Bee summit

Back in 2007, about three different servers ago when this blog was with World, I wrote a post entitled The Rapture of the Bees.   Honeybees were disappearing, which is a major concern, since they are so important in the pollination of crops.  Since then, I’ve read several pieces that purportedly solved the mystery of why that’s happening, but I guess there is still controversy over the causes, and the problem remains.  Thanks to Pete Muller, who sent me an account of a “Bee Summit” sponsored by pesticide-maker Monsanto.

Some are blaming pesticides for the die-off of bees, while others are blaming a kind of mite that preys on bees and that presumably could be controlled by. . . pesticides.  Anyone want to guess what the diagnosis will be from the Monsanto summit?  Or from environmentalists?  Notice how science, though supposedly objective, is not free from conclusion-shaping presuppositions. [Read more…]

Babies change the male brain

At least in deer mice.  Scientists have known that motherhood makes the female rodents smarter, better foragers, braver, and more level-headed.  A researcher has found the same effect in father mice.  In fact, something similar happens when male mice are exposed to baby mice, even when they aren’t the biological father.  All of this has been traced to specific changes in the mice brains.  This has not been proven, of course, for human beings, but many men can probably relate to this.

Details after the jump.  Have any of you been changed by fatherhood?  Or exposure to children? [Read more…]

Human genes can’t be patented

In a rare unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented.  As we blogged about earlier, some companies have patented human genetic material, but the judges ruled that only inventions and not products of nature can be patented. [Read more…]

A Christian physicist, the Higgs particle, and an anthropic multiverse

Christian physicist Stephen M. Barr, of the University of Deleware and a frequent contributor to  First Things, wrote with some other scientists a paper on the Higgs field–an aspect of the so-called “God particle”–that is getting new attention in light of the collider that has recently assembled evidence about this mysterious yet fundamental entity.  See The Large Hadron Collider, the Multiverse, and Me (and my friends) » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.  After the jump, a sample and a link to a very lucid popularized explanation from Dr. Barr about his findings, having to do with both the multiverse and the anthropic principle (the notion that the laws of physics are what they are in order to make possible human life). [Read more…]

Dark lightning

Thunderstorms create bolts of lightning, as we all know.   Scientists have recently discovered that they also create bolts of energy that we cannot see:  pulses of radiation–X-rays and Gamma-rays–that are being called “dark lightning.” [Read more…]

A vacuum is not empty

More weird science:

Two forthcoming research papers question whether or not the nature of a vacuum remains static.

In one paper, Marcel Urban from the University of Paris-Sud, located in Orsay, France identified a quantum level mechanism for interpreting vacuum as being filled with pairs of virtual particles with fluctuating energy values. As a result, the inherent characteristics of vacuum, like the speed of light, may not be a constant after all, but fluctuate. [Read more…]


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