Geoscience Research Institute

News Archives – July-Dec 2012

DISCLAIMER:  The following links do not necessarily represent endorsement by the Geoscience Research Institute, but are meant to provide information from a wide range of viewpoints and expertise on scientific issues, religious issues, and the interface between the two, particularly in the area of creation and evolution.
















  • How Cichlids Diversify / 2 November 2012 / M. Emília Santos and Walter Salzburger / Science, v.338, n.6107, p.619-621 — the extreme diversity of cichlid fishes in East Africa helps to elucidate how and why organisms diversify
  • Flying Dinos and Baby Birds Offer New Clues About How Avians Took Wing / 2 November 2012 / Michael Balter / Science, v.338, n.6107, p.591-592 — at a meeting of vertebrate paleontologists last month, researchers pondered fresh clues about the origins of flight from studies of feathered dinosaurs and baby birds
  • Convictions Leave Italy’s Civil Protection in Chaos / 2 November 2012 / Edwin Cartlidge / Science, v.338, n.6107, p.589-590 — Italy’s government lacks experts to advise it on natural hazards following the conviction last week of six scientists and a government official for advice they gave ahead of the deadly earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009
    • L’Aquila verdict row grows / 1 November 2012 / Nicola Nosengo / Nature, v.491, p.15-16 — global backlash greets sentencing of Italian scientists who assessed earthquake risk
    • Bugged phone deepens controversy over Italian quake / 31 October 2012 / New Scientist, n.2889, p.5 — six scientists were convicted for manslaughter for failing to communicate earthquake risks, but wiretapped conversations hint at further problems
  • Palaeoflamingo nest found / 1 November 2012 / Nature, v.491, p.11
  • Galaxies could give glimpse of the instant time began / 31 October 2012 / Stephen Battersby / New Scientist, n.2889, p.9 — quantum fluctuations stretched out in the universe’s first moments may still be detectable in the pattern of galactic clusters today
  • Flying fish fossils hint at ancient evolution / 31 October 2012 / Hannah Krakauer / New Scientist, n.2889, p.16 — new fossils found in China show that flying fish were evading predators millions of years earlier than we thought
  • Prehistoric Transylvanian mammal had blood-red teeth / 31 October 2012 / Jeff Hecht / New Scientist, n.2889, p.17 — just in time for Halloween, we bring you Barbatodon transylvanicus, a mammal that scurried beneath the feet of dinosaurs and had blood-red tooth enamel
  • Artificial intelligence: Early ambitions / 31 October 2012 / Peter Norvig / New Scientist, n.2889 — we have long imagined machines that can reason and learn as well as a human can, but building them has turned out to be surprisingly difficult
  • Artificial intelligence: Everyday AI / 31 October 2012 / Peter Norvig / New Scientist, n.2889 — AIs route phone calls, approve credit card transactions, prevent fraud, trade stocks, recognise faces, and even help doctors interpret test results
  • Earth: According to the Word of God / Stephen LeBrun













  • Supernova Dating and Classification Is Not Simple / September 30, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — Bang! goes a star. Watch how fast its contents move, and you know the date, right? Watch its light curve, and you know the type, right?
  • News to Note / September 29, 2012 / Elizabeth Mitchell / Answers in Genesis — a weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint
  • Cause test could end up in court / 28 September 2012 / New Scientist, n.2884, p.3 — Proving the cause of something is notoriously difficult. A new test claims to be able to find such causes, and it might end up in the courtroom very quickly.
  • Will Elitist Science Lead to Mind Control? / September 27, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — when you can’t convince the public, try zapping or manipulating them
  • Poison postures / 27 September 2012 / Nature, v.489, p.474 — researchers working on controversial topics must take care how they promote their results
  • Evolution: How the unicorn got its horn / 27 September 2012 / Heather Hendrickson and Paul B. Rainey / Nature, v.489, p.504–505
  • Jazz-singing robot could shed light on consciousness / 27 September 2012 / Douglas Heaven / New Scientist, n.2884, p.18-19 — a robot that is being taught to sing duets with humans could reveal the nature of creativity, thought to be linked to consciousness
  • Earth cracking up under Indian Ocean / 26 September 2012 / Colin Barras / New Scientist, n.2884, p.10 — the whole world shuddered in April this year as Earth’s crust began the difficult process of breaking a tectonic plate
  • Oldest dental filling is found in a Stone Age tooth / 26 September 2012 / New Scientist, n.2884, p.14 — a beeswax cap that was applied 6500 years ago to a cracked canine adds to evidence that prehistoric humans were competent dentists
  • Reality: ineffable, but impossible to forsake / 26 September 2012 / New Scientist, n.2884, p.3 — whatever your definition of reality, you can’t avoid it
    • Reality: The definition / 1 October 2012 / Jan Westerhoff / New Scientist, n.2884, p.34-35 — even trying to define what we mean by “reality” is fraught with difficulty
    • Reality: The bedrock of it all / 1 October 2012 / Valerie Jamieson / New Scientist, n.2884, p.36 — can we explain reality purely in terms of matter and energy
    • Reality: How can we know it exists? / 1 October 2012 / Mike Holderness / New Scientist, n.2884, p.45 — proving whether or not reality is an illusion is surprisingly difficult
    • Reality: The future / 1 October 2012 / Richard Webb / New Scientist, n.2884, p.47 — It’s possible that we live in fundamental reality. Future beings almost certainly won’t.
