Re: Pop Quiz : Vertebrates make up what percentage of the animal kingdom?, etc

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Thu Jan 20 2000 - 09:45:53 EST

  • Next message: Joel Duff: "Re: Pop Quiz : Vertebrates make up what percentage of the animal kingdom?, etc"


    Below are web article links, headlines and/or paragraphs for the
    period 13-17 January, in descending date order, with my
    comments in square brackets.


    ==================================================================== ABCNEWS January 17, 2000 ...
    Pop Quiz Vertebrates make up what percentage of the animal kingdom?
    (X) 4 percent () 14 percent () 23 percent () 73 percent Correct! ... [This
    quiz reveals that vertebrates only make up 4% of animals. Yet the strongest
    claimed evidence for evolution comes from that 4%. The other 96% of
    animals, seem to be mostly ignored by evolutionists, presumably because it
    does not provide as good evidence for evolution? This is a point Phil
    Johnson has made: "...the evidence for Darwinian macroevolutionary
    transformations is most conspicuously absent just where the fossil evidence
    is most plentiful- among marine invertebrates. (These animals are plentiful
    as fossils because they are so frequently covered in sediment upon death,
    whereas land animals are exposed to scavengers and to the elements.) If the
    theory were true, and if the correct explanation for the difficulty in finding
    ancestors were the incompleteness of the fossil record, then the evidence
    for macroevolutionary transitions would be most plentiful where the record
    is most complete." (Johnson P.E., "Defeating Darwinism by Opening
    Minds", 1997, p60)]
    ABCNEWS ... Peering Into Deep Space Orbiting Observatory
    Applies X-Ray Vision By Kenneth Chang ... ATLANTA, Jan. 16 -
    For each breath you take, thank an exploding star. ...The images
    show a ring of gas about 1,000 years after the supernova. ... The
    particular wavelengths, or "colors," glowing in the 30-light-year-wide
    ball show that some of the gas is oxygen. A lot of it - the amount of
    oxygen is equal to the mass of 1.5 million Earths. That oxygen
    could someday fill the atmosphere of not-yet-formed planets,
    enough for thousands of planetary systems. Without supernova
    explosions, there could not be any life ... Heavier elements such as
    oxygen are formed mostly in the fusion reactors of the very largest
    stars and when these stars go supernova, the heavier elements are
    dispersed into the interstellar clouds. When the clouds condense
    into new stars, there's enough of the heavier stuff to also form
    planets and provide atmospheres for them. "These might be called
    the fountains of life," Canizares says, "because it was the explosion
    of such supernovae that provided the oxygen on Earth." [This
    article indicates that oxygen is plentiful in space, particularly
    where planetary systems form, so this seems to throws even more doubt
    on the Miller-Urey postulate that the early earth had a reducing
    atmosphere (ie. with little or no oxygen). The same article also
    mentions the puzzle of the Milky Way's central black hole being
    so weak, but see the following Washington Post article.] Science News Week of
    Jan. 15, 2000; Vol. 157, No. 3 All mixed up over birds and dinosaurs By
    R. Monastersky ... Red-faced and downhearted, paleontologists are
    growing convinced that they have been snookered by a bit of fossil fakery
    from China. The "feathered dinosaur" specimen that they recently unveiled
    to much fanfare apparently combines the tail of a dinosaur with the body of
    a bird, they say. ... Recently, while examining a dromaeosaurid dinosaur in
    a private collection in China, Xu decided that the Archaeoraptor fossil is a
    chimera. The tail of that dinosaur is identical to the Archaeoraptor tail, he
    told Science News.The two tails are mirror images of each other, derived
    from the same individual, says Xu. When rocks containing fossils are split,
    they often break into two fossils. Currie suspects that someone sought to
    enhance the value of Archaeoraptor by pasting one part of the dinosaur's
    tail to a bird fossil. ... [An example of the danger of fraud when too much
    money is at stake and scientists see what they want to see. There is going
    to be red faces at National Geographic whose November 1999 issue
    featured this, and extrapolated that even T-rex had feathers! The fact is that
    none of the Chinese *dinosaurs* have feathers! Only two early *birds*,
    Caudipteryx and Protoarchaeopteryx, have feathers.]
