INTRO BY CHRIS: For a while now, BioLogos has featured Saturday Science Links as a way of highlighting new, fascinating, and sometimes startling findings by scientists around the world. I’m pleased to announce that with our new blog format, Saturday Science Links will now be housed here! Teachers, youth pastors, and parents, I know you’re juggling lots of responsibilities within tight schedules, so we offer this “one stop shop” of science updates to help keep you informed on what all the buzz is about in the scientific world. Special thanks to Mahala Rethlake for her ongoing work developing this feature. When we learn more about the wonders of creation, we have more for which to worship God!
Welcome to Saturday Science Links, a bi-weekly blog through which we strive to expose you to the latest science news. The series returns this week after a short hiatus because everyone at BioLogos has been focusing on the launch of the new website. We now turn to discussions of ancient wooly mammoths, Nobel Prize laureates, and the secret to the blue whale’s behemoth figure.
As October 5th through the 7th marked the announcement of the Nobel Prizes for the sciences, it seems appropriate to highlight the recipients and their accomplishments. In the physics category, Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald were lauded for their work showing that neutrinos—electronically neutral subatomic particles—have mass, contrary to what was previously thought to be the case. In chemistry, Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar won for their work in mapping DNA reparation. And for physiology/medicine, half of the prize went to William C. Campbell and Satoshi ?mura for their work on a therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, and the other half was awarded to Youyou Tu for her work on a therapy against malaria.
While highlighting this year’s Nobel laureates is important, there are other scientists throughout history who were never recognized for their beneficial work. So in lieu of this week’s events, National Geographic compiled a list that showcases some such individuals and their discoveries, including Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb) and Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web). Can you think of under-recognized scientists that Nat Geo missed? Name them in the comments.
The Midwest’s harvest season is in full swing, and, thus, many farmers are currently spending long hours working in their fields. Though this season may become monotonous for some farmers, one Michigan farmer’s experience has been far from mundane. On September 28, James Bristle was working in his soybean field when he discovered an incredibly rare and undeniably gigantic fossil of an ancient wooly mammoth. He attempted to remove what he thought was an old fence post, but it turned out to be one of the creature’s rib bones. University of Michigan professor Daniel Fisher confirmed the discovery and estimates that the mammoth died between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago. Since the fossil is very complete and was carefully extracted by paleontologists, Fisher is hopeful that much can be learned from the remains. Also, though initially unsure of what to do with his discovery, Bristle has officially decided to donate the fossil to the University of Michigan.
Ever wonder how the blue whale—the world’s largest creature—manages to be so, well, big? The marine mammal’s eating habits were not well understood in the past. However, Elliott Lee Hazen (University of California, Santa Cruz), Ari Seth Friedlaender (Oregon State University), and Jeremy Arthur Goldbogen’s (Stanford University) study of blue whales off California’s coast revealed an important insight: Whales maintain their weight by being “picky” eaters. In short, they only expend energy when the krill density is high, so as to save oxygen and preserve energy. Scientists have found that their feeding strategies are far more complex and active than was previously predicted.
A team of researchers from Australia, Indonesia, and the United States discovered a new species of rat in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and it has a unique appearance. Though in many other respects it resembles rats with which we’re familiar, it has a large, pink, pig-like nose, which led to its pedestrian name—hog-nosed rat (Hyorhinomys stuempkei). It also has a number of other features that sets it apart from other rats, including a longer face, larger ears, and a smaller mouth without chewing capabilities (it “slurps” its prey—mainly earthworms and beetle larvae).
The 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster (Ukraine) left the immediate and surrounding areas desolate—unlivable. However, recent research conducted by T.G. Deryabina of Polessye State Radioecological Reserve and colleagues revealed that the area is now teeming with wildlife, despite the intense radiation exposure. In fact, some of the animal populations are equal with, and some even surpass, those in the surrounding areas. This is surprising, but is not entirely positive, as the researchers are fearful of what the radiation may be doing to the animals.
Last week saw the release of one of the biggest Mars-related discoveries ever: evidence for running water on the red planet. Here’s a short video on the most recent finding and its relationship to previous findings. Also keep an eye out for a more in-depth exploration of the finding by chemist, ECF recipient, and origin of life researcher Ben McFarland (Seattle Pacific University), which will be coming to the BioLogos blog soon. While we’re on the subject of Mars, check out this article that features a breathtaking image of Mars’ Mount Sharp taken by NASA’s rover Curiosity and that offers an overview of what the rover has been up to in the last few months.
I’ll end this week’s Saturday Science Links with a few more images of space. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft delivered images of Pluto’s largest moon Charon. Taken on July 14 and transmitted to Earth on September 21, they contain stunning detail of the moon’s topographically varied surface and reveal much about its history. Also, here are a few of National Geographic’s favorite photos from the recently launched Flickr page containing thousands of images from the Apollo moon missions, along with the background story of how the page came to be. Enjoy!