    • Reality: Is matter real? / 26 September 2012 / Jan Westerhoff / New Scientist, n.2884, p.37-46 — It’s relatively easy to demonstrate what physical reality isn’t. It is much harder to work out what it is.
    • Reality: How does consciousness fit in? / 26 September 2012 / Michael Brooks / New Scientist, n.2884, p.42-43 — Some theories hold that reality and consciousness are one and the same. Is the universe really all inside your head.
  • Intolerance Grows for Skeptics of Consensus Science in Spite of Data / September 26, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — If you question evolution or man-caused global warming, be prepared for a smear. If you are a Christian, be prepared for hate. But the skeptics may have the facts on their side.
  • Cambrian Soft Animal Survived Unchanged 200 Million Years / September 25, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — a fossil soft-bodied lobopodian has been found in Carboniferous strata in Illinois
  • Earliest Galaxy Points Out Flaws in Secular Cosmology / September 23, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — more evidence points to a fully-formed universe very soon after the beginning




  • Animals are conscious and should be treated as such / 24 September 2012 / Marc Bekoff / New Scientist, n.2883, p.24-25 — now that scientists have belatedly declared that mammals, birds and many other animals are conscious, it is time for society to act
  • News to Note / September 22, 2012 / Elizabeth Mitchell / Answers in Genesis — a weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint
  • Warped Light Reveals Infant Galaxy on the Brink of the ‘Cosmic Dawn’ / 21 September 2012 / Yudhijit Bhattacharjee / Science, v.337, n.6101, p.1442 — Astronomers have recently spotted a galaxy dating back to a mere 500 million years after the big bang. It sets a new record for most distant object sighted by astronomers.
  • Did Neandertals Truly Bury Their Dead? / 21 September 2012 / Michael Balter / Science, v.337, n.6101, p.1443-1444 — new excavations in France are reexamining whether Neandertals buried their dead, an issue that many researchers had long thought was itself dead and buried
  • Spontaneous giving and calculated greed / 20 September 2012 / David G. Rand, Joshua D. Greene, and Martin A. Nowak / Nature, v.489, p.427-430 — economic games are used to investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying cooperative behaviour, and show that intuition supports cooperation in social dilemmas, whereas reflection can undermine these cooperative impulses
  • Retraction record rocks community / 20 September 2012 / David Cyranoski / Nature, v.489, p.346-347 — anaesthesiology tries to move on after fraud investigations
    • Through the gaps / 20 September 2012 / Nature, v.489, p.335 — A 20-year campaign of scientific fraud says as much about the research community as it does about the perpetrator. The system that allowed such deception to continue must be reformed.
  • Studies slow the human DNA clock / 20 September 2012 / Ewen Callaway / Nature, v.489, p.343-344 — revised estimates of mutation rates bring genetic accounts of human prehistory into line with archaeological data
  • Extreme weather / 20 September 2012 / Nature, v.489, p.335-336 — better models are needed before exceptional events can be reliably linked to global warming
  • Climate change determined humanity’s global conquest / 19 September 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2883, p.12 — modern humans only made it out of Africa when the changing climate made the Arabian desert passable — the rest of our migrations were climate-dependent too
  • Truth decay: The half-life of facts / 19 September 2012 / Samuel Arbesman / New Scientist, n.2883, p.36-39 — much of what we believe to be factual has an expiration date, but the good news is that we can see it coming
  • Warmonger or idealist: the roots of human conflict / 19 September 2012 / Dan Jones / New Scientist, n.2883, p.40-43 — Homo sapiens is not a particularly violent species — we just have more worth fighting for than other animals
  • Pristine Wood Found in Diamond Crater / September 19, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — a kimberlite crater in Canada, said to be 53 million years old, yielded exquisitely preserved unfossilized wood
  • Man Is Man and Ape Is Ape: The Gulf Widens / September 18, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — now that “human ancestors” from 300,000 years ago show comparable mental acuity to ours, the gradual upward slope to man looks more like a cliff
  • Bob Ballard Throws Out Textbooks for a Living / September 17, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — an interview with oceanographer Bob Ballard shows him taking glee at proving the scientific consensus wrong
  • Evolutionary Fish Story / September 16, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — similar-looking blind fish couldn’t have swum across the world, so did they evolve separately
  • News to Note / September 15, 2012 / Elizabeth Mitchell / Answers in Genesis — a weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint
  • Geological Dates Collapse / September 13, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — two papers in Geology this month cast serious doubt on assumptions used to date rocks.
