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Old 02-23-2014, 06:19 PM   #1
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Default Cool Science Stuff

New insights into the origin of birds

18 minutes ago

Mark Puttick and colleagues investigated the rates of evolution of the two key characteristics that preceded flight: body size and forelimb length. In order to fly, hulking meat-eating dinosaurs had to shrink in size and grow much longer arms to support their feathered wings.

"We were really surprised to discover that the key size shifts happened at the same time, at the origin of Paraves," said Mr Puttick of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences. "This was at least 20 million years before the first bird, the famous Archaeopteryx, and it shows that flight in birds arose through several evolutionary steps."

Being small and light is important for a flyer, and it now seems a whole group of dozens of little dinosaurs were lightweight and had wings of one sort or another. Most were gliders or parachutists, spreading their feathered wings, but not flapping them.

"Out of all these flappers and gliders, only the birds seem to have been capable of powered flight," said co-author Mike Benton, Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at Bristol.

"But you wouldn't have picked out Archaeopteryx as the founder of a remarkable new group."

The study applied new numerical methods that calculate the rate of evolution of different characteristics across a whole evolutionary tree, and identify where bursts of fast evolution occurred.

"Up to now you could only have guessed roughly where the major evolutionary transitions occurred," said Dr Gavin Thomas of the University of Sheffield, "but the new methods pinpoint the size changes. The small size of birds and their long wings originated long before birds themselves did."

Birds owe their success to their flight, wings and feathers. Until the 1990s, when the first feathered dinosaurs were found in China, birds were thought to have originated rapidly, marking a major transition from dinosaurs. Now, we know that Archaeopteryx was only one of a large number of small, flying dinosaurs.

"The origin of birds used to be seen as a rapid transition," said Mark Puttick, "but now we know that the key characteristics we associate with them arose much earlier."

http://phys.org/news/2014-02-insights-birds.html
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Old 02-26-2014, 07:34 AM   #2
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Pinwheel 'living' crystals and the origin of life

Simply making nanoparticles spin coaxes them to arrange themselves into what University of Michigan researchers call 'living rotating crystals' that could serve as a nanopump. They may also, incidentally, shed light on the origin of life itself.

The researchers refer to the crystals as 'living' because they, in a sense, take on a life of their own from very simple rules.

Sharon Glotzer, the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and her team found that when they spun individual nanoparticles in a simulation—some clockwise and some counterclockwise—the particles self-assembled into an intricate architecture.

The team discovered the behavior while investigating methods to make particles self-assemble—one of the major challenges in nanotechnology—without complicated procedures. When the pieces are a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand, normal techniques for building structures are no longer effective.

For this reason, researchers like Glotzer are exploring ways to make order develop naturally from disorder, much like what may have occurred at the very beginnings of life.

"If we can understand that, not only can we begin to imagine new ways to make materials and devices, but also we may begin to understand how the first living structures emerged from a soup of chemicals," said Glotzer, who is also a professor of materials science and engineering, macromolecular science and engineering, physics, and applied physics.

"One way biology approaches the challenge of assembly is by constantly feeding building blocks with energy. So, that's what we did with nanoparticles."

Recently, researchers in the field have found that if particles are given energy for some basic motion, such as moving in one direction, they can begin to influence one another, forming groups. Glotzer's team looked at what would happen if the particles all were made to rotate.

"They organize themselves," said Daphne Klotsa, a research fellow in Glotzer's lab. "They developed collective dynamics that we couldn't have foreseen."

The team's computer simulation can be imagined as two sets of pinwheels on an air hockey table. The air pushing up from the table drives some of the pinwheels clockwise, and others counterclockwise. When the pinwheels are tightly packed enough that their blades catch on one another, the team found that they begin to divide themselves into clockwise and counter-clockwise spinners—a self-organizing behavior known among researchers as phase separation.

"The important finding here is that we get phase separation without real attraction," Klotsa said.

She calls the self-sorting counterintuitive because no direct forces push the same—spin pinwheels together or push opposite-spinners apart.

The separation occurs because of the way the pinwheel blades collide. While a pair of pinwheels may be spinning in the same direction, where their blades might meet, they're actually moving in opposite directions. This means that the blades will push into one another and stick together, causing the pair of pinwheels to rotate as one, at least briefly.

In contrast, the blades of opposite spinners are moving in the same direction where they meet, so they don't stick together. Since same-spinning pinwheels spend more time linked up, they gradually accumulate into groups.

When the pinwheels divide into clockwise and counterclockwise tribes, the boundary between the groups becomes a thoroughfare for particles in the mix that aren't spinning. The blades at the boundary push these nonspinning particles along the border, making them less likely to dive back into the denser collections of pinwheels. The team said this phenomenon could potentially be harnessed as a sort of nanopump to transport objects in a device.

