Monday, January 16, 2006

Yer Gubmint at Work

The National Science Foundation, which spends about $5.5 billion of taxpayer money each year on science projects, just released its list of "NSF-supported discoveries and breakthroughs during the past year." If you're a bit depressed about how we're squandering money on Iraq, it may be good to hear that the government has helped in other areas:

Reappearance of Missing Genetic Information Poses Exception to the Rule: It seems you can inherit genetic material directly from grandparents. Well, you probably can't, but some plants can.

Geologists Find First Clue to T. rex Gender in Bone Tissue: Discovering soft tissue attached to a 68 million-year-old T. rex fossil allowed paleontologists to determine that the creature was female and that she was laying eggs. You know, like some Hollywood "stars."

New Primate Discovered in Mountain Forests of Tanzania: Good news: scientists in Africa discovered a new monkey, the "highland mangabey," and it's kinda cute. Bad news: it only lives in a 28-square mile area which is severely threatened, and it's already on the verge of extinction.

Arctic Warming May Be a Factor in Demise of Lakes: Turns out that when the permafrost melts, arctic lakes just drain into the tundra. I'm sure human activity has nothing to do with it. The thirsty caribou, strangely, then turn to Red Bull.

Ultra-Fast Camera Captures How Hummingbirds Hover: Unlike bugs, hummingbirds generate more lift from the downstroke than the upstroke. Hell, we could fly too if we drank that sugar water all day.

New Clues Add 40,000 Years to Age of Human Species: Like it or lump it, intelligent designers, we're even older than we thought, we came from Africa, and we share a common ancestor with apes. (FYI: humans began farming in Mesopotamia only about 10,000 years ago, in 8000 BCE. Civilization emerged in the fertile crescent about 2000 years later. Ergo, 40,000 years is a hell of a big addition to the Homo sapiens timeline, which now goes back about 195,000 years.)