2 billion year old fossil discovered

July 1, 2010

1. 2 billion year old fossil found

A newly discovered group of 2.1-billion-year-old fossil organisms may be the earliest known example of complex life on Earth. They could help scientists understand not just when higher life forms evolved, but why.

Single-celled organisms emerged from the primordial soup about 3.4 billion years ago. Almost immediately, some gathered in mats. But it was another 1.4 billion years before the first truly multicellular organism, called Grypania spiralis, appears in the fossil record.

The newly described fossils, which have yet to be given a species name, make Grypania less solitary. They lived at roughly the same time — Grypania in what is now the northern United States, the new fossils in Gabon. By raising the possiblity that multicellularity was a trend rather than an aberration, they also hint at an answer to the question of why complex life evolved, not just when.

2.1 BILLION! That’s with a “B”. For those keeping track, that’s 2,099,994,000 before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.


News From Around The Blogosphere 5.15.10

May 15, 2010

1. One thing I never could stand about New Zealand was all the damned vampires – Two people in New Zealand have been arrested and charged with “wounding with intent to render a man unconscious” following a report from a man who claims he was attacked by vampires after waking up in a park after a night of drinking to find bite marks on his neck. But don’t worry. They totally had a good excuse.

2. New fossil find reveals secrets of ancient marine life

Paleontologists have discovered a rich array of exceptionally preserved fossils of marine animals that lived between 480 million and 472 million years ago, during the early part of a period known as the Ordovician. The specimens are the oldest yet discovered soft-bodied fossils from the Ordovician, a period marked by intense biodiversification.

And for those keeping track, that’s between 479,994,000 and 471,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

3. Australian church rejects vaccine denialists at the AVN – Meryl Dorey and her goons at the misnamed Australian Vaccination Network (AVN [snicker]) were told to get lost by a church after the AVN requested to use their church as a venue for spreading propaganda about the evils of vaccines. It turns out that prominent church members are experts in the field of ethics and public health, and they felt the AVN is not in line with the ethos and values of the Uniting Church of Australia. And so no Uniting Church venue will be made available to them.

4. Mirin Dajo had a lot of guts – This guy didn’t just swallow a sword; he had himself run through with numerous fencing foils…to entertain people!

I’m reminded of Todd Robbins, one of the few remaining sideshow vaudeville acts from the Coney Island tradition. I’ve seen Robbins swallow swords, perform the human blockhead (pounding a nail up the nose – I’m told not actually that hard), and most impressive of all, eating glass for your amusement. But I’d say Marin Dajo deserves recognition as an indestructible bastard except that he died at the age of 35.

5. Revenge is a dish best served with pubic lice – A British website has come up with a pretty badass way to help people get revenge on those who have wronged them…by selling pubic lice. The site, crabrevenge.com, has a disclaimer but a pretty insincere one:

While the disclaimer says the website creators “do not endorse giving people lice,” and the lice are for “novelty purposes only,” the website talks about using them for revenge.

. . .

The website says the company was started “by a group of fellows who happen to know a thing or two about biology and revenge.”

Well I can’t argue the revenge part. So please, don’t give me crabs.

6. New book further blows the lid on $cientology – Escaped and recovered $cientologist Amy Scobee has released a new book called Abuse At The Top, where she reiterates the now ubiquitous claims of leader David Miscavige’s violent assaults on members and gave some fun stories about Tom Cruise.


News From Around The Blogosphere 3.24.10

March 25, 2010

1. New U.S. state quarters are godless – One thing you won’t see on many, if not all, of the new U.S. state quarters is “In God We Trust.” Instead, the nation’s REAL motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) is given greater prominence. I wonder how long it will take before we hear Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity declaring this part of the evil secular progressive agenda to remove “God” from people’s lives. I bet not long at all.

2. NYPD, The Vampire Slayers – I thing about NYC I never could stand was all the damned vampires.

NYPD are currently hunting a potential vampire who, when rebuffed by a stingy cab driver who refused to hand over the cash, bit his victim about the neck, back, and arms.

If that isn’t proof of vampires I don’t know what is.

3. VSS Enterprise completes maiden voyage into final frontier – The Enterprise is the first spacecraft built for Richard Branson’s commercial spaceflight company Virgin Galactic. And starting next year, Branson hopes it will be ready to take wealthy tourists into space.

4. How are great apes smarter than creationists and other denialists? – Great apes can actually recognize that they could be wrong:

In a series of three experiments, seven gorillas, eight chimpanzees, four bonobos and seven orangutans, from the Wolfgang Köhler Research Center at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany, were presented with two hollow tubes, one baited with a food reward, the other not. The apes were then observed as they tried to find the reward.

In the first experiment, the apes were prevented from watching the baiting but the tubes were shaken to give them auditory information about the reward’s location instead. Dr. Call wanted to see if when the apes were prevented from acquiring visual information, but offered auditory cues instead, they would be able to use the auditory information to reduce their reliance on visual searching.

5. ‘Rare’ new dinosaur fossil discovered

It had a body the size of a sheep, a long neck and tail, and lived some 185 million years ago. Scientists call this dinosaur find “a rare skeleton of a new species.”

