Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Wrasses demonstrating Providential Design"
Our natural world has a wide variety of systems, with great degrees of complexity and seeming nonsensical or irrational. Yet, these expectations are human constructs. Authors like Harry Sanders writing for the creationist website ‘Answers in Genesis’ falls into this fallacy of reason. His great inspection of every syllable and phrase of biological studies paired with his passing paragraph asserting the ability of Christian holy texts to explain away these seemingly unsolvable problems without even the basic level of academic pretension of biblical citations or a sympathetic theologian’s quote; this inequality of investigation shows the obvious bias of the website--although hopefully readers understood upon reading the name of the organization.
Another facet of Sanders’ anti-scientific reasoning is their base-level discomfort with empirical confusion. Causation is a hard fact to establish since our universe isn’t a neat, straightforward laboratory without exogenous factors impeding our observations. It’s a rough environment, the ocean especially given our body’s deficiency at life-like ability underwater for long periods of time. Yet Sanders dismisses the messiness, instead deferring to their faith; religion is valid, but there’s a reason its called faith, its based on a belief beyond the physical world. For this part of the adventure of our universe, biological laws reign supreme, and one of those is the theory of evolution.
Let’s dismiss the empirical aspect of Sanders’ article first-off. The impact of cleaner wrasses on individual reefs is not straightforwardly good or bad; its a mix of impacts with their own benefits and deficiencies of their own (Waldie et al). Our view of the natural world, without the social world of humanity and the intelligence of our species, there is nothing constant war between every organism over every resource. Yet take for example the complementaries of cleaner wrasses and parrot fish, with each preferring their own respective mucus (Grutter & Bshary). Imagine instead nature as a marketplace, with differing resources being valued in different ways by different individuals; with each fight fought, battle won, and reef environment rid of cleaner wrasses individual benefits are minimal, it’s just wasted opportunity cost on low-nutrient organisms.
Posted by "Chorryi Chin"

The Missing Link between Birds and Reptiles

The Missing Link between Birds and Reptiles

Archaeopteryx lithographic specimen displayed at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.  

In a short article on the subject of Anthropological Evolution, the Northwest Creation Network denounced the evolutionary connection between birds and dinosaurs (reptiles). The original article, titled Archaeoraptor Liaoningensis: Fake Dinosaur-bird ancestor, references an evolution fraud that was committed by the National Geographic journal in November of 1999. The magazine forged a fossil with bones from different animals and claimed it to be evidence for the ‘missing link’ between birds and the group of dinosaurs known as theropods. They informally named this creature as “Archaeoraptor liaoningensis”, and claimed it had the ability to fly. This was later proven to be false, as the Northwest Creation Network asserted. However, there have been other fossils of feathered dinosaurs found that demonstrate the evolutionary link between birds and reptiles.

There have been fossils of the theropod dinosaur suborder found that help us understand the junction link between dinosaurs and birds. In Liaoning, China, Turner et al. (2007) found fossils of the dinosaur, Velociraptor mongoliensis. The velociraptor had “quill knobs on the posterior forearm,” which are also found at the base of the secondary feathers of many living birds. This finding signified the presence of feathers in V. mongoliensis.

Additionally, a study of three specimens from the Archaeopteryx genus of dinosaurs found that these animals might have been the transitional bird-like dinosaurs. Voeten et al. (2018) studied the wing bones of these organisms and found that they exhibit the architecture and geometry required for flight. However, the type of flight employed by these ancient reptiles was interpreted to be different than that of the modern bird flight. The Archaeopteryx is often considered the missing link between birds and reptiles. In fact, the name literally means “old wing”, derived from the ancient Greek words: archaīos meaning ‘ancient’, and ptéryx meaning wing.

Although the Northwest Creation Network presented a story that supported their anti-evolution claims, they were unable to refute other scientifically backed data that proved the evolutionary connect between birds and dinosaurs.

-       Posted by Priya Bikkani (1)

The “Land Before Time” Was Only 6,000 Years Ago

The article The so-called ‘Age of Dinosaurs’ flirts with the idea that dinosaurs could not have lived more than 6,000 years ago. It gives us the “facts” on the interpretation of the supposed “Dinosaur Age,” meeting a common ground between religion and science. The author tells us that dinosaurs and other creatures all died at the same time, somewhere about 4,500 years ago. He ignores the descent of mammals, suggesting that mammals and dinosaurs both coexisted although we know this not to be true. In an interview for the magazine Creation, Dr. Carl Werner exclaimed that over 432 species of mammals have been discovered side-by-side with dinosaurs, slandering the name ‘The Age of the Dinosaurs,’ telling us mammals were just as important as dinosaurs in this period; in fact, even hypothesizing that mammals helped drive dinosaurs to extinction.

