Monster of the depths, alien planets, cranberries as icons of evolution, and more in this week’s News to Note.
Great sea depths have been hiding an ancient creature. Is it Leviathan?
No, the “alien planet” isn’t home to alien life (as far as we know); according to astronomers, the planet itself is a veritable outsider in not only its own solar system, but in our entire galaxy.
No doubt many News to Note readers ate cranberries this week, as the small fruit plays a big role in the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner in the United States. So should we have given thanks to evolution for the cranberry?
And Don’t Miss . . .
- Scientists have discovered an unusual, Mafia-like relationship between two species of birds living in the Kalahari Desert. Apparently one species helps protect the other from predators but steals some food in return. But is it actually a case of “evolution,” as a press release repeats? On the contrary, we can understand symbiotic relationships as one way in which organisms adapt to their environment through selective processes—which offers no support for Darwin’s idea of common descent.
- Researchers at Duke University have determined that “dogs have figured out how to read human behavior and human gestures better than any other species has, even chimpanzees,” CNN reports. That’s another strike against the popularly held idea that chimps are uniquely intelligent in the animal kingdom, thus (supposedly) evincing our shared ancestry.
- Along the same lines, ScienceNOW mentions elephants’ famous “good memory,” “complex communication skills,” and “rich social lives,” some of which we’ve discussed before (see the September 13, 2008, and February 20 and February 27, 2010, editions of News to Note). Scientists have recently begun examining elephant brains to try to understand elephant smarts, but their conclusion is simply that “evolution has found multiple ways to build a complex brain.”
- Silken spider webs are often (and rightly) admired as one of the most sophisticated creations of the natural world—super-strong yet light, and woven in interesting geometric patterns. But a sea worm’s gooey secretion may rival spider silk for scientists’ interest. The complicated protein glue starts out as “a mess of disordered proteins” that become organized after contacting the worms’ prey, forming a “solid, sticky gel” that immobilizes the prey. How’s that for an incredible design?
- Time and again we learn of the superiority of God’s creation to human designs, and a new study of aerodynamic efficiency teaches the same thing. Engineers “independently re-designed a bird shape” unintentionally while searching for the most efficient aircraft design.
- A CBS News profile of outspoken scientist Craig Venter, one of the minds who helped sequence the human genome, repeats misconceptions about Venter’s team having “created” a synthetic form of life in the laboratory. As we reported in May, the accomplishment was closer to “rebuilding” an already existing organism. The profile also shares Venter’s views on God. “I believe the universe is far more wonderful than just assuming it was made by some higher power,” he said, even though he admits that the DNA “writing software” that underpins life “is pretty miraculous” and “stunning.”
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!