For those keeping count, that’s 184,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

6. Judge rules Mississippi school violated Constance McMillen’s constitutional rights

U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson refused the American Civil Liberties Union’s demand to force the Itawamba County school district to put on the April 2 prom. However, he said canceling it did violate 18-year-old Constance McMillen’s rights and that he would hold a trial on the issue.

. . .

“The court finds this expression and communication falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment,” Davidson said.


News From Around The Blogosphere 3.12.10

March 13, 2010

1. Texas school board pushing Conservative and Christian spin on American history – Who’s pushing it? Why it”s the recently voted out creationist Don McLeroy. Essentially, they feel that American history is too liberal and atheist, so therefore, students should be taught about all those times Conservatism won out. That should be easy, right? Slavery? No. Keeping evolution out of schools? No. Black suffrage? No. Women’s suffrage? No. Segregation? No. Abortion? No. I guess they want a class to teach about the Great Depression that followed 12 years of conservative presidents, the early 90’s recession that followed 12 years of conservative presidents, the current economic crisis that followed 8 years of conservative rule, and of course Watergate.

2. A Winnipeg man, Rob Johnstone, struggles to find non-religious alcohol rehab program – I don’t understand why everyone’s always whining that AA is religious. Just because a group of people congregate in a church to kneel before god, pray to that god for strength, confess their sins, and acknowledge that they’re sinners by nature and thus powerless to change their sinful ways–that’s no reason to accuse AA of being a religion.

3. ‘Under God’ sustained in Pledge by Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – By a final vote of 2-1, Michael Newdow lost again to get the ‘Under God’ removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s a very small amount to lose by though. At least someone in that decision was persuaded so that leaves room to be hopeful that we may prevail in the near future. Here’s the decision (PDF). Newdow’s next step is to ask the appeals court to rehear the case. If that’s rejected he says he’ll appeal to the Supreme Court.”

4. Ancient DNA found in fossil bird egg shell –

“We were really surprised to discover that ancient DNA is well-preserved in fossil eggshells, particularly the heaviest bird to have existed the elephant bird called Aepyornis, which is now extinct,” said Murdoch doctoral student Charlotte Oskam, who undertook the research.

5. Scientists discover 600 million-year-old origins of vision

By studying the hydra, a member of an ancient group of sea creatures that is still flourishing, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision.

. . .

Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.

“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”

There once again goes the “irreducible complexity” of the eye argument. And of course for those keeping track, that’s 599,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

6. Simon Singh leaves The Guardian

“Being sued for libel is not only ruinously expensive, writes Simon Singh, it takes over your whole life. Which is why this will be his last column”

This is deeply sad. Singh is a fantastic science journalist and we could use people like him more than ever. But it’s inspiring to see him continue to fight for his article exposing chiropractic and for UK libel reform.

7. Surgeon goes into the faith healing business

Dr. Issam Nemeh is a certified surgeon in Cleveland, Ohio but is now using his hands more for praying over people. Numerous medical miracles are being reported by people after visiting and being prayed for by Dr. Nemeh. However, Nemeh refuses to accept the credit for any miracle that takes place with an individual. He says GOD heals people with the Holy Spirit. Nemeh insists he is only an instrument.

Well, we agree on one thing:  he’s a tool.

8. Cancer researchers in British Columbia make lymphoma ‘breakthrough‘ –

The discovery by a team of 26 scientists from throughout North America and Europe shows a new way to predict the 15 to 25 per cent of patients who will have a poor prognosis if they aren’t treated more aggressively from the time of diagnosis.

As Carl Sagan said, science delivers the goods.

9. $cientologists try to censor German film

Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt, or Until Nothing Remains, dramatises the account of a German family torn apart by its associations with Scientology. A young married couple joins the organisation but as the wife gets sucked ever more deeply into the group, her husband, who has donated much of his money to it, decides to leave. In the process he loses contact with his young daughter who, like his wife, is being educated by Scientology instructors.

Scientology leaders have accused Germany’s primary public TV network, ARD, of creating in top secret a piece of propaganda that sets out to undermine the group, and have demanded to see it before it is broadcast.

Oh, come on! When have the Germans ever been known for making propaganda films? Kidding. I hope the film makes a gazillion dollars.


News From Around The Blogosphere 3.3.10

March 4, 2010

1. Atheist Pete Stark replaces Rep. Rangel as Chair of House Ways and Means Committee – Although it’s not necessarily a permanent seat, this is a big deal as this is one of the most powerful committees in Congress and has jurisdiction over taxes, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and Medicare.

2. Science journalists give creationists another easy target – Last year there was much publicity surrounding a certain alleged “missing link” fossil that was found even though there’s no such thing as a “missing link” and the whole concept is over a century out of date. And really, the find wasn’t even very significant, though I admit that for a few hours even I was fooled by the media hype into thinking that it was. Well it gave even more fuel to the creationists and now they’re going to get even more as this once media hyped “missing link” may not even be a human ancestor at all.

Speaking of hype. . .