    The Washington Post ... Weak Black Hole Mystifies Scientists Orbiting
    Chandra Observatory Reveals Several Unknown Features of the Cosmos
    By Curt Suplee Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, January 15, 2000;
    Page A13 ATLANTA, Jan. 14-The supermassive black hole at the center
    of our Milky Way galaxy appears to be sort of a wimp, surprised
    astronomers announced today. With a mass of 2.6 million suns, its
    perimeter should be ablaze with X-rays created as trillions of tons of ultra-
    hot compressed gas vanish into its bottomless maw. Instead, eagerly
    awaited first findings from the recently launched Chandra observatory
    show that the output "is really puny," said Gordon Garmire of Pennsylvania
    State University. A hole that hefty should be "a million or even a billion
    times brighter than what we're seeing. That's a real puzzle. It's going to
    challenge theorists to explain why it's so faint." Also at:
    Yahoo! ... Friday January ... Coolest Black Hole Found by Chandra
    Telescope ... By Deborah Zabarenko ATLANTA (Reuters) - The coolest
    black hole ever detected has been found in a nearby galaxy, astronomers
    reported on Friday in the first scientific findings from the 5-month-old
    orbiting Chandra X-ray telescope. Coolness, in this case, is a relative term.
    The black hole in question is in the known-to-be-quirky Andromeda
    galaxy, and the gas swirling into it has a temperature of a mere million
    degrees Fahrenheit. A typical star in Andromeda that gives off X-rays has a
    temperature at least 10 times that. ... [See below for more different black
    hole stories. I find it significant how often theories formed in the absence of
    hard experimental evidence, that seem so obviously right, have often had to
    be drastically revised when it became possible to test them experimentally.
    Now what other theory do we know of that seemed so right, which was
    formed in the absence of hard experimental evidence, has not yet been able
    to be tested experimentally, yet is starting to look decidedly shaky? ;-)]
    BBC ... Saturday, 15 January, 2000, ... Planet faces 'abrupt
    changes' Antarctic temperatures have risen by more than two
    degrees since 1940 By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby A
    US report says the world could be taken by surprise by unexpected
    environmental problems during the twenty-first century. ... One of
    the authors, Chris Bright, says: "Environmental decline is often
    seen as gradual and predictable, but ... As pressures on the Earth's
    natural systems build, there may be some disconcerting surprises
    as trends interact, reinforcing each other and triggering abrupt
    changes." [More evidence that uniformitarian extrapolations back
    into the past or forward into the future, are tenuous.]
    BBC ...Friday, 14 January, 2000, ... Chandra solves cosmic X-ray
    mystery The Universe's X-ray glow is actually millions of pinpoint
    sources By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse
    ... A second new class of objects has been observed in the image.
    Comprising approximately one-third of the sources, they are
    thought to be "ultra-faint galaxies". Dr Mushotzky said that these
    sources may emit little or no optical light, either because the dust
    around the galaxy blocks the light totally or because the optical light
    is eventually absorbed during its long journey across the Universe.
    He added that these sources would be well over 14 billion light
    years away and thus the earliest, most distant objects ever
    identified. [It will be interesting if these do turn out to be galaxies
    and the most distant objects ever detected. It might tell us
    something empirically verifiable about the universe not long after it
    came into existence.]