  • If Morality Evolved, Is It Righteous? / September 12, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — evolutionists are determined to keep morality from succeeding as a defeater for natural selection.
  • Jerusalem Cistern Found from First Temple Era / September 10, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — a huge cistern near the Temple Mount has been found that was part of Solomon’s Temple complex
  • ENCODE Study Forces Evolutionists to Retract “Junk DNA” Myth / September 6, 2012 / Creation-Evolution Headlines — at least 80% of the human genome is functional, scientists now say, based on a genetic survey called ENCODE that may force reassessment of what a gene is
  • The oldest evidence of bioturbation on Earth / May 2012 / Vladimir Rogov, et al. / Geology, v.40, n.5, p.395-398


  • Before the Dinosaurs’ Demise, a Clambake Extinction? / 14 September 2012 / Richard A. Kerr / Science, v.337, n.6100, p.1280 — new evidence from the sea floor just off Antarctica points to a major extinction there a geologic moment before the huge cosmic impact 65.5 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs
  • Scientific Misconduct: Government Sanctions Harvard Psychologist / 14 September 2012 / Siri Carpenter / Science, v.337, n.6100, p.1283 — last week, the Office of Research Integrity confirmed that Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser fabricated and falsified methods and data in six federally funded studies
  • Misconduct ruling is silent on intent / 13 September 2012 / Eugenie Samuel Reich / Nature, v.489, p.189-190 — psychologist Marc Hauser admits errors but not fraud
  • ENCODE Project Writes Eulogy for Junk DNA / 7 September 2012 / Elizabeth Pennisi / Science, v.337, n.6099, p.1159-1161 — this week, 30 research papers, including six in Nature and additional papers published online by Science, sound the death knell for the idea that our DNA is mostly littered with useless bases
  • We must be open about our mistakes / 6 September 2012 / Jim Woodgett / Nature, v.489, p.7 — greater transparency about the scientific process and a closer focus on correcting defective data are the way forward
  • China’s dinosaur hunter: The ground breaker / 6 September 2012 / Kerri Smith / Nature, v.489, p.22-25 — as he revolutionizes ideas about dinosaur evolution, Xing Xu is helping to make china into a palaeontological powerhouse
  • Ancient DNA: A Crystal-Clear View of an Extinct Girl’s Genome / 31 August 2012 / Ann Gibbons / Science, v.337, n.6098, p.1028-1029 — researchers report that they have sequenced the genome of an archaic Siberian girl 31 times over, using a new method that amplifies single strands of DNA
  • Dinosaur Kingpin Opens Fossil Bonanza to Science / 24 August 2012 / Richard Stone / Science, v.337, n.6097, p.900-901 — Zheng Xiaoting has single-handedly built one of the most important fossil collections in the world. This treasure in the Chinese countryside is beginning to draw paleontologists from near and far.
  • Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family / 24 August 2012 / Remco Bouckaert, et al. / Science, v.337, n.6097, p.957-960 — spatial models of language lineage evolution support an Anatolian homeland for Indo-European languages
  • Reproduction in Early Amniotes / 17 August 2012 / P. Martin Sander / Science, v.337, n.6096, p.806-808 — recent fossil finds help to explain why the early fossil record is dominated by live-bearing amniotes, although live-bearing amniotes evolved later than egg-laying ones
  • Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame / May 2012 / Christopher Boehm / Basic Books — see also Amazon
  • The Social Conquest of Earth / April 2012 / Edward O. Wilson / Liveright (W. W. Norton) — see also Amazon
    • The Original Colonists / May 11, 2012 / Paul Bloom / New York Times
    • Book Review / April 29, 2012 / Seth Mnookin / Boston Globe
    • Edward O. Wilson’s New Take on Human Nature / April 2012 / Natalie Angier / Smithsonian Magazine — the eminent biologist argues in a controversial new book that our Stone Age emotions are still at war with our high-tech sophistication








  • Is Evolutionary Science in Conflict with Biblical Christianity? / September 7, 2012 / James Crocker / St James Anglican Church (Newport Beach, CA)
  • Weather Gone Wild / September 2012 / Peter Miller / National Geographic — rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don’t end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms — there’s been a change in the weather lately
  • Mountains in the Sea / September 2012 / Gregory S. Stone / National Geographic — Hundreds of thousands of seamounts rise from Earth’s ocean floor. Life has been explored on barely 300.
  • The South Pole Telescope / August 26, 2012
  • From the mouths of molluscs — ancient snail relative found / August 22, 2012 / Yahoo! News
  • 5 Ways to Leave Your Body / August 20, 2012 / Sherry Baker / Discover Magazine — Want to teleport through space or travel the world at will? Out-of-body technology can alter your sense of place and set you free.