The author answers our confusion, by “confirming” that the mass extinction that indeed lead to the extinction of most dinosaurs was the great Flood described in the biblical story in Genesis 6:8 of Noah’s ark. In the story, before a 40 day flood two kinds (male or female) of each animal were chosen to board Noah’s ark to avoid death by the flood. The author suggests that some extreme conditions of the earth after the flood may have killed off many of the reptiles (dinosaurs), eventually until they all died off. He tells us that the last of the dinosaurs have only completely died off recently. Although providing no real evidence, the author claims that, “There is no ‘huge mystery’ about the existence of dinosaurs… God made them, along with the rest of His creation, around 6,000 years ago.” Dinosaurs lived alongside other animals then gradually died out after the flood, as other species have. Even though sediments and and ice core carbon dating, give factual evidence of creation much further back then 6,000 years ago, the article completely ignores our technological advancements we have made that prove the Earth’s existence millions and millions of years ago.

Posted by Josha Cruz

Climate Change: Fake News & Real Consequences

There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that points to humans as the cause of global warming. Nevertheless, a video entitled “Why Climate Change Is Fake News” has gone viral on Facebook in the past few months, garnering over 9.5 million views, nearly 5 thousand comments, and one hundred seventy thousand shares. The video depicts Marc Morano, a “climate denial expert” despite having no scientific expertise in the area, who centers around three common climate myths to cast doubt on the legitimacy of climate change and spread misinformation. Morano is best known for having directed think-tanks that were funded by large fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, and designed to influence public opinion by creating uncertainty about the reality of and dangers associated with human-made climate change.

Morano begins the video by utilizing one of the most popular climate change myths known as consensus denial, denying that there is not actually a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming among scientists and claiming that it is “the most outrageous falsehood of them all” and the percent was “pulled out of thin air”. The climate denyer bases this opinion on a single study that evaluates the expert scientific consensus, in which out of the 3,146 Earth scientists that were surveyed only 80 of them were currently publishing climate science research, judging that the sample size was too small to be effective. Although this is a valid critic, Morano pointedly ignores the other consensus studies that employ a variety of approaches, some of which including very large sample sizes. Specifically, the authors of seven different consensus studies collaborated to publish a paper in 2016 that concluded that the expert scientific consensus on human-causing climate change was between 90 and 100%. Thus, when considering all available research on expert consensus, Morano’s argument falls short.

In the next portion of the video, Morano states that the hottest year claims, in which the annual global temperatures have increased since the industrial age and each preceding yearly temperature breaks the record of the one prior since 2014, are “merely political statements”. In other words, the temperature statistics are in the “margin of error between hottest year statements” and therefore not increasing. According to a consultation with climate scientists, this statement is wrong. Rather that point to single year increases, like Morano does, experts said that long-term trends clearly show the temperature has been rising for decades on Earth. The years from 2014 to 2017 have indeed been the hottest years on record, and 2018 is also predicted to be the fourth-hottest year yet.

Morano concludes his video by saying that the “most outrageous myth of them all [despite having already claimed this in his first point] is that carbon dioxide is somehow the control knob of the climate.” In a study published by NASA scientists that is actually entitled “Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature”, it states that ample evidence shows that carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas. Despite how ludicrous the claims in this video are and blatantly pulled on widespread myths, it was obviously effective with engaging viewers and has had a degree of impact on individual’s prevailing beliefs or confirmed their bias. The epidemic of fake news and disinformation will continue to be employed as political tactics and wreak havoc until it is combatted and regulated by the creators of the tech companies and social media apps.

Posted by Jamie Courtney (Group A)

Environment Friendly Plastic

Plastic has always been an issue when it comes to harming the environment and finding a new way to replace it. There have been speculations about many different things that can been developed to substitute plastic products and can biodegrade faster and be decomposable. One thing that has caught a lot of attention lately and might be the solution to the plastic problem, is seaweed. However, some fake videos were widely shared about the theory that a type of seaweed is made of plastic. 

In the article it talks about the fake videos that were shared online about pophyra (seaweed type) and how they talked about it being “transparent, rubbery and fishy smelly”. Another  article talks how much trouble the fake news brought to the economy of the businesses that sold the seaweed. These videos had no scientific proof that showed all these allegations were true, just some observations that people made and based them on some untrue ideas. Seaweed is not made out of plastics, but some parts of it can be used to make plastic. A story explains how seaweed extract can be used to make plastic that can decompose 4-6 weeks after that without harming the environment. It is easily accessible and very cheap to get. It provides a testable theory where you can test if it plastic or seaweed by placing it in water and the one that expands is seaweed as it absorbs water. 