3. An atheist is accused of insulting religion in John Lennon Airpoirt in Liverpool – I like how Blair Scott summed this up on his Facebook page:

Basically, he is being accused of blasphemy. How are his fliers any more offensive than religious tracts? No vandalism was committed and nothing was destroyed. He left papers in the prayer room. The fact that his jurors swore on the Bible should be automatic grounds for a mistrial if his lawyer is any good.

I don’t think he could get a mistrial over the Bibles in court but everything else there I agree with. The guy’s being punished for doing what we all know religious people get away with all the time in John Lennon Airport of all places. Imagine that.

4. Eight-limbed Indian boy needs a doctor to remove parasite – You just can’t improve on that headline. But how dare the Telegraph not posting a picture of young Deepak Paswaan.He was born with the arms, legs, and butt of his parasitic twin protruding from his chest. That alone entitles him to membership in the X-Men.

Of course religion has to stick its ugly nose in this. Some think it’s intelligent design while others think it’s the work of the devil:

Some people see eight-limbed Deepak Paswaan as the reincarnation of the Hindu god Lakshmi, but to others he is the devil.

The worshippers bring offerings of money and flower garlands to the seven-year-old in his village of Bihar, in north-east India, but the more sinister throw stones at the little boy in a bid to remove the devil from his tiny body.

Yes, it’s clearly the devil’s most diabolical plan to date.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.28.10

March 1, 2010

Film not intended for any viewers

1. Grandson of the Mask – A newborn has Jim Carrey for a grandfather. Poor kid doesn’t have a chance. Though hopefully, the kid’s parents are having him properly vaccinated against grandpa’s wishes.

2. 13-year-old escorted out of class by police for not standing for Pledge – It almost makes you want to know what they’d do if she actually committed a crime. And this was after the teacher publicly humiliated the student in class. Fortunately, the Montgomery County, Maryland school backed the student and are forcing the teacher to apologize, which is a far lighter sentence than that teacher deserves. I hope the teacher refuses and gets fired.

3. Fossils of giant plankton-eating fish a hundred million years old – 

An international team describe how new fossils from Asia, Europe and the US reveal a previously unknown dynasty of giant plankton-eating bony fishes that filled the seas of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, between 66-172 million years ago.

So for those keeping track, that’s 65,994,000 to 171,994,000 years before the existence of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

4. Stem Cells vs. HIV

UCLA AIDS Institute researchers successfully removed CCR5 — a cell receptor to which HIV-1 binds for infection but which the human body does not need — from human cells. Individuals who naturally lack the CCR5 receptor have been found to be essentially resistant to HIV.

Yay science!

5. Mother waiting for resurrection of baby she starved to death – Ria Ramkissoon can continue to wait in prison for her 1-year-old to rise from the dead. Personally though, I wouldn’t bet on it. I blogged about this story last year and how she pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death on the condition that if her son, Javon, is resurrected, the plea will be vacated. Not only am I fine with that condition but I think we should worship her as a god if that happens.

Why did the child need to be starved?

Javon Thompson was possessed by an evil spirit, Ramkissoon was told, because he didn’t say ”Amen” during a mealtime prayer. Javon didn’t talk much, given his age, but he had said ”Amen” before, Ramkissoon testified.

My nephew just turned 1 years old and he’s never said Amen…or anything. I guess it’s a good thing Ria Ramkissoon isn’t his mother.

6. India’s ‘untouchables’ declare their own religion – So now there’s a religion specifically for the poor. Might I recommend they open it up to the rich and preach a prosperity gospel and demand that their gods need cash.


This week in science 12.22.09

December 23, 2009

1. 4.5-million-year-old whale fossil found in Spain

In 2006, a team of Spanish and American researchers found the fossil remains of a whale, 4.5 million years old, in Bonares, Huelva. Now they have published, for the first time, the results of the decay and fossilisation process that started with the death of the young cetacean, possibly a baleen whale from the Mysticeti group.

So for those keeping track, that’s 4,494,000 years before the creation of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

2. Evidence of Modern Behavior of Early Humans

Evidence of sophisticated, human behavior has been discovered by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers as early as 750,000 years ago — some half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated by archaeologists.

. . .

Analysis of the spatial distribution of the findings there reveals a pattern of specific areas in which various activities were carried out. This kind of designation indicates a formalized conceptualization of living space, requiring social organization and communication between group members. Such organizational skills are thought to be unique to modern humans.

So for those keeping track, that’s 744,000 years before the creation of the entire universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

3. Mystery of the golden ratio explained

“It” is the golden ratio, a geometric proportion that has been theorized to be the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye and has been the root of countless mysteries over the centuries. Now, a Duke University engineer has found it to be a compelling springboard to unify vision, thought and movement under a single law of nature’s design.

Also know the divine proportion, the golden ratio describes a rectangle with a length roughly one and a half times its width. Many artists and architects have fashioned their works around this proportion. For example, the Parthenon in Athens and Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa are commonly cited examples of the ratio.

Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, thinks he knows why the golden ratio pops up everywhere: the eyes scan an image the fastest when it is shaped as a golden-ratio rectangle.