Endangered giant Chinese salamander is at least five different “species”

From ScienceDaily: With individuals weighing in at more than 140 pounds, the critically endangered Chinese giant salamander is well known as the world’s largest amphibian. But researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on May 21 now find that those giant salamanders aren’t one species, but five, and possibly as many as eight. The bad […]

At Science: Hawking’s last work attempted to stick a pin in eternal inflation of the cosmos

In Adrian Cho’s interpretation at Science: When Stephen Hawking died on 14 March, the famed theoretical physicist had a few papers still in the works. Today, the Journal of High Energy Physics published his last work in cosmology—the science of how the universe sprang into being and evolved. (Other papers on black holes are still […]

Assisting others at birth not unique to humans, trumpets newspaper. Bonobos do it too.

From Mollie Cahillane at the Daily Mail: Chimps have midwives too: Incredible footage shows female bonobos protecting mothers during labor and assisting in the delivery – Scientists saw three captive bonobos give birth in France and the Netherlands – The mother did not isolate herself from the group and other females helped her – Bonobos […]

Rob Sheldon: Mainstreaming epigenetics sheds light on unsavory history of Darwinism

In response to our recent item on the mainstreaming of epigenetics, physicist Rob Sheldon writes to say, in connection with the recent studies of the generational epigenetic effects following mass starvation, — It is, of course, refreshing to see epigenetics now making the mainstream publications. What has me in stitches, however, is all the things […]

Does Nathan Lents, author of a “bad design” book really teach biology? A doctor looks at his claims about the human sinuses

From Nathan H. Lents at Skeptic: From neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at ENST: Lents writes: One of the important drainage-collection pipes is installed near the top of the largest pair of cavities, the maxillary sinuses, located underneath the upper cheeks… Putting the drainage-collection point high within these sinuses is not a good idea because of this […]

David Berlinski with Mark Levin: The link between evolution, science and progressivism

 Berlinski, an agnostic mathematician, is author of The Devil’s Delusion, a riposte to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. See also: Darwinian biologist Jerry Coyne takes on skeptical mathematician David Berlinski

Artificial intelligence pioneer laments current AI limitations, promises machines with free will and morality

From Kevin Hartnett at the Atlantic, interviewing, for Quanta Magazine, Judea Pearl, author (along with Dana Mackenzie) of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect In his new book, Pearl, now 81, elaborates a vision for how truly intelligent machines would think. The key, he argues, is to replace reasoning by […]

Researchers clearly observe quantum effects in photosynthesis

From Bill Andrews at Discover: In particular, according to a study released Monday in Nature Chemistry, an international team of scientists showed that molecules involved in photosynthesis display quantum mechanical behavior. Even though we’d suspected as much before, this is the first time we’ve seen quantum effects in living systems. … With a technique called […]

Does the beginning of the universe require a cause?

A philosophical question to wake you up. A reader directs our attention to a 2015 piece by cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin at Inference Review (2015): THE ANSWER to the question, “Did the universe have a beginning?” is, “It probably did.” We have no viable models of an eternal universe. The BGV theorem gives us reason to […]

Pigeons much smarter than monkeys in some tests

Discussing the current push to give animals human-like rights, Maggie Koerth-Baker tells us at Five Thirty Eight: Animals don’t stack up the way you’d expect. “[Pigeons have] knocked our socks off in our own lab and other people’s labs in terms of what they can do,” said Edward Wasserman, a professor of experimental psychology at […]

Researchers: Cambrian explosion was not an explosion after all

From Harry Pettit at the Daily Mail: The ‘Cambrian explosion’ is one of the most significant events in the planet’s 4.5-billion-year history and ultimately led to the arrival of complex animals like humans. New research shows the event – which took place between 500 and 540 million years ago – was a much more gradual […]

Can fuzzballs explain away the Big Bang? And the origin of time?

From Sophie Hebden at FQXI: A radical theory replaces the cosmic crunchers with fuzzy quantum spheres, potentially solving the black-hole information paradox and explaining away the Big Bang and the origin of time. … If the core of a black hole isn’t confusing enough, things get worse when you consider its surface—or “event horizon”—which marks […]

Correcting trolls, 3: Wikipedia blunders yet again — “Unlike hypotheses, theories and laws may be simply referred to as scientific fact”

The other day, I ran across the Wiki article on Laws of Science. While there is much good there, such as: The laws of science, scientific laws, or scientific principles are statements that describe or predict a range of phenomena as they appear in nature.[1] The term “law” has diverse usage in many cases: approximate, […]

Correcting Trollish errors, 2: AK’s “A/Mats are skeptical of extraordinary claims . . . ” (selective hyperskepticism rises yet again)

It is clearly time to hammer selective hyperskepticism again. Here is AK at 49 in the Answering thread: A/Mats are skeptical of extraordinary claims. And I don’t apologize for that. BA, UD President (and a lawyer familiar with correcting fallacies) duly hammered the fallacy: BA, 50 – 53 : >>50: . . . Like the […]

Science vs. Scientists Part 2: Crucial Cancer Theory Dismissed for Half Century

David Nguyen outlines the history of the Warburg effect at Think Tank Learning: See also: Science News Fact Check: Did Craig Venter create life? With David Nguyen

External testicles another instance of bad design?

From Nathan H. Lents, author of Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, at Undark: Of course there’s an explanation (sperm like to develop at lower temperatures). But really: What intelligent designer could have come up with this? It sounds as though Lents has never heard of the concept […]

Did the dying Stephen Hawking strengthen the case for God by reintroducing fine-tuning?

In his final paper, with Hertog, scaling back the multiverse? From Philip Goff at the Guardian: But if all of the universes have exactly the same laws – as in Hawking and Hertog’s proposal – the problem returns, as we now need an explanation of why the single set of laws that govern the entire […]

At CSICOP: Why millennials and liberals turn to astrology

From Sturt Vyse at CSICOP: One of the most noteworthy aspects of belief in astrology is that it is more often embraced by liberals, which places it in the company of the anti-GMO and anti-vaccination movements (Vyse 2015). A 2009 Pew Research Center study found that people who described themselves as liberal were almost twice […]

New book challenges sexual selection theory in evolution

The book, Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution’s Fatal Flaw: The Origin of Sex, by Bible commentator F. Lagard Smith,m is endorsed by emeritus biology prof (Cedarville University), John E. Silvius. From the publisher at Amazon: Darwins Secret Sex Problem What Darwin Ignored . . . For all his revolutionary insight into the fascinating processes […]

Neuroskeptic serves up some skepticism about a recent memory transfer claim

For sea slugs, via RNA transfer. At Discover: There’s a couple of reasons why I don’t think this is evidence of “memory transfer”. Firstly, what was transferred here was hardly a memory in the usual sense of the word. It is simply an increase in the sensitivity of a set of neurons, a single reflex […]

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