Science Matters


Science Matters-Environment can alter parent-to-child gene expression

Until recently, genetics has dismissed the idea attributed to naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in the early 1800s that acquired traits were passed from one generation to the next. It was thought that the health and fitness of parents was of no consequence to succeeding generations. Data now suggest this is not entirely the case.

Science Matters-Gene codes the traffic signals of the body

I’ve written in the past about DNA, genes and how DNA operates like a big computer network. In this article I wanted to tell how that network functions. That is, what mechanisms control the expression of genes

Science Matters-Anthropology wing provides science of culture

Anthropology has two branches, one dealing with the cultural aspects of humanity and the other with the physical. I’ve been fascinated with both since my early adolescence.

Science Matters-Science starts where anecdotes leave off

On a number of occasions I’ve explained how scientific data is collected, analyzed, interpreted and presented. I’ve told how scientists must reveal their methods so others can try reproducing their results. I’ve stated that results are always tentative until new discoveries confirm or contradict them.

Science Matters-Fossil record shows whales evolved from land to sea

Whales and dolphins are among the most fascinating animals on the planet. That they descended from four-legged land animals makes their story compelling.

Science Matters-Science building on science at matchless pace

Though scientific discoveries in the past 50 or 60 years have been phenomenal, the preceding century changed the way we view the universe and our place in it like no other time in history.

Science Matters-New tech unwraps mummies’ mysteries

Our fascination with mummies never gets old. Now the British Museum is using the latest technology to unwrap their ancient mysteries.

Science Matters-NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot — now stuck on a pedestal — is going mobile at the International Space Station.

Science Matters-Life on Earth doubtful without magnetosphere

More and more planets are being discovered orbiting around stars far from Earth. When we think about the possibility of their supporting life there is one requirement we seldom consider. Those planets will probably need to have a magnetosphere somewhat like that of the Earth’s.

Science Matters-Darwin distorted: An evolution of disinformation

There is a great deal of misunderstanding of the basic tenets of the Theory of Evolution. The main source of confusion stems from those who deliberately twist the principles to advance their own agenda.

Science Matters-What's higher math good for? Plenty, says columnist

My father was intrigued by the mathematics he knew, but never understood what “higher” math was good for. Calculus was a mystery to him and he couldn’t conceive of more abstract mathematics.

Science Matters-Science's gains from computer modeling hard to dispute

I have written previously about the use of models and algorithms to study various scientific phenomena. I had my first experience with these methods in my first job for which my education was important.

Science Matters-‘Science’ an oft-misused word in ill-equipped hands

Like many words in common usage, “science” has come to mean different things. Its meaning also often depends on the context in which it is used. What are the distinguishing characteristics of science?

Science Matters-Entropy: The physics of disorder

One of the most useful concepts in physics is a property of matter called entropy. It is useful for understanding topics as diverse as how steam engines work to the fate of structure in the universe. Just as one wouldn’t say an individual atom has a certain temperature or possesses a defined amount of heat, neither would one say it has a specified amount of entropy. Rather these parameters characterize the physical state of conglomerates of atoms and molecules, be they in the form of solids, liquids or gases. These are emergent macroscopic properties reflecting the collective behavior of all the constituents within a system. While temperature measures the average kinetic energy of all the system’s particles, heat specifies the total amount of kinetic energy possessed by all the particles in the system. Similarly, entropy quantitates disorder within a system. Saying the entropy of something increases is equivalent to saying the constituents making it up have become more random, chaotic or disordered; the system has lost structure. Solids are generally composed of parts arranged in a regular structure. This is especially the case with solid crystals where individual atoms are arranged in repeating patterns. Liquids and gases typically are more free-form. Consequently, the entropy of a solid increases as its warmer surroundings cause it to melt and then vaporize.

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Science Matters-Will advances in AI lead to the creation of a mind?

Is it possible computers and their software will become so robust in their capabilities we will think of them as being conscious? Might they one day pursue their own lines of thought without being directed by humans? Will their interactions with us be so sophisticated that, without visually seeing them, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish them from humans?