Wednesday, 25 May 2016

“Sun Kickstarted Life on Earth”: New Attempt to Solve the Faint Young Sun Paradox

A new hypothesis tries to get past Earth’s magnetic field. Image courtesy of NASA.




Joel Kontinen

Popular science journalism tends to produce eye-catching headlines. Reporting on a recent attempt by Vladimir Airapetian at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to solve the faint young Sun paradox is no exception.

Cranky young sun could have kickstarted life on Earth, New Scientist informs us.

Belief in a billions of years old solar system is fraught with problems that don’t easily go away.

A major puzzle is the faint young Sun paradox. Let us listen to New Scientist:

About 4 billion years ago, the sun was only 70 per cent as bright as it is today, which should have made the Earth a frozen snowball. But geological evidence shows that ancient Earth was warm enough for liquid water.”

Some have proposed that a habitable Earth is the result of many lucky turns, but that hardly counts as a scientific view.

Now, Airapetian proposes that giant solar flares might somehow have got passed Earth's magnetic field. Having reached the atmosphere, they could destroy molecular nitrogen:

Nitrogen is an essential component for life on Earth, but the young Earth probably only had its molecular form, N2, which is useless for life. Solar particles from flares could split these molecules apart, allowing nitrogen to take more biologically useful configurations. Nitrous oxide, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, could have kept the climate cosy, for example.”

Here the worldview of the researcher (and the reporter) runs the show. And more is to come:

As a bonus, similar reactions would have also made hydrogen cyanide, which can further react to form organic molecules like amino acids.”

However, chemicals don’t turn into life. Every attempt to solve the naturalistic origin of life dilemma has been an utter failure, as life only comes from life.


Source:

Sokol, Joshua. 2016. Cranky young sun could have kickstarted life on Earth. New Scientist (23 May).


Monday, 23 May 2016

Humans Are “Evolving” in Britain – But It’s Not the Darwinian Variety of Change

Modern Brits in old battle gear. Image courtesy of David Friel, Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).




Joel Kontinen


Evolution in action is a catchphrase that Darwinists use when they think that they can see small changes within one and the same species. It often has to do with finches turning into finches or bacteria turning into bacteria.

But when that species happens to be us (H. sapiens), it is bound to make bold and misleading headlines.

According to an article in Science:

’Being able to look at selection in action is exciting,’ says Molly Przeworski, an evolutionary biologist at Columbia University. The studies show how the human genome quickly responds to new conditions in subtle but meaningful ways, she says. ‘It’s a game-changer in terms of understanding evolution.’ ”

So what happened?

Genomic studies show that there are more blond and blue-eyed Brits now than in Roman times and they tend to be taller than what their ancestors were some 2,000 years ago.

But is this evolution in the orthodox Darwinian sense of the word? While the Brits might have been slightly shorter and more dark-haired in the beginning, they were humans, just as they were at the end of the story.

Most evolution headlines have amounted to mere speculations. Here are some examples:

· Human evolution is over.
· Eating meat made us human.
· The human hand is primitive.

And it is quite a stretch to claim that humans are evolving, when the research merely looked at Anglo-Saxons. I don’t see such changes in me, for instance. While I’m probably a bit taller than the average legionary (ok, maybe some change here), my hair (brown) and eyes (greyish-green with a touch of brown) have obviously forgotten to evolve with the times.

But, then, I’m not British, even though I like my 5 o’clock tea (milk but no sugar, just like the Queen). Or am I digressing?

Source:

Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2016. Humans are still evolving—and we can watch it happen. Science. (17 May).



Saturday, 21 May 2016

Complex Beauty in Sunflowers: Fibonacci Numbers and Even More Complicated Patterns Defy Darwinian Explanations

More complex beauty in sunflowers than we assumed. Image courtesy of Jon Sullivan, public domain.




Joel Kontinen

The more we get to know about nature, the more complex it appears to be. Think about sunflowers, for instance. Commenting on a recent paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, an article in Science says:

Mathematical biologists love sunflowers. The giant flowers are one of the most obvious—as well as the prettiest—demonstrations of a hidden mathematical rule shaping the patterns of life: the Fibonacci sequence, a set in which each number is the sum of the previous two (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, ...), found in everything from pineapples to pine cones.”

This kind of beauty is also seen in us.

The Royal Society paper reports on a citizen science experiment, with data on 657 sunflowers.

The researchers also “found more complex Fibonacci structures not previously reported in sunflowers,” which means that they could not use mechanistic models to explain this beauty.

This suggests that the beauty in the flowers is much more complex than we thought. Darwinists will have a hard time in trying to explain how such fine-tuning could have evolved.

Source:

Bohannon, John. 2016. Sunflowers show complex Fibonacci sequences. Science (17 May).

Thursday, 19 May 2016

New Mystery: “Sleeping” Trees Don’t Fit In Well With Darwin’s World


The tree sleeps tonight?




Joel Kontinen

We knew trees and other plants display signs of intelligence, but we obviously never expected them to sleep.

Now, however, New Scientist has an intriguing article on “sleeping” trees:

They don’t snore, but might creak during their slumbers. For the first time, trees have been shown to undergo physical changes at night that can be likened to sleep, or at least to day-night cycles that have been observed experimentally in smaller plants.”

While it might be too early to say that trees actually sleep, they obviously do seem to lessen their activity, at least a little:

Branches of birch trees have now been seen drooping by as much as 10 centimetres at the tips towards the end of the night.”

There might be an obvious explanation for this:

“Photosynthesis stops in the dark, so this in itself may explain why the branches droop,” says András Zlinszky (Centre for Ecological Research in Tihany, Hungary), who recently wrote a paper on the nocturnal life of birches with Eetu Puttonen (Finnish Geospatial Research Institute) and other colleagues.