Sure, plastic and seaweed might have some similarities between them, but that doesn’t mean that seaweed is plastic and is bad for our health. To make plastic out of seaweed  a lot of steps need to be done and the final product is not we eat it is what we use and can’t be compared to the real seaweed as it had overcome many modifications.

-Olga Egkorova

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Flying Penguins Head to the Tropics for Winter!

With the blossoming of the internet, we now have more access to news, discoveries, and innovations than ever before. New science findings and developments are available to us at the push of a button. While some of the information being given to us is incredible and informational, not all of the articles are providing us with proper information.

What do I mean by this? Well, let’s take a look at one of the many examples that are out there. In 2008, BBC released a video claiming that a new group of penguins were actually able to fly to the south for the winter. With impressive video editing and production tactics, the story looked like it could be real. With our eyes physically seeing these penguins take flight, many people believed this phenomenon to be true.

Unfortunately, this incredible new group of penguins was actually a made up story in order to promote a feature of BBC called IPlay on World Penguin Day. The message of the video was not to miss the “unmissable”, and obviously, to them, flying penguins would fall under that category, even if there was no such event occurring.

Still feel like you need further evidence that penguins have never and do not currently posses the ability to fly? The lack of scientific papers being written on these incredible new flying penguins is a sure sign that the event never actually occurred, as if it did, surely there would be plenty research and publications on the matter. Also, in nearly every paper written about penguins, they are referred to as flightless birds.

The moral of the story here is to not believe everything you read or see online, as many companies and individuals use fake science as an advertisement tactic, to prove a point, or just to have fun.

Posted by Jamie Downer (Group A, Week 3)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Telepathy is Real, and Coming Soon

Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke pioneering brainet research, had earlier that year connected monkey brains. These monkey brains worked together to move virtual monkey arms. Ecstatic with the success of his monkey brains, Nicolelis transitioned to rats, an easier medium, more dispensable, in continued research.

A researcher at Duke university connected four brains of rats that were alive with electrodes. He was able to turn this into a functional computer. This organic computer, or brainet, solved problems better than any-one rat could alone. The key was brain communication or telepathy.

The puzzle was water access. The four rat brains were able to communicate telepathically through crude connection by some electrodes. If three out of the four thirsty rats were able to collectively synchronize their brainwaves, water was given to all four rats. Soon enough rats learned to synchronized their neuron firing, or whatever that means in rat language, maybe all think the same thing at the same time, and got their reward, clean water.

It is estimated with technological advances, the electrodes will be replaced with a non-invasive, assisting the telepathy were know aliens posses. Will humans ever communicate telepathically to form a hive-mind? Maybe? Maybe then Magnus Carlsen, or some hacker, will rule the world. But hey, learning would be so much easier, in fact it might be instant, after all I can just take the answers right out of my teacher’s brain.

Posted by “Takoda Nordoff” (3)

Elephant’s Revived Zombie Gene Fends Off Cancer

Elephant's Revived Zombie Gene Fends Off Cancer
One would suspect that elephants, being as large as they are, would be especially susceptible to cancer. The sheer number of cells that make up an elephant is substantially more than many animals, leaving a greater possibility for cell division to go wrong and cancerous mutants to arise. Elephants, however, surprisingly present the same risks as any other animal, including humans. It was recently found that this may be due to particular genes that protect them against cancerous cells, including not only a more prominent form of the well-known tumor-suppressing p53 gene but also new protein known as LIF6.

            The pathway works with a response from the 20 copies of p53 genes present in elephants (humans only have one copy!). When DNA damage is detected, rather than attempting to repair it, they instead turn on LIF6 which creates proteins that move to the mitochondria and essentially pokes holes in it, thus leading to the cell’s death. This aggressive attack on damaged cells is unique to elephants as they are the only holders of the active LIF6 gene.

            A New York Times article discussing this particular gene refers to it as a ‘Zombie Gene’, and for good reason. This gene has seemingly come back to life in elephants after remaining dormant in many mammalian species. This means that this gene, although it exists in many mammals including humans, has been nonfunctional throughout evolution as it cannot create the LIF6 protein. Elephants, however, have at some point in their evolution resurrected the LIF6 gene and it is now able to be turned on by p53 and produce this new, remarkable response.

            It is estimated that this LIF6 gene arose at around the same time extra p53 copies arose in elephants’ very early ancestors nearly 80 million years ago. It is also thought that other mechanisms against cancer have likely evolved in elephants and that such powerful defense mechanisms against cancer that have arisen have allowed for elephants to evolve to such great sizes. Further research on these magnificent animals may help us to better understand the cellular processes behind cancer, as well as potentially aid in the development of new drugs and treatments for the disease.

Posted by "Alexandra Rios" (3)