Watching the World

“The deep sea is by far the largest habitat on the planet. And one of the harshest . . . Yet everywhere we look we are finding life, sometimes in extraordinary abundance.”—NEW SCIENTIST, BRITAIN.

In a recent test case, a federal court judge in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., ruled that “it is unconstitutional to teach [intelligent design] as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”—NEW YORK TIMES, U.S.A.

According to a news poll in 2005, “51 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution.”—NEW YORK TIMES, U.S.A.

At 175 years of age, Harriet, a 330-pound [150 kg] giant Galápagos tortoise that lives at a zoo in Brisbane, Australia, is the “world’s oldest known living animal.”—AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION.

Swiss researchers have found how some maize varieties defend themselves against western corn rootworm. They emit odors into the ground. These attract minuscule threadworms that kill the larvae of the rootworm.—DIE WELT, GERMANY.

Giant Squid Photographed

Near the Bonin Islands, south of Japan, scientists have for the first time photographed a live giant squid in the wild. They baited hooks with small squid and shrimp pulp and suspended cameras above them. The giant squid that appeared, at a depth of some 3,000 feet [900 m], is estimated to have measured about 25 feet [8 m] in length.

“Dinosaurs Ate Grass”

“It’s a big surprise for scientists” to discover that “dinosaurs ate grass,” says an Associated Press report. The discovery was made when fossilized sauropod dung found in India was analyzed. Why the surprise? It was thought that “grasses didn’t emerge until long after the dinosaurs died off,” explains the report. It was also believed that sauropods “didn’t have the special kind of teeth needed to grind up abrasive blades.” Paleobotanist Caroline Stromberg, leader of the team that made the discovery, says: “Most people would not have fathomed that [sauropods] would eat grasses.”

How Do Bees Fly?

It has jokingly been said that engineers have proved that bees cannot fly. It seemed that such “heavy” insects with a short wing beat should not be able to generate enough lift. To discover the insects’ secrets, engineers “filmed hovering bees at 6000 frames per second,” says New Scientist. The bees’ technique is described as “unusual.” “The wing sweeps back in a 90-degree arc, then flips over as it returns—230 times a second. . . . It’s like a propeller, where the blade is rotating too,” explains a member of the research team. Their findings may help engineers redesign propellers and build more maneuverable aircraft.

Singing Mice

“Mice can sing, and . . . their songs to prospective mates are nearly as complex as those of birds,” reports New Scientist. Mouse songs are at ultrasonic frequencies, that is, at a pitch too high for the human ear to hear—likely the reason they were not noticed before. Researchers in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., found that the vocalizations of male mice “were arranged into phrases and motifs, fulfilling the definition of ‘song.’” This puts mice in an exclusive club. Other mammals known to sing are whales, dolphins, some bats and, of course, humans.