  • The Voyage to Find Out How Earth Was Born / August 11, 2012 / Tim Folger / Discover Magazine — a daredevil spacecraft is giving us our first look at the asteroid Vesta — a unique survivor from the demolition derby that created our own celestial home
  • Bring Ancient Voices Back to Life / August 9, 2012 / Jill Neimark / Discover Magazine — rebuilding the vocal tracts of extinct creatures could let us hear long-lost sounds: an ancient whale song, the cries of our ancestors
  • This Is What Earth Will Look Like in 100,000,000 AD / August 6, 2012 / Paul Raeburn / Discover Magazine — to map the supercontinent of the future, geologists first had to solve a vexing magnetic riddle
  • Life in an Icy Inferno / July 2012 / Olivia Judson / National Geographic — in the topsy-turvy world of Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus, we’ve come to one of the coldest spots on Earth to search for beings that thrive in blistering heat
  • Finally, a Home Where You Can Enjoy the Post-Apocalypse / June 13, 2012 / D. C. Stewart / Discover Magazine — when the above-ground world is suffering through some form of cataclysm, you’ll be living it up in a hardened bunker under the Kansas soil
  • Is War Inevitable? / June 12, 2012 / E. O. Wilson / Discover Magazine — human evolution has been defined by conflict … war is embedded in our very nature
    • No, War Is Not Inevitable / June 12, 2012 / John Horgan / Discover Magazine — science writer Horgan begs to disagree with E. O. Wilson, saying that war is a cultural development, not an indelible part of our evolutionary heritage



  • Prize Fight: The Race and the Rivalry to be the First in Science / October 2012 / Morton Meyers / Palgrave Macmillan — an examination of the battles behind the prestige of top awards; see also Table of Contents (pdf) and Amazon
    • When scientists fight dirty / 30 May 2012 / Andrew Robinson / New Scientist, n.2867, p.48 — scientists may aspire to objectivity, but they are still prone to bitter rivalries and Machiavellian behaviour
  • They never forget: The strange gift of perfect memory / 20 August 2012 / Kayt Sukel / New Scientist, n.2878, p.34-37 — Some people can recall what happened on almost every day of their lives. Unlocking their secrets could shed light on the way all our memories work.
  • Stone Age skull-smashers spark a cultural mystery / 16 August 2012 / Jessica Hamzelou / New Scientist, n.2878, p.10 — A cache of Neolithic skulls unearthed in Syria had been exhumed, separated from their bodies, had their faces smashed in and been reburied. But why?
  • Questions over human and Neanderthal interbreeding / 15 August 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2878, p.12 — the genes that many humans share in common with Neanderthals do not reflect interspecies breeding
  • Plume power: Deep engines of earthquakes and volcanoes / 15 August 2012 / Anil Ananthaswamy / New Scientist, n.2878, p.38-41 — Plate tectonics can’t explain all the earthquakes, volcanoes and landscapes of Earth, so what else is shaping its surface?
  • Higgs certainty boosted by more complete analysis / 8 August 2012 / New Scientist, n.2877, p.5 — The Higgs boson signal in July was certain enough to be classed as a discovery. Now its statistical significance has risen further.
  • Curiosity might prove we’ve already found life on Mars / 8 August 2012 / Michael Brooks / New Scientist, n.2877, p.9 — if the Mars Science Laboratory rover finds organic molecules in the soil, Viking’s refuted discovery of microbial life will need to be reviewed
  • Brain might not stand in the way of free will / 8 August 2012 / Anil Ananthaswamy / New Scientist, n.2877, p.10 — a classic experiment that suggests the brain is aware of our urge to act spontaneously before we are might have been misinterpreted
    • Can we live without free will? / 9 August 2012 / New Scientist, n.2877, p.3 — New research has reignited the debate about whether humans truly have free will. But what difference would it make if we didn’t?
  • Chimeric birds could explain how brains get big / 8 August 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2877, p.12 — zebra finch brains develop differently if they are transplanted into the bodies of quail, suggesting that brain size is controlled externally
  • An appeal for fairness in society / 2 August 2012 / New Scientist, n.2875, p.3 — to tackle inequality we must first overcome our own biased belief that people deserve their position on the social ladder
  • Ghosts in the atom: Unmasking the quantum phantom / 2 August 2012 / Marcus Chown / New Scientist, n.2875, p.28-31 — the wave function of quantum theory has always been accepted as an abstract mathematical device — but could this cipher actually be real
  • The price of preserving fossils for the future / 1 August 2012 / New Scientist, n.2876, p.3 — fossils are an invaluable record of the past and source of knowledge — and our understanding of them is still evolving
  • Lost world of dinosaurs threatened by gas industry / 1 August 2012 / Michael Slezak and Jeff Hecht / New Scientist, n.2876, p.8-9 — the site of 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints will be lost if plans to build the world’s largest liquefied natural gas plant in Australia go ahead
  • Meteorite’s left-handed acids are a blow to ET search / 1 August 2012 / New Scientist, n.2876, p.17 — “left-handed” molecules on asteroids might not be a sign of extraterrestrial life after all, complicating the hunt for aliens
  • Instant Expert: Fossils / 1 August 2012 / Pat Shipman / New Scientist, n.2876
    • New answers from old DNA — the last decade has seen dramatic improvements in techniques for retrieving DNA from ancient remains — whether petrified, frozen or mummified
    • Not just bones and stones — Fossilisation can include the preservation of organic material, such as body tissues, organs and skin. We look at sites that teem with such material.