While the computer simulations were in two dimensions, as though on a flat surface, the team anticipates that rotating particles could also grow into 'living,' three-dimensional crystals. The particles would be free to turn their spin axes in any direction, so they could eventually form a 3D liquid crystal with aligned axes.

The results appeared online in this week's issue of Physical Review Letters and will be presented at a March 6 meeting of the American Physical Society. This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

http://phys.org/news/2014-02-pinwhee...tals-life.html
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Old 02-26-2014, 07:41 AM   #3
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Pinwheel 'living' crystals and the origin of life

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:09 AM   #4
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Old 03-04-2014, 09:33 AM   #5
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Pinwheel 'living' crystals and the origin of life

Simply making nanoparticles spin coaxes them to arrange themselves into what University of Michigan researchers call 'living rotating crystals' that could serve as a nanopump. They may also, incidentally, shed light on the origin of life itself.

The researchers refer to the crystals as 'living' because they, in a sense, take on a life of their own from very simple rules.

Sharon Glotzer, the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and her team found that when they spun individual nanoparticles in a simulation—some clockwise and some counterclockwise—the particles self-assembled into an intricate architecture.

The team discovered the behavior while investigating methods to make particles self-assemble—one of the major challenges in nanotechnology—without complicated procedures. When the pieces are a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand, normal techniques for building structures are no longer effective.

For this reason, researchers like Glotzer are exploring ways to make order develop naturally from disorder, much like what may have occurred at the very beginnings of life.

"If we can understand that, not only can we begin to imagine new ways to make materials and devices, but also we may begin to understand how the first living structures emerged from a soup of chemicals," said Glotzer, who is also a professor of materials science and engineering, macromolecular science and engineering, physics, and applied physics.

"One way biology approaches the challenge of assembly is by constantly feeding building blocks with energy. So, that's what we did with nanoparticles."

Recently, researchers in the field have found that if particles are given energy for some basic motion, such as moving in one direction, they can begin to influence one another, forming groups. Glotzer's team looked at what would happen if the particles all were made to rotate.

"They organize themselves," said Daphne Klotsa, a research fellow in Glotzer's lab. "They developed collective dynamics that we couldn't have foreseen."

The team's computer simulation can be imagined as two sets of pinwheels on an air hockey table. The air pushing up from the table drives some of the pinwheels clockwise, and others counterclockwise. When the pinwheels are tightly packed enough that their blades catch on one another, the team found that they begin to divide themselves into clockwise and counter-clockwise spinners—a self-organizing behavior known among researchers as phase separation.

"The important finding here is that we get phase separation without real attraction," Klotsa said.

She calls the self-sorting counterintuitive because no direct forces push the same—spin pinwheels together or push opposite-spinners apart.

The separation occurs because of the way the pinwheel blades collide. While a pair of pinwheels may be spinning in the same direction, where their blades might meet, they're actually moving in opposite directions. This means that the blades will push into one another and stick together, causing the pair of pinwheels to rotate as one, at least briefly.

In contrast, the blades of opposite spinners are moving in the same direction where they meet, so they don't stick together. Since same-spinning pinwheels spend more time linked up, they gradually accumulate into groups.

When the pinwheels divide into clockwise and counterclockwise tribes, the boundary between the groups becomes a thoroughfare for particles in the mix that aren't spinning. The blades at the boundary push these nonspinning particles along the border, making them less likely to dive back into the denser collections of pinwheels. The team said this phenomenon could potentially be harnessed as a sort of nanopump to transport objects in a device.

While the computer simulations were in two dimensions, as though on a flat surface, the team anticipates that rotating particles could also grow into 'living,' three-dimensional crystals. The particles would be free to turn their spin axes in any direction, so they could eventually form a 3D liquid crystal with aligned axes.

The results appeared online in this week's issue of Physical Review Letters and will be presented at a March 6 meeting of the American Physical Society. This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

http://phys.org/news/2014-02-pinwhee...tals-life.html
Interesting article.

It may attempt to explain some things about evolution and appears to lean on the "Quantum Entanglement" theory as its basis, but it (as well as many other evolutionary theories) still has a ways to go to explain specific and relevant evolutionary processes.

One of the things that has always been missing from scientific explanations about evolution is the connection between "need" and development.

For example, in many dissertations on evolutionary development of monkeys, it is said that they began as small mammals who took to the trees for safety from larger predators. These animals ate the leaves, soft stems and insects in those trees.

But living in trees required use of all of their arms and legs to keep them from falling and they are said to have thus developed tails to allow them to securely anchor their bodies leaving their hands free to gather food.