However, we do know that trees and other plants are not dumb. Smart plants use clever tricks to avoid being eaten, and the Venus Flytrap seems to be able to count.

Professor Richard Karban (University of California, Davis) has said, “‘Plants communicate, signaling within [themselves], eavesdropping on neighboring individuals, and exchanging information with other organisms’. They have adaptive responses that, if they happened at speeds humans understand, would reveal them to be ‘brilliant at solving problems related to their existence.’

This does not sound like a Darwinian world at all. The real world is full of intelligent features. So perhaps trees do sleep. Who knows?

Source:

Coghlan, Andy. 2016. Trees seen resting branches while ‘asleep’ for the first time New Scientist (18 May).


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

New Origin of Life Speculation Featuring Molecular Midwives

Molecular Midwives? Image courtesy of NASA/Jenny Mottar.





Joel Kontinen

When an article has a title like Molecular ‘Midwives’ Helped Give Birth to RNA, we might perhaps not expect to read about empirical science, but then the origin of life business never was much about science.

It is easy to speculate that some other molecule came before RNA, but determining the structure of molecules that might actually have come before RNA is a major challenge for chemists.”

This is how Nicholas Hud, head of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Chemical Evolution, introduces a paper he recently wrote with his colleagues.

And 'speculate' is no doubt the right word for the job. Naturalistic origin of life research has always been a more or less messy affair.

Hud and colleagues put their hope in proflavine, which according to Astrobiology Magazine is “a small planar molecule that binds between adjacent base pairs of a DNA, can dramatically increase the stability of DNA or RNA in the lab when single strands of the complex molecules are synthetically bound to an unnatural nucleic acid.”

Even then they are light years away from solving the elusive naturalistic conundrum, hence the need for mythological midwives.

Naturalistic theories of the origin and early evolution of life tend to share a common feature: they don’t work.

Honest researchers will admit that there is no solution in sight for a naturalistic origin of life.

From Darwin’s warm little pond to hydrothermal vents and panspermia, they have turned out to be utter failures.

Chemicals just don’t turn into life. DNA is far too complicated to have arisen in the beginning, so some have put their hope on RNA instead.

The problem is that even RNA is too complicated to have come about through Darwinian mechanisms, hence the need for a pre-RNA world, with comets or meteors bringing life’s building blocks to Earth.

But how did they get on board comets or meteors? Merely pushing pre-RNA molecules into outer space does not explain their origin.

Looks like it is time to remind ourselves of the words of Genesis: “In the beginning God created…”

Source:

Howell, Elizabeth. 2016. Molecular ‘Midwives’ Helped Give Birth to RNA. Astrobiology Magazine (16 May).


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Fatty Darwinian Story: "Fat Tissue Evolved to Protect Us From Ourselves"

Fat hasn’t helped all apes evolve into humans.





Joel Kontinen

Evolution would be boring without a never-ending stream of new just so stories that often contradict each other, but they do keep on making headlines across the popular media.

Several Darwinian tales focus on eating, mostly meat.

Some others have to do with our body parts, such as our hands or brains.

A fresh story features our ability to use fat. As usual, the journal Nature sees a Darwinian connection to it. The subheading of its editorial – Humans’ exceptional ability to burn through calories fuels our evolution – already suggests what is to come.

Humans burn more energy than chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas or orangutans. As Nature puts it, we have

evolved to use more energy. We are the original consumer society: our increased demand for physiological energy is driven by our more efficient way of walking, the energy-dense foods such as meat and tubers we have found, and the methods of cooking we have invented and adopted.

A fundamental problem with Darwinian stories is that the data do not necessarily support the conclusions that seem to have been added afterwards, just to keep the evolution community happy.

In this case, the conclusion ('humans are evolved apes') does not follow from the data ('humans burn more energy than apes'). It is a worldview-based interpretation, and a rather clumsy one at that.

Contrary to what evolutionists claim, we are very different from chimpanzees and other apes. Even Nature is willing to acknowledge that the Y chromosomes of the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and humans are ”horrendously different from each other.”

Many other details, such as the golden ratio in us, suggest that we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, just like the Bible tells us.

Source:

Fat lot of good. Nature 533, 8 (5 May 2016).





Friday, 13 May 2016

Earth’s Twin Is Still Missing, Despite Discovery of Over 1, 200 New Exoplanets

An artist’s impression of Kepler in action. Image courtesy of NASA.




Joel Kontinen

NASA has announced that its Kepler space observatory has found 1,284 new exoplanets, including roughly 550 Earth-sized ones. Of these, nine may orbit their star in the habitable zone or at a distance at which water is expected to be in liquid form but not too hot to evaporate.

Commenting on the discovery, Andrew Norton, Professor of Astrophysics Education at The Open University, writes:

“The latest announcement is an impressive piece of work, and the discovery of so many new exoplanets is stunning. It is increasingly clear that planets orbit stars as a rule – not an exception. While astronomers still haven’t found an exact twin of the Earth, the rapid pace of discoveries is surely a sign that it is just a matter of time until they do.”

But what if Earth really is unique, as some researchers have suggested, and there’s no place like home elsewhere in the universe?

The wildest speculations have put the number of Earth-like planets at over 100 billion billion, but that is based more on wishful thinking than on facts.

We should keep in mind that Venus and Mars orbit the Sun in the habitable zone, and just look how habitable they are.

Moreover, the goldilocks zone around some stars may be smaller than we assumed, and some habitable planets might not be habitable after all.

Research suggests that even Kepler-438 B, once touted as the most Earth-like exoplanet, might not be habitable.

Source:

Norton, Andrew. 2016. More than 1,000 new exoplanets discovered – but still no Earth twin. The Conversation (11 May).