    • Signs of early life — from petrified bones to feathers, fur and footprints, fossils are our most reliable guide to the life of the past — and the record begins 3.4 billion years ago
    • The tales they tell — palaeontologists can decipher how ancient organisms lived and interacted using taphonomy, the study of how fossils form
  • Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul / August 2012 / Giulio Tononi / Pantheon — see also Amazon
    • How to measure consciousness / 1 August 2012 / Mark Pagel / New Scientist, n.2876, p.45 — an intriguing new way to grasp what consciousness is based on computational theory
  • Neanderthal dental tartar reveals evidence of medicine / 25 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2875, p.14 — chemical residues trapped in ancient tartar suggests our extinct cousins had knowledge of medicinal plants
  • We are all susceptible to delusions / 24 July 2012 / Clare Wilson / New Scientist, n.2874, p.27 — in his new book, novelist and former psychologist Frank Tallis explores the psychology behind demonic possession
  • Are these the brain cells that give us consciousness? / 23 July 2012 / Caroline Williams / New Scientist, n.2874, p.32-35 — the brainiest creatures share a secret — an odd kind of brain cell involved in emotions and empathy that may have accidentally made us conscious
  • Was America first colonised by two cultures at once? / 18 July 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2874, p.10 — tools and stools from a cave in Oregon suggest that there were two societies in America 14,000 years ago
  • Earth’s water piggy-backed on asteroids, not comets / 18 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2874, p.17 — isotopes of hydrogen in meteorites hint that Earth’s water did not come from far out in the solar system
  • Peter Higgs: Boson discovery like being hit by a wave / 18 July 2012 / Jessica Griggs / New Scientist, n.2874, p.28-29 — it has been a week to remember says the man who came up with the idea of the Higgs boson
  • Stephen Hawking trials device that reads his mind / 12 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2873, p.4 — a device that recognises brain activity associated with imagined movements could ultimately let Hawking communicate by thought alone
  • Americas saw three waves of ancient settlers / 11 July 2012 / Linda Geddes / New Scientist, n.2873, p.12 — new DNA analysis backs up linguistic evidence that humans reached North America in three initial waves, not one
  • Growth of Earth’s core may hint at magnetic reversal / 11 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2873, p.14 — lopsided growth of the Earth’s core could help predict when the planet’s geomagnetic field will flip, leaving it exposed to dangerous solar winds
  • Hominins did not need boats to settle islands / 11 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2873, p.15 — simulations suggest that relatively distant islands might have been settled by accidental castaways rather than by skilled mariners
  • What compels people to give their money away? / 10 July 2012 / Michael Bond / New Scientist, n.2872, p.27 — meet Pamala Wiepking, who studies what makes philanthropists tick, and tells us why women, the elderly and the poor are more generous
  • As freak weather becomes the norm, we need to adapt / 9 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2872, p.5 — thanks to global warming, our weather is getting even more extreme than climate scientists predicted — and we’re doing a lousy job of preparing for it
  • How global warming is driving our weather wild / 9 July 2012 / Stephen Battersby / New Scientist, n.2872, p.32-37 — not only is global weather becoming much more extreme, it is becoming even more extreme than anyone expected
  • Oldest pottery hints at cooking’s ice-age origins / 4 July 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2872, p.14 — fragments of pots from a Chinese cave are 20,000 years old, and may have been used to cook food during the depths of the last ice age
  • Titan’s tides reveal hidden ocean that could host life / 4 July 2012 / New Scientist, n.2872, p.17 — combined with its organic resources, abundant liquid water could make Saturn’s moon prime real estate for alien life — but that depends on the state of the ocean
  • Islamist threat to Timbuktu’s ancient scientific texts / 3 July 2012 / Andy Coghlan / New Scientist, n.2872, p.7 — The Ansar Dine islamist group is destroying historic tombs in the Malian town. An ancient collection of Islamic texts could be their next target.
  • Gotcha! Higgs find will kick off new era of knowledge / 3 July 2012 / Lisa Grossman / New Scientist, n.2872, p.8-9 — the 50-year particle hunt looks to be almost over but the Higgs games are only just beginning
  • Miracle buster: Why I traced holy water to leaky drain / 3 July 2012 / Jon White / New Scientist, n.2871, p.27 — Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku faces a Catholic backlash after insisting that the “holy” water dripping from a statue of Christ came from a blocked drain
  • Mission to the mantle: Drilling through Earth’s crust / 3 July 2012 / Jheni Osman / New Scientist, n.2871, p.38-41 — It’s geology’s moonshot. A bold plan to drill into Earth’s interior promises to solve profound mysteries about our planet — and might even find life down there.
