News to Note, September 24, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

Fuzzy fossils, dark matter’s shadow, brains on the bottom, genetic destiny foiled, docile crocodiles

1. Canadian Amber Holds Fuzzy Fossils

Canadian amber preserves some itsy-bitsy fuzzy fossils.

2. Super-colliders Looking for Dark Matter in All the Wrong Places

Super-colliders looking for dark matter may be on a wild goose chase.

3. Mollusks’ Ever-“Evolving” Nervous Systems

Rearranged evolutionary tree puts the brains on the bottom.

4. Epigenetic Code: Hidden DNA

Epigenetic mutations can produce rapid variation and defy Mendelian genetics.

5. Nile Crocodile Actually Two Separate Species

If you swim with African crocodiles, better check their I.D. first.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • The seed beetle Mimosestes amicus uses quite a clever ploy to outwit parasitic wasps which lay eggs in its eggs. Graduate student Joseph Deah has discovered that, when living in environments where the parasitic wasps live, the beetles bury their good eggs under stacks of nutrient-poor eggs. The wasps parasitize the top eggs, but the wasp larvae do not thrive in them. Meanwhile, the good beetle eggs on the bottom are protected. Learn more about defense structures that facilitate survival of many creatures in this cursed post-Fall world at How Did Defense/Attack Structures Come About?.
  • Ever wonder how all the cells in a growing embryo keep in sync? Think about it: if some cells divided faster than others, the embryo would soon be a chaotic mess. Scientists used to think that just because the fertilized ovum begins dividing at a point in time, cell division would stay coordinated. Princeton researchers have demonstrated that something more is required to avoid chaos and disaster. At the moment of fertilization, a wave of calcium is released and rapidly spreads to signal synchronous cell divisions. That rapid calcium signal is apparently also necessary for continued synchronous cell division, for the embryo is too big for its parts to keep in step without some sort of active regulation. As researcher Ned Wingreen says, through the computer simulations, “It became clear that cell-cycle oscillation, while remarkably uniform in the end, does not come by that harmony on its own, especially not in anything as big as an embryo, which is much larger than a typical cell. But then the question became, if there's this potential for chaos, how does the system avoid it? It turns out that the system needs the calcium wave to avoid chaos and that wave is activated surprisingly fast.” Commenting on the Princeton research, Stanford professor James Ferrell said, “They present a nice story of how evolution has come up with a way to do things as fast as is needed to avoid chaos, but not too much faster.” We beg to differ. What they’ve uncovered is one more level of precision and complexity our infinite God has designed into His creatures. And, as Science Daily says, these discoveries may “help biologists unravel other mysteries about the first hours of life.
  • The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, got a big star on the paleoanthropology map when its own Svante Pääbo showed that humans and Neanderthals share some DNA. Now the institute’s Jean-Jacques Hublin is traveling the world with a crate of equipment to make virtual images of all the famous hominid fossils. The images will make safe examination of the fragile fossils possible to those with computer access to the data. Detailed plastic replicas can also be quickly generated from the image data. Some are pleased that fossils will be more widely accessible, with Hublin noting, “Whoever is denied (this access) will never get anywhere.” Others resent having to share the fruits of their archaeological labor with the world. And some fear that the power to control access to the fossils will simply be transferred from museum curators to those with the keys to Max Planck’s virtual viewing rooms. We rather doubt that scientists with non-evolutionary worldviews will be receiving invitations from either those who control the actual fossils or Max Planck.

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