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Monday, Oct 20th

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Scientists see 'fingerprint' of Big Bang

Big Bang fingerprintA long held belief by scientists that the universe began to rapidly expand at the dawn of time may have been confirmed by a telescope that UC San Diego helped build at the South