbiting the galactic center more slowly than was previously calculated.

The results of both studies were announced this week at the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Berardelli writes, “the findings should force a significant rethinking about how the Milky Way evolved and how its stars formed,” but it’s our guess that for those who reject God’s account of origins, the thinking will remain basically the same: the Milky Way evolved and the stars formed through the chance collisions and conglomerations of dust! Meanwhile, when Christians look up at the Milky Way splashing its path across the night sky, we see a brilliant reminder of just how big God is—and how, insignificant though we may feel, God created us and, amazingly, cares for us (Psalm 8:3–4).

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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