  • What kind of bang was the big bang? / 2 July 2012 / Amanda Gefter / New Scientist, n.2871, p.32-37 — There’s trouble at the start of time: the theory of cosmic inflation has got way out of control. Can quantum theory and holograms tame it?
  • Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory / July 2012 / Charles Fernyhough / Profile Books — see also Amazon
  • Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story / July 2012 / Jim Holt / Norton (Liveright) — see also Amazon
    • The Basic Question / August 2, 2012 / Sarah Bakewell / New York Times
    • Why Does the World Exist?, By Jim Holt / 21 July 2012 / Peter Forbes / Independent (UK) — a fine study of the laws of the universe interrogates what, if anything, came before the Big Bang
    • Is there an explanation for existence? / 20 June 2012 / Amanda Gefter / New Scientist, n.2870, p.48 — spans physics, philosophy and literature to examine the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing
  • SETI chief still waiting for ET to call / 28 June 2012 / Maggie McKee / New Scientist, n.2871, p.28-29 — After 35 years of searching, Jill Tarter is retiring as Earth’s top alien hunter. She tells why alien rule of our planet would be benign.
  • Is god’s mercy to blame for high crime rates? / 27 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2871, p.15 — fear of eternal damnation in hell could act as a deterrent, but belief in a forgiving god may make crime more tempting
  • Eats bark, fruit and leaves: Diet of ancient human / 27 June 2012 / Catherine Brahic / New Scientist, n.2871, p.12 — Australopithecus sediba, a 2-million-year-old member of the human family, had a diet unlike other hominins alive at the time
  • Lonesome George dies but his subspecies genes survive / 27 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2871, p.4 — the last Pinta Island tortoise, rarest animal in the world and Galápagos icon, has died
  • Banking outage gives tiny glimpse of cybergeddon / 27 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2871, p.5 — the five-day banking brownout in the UK is tiny compared to the scenarios some cybersecurity experts fear
  • Evolution could generate new semiconducting structures / 26 June 2012 / Hannah Krakauer / New Scientist, n.2871, p.9 — the proteins that help sponges generate their silica skeletons have been harnessed to form new semiconducting structures
  • Genes reveal grain of truth to Queen of Sheba story / 26 June 2012 / Hannah Krakauer / New Scientist, n.2871, p.15 — about 3000 years ago, there was an influx of genes from the near East into Ethiopia — around the same time the African Queen of Sheba purportedly met King Solomon
  • Sorry Einstein, the universe needs quantum uncertainty / 22 June 2012 / Jessica Griggs / New Scientist, n.2870, p.8 — remove one of quantum theory’s weirdest components, and you end up with a perpetual motion machine
  • Why haven’t bald men gone extinct? / 21 June 2012 / Rob Dunn / New Scientist, n.2869, p.44-47 — even as we get to grips with the biology of baldness, the shiny pate remains a real evolutionary mystery
  • The wasteful quest for immortality / 21 June 2012 / Liz Else / New Scientist, n.2869, p.29 — Mary Midgley, the nonagenarian philosopher, believes that living forever is overrated: quality of life — not quantity — is more important
  • Higgsteria as trouble brews for standard model / 20 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2870, p.4 — even confirmation of last year’s tentative signals may not complete our view of the universe’s particles and forces
  • Oldest confirmed cave art is a single red dot / 20 June 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2870, p.10-11 — a symbol on the wall of a Spanish cave is over 40,000 years old, meaning it could have been drawn by Neanderthals, or by the very first humans to come out of Africa
  • What a way to go: prehistoric turtles died during sex / 20 June 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2870, p.15 — pairs of 47-million-year-old turtles are the only vertebrates known to have been fossilised while mating
  • Angry lizard starts fights for no reason / 20 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2870, p.16 — most animals don’t start fights with other species as there’s simply no point — but nobody told the slap-happy Dalmatian wall lizard
  • Fossil bounty hunters’ days may be numbered / 19 June 2012 / Philip J. Currie / New Scientist, n.2869, p.28-29 — there’s fresh hope in the battle to curb poaching of important dinosaur fossils in Mongolia
  • How much cheating is alright? / 18 June 2012 / Graham Lawton / New Scientist, n.2869, p.30-31 — we’re all prone to dishonesty, says Dan Ariely, but to avoid another financial meltdown, bankers really need to learn from the psychology of cheating
  • Stone Age long barrows housed living as well as dead / 8 June 2012 / Julian Thomas / New Scientist, n.2867, p.32-33 — did Neolithic people really use earthen long barrows as cemeteries, or did the structures have a living purpose
  • Hawking’s ‘Escher-verse’ could be theory of everything / 6 June 2012 / Lisa Grossman / New Scientist, n.2868, p.8-9 — Stephen Hawking has come up with a way to describe the universe that suggests it may have the same geometry as mind-boggling images by M. C. Escher
  • Autism study strengthens idea that we read God’s mind / 6 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2868, p.16 — people with autism are less likely to believe in God — possibly because they have difficulty reading other’s intentions
  • Vast cosmic event leaves record in ancient trees / 6 June 2012 / New Scientist, n.2868, p.17 — tree rings formed in the 8th century record a peak in cosmic ray activity — but what was the cause
  • Lucky you! Accidents of evolution that made us human / 6 June 2012 / Clare Wilson / New Scientist, n.2868, p.34-35 — evolution is a game of chance … six of the winning mutations that helped humans hit the jackpot
    • Brain gain / p.36 — the expansion of the human brain may have involved a snowball effect, in which initial mutations caused further mutations that enhanced the brain even more
    • Jaw dropper / p.36 — compared with chimps, humans have evolved weak jaw muscles and jaw bones — possibly because social organisation reduced the need to bite as a form of attack
    • Energy upgrade / p.37 — humans’ big brains require extra energy — three mutations may have helped meet that demand
    • Gift of the gab / p.38 — You can teach a chimp tricks, but it won’t ever talk. The human “language gene” has helped us learn the rules of speech and maybe even grammar.
