Oops, that life-giving water on Mars is … lava!

Or so David Shiga tells us in "Evidence for Mars floods all dried up?" (New Scientist, 22 August 2011):

Kelin Whipple of Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe agrees that lava probably carved the huge channels, such as Kasei Valles (shown). He says the study calls into question the case for huge volumes of water – and possibly an ocean – on ancient Mars.

Continue reading

Were people cooking two million years ago?

From International Business Times (August 22, 2011), we learn: "Cooking is 1.9 Million Years Old: Study." And Michael Cremo is still wrong anyway?:

New evidence suggests that our ancestors have been cooking and processing food as far back as 1.9 million years ago. This could explain why humans have small teeth, as we don't need to spend our time chewing as much as animals.

The scientists found that chimpanzees spend 10 times more time chewing compared to humans.

Bovines spend almost all their waking hours eating grasses.

Cooking softens and processes food to make eating much easier and reduce chewing time. Had our ancestors not cooked, we'd be eating nearly half of the day instead of just 5 percent that we spend today.

The theory goes, cooking freed our ancestors up for more creative activities than chewing. Like talking without your mouth full. It makes sense in principle, but here's the hitch:

"There isn't a lot of good evidence for fire. That's kind of controversial," Organ said. "That's one of the holes in this cooking hypothesis. If those species right then were cooking you should find evidence for hearths and fire pits."

To put their theory on the table, so to speak, they need to definitely establish that people used fire in those days.

Note: Technologically primitive peoples have also made use of hot springs and naturally occurring fire. If a natural fire has started and is burning out, it is easy to grasp the principle of keeping a bit of it going, even if one doesn't know how to start a fire. Also some methods of preparing food can make it easier to digest without cooking – chopping vegetable matter into small bits, for example, as well as pounding grains. We shall see.

See also: Stone tools found from two million years ago – and Michael Cremo is still wrong?

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain. Follow UD News at Twitter!

Bad news from God – there IS no God particle

Trickling down through pop science media: The Large Hadron Collider has not found "the God particle," the Higgs boson.

From The Australian (August 23, 2011),

INTERNATIONAL scientists searching to solve the greatest riddle in all of physics say that signs are fading of the elusive Higgs-Boson particle, which is believed to give objects mass.

Just last month, physicists announced at a European conference that a big atom-smasher experiment had shown tantalising hints of the Higgs-Boson, as the search to identify the particle enters the final stretch with results expected late next year.

Sometimes described as the "God particle" because it is such a mystery yet such a potent force of nature, the Higgs-Boson – if it exists – represents the final piece of the Standard Model of physics.

"At this moment we don't see any evidence for the Higgs in the lower mass region where it is likely to be," said physicist Howard Gordon, deputy US ATLAS operations program manager.

Continue reading

Mirror neurons: Solving a problem that doesn’t exist?

At Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists, Andrew Wilson (the other is Sabrina Golonka) reflect on, "Mirror Neurons, or, What's the Matter with Neuroscience?" (August 9, 2011), noting,

… there's no such thing as theory-free observations – all data comes from this experiment rather than that experiment, and even simply reporting a result is laden with theoretical assumptions, even when these aren't explicitly identified.

One thinks immediately of all the cunningly designed experiments to "demonstrate" that humans are really selfish and that chimpanzees are really altruistic. The researchers' evidently have an emotional need to use science to demonstrate that their materialist worldview is … science, and must be accepted by all, irrespective of the usual, normal evidence.

Continue reading

Lotteries shocka!!: It isn’t chance that someone gets multiverse-level lucky.

You knew that, of course. Design inference. You just didn’t know how they were doing it. Mostly, they were “spotting patterns and exploiting loopholes.”

In “Lottery wins come easy, if you can spot the loopholes” (New Scientist, 19 August 2011), Ferris Jabr brings us up to date on how sharp people make their own luck.

Continue reading

Mike Behe on a new journal paper advocating “neutral evolution” – with bureaucracy as the creative power

Behe, a biochemist and author of Edge of Evolution comments on an expanded version of a short essay called “Irremediable Complexity?” featuring prominent evolutionary biologist W. Ford Doolittle as an author. The short version was published last year in Science – the expanded version is in IUBMB Life:

“Irremediable Complexity” (9 August 2011)

… the gist of the paper is this. The authors think that over evolutionary time, neutral processes would tend to “complexify” the cell. They call that theoretical process “constructive neutral evolution” (CNE). In an amusing analogy they liken cells in this respect to human institutions:

Continue reading