But the thing that never seems to get explained is HOW this came to be.
Developing a tail was surely an advantage but what caused the tail to emerge?
Even if a prehistoric mammal could have thought that such an appendage would be useful, I doubt it simply willed it into existence. So much of evolutionary science explains "after-the-fact" conditions such as "having a tail allowed them to exist in the trees...., etc., but very few touch on what occurred prior to such development and what specifically triggered that development.

Then there's the issue of time.
Surely a tail did not develop overnight and probably took hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of years to develop, so what did these animals do in the meantime?

Perhaps theories such as the one you posted will begin to shed some light on such development and I suspect that if this theory proves useful, the notion of "willing" something into existence may not be so far-fetched.
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Old 03-04-2014, 09:45 AM   #6
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Interesting article.

It may attempt to explain some things about evolution and appears to lean on the "Quantum Entanglement" theory as its basis, but it (as well as many other evolutionary theories) still has a ways to go to explain specific and relevant evolutionary processes.

One of the things that has always been missing from scientific explanations about evolution is the connection between "need" and development.

For example, in many dissertations on evolutionary development of monkeys, it is said that they began as small mammals who took to the trees for safety from larger predators. These animals ate the leaves, soft stems and insects in those trees.

But living in trees required use of all of their arms and legs to keep them from falling and they are said to have thus developed tails to allow them to securely anchor their bodies leaving their hands free to gather food.

But the thing that never seems to get explained is HOW this came to be.
Developing a tail was surely an advantage but what caused the tail to emerge?
Even if a prehistoric mammal could have thought that such an appendage would be useful, I doubt it simply willed it into existence. So much of evolutionary science explains "after-the-fact" conditions such as "having a tail allowed them to exist in the trees...., etc., but very few touch on what occurred prior to such development and what specifically triggered that development.

Then there's the issue of time.
Surely a tail did not develop overnight and probably took hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of years to develop, so what did these animals do in the meantime?

Perhaps theories such as the one you posted will begin to shed some light on such development and I suspect that if this theory proves useful, the notion of "willing" something into existence may not be so far-fetched.
The mammals from which the monkeys evolved also had tails. The precursors to mammals had tails.

Nothing triggers the mutations for a purpose. It's entirely random. Mutations that have no use or are detrimental, don't survive. Those that help are naturally selected.

Evolutionary change is stuck with the prior structures. It can never go back to the drawing board. Consider recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals. It takes a very circuitous course, looping from the brain stem down around the aorta and then back up to the larynx.

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One of nature’s worst designs is shown by the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals. Running from the brain to the larynx, this nerve helps us speak and swallow. The curious thing is that it is much longer than it needs to be. Rather than taking a direct route from the brain to the larynx, a distance of about a foot in humans, the nerve runs down into our chest, loops around the aorta and a ligament derived from an artery, and then travels back up to connect to the larynx. It winds up being three feet long. In giraffes the nerve takes a similar path, but one that runs all the way down that long neck and back up again: a distance fifteen feet longer than the direct route! When I first heard about this strange nerve, I had trouble believing it. Wanting to see for myself, I mustered up my courage to make a trip to the human anatomy lab and inspect my first corpse. An obliging professor showed me the nerve, tracing its course with a pencil down the torso and back up to the throat.

This circuitous path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve is not only poor design, but might even be maladaptive. That extra length makes it more prone to injury. It can, for example, be damaged by a blow to the chest, making it hard to talk or swallow. But the pathway makes sense when we understand how the recurrent laryngeal nerve evolved. Like the mammalian aorta itself, it descends from those branchial arches of our fishlike ancestors. In the early fishlike embryos of all vertebrates, the nerve runs from top to bottom alongside the blood vessel of the sixth branchial arch; it is a branch of the larger vagus nerve that travels along the back from the brain. And in adult fish, the nerve remains in that position, connecting the brain to the gills and helping them pump water.

During our evolution, the blood vessel from the fifth arch disappeared, and the vessels from the fourth and sixth arches moved downward into the future torso so that they could become the aorta and a ligament connecting the aorta to the pulmonary artery. But the laryngeal nerve, still behind the sixth arch, had to remain connected to the embryonic structures that become the larynx, structures that remained near the brain. As the future aorta evolved backward toward the heart, the laryngeal nerve was forced to evolve backward along with it. It would have been more efficient for the nerve to detour around the aorta, breaking and then re-forming itself on a more direct course, but natural selection couldn’t manage that, for severing and rejoining a nerve is a step that reduces fitness. To keep up with the backward evolution of the aorta, the laryngeal nerve had to become long and recurrent. And that evolutionary path is recapitulated during development, since as embryos we begin with the ancestral fishlike pattern of nerves and blood vessels. In the end, we’re left with bad design.
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Old 03-04-2014, 10:39 AM   #7
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The mammals from which the monkeys evolved also had tails. The precursors to mammals had tails.

