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2 posts tagged with evolution by Malor.
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Proton-Powered Life

While evolution is one of the best-supported theories in science, one lay criticism is that it doesn't explain the creation of life from non-life, or abiogenesis. This is a different problem domain, of course, as survival of the fittest hardly applies if there's nothing alive yet. There have been many guesses over the years: the most commonly accepted is "the primordial soup". That's probably what you learned in school, the Frankenstein's Monster approach to cell creation. Start with a random chemical bath, throw enough lightning at it, and mysterious magic happens, somehow resulting in life.

Dr. William Martin of the University of Düsseldorf, working with geochemist Mike Russell, has presented an actual theory of abiogenesis. It neatly explains both bacteria and archaea, describes fairly closely why they function the way they do, and shows why we don't see new life being created now. Their suggestion: our original ancestor wasn't lightning-zapped soup, but rather a proton-powered rock.
posted by Malor on Oct 19, 2009 - 75 comments

The Phantom Compass Syndrome

Hacking the Senses: The brain is far more plastic than we commonly realize. Presenting new 'senses' via the old inputs works extremely well, to the point that long-term volunteers are a little lost without their new abilities to feel magnetic north or absolute orientation. Tasting direction; feeling pictures. Fascinating stuff. In a loosely related article, genetically modified mice are able to see the full color range visible to humans, even though the last natural mouse able to see this way died out a hundred million years ago. Add the new sensors, and the brain reconfigures. [via]
posted by Malor on Apr 5, 2007 - 68 comments

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