    ABCNEWS ... A Black Hole of a Neighbor A Nearby Puzzle By Paul
    Recer The Associated Press ATLANTA, Jan. 14 -Four bursts of X-ray
    energy have alerted astronomers to a black hole just 1,600 light-years away
    from Earth, practically on the doorstep in astronomical terms. ... Smith said
    the bursts come and go so rapidly that it may represent a new subclass of
    X-ray-producing objects. ..."Either the matter can flow into the black hole
    without forming an accretion disk or the black hole is significantly different
    in its mass, spin or charge," said Ronald Remmillard of MIT. ... See also: BBC
    ... Friday, 14 January, 2000, Lone drifter black holes discovered ... By
    BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse Some black holes
    drift alone through the Galaxy rather than waltzing around companion
    stars, astronomers have discovered. ... All previously known star-sized
    black holes have been found in orbit around normal stars, with their
    presence betrayed by their effect on the companion star. The two new
    black holes were detected indirectly, by the way their gravity bends the
    light of a more distant star behind them. "These results suggest that black
    holes are common and that many massive but normal stars may end their
    lives as black holes," said Dr David Bennett ...; Also at: &: Yahoo!
    ... Thursday January 13 ... Three Giant Black Holes Found Near Earth By
    Deborah Zabarenko ATLANTA (Reuters) - Three monster black holes
    have turned up in Earth's cosmic neighborhood, astronomers reported on
    Thursday, prompting questions about whether black holes are born before
    the galaxies that contain them. The new trio of so-called supermassive
    black holes are in the constellations Virgo and Aries, between 50 million
    and 100 million light years from Earth. Even though a light year -- the
    distance light travels in a year -- is about six trillion miles, these distances
    are just around the corner by celestial standards. Their proximity is not
    unusual, but their mass is: Each weighs between 50 million and 100 million
    times the mass of our sun. That puts them in a comparatively small club of
    giant black holes. Only 20 are known to exist; most black holes weigh just
    a few times the sun's mass. ... [There has been a spate of different black
    hole news stories in the last week or so. This last one is most interesting
    because it might change the standard view that galaxies form first and black
    holes last. Could such early black holes be the missing 7 dimensions in
    string theory?]
    ... Friday, 14 January, 2000, ... Skeleton fuels row over Americans' origins
    A reconstruction from the skull of the man at the centre of the controversy
    By Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds Tests on an ancient human
    skeleton discovered in the United States suggest it may shed new light on
    the origins of North America's earliest inhabitants. Carbon dating results
    from three laboratories have shown the skeleton - known as Kennewick
    Man after the area where it was found - to be between about 9,300 and
    9,500 years old. This means that, under federal law, the remains will be
    classified as Native American. ... Also at:
    Yahoo! ... Thursday January 13 ... U.S. Says Ancient Kennewick Man Is
    Native American By Chris Stetkiewicz SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S.
    Interior Department said on Thursday that tests show the Kennewick Man
    skeleton found in southern Washington state in 1996 was that of a 9,300-
    year-old Native American, almost certainly descended from Asian
    ancestors. The findings supported the popular theory that migrating Asians
    first populated North America about 20,000 years ago, and also mean that
    the skeleton could be returned to the earth without giving scientists more
    time to study it. .. Earlier story at:
    Yahoo! ... Wednesday January 12 ... U.S. to Release Age of Disputed
    Kennewick Man SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Interior Department on
    Thursday will release results of tests dating the Kennewick Man skeleton at
    the center of a dispute over whether Europeans roamed North America
    9,000 years ago. Anthropologists and American Indian tribes battling for
    three years over the skeleton found near the Columbia River in Kennewick,
    Washington, were set to receive official radiocarbon dating results that are
    certain to rekindle debate over the ethnicity and origin of the remains. ...
    [More on this other conflict between science and a culture!]
    Electronic Telegraph 13.01.00 .... The creation of robofly The American
    military is funding an ambitious project to mimic the antics of the fly
    stretching some of the newest branches of science to their very limits,
    reports Andy Goldberg ... The research team were forced to turn to the
    natural world as inspiration for their micromachine because regular
    aeroplane designs cannot work on such a small scale devices. Flies were
    chosen as the insect to copy because they are among nature's best pilots.
    They can take off and land in any direction, even upside down. They can
    change course in just 30 thousandths of a second. And they process
    information at speeds that make a supercomputer look like an abacus.
