Archive for the 'Science' category

How many blue lobsters does it take to start a business?

Uncommon Descent, for some reason, just posted a link to an article about a blue lobster. This isn't the first time that a blue lobster has been found, and there are even rarer yellow and albino variants that are known. Since there is, as the UD article points out, a trade in blue crayfish, it's reasonable to assume that the blue coloration in lobsters is a heritable. All that leaves me wondering something: exactly why did the folks at Uncommon Descent decide to highlight this example?

The UD article contains the following gem:

Apparently, there is a trade in blue crayfish for aquariums, but any similar trade on blue lobsters depends on finding another one, of the opposite sex.

Does it really?

I didn't take a lot of time to research the genetic mechanisms underpinning lobster coloration (frankly, it's not a topic that fascinates me). I did find, however, that there's reason to suspect that the blue coloration is the result of a recessive trait (a paper I found noted that a prior study had found that blue offspring only occur when two blue lobsters mate). If that's the case, does a would-be purveyor of blue lobsters really need two blue lobsters to get the business off the ground?
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18 responses so far

Sunday Sculpture: Name that Scientist

Apr 10 2011 Published by under Picture Posts, Science

The picture below was taken somewhere and features a sculpture of a famous scientist. Who is it? For bonus points, identify the location where the photo was taken.

7 responses so far

How do we know that most of the species that ever lived are extinct?

Jan 12 2010 Published by under Science

It's been a long time since I've responded to an Uncommon Descent post, and I'm starting to remember why. There's one that went up over there the other day on the fossil record that's really almost mind numbing - starting with the title, which is "Why Not Accept the Fossil Record at Face Value Instead of Imposing a Theory on it?"

Here's what seems to be the main argument:

Here’s a simple example – extinction estimates. Darwinists will say that 99.99% of species that have ever lived have gone extinct. Well, that’s actually a bunch of B.S. There are roughly 250,000 species that have been identified in the fossil record, and well over 1,000,000 species that exist today. Taken at face value, even if every species in the fossil record has gone extinct (which they haven’t), that means that 80% of species that ever existed ARE STILL ALIVE. That’s quite a stretch. So where do Darwinists get their number? By assuming that innumerable species existed in the transitional spaces. Why? Because they _must_ have existed there for their theory to be true.

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41 responses so far

How thoroughly have we examined the fossil record?

Jan 11 2010 Published by under Basic Concepts, Geology, Science

The big paleontological news of last week was the announcement that fossil footprints have been discovered that predate - by about 20 million years - the previous contender for the earliest fossil evidence of tetrapods. Naturally, this announcement led almost immediately to a new round of "learning anything new about evolution means that Darwinism is totally wrong" claims from the Creationists.

Their complaints don't impress me much. There's very little difference between the Discovery Institute's "if there were tetrapod footprints 20 million years before Tiktaalik, how can something Tiktaalik-like have been an ancestor to tetrapods" line and the far older "if we descended from apes, why are their still apes" canard. If you're interested in another explanation of why you shouldn't be bothered by having ancestors and descendants alive at the same time, PZ's written a good one. I'm going to look at a different question.

It seems like someone finds some new fossil form somewhere every couple of years that changes our understanding of the evolution of some major group of plants or animals. Paleontology has been a serious scientific pursuit for the better part of the last two centuries. How is it that we continue to make so many spectacular new discoveries? Shouldn't we be at the point where we're just filling in the little gaps in the fossil record?

How thoroughly have we actually examined the fossil record? How much rock have we actually looked through in our quest to understand the evolution of the major branches of life?

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12 responses so far

STS-127 Scrubbed Until July 11th

Jun 17 2009 Published by under Science

NASA called off today's planned launch of the shuttle Endeavour earlier this morning when a hydrogen leak was discovered near the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate. The GUCP was also the location of the leak that shut down Saturday's launch attempt, so it appears that the repairs made to that system over the last few days did not quite have the desired effect.

According to NASA's website, the launch has been rescheduled for 11 July, at 7:39 pm EDT.

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In which I do something I've never, ever, done before...

