Biology news

Building Blocks of Life

Media discussions on the Rosetta mission are fond of telling us that the probe on the comet is all about studying the origins of life - from outer space. This contrasts with the sort of thing you might read on blogs such as that of Phil Plait where the idea of life from space is regarded as junk science - and people like Chandra Wickramasinghe are described in unfavourable terms. Such blogs are designed to defend the faith - manning the ramparts of consensus science. At ...

lampreys, bird eggs, and bird brains.

At ... lamprey larva are soft and small and are rarely fossilised. Lampreys themselves are also rarely fossilised because they do not have a skeleton - they have no bones and no teeth. They suck blood. However, in Lower Mongolia there is a Late Cretaceous shale deposit with a perfectly preserved collection of lampreys and their larvae.

influenza 1918

At ... there is a discussion on the 1918 influenza epidemic, overshadowed as it was by WWI (which ended in the same year) and the idea it was space born in origin, specifically in the wake of strong geomagnetic storms close to inferior conjunctions of Venus with the Sun.


At ... there is an interesting piece on peptides which are being touted as a sort of missing link between pre-biotic chemistry and the building blocks of life. The ability to organise things within compartments and along surfaces underpins biology. It seems peptides may be involved in the process.

Dust in the atmosphere and climate

Gary Gilligan sent in the following link - ... and the title describes the contents at the link. Dust in the atmosphere can influence rainfall. The research used mass spectrometry which sample cloud droplets and ice crystals onboard research aircraft flying through clouds. An unintended consequence of the research is that they discovered a lot of material that is loaded with signs of life.

Looking at fossils

At ... you'd think the environmentalist brigade, so fond of blocking dam building in the third world, would baulk at the idea of dam building in Silicon Valley - where the huge profits from the electronic gadget industry are funnelled into CAGW organisations and preachers of the one true message to mankind. Well, the Greens in California have allowed a dam to be updated - against earthquakes. It makes common sense of course - but does it make Green sense? Not sure about that one.

Amazing Ammonites

This story is at ... you'd think they would already know as it was about the same time an asteroid struck the Earth - but apparently that is not enough as ammonites were such a successful sea animal and had existed for millions of years. Hence, scientists have pondered the whys and wherefores and come up with an explanation - they were too successful and had adapted to specific niches in the environment. When the asteroid strike caused mayhem in the natural world those niche ecosystems disappeared - and do did the ammonites.

Giant inflatable wind turbines

Renewables are under development all the time. The cost of building wind farms, and installing concrete bases and access roads, and a general disturbance of the environment which is what most protestors have against them, has caused an American company to think of alternate methods of collecting energy from wind. Four prototypes exist according to the article in The Times (a couple of weeks ago). Giant inflatable wind turbines that float in the sky, held on long tethers like massive dog leads, is the latest idea.

kangaroo teeth

At ... the teeth of kangaroos (caron isotope ratios) and other marsupials of SE Queensland who the area, now arid, was formerly much wetter and more attractive to life (in the Pliocene).

Dinosaur eating crocodiles

At ... huge crocodiles killed their dinosaur prey by spinning their bodies in death rolls. They were some 40 feet in length - but modern salt water crocodiles (known to go for sharks) can be up to 23 feet long. The paper is published in Historical Biology journal (April 16th).