Nothing triggers the mutations for a purpose. It's entirely random. Mutations that have no use or are detrimental, don't survive. Those that help are naturally selected.

Evolutionary change is stuck with the prior structures. It can never go back to the drawing board. Consider recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals. It takes a very circuitous course, looping from the brain stem down around the aorta and then back up to the larynx.
OK, the example you offer makes perfect sense especially where you state: "natural selection couldn’t manage that, for severing and rejoining a nerve is a step that reduces fitness"

So let's look at it from another perspective.
On the subject of tails, it is said that we all once had tails (the coccyx being the artifact) but what caused us to lose our tail?
There must have been some causative moment at which our tail began to recede and there must have also been some evolutionary time frame and skeletal example of that receding tail, but where is it and how long did it take to recede to its current state?

I find the nano-molecular theory fascinating and I wonder if there may actually be a connection between wishing for something (either consciously or unconsciously) and then having it become reality over an evolutionary time scale.

If I'm understanding that theory correctly, it seems to state that molecules on a nano level can join in what can only be described as a purposeful configuration, sharing similar movement and eventually affecting a change in development favoring such movement and there also seems to exist an undeniable relation to Quantum Entanglement.

Since Quantum Entanglement has been included in theoretical explanations of human consciousness, it may be too that some form of cognitive influence concerning evolutionary mutation could also exist and perhaps such mutations might not be completely random after all.

I love stuff like this!
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Old 03-04-2014, 10:49 AM   #8
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OK, the example you offer makes perfect sense especially where you state: "natural selection couldn’t manage that, for severing and rejoining a nerve is a step that reduces fitness"

So let's look at it from another perspective.
On the subject of tails, it is said that we all once had tails (the coccyx being the artifact) but what caused us to lose our tail? There must have been some triggering moment at which our tail began to recede and there must have also been some evolutionary time frame and skeletal example of that receding tail, but where is it and how long did it take to recede to its current state?

I find the nano-molecular theory fascinating and I wonder if there may actually be a connection between wishing for something Either consciously or unconsciously) and then having it become reality over an evolutionary time scale.

If I'm understanding that theory correctly, it seems to state that molecules on a nano level can join in what can only be described as a purposeful configuration, sharing similar movement and eventually affecting a change in development favoring such movement and there also seems to exist an undeniable relation to Quantum Entanglement.

Since Quantum Entanglement has been included in theoretical explanations of human consciousness, it may be too that some form of cognitive influence concerning evolutionary mutation could also exist and perhaps such mutations might not be completely random after all.

I love stuff like this!
Your question seems to presuppose a purpose driven evolution. There in no purpose. Tails would have gotten smaller and smaller through random mutations. As monkeys became more bipedal during the evolution to apes, tails would have no purpose and would be in the way similar to hind legs on whales.

Do you have links to the theories you reference?
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Old 03-04-2014, 11:12 AM   #9
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Your question seems to presuppose a purpose driven evolution. There in no purpose. Tails would have gotten smaller and smaller through random mutations. As monkeys became more bipedal during the evolution to apes, tails would have no purpose and would be in the way similar to hind legs on whales.

Do you have links to the theories you reference?

I generally agree that evolution is a non-purposeful series of adaptive mutations.

What I'm speculating in regard to conscious manipulation (or conscious mutation) is just that - speculation.
It's my own personal theory, if you will.

As for Quantum Entanglements and consciousness, I think it goes a long way towards exploring just how the events we experience may not be as random as we may think and that at some point in the future we may discover that we possess an ability to influence reality in ways we can now only imagine.

Here's a link to an interesting article about this: http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/...connection.htm
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Old 03-04-2014, 12:08 PM   #10
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I generally agree that evolution is a non-purposeful series of adaptive mutations.

What I'm speculating in regard to conscious manipulation (or conscious mutation) is just that - speculation.
It's my own personal theory, if you will.

As for Quantum Entanglements and consciousness, I think it goes a long way towards exploring just how the events we experience may not be as random as we may think and that at some point in the future we may discover that we possess an ability to influence reality in ways we can now only imagine.

Here's a link to an interesting article about this: http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/...connection.htm

I'd be wary of any ability to pick our evolutionary path. We wouldn't choose wisely. First of all, those 40 inch dicks would hurt mobility.

Have you read any Steven Pinker like "The Blank Slate"?
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