May 29 2009 Published by under Science

...and very well may not ever do again: tell you that I actually enjoyed reading a post on the Discovery Institute's blog.

I haven't commented on the whole Ida the fossil hoopla before now, but, like a good chunk of the science blogging community, I think calling the whole thing overblown is a serious understatement. Over at the Discovery Institute's media complaints blog, Richard Sternberg has a post up. And, damn it, I think it's actually not a bad bit of blogging at all.

3 responses so far

"It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It": Gliese 581 d and the potential for a spacefaring civilization.

Apr 21 2009 Published by under Science

Earlier today, a team of researchers lead by noted exoplanet hunter Michel Mayor announced a pair of blockbuster discoveries - the lowest mass planet yet discovered orbiting another star, and a new analysis suggesting that another, previously discovered planet is orbiting that same star within the theoretical "habitable zone" where liquid water can exist. Both of these discoveries are huge, but for different reasons.

The small planet, now known as Gliese 581 e, may weigh in at only about 1.9 Earth masses. That makes it the smallest exoplanet yet discovered. Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star, with a mass about a third of the suns. Gliese 581 e is orbiting the star at about 0.03 AU (1 AU = distance from here to the sun), and completes an orbit in just over three days.

As cool as it would be to live someplace where I'd already be far older than Methuselah, Gliese 581 e probably isn't a very hospitable place to live. It's way too close to the star - it's probably an oversize, overcooked Mercury. Even if it's not a vacation spot, it's still a really cool find - it shows that scientists are getting much better at finding smaller exoplanets.

Cool as that is, it pales compared to Mayor's team's second announcement. They were able to refine the estimates for the orbit of Gliese 581 d - one of three other planets that had already been discovered orbiting Gliese 581. It appears that this planet is well within the star's habitable zone, which means that liquid water - and possibly life - can exist there.

The question is, does this mean that we should dust off the welcome mat?

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17 responses so far

Picture of the Day - 7 April 2009

Apr 07 2009 Published by under Science

Yesterday, Phil posted a lego version of this scene, so I thought it would be a good time to post the real thing.


Atlantis on Launch Complex 39-A

6 April 2009

This picture is obviously looking at the back side of the vehicle, but the orbiter would not have been visible even if I had a view from the opposite side of the pad - the Rotating Service Structure is in place and covers the orbiter.

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Quote of the Day - 7 April 2009

Apr 07 2009 Published by under Science

The animals of the Burgess Shale are holy objects--in the unconventional sense that this word conveys in some cultures. We do not place them on pedestals and worship from afar. We climb mountains and dynamite hillsides to find them. We quarry them, split them, carve them, draw them, and dissect them, struggling to wrest their secrets. We vilify and curse them for their damnable intransigence. They are grubby little creatures of a sea floor 530 million years old, but we greet them with awe because they are the Old Ones, and they are trying to tell us something.

Steven Jay Gould

Wonderful Life

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The "Phantom" of Heilbronn and Negative Controls (Or the Lack Thereof)

Mar 27 2009 Published by under Science

It looks like there are quite a few police officers in Germany with egg on their face right now. They spent several years, thousands of man-hours, and over $14 million trying to track down a criminal mastermind, only to discover that they were chasing lab contamination. Sadly, I am serious about this. From a 2008 Telegraph article:

Police in Germany have stepped up the hunt for a serial killer nicknamed "the woman without a face".

The mystery woman has been linked by DNA to six murders and a string of thefts in a 15-year spree in three countries. Her latest victims may be three second-hand car dealers shot execution-style.

The inquiry is based entirely on DNA found in smudges of sweat and nearly invisible flakes of shed skin at the crime scenes.

The malevolent and depraved fiend had, by that time, engaged in a crime wave that crossed international borders. Evidence of her heinous acts was found throughout much of southern Germany, as well as in neighboring parts of Austria and France. Oddly, though, it appeared that the criminal might have had some sort of phobia or aversion to Bavaria - no trace of her was ever found there. (I'll get back to that in a bit.)

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7 responses so far

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