    "They're the fighter jets of the animal world," says Ron Fearing, the head of
    the bio-mechanical research project. ... [Just amazing what random
    mutation and natural selection can do, isn't it? :-)]
    Electronic Telegraph 13.01.00 ... View from the lab: Leaden prose, heavy
    metal and golden hellos Professor Steve Jones reports on some healthy
    changes evident at the annual meeting of the Association for Science
    Education ... I have taught 5,000 biology students in my career - and, in the
    past decade, my guess is that fewer than one in a 100 has chosen to
    become a teacher. Perhaps it's time to stop writing sonorous prefaces to
    chemistry books and to come up with some more of Element 79 (and not
    just as a hello). Otherwise science teaching - and science - will fade away,
    and all the conferences in the world will do nothing to save it. ... [Jones 1%
    success rate is astonishingly bad for one who is such a gifted science
    communicator. It is becoming an increasing concern in science journals that
    young people are not chosing science as a career. Maybe it's the "end of
    science" syndrome. Or maybe it is the leaders of science increasingly open
    espousal of an anti-theistic philosophy, evidenced by chosing Dawkins as
    sciencce's `ambassador'?]
    Electronic Telegraph 13.01.00 ... The mind: much more than matter In his
    new book, Antonio Damasio delves into the brain in search of the self.
    Here he provides an exclusive preview. ... Those who cite the inability of
    brain research to reveal the "substance of mind" also assume that current
    knowledge is sufficient to make such a judgment final, a notion I find
    entirely unacceptable. The current description of the brain is utterly
    incomplete. ... Consequently, declaring the conscious-mind problem
    insoluble because we have studied the brain to the hilt and have not found
    the mind is ludicrous. The appearance of a gulf between mental states and
    what occurs in the brain comes from the disparity between incomplete
    efforts of neuroscience and the good understanding of mind we have
    achieved through centuries of introspection and cognitive science. But
    nothing indicates that we stand on the edge of an abyss that would
    separate, in principle, the mental from the neural. ... [Nothing indicates it?
    What about the current "inability of brain research to reveal the `substance
    of mind'". Isn't that *something*? One must admire the unshakeable faith
    of materialists! But In guess to them it's like old age-the only alternative is
    worse! :-)]
    Yahoo! ... Thursday January 13 ... Scientists Report on New Golden,
    Vitamin-Rich Rice By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists who have genetically engineered a
    golden rice that produces extra vitamin A reported details of their
    accomplishment on Thursday, saying it could help save the lives of millions
    of children. ... What the researchers did was not transfer a single gene, but
    the entire genetic pathway for producing beta-carotene -- the precursor of
    vitamin A -- into the rice plant. This included three genes, one from a
    daffodil, and two from other plants. ... [More wizardry from the genetic
    engineers! Such potential for good. But such potential for evil.]
    ... Thursday, 13 January, 2000, ... Why caterpillars can taste bad.
    Caterpillars can cause devastating crop losses By Environment
    Correspondent Alex Kirby Why does the taste of some caterpillars deter
    birds from eating them? It is a subject that is puzzling researchers at the
    University of Stirling, UK. ... Dr Wilson told BBC News Online: "We think
    it's possible that the plants the armyworms feed on don't normally produce
    cyanide, but only in response to a mass onslaught by the caterpillars". "We
    hope to show that this is what makes them distasteful to predators.
    "According to the folklore of the Masai people of east Africa, cattle which
    graze on land where armyworms have been will themselves die of
    poisoning. "If we're right about the plants, that story could turn out to be
    true - the mass of the armyworms may stimulate the plants to produce
    cyanide, and what's left over may then kill the cattle." ... [If true this will be
    another fascinating example of defence systems built into plants.]

    "A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology
    and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is
    far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the
    oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks
    semipopular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful
    thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find
    predictable progressions. In general. these have not been found-yet the
    optimism has died hard and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks."
    (Raup D.M., "Evolution and the Fossil Record", Science, Vol. 213, No.
    4505, 17 July 1981, p289).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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