    • Helping hand / p.38 — From holding pencils to ball juggling, our dexterous hands have fuelled human progress. Can DNA mutations shed light on our unrivalled ability with tools?
    • Switch to starch / p.39 — In 6 million years, our diet gradually changed from fruit and leaves to starchy grains. Genes involved in digestion offer a timeline to those dietary changes
  • A palaeontologist’s Alaskan adventure / 6 June 2012 / Jeff Hecht / New Scientist, n.2868, p.50 — big digs in the Arctic reveal that it was inhabited by dinosaurs year-round and that the region was pleasantly temperate
  • Alan Turing: Intelligence and life / 1 June 2012 / John Graham-Cumming / New Scientist, n.2867 — a visionary thinker on artificial intelligence and mathematical biology, Turing devised the test that’s used to gauge how close machines have come to us
  • Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject / June 2012 / Hélène Mialet / University of Chicago Press — see also Amazon
    • Stephen Hawking: man, icon and myth / 8 August 2012 / Sally Adee / New Scientist, n.2877, p.51 — The most famous living scientist is portrayed as an archetypal lone genius. Could this be harming science?
  • Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature / June 2012 / David P. Barash / Oxford University Press — see also Amazon
  • Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution / June 2012 / Rebecca Stott / Spiegel & Grau — see also Amazon
    • On the origin of evolution / 13 June 2012 / Jonathon Keats / New Scientist, n.2869, p.52 — how Darwinian evolution was built on a grand ancestry of ideas
  • Secret Chambers: The Inside Story of Cells & Complex Life / June 2012 / Martin Brasier / Oxford University Press — see also Amazon
  • Time flows uphill for remote Papua New Guinea tribe / 31 May 2012 / Anil Ananthaswamy / New Scientist, n.2867, p.14 — Who says time has to flow forwards? The Yupno people have a mental timeline that breaks all the rules — it’s not straight, and flows uphill
  • Extra heatwaves could kill 150,000 Americans by 2099 / 30 May 2012 / New Scientist, n.2867, p.4
  • Birds got smart by becoming big babes / 30 May 2012 / Michael Marshall / New Scientist, n.2867, p.12 — the skulls of birds look just like the skulls of young dinosaurs, suggesting that arrested development was the key to their evolution
  • Bottled carbon from Mars bodes well for ancient aliens / 30 May 2012 / New Scientist, n.2867, p.17 — carbon found in Martian rocks came from magma not alien life forms — but the presence of reactive carbon raises hope for signs of life on Mars
  • Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life / May 2012 / Enrico Coen / Princeton University Press — see also Amazon
    • Evolving on many levels / 6 June 2012 / John Hawks / New Scientist, n.2868, p.48 — linking gene expression to artistic movements, Coen argues that these processes follow a common set of rules


  • A New Face Reveals Multiple Lineages Alive at the Dawn of Our Genus Homo / 10 August 2012 / Ann Gibbons / Science, v.337, n.6095, p.635 — after 40 years of searching, an international team of researchers has found fossils of a face and two jawbones that they say belong to the same species as the mysterious skull of Homo rudolfensis
  • Neandertal Champion Defends the Reputation of Our Closest Cousins / 10 August 2012 / Michael Balter / Science, v.337, n. 6095, p.642-643 — archaeologist João Zilhão and his critics trade charges over who truly invented artifacts at European sites — and whether Neandertals were “modern”
  • Ice Age Tools Hint at 40,000 Years of Bushman Culture / 3 August 2012 / Michael Balter / Science, v.337, n.6094, p.512 — archaeologists studying a South African cave say they have found 44,000-year-old artifacts — including bone tools and poisoned arrowheads — nearly identical to those still in use by hunter-gatherers
  • Higgs Boson Makes Its Debut After Decades-Long Search / 13 July 2012 / Adrian Cho / Science, v.337, n.6091, p.141-143 — last week’s announcement that physicists at the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, had discovered the Higgs boson could mark the end of the road for particle physics
  • Genes Suggest Three Groups Peopled the New World / 13 July 2012 / Ann Gibbons / Science, v.337, n.6091, p.144 — the most comprehensive genetic study to date concludes that Native Americans descend from at least three groups of ancestors from Asia, although these groups intermingled extensively once in the New World
