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News to Note, November 19, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on November 19, 2011
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The social contract, sickle-cell mystery, windy resistance, before giants walked the earth, primordial puff

1. Socialization: How Humans Learned to Interact With Others

The evolution of how we work and play well with others

2. Link Between Sickle-Cell and Malaria Resolved

Mysterious malarial link to sickle-cell mutation resolved

3. Da Vinci Formula Explains Tree Growth

Tree trunk math . . . more complicated than meets the eye

4. Origins of the Giants

South American sauropodomorph fills in the gap.

5. Astronomers Discover Clouds of “Primordial” Gas

Does pristine “primordial” gas prove the big bang happened?

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) may be available from an ethically-neutral source—breast milk. Researchers in Australia discovered in 2008 that breast milk contains embryonic-type stem cells. Now these researchers report they have successfully cultured the stem cells and observed them differentiating into all three embryonic cell types—a defining property of ESCs. “They can become bone cells, joint cells, fat cells, pancreatic cells that produce their own insulin, liver cells that produce albumin and also neuronal cells,” according to a member of the research team. About 2% of the cells in breast milk are stem cells. The next step is testing in mice to see if the cells will be able to differentiate to all cell types in a live host.
  • Geophysicist Aleksey Smirnov is rocking the world for geologists who thought they had the timetable for earth’s internal structure figured out. Analyzing paleomagnetic changes in the deepest rocks, the Precambrian, he has concluded that the earth’s core solidified 1.2 billion years earlier than previously thought. “It’s a big deal to researchers in this basic science who thought the earth’s core was much younger, so to speak,” Smirnov says of his paper in the journal Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. “They won’t be happy with it.” Smirnov says the onset of plate tectonics triggered solidification of the core. “In the process of plate subduction, one plate goes under the other, sinking towards the Earth’s core,” he says. “When this ‘cold’ subducted plate material first reached the liquid core boundary, that could initiate the formation and growth of solid inner core.” The change in the core would dramatically alter the earth’s magnetic field. Of course, the dates by which Smirnov is calibrating his calculations are based on unverifiable uniformitarian assumptions. It is worthwhile to recall, however, that on the third day of Creation week, when God raised up dry land, earth likely experienced the onset of tectonic activity. Any effect on the core of our young planet could have left a magnetic footprint in the Precambrian rock. Most creationists believe Precambrian rocks includes the rocks formed during Creation week and additional rocks formed prior to the global Flood.
  • A study of bees as pollinators has revealed them to be far more adaptive than previously thought. Because there are examples of very restrictive pollinator-plant relationships—such as that of the yucca to its moth—it has been generally thought that bees were picky about changes in their food source. A dramatic decrease in the honeybee population due to habitat loss, parasitic mites, viruses, and pesticide poisoning has led to concern for ways to improve the bee population. The knee-jerk response is usually to avoid the introduction of non-native plants for fear of disrupting the bees’ collections. This study has revealed bees aren’t at all concerned about having the food they’re accustomed to. In fact, they tend to be attracted by pollen with the most nutritious supply of amino acids. What bees do need is diversity and abundance of flowering plants and crops that vary in the time they bloom. While this study should assist in optimizing bee husbandry, we notice the adaptability God has built into these important pollinators. Even in this sin-cursed world, most things still work pretty well.

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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, the 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!

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