  • Prominent Turkish Academic Who Advocated Secular Reforms Arrested / 6 July 2012 / Yudhijit Bhattacharjee / Science, v.337, n.6090, p.23 — the former head of Turkey’s Council of Higher Education, Kemal Gürüz, has been arrested as part of an inquiry by Turkey’s conservative government into what’s known as the “postmodern coup” of 1997
  • Bilaterian Burrows and Grazing Behavior at >585 Million Years Ago / 29 June 2012 / Ernesto Pecoits, Kurt O. Konhauser, Natalie R. Aubet, Larry M. Heaman, Gerardo Veroslavsky, Richard A. Stern, and Murray K. Gingras / Science, v.336, n.6089, p.1693-1696 — Neoproterozoic trace fossils from Uruguay indicate that early animals appeared at a time between global glaciations
    • Old and Groovy / 29 June 2012 / Mary L. Droser and James G. Gehling / Science, v.336, n.6089, p.1646-1647 — the discovery of furrowed and backfilled trace fossils, claimed to be at least 585 million years old, raises questions about their origins
  • Early Pottery at 20,000 Years Ago in Xianrendong Cave, China / 29 June 2012 / Xiaohong Wu, Chi Zhang, Paul Goldberg, David Cohen, Yan Pan, Trina Arpin, and Ofer Bar-Yosef / Science, v.336, n.6089, p.1696-1700 — shards from a cave in China imply that humans had invented pottery and used it for cooking by about 20,000 years ago
    • On the Invention of Pottery / 29 June 2012 / Gideon Shelach / Science, v.336, n.6089, p.1644-1645 — what was the function of early Asian pottery, which predates the invention of agriculture by about 10,000 years
  • Early Dates for Artistic Europeans / 1 June 2012 / Michael Balter / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1086-1087 — new radiocarbon dates of artworks found in a cave in southwest Germany suggest to some researchers that certain artistic behaviors emerged first in Europe rather than Africa
  • What Is Dark Energy? / 1 June 2012 / Adrian Cho / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1090-1091 — the nature of the “dark energy” that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate is now perhaps the most profound mystery in cosmology and astrophysics, and it may remain forever so
  • What’s the Source of the Most Energetic Cosmic Rays? / 1 June 2012 / Daniel Clery / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1096-1097 — data taken from detectors in the past few years have provided some clues to the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays but, as yet, no smoking gun
  • Why Is the Solar System So Bizarre? / 1 June 2012 / Richard A. Kerr / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1098 — enigmas such as Mercury’s makeup (mostly iron core, with a thin veneer of rock) and Uranus’s skewed magnetic field continue to bedevil planetary scientists, and no tidy resolution is in sight
  • A Rogue Earthquake Off Sumatra / 1 June 2012 / Jeffrey J. McGuire and Gregory C. Beroza / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1118-1119 — a magnitude 8.6 strike-slip earthquake within an oceanic plate raises fundamental questions about earthquake physics
  • Evolution of a Vertebrate Social Decision-Making Network / 1 June 2012 / Lauren A. O’Connell and Hans A. Hofmann / Science, v.336, n.6085, p.1154-1157 — across vertebrates, behaviorally relevant brain regions are remarkably conserved over 450 million years of evolution
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion / March 2012 / Jonathan Haidt / Pantheon (Random House) — see also Amazon
  • Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition / February 2012 / Robert N. Proctor / University of California Press — see also Amazon
    • Big Tobacco Indicts Itself / 27 July 2012 / Thomas H. Brandon / Science, v.337, n.6093, p.412-413 — drawing on formerly secret industry records, Proctor explores how cigarettes became the most widely used drug on the planet — and argues for a ban on their manufacture and sale
    • Tobacco industry dying? Not so fast, says Stanford expert / December 12, 2011 / Cynthia Haven / Stanford Report — Smoking is not going away. Worldwide the tobacco industry continues to create toxic products that cause not just lung cancer but also cataracts, ankle fractures, early onset menopause, spontaneous abortion and erectile dysfunction, among other maladies.
    • 750 Pages of Tobacco Conspiracy / December 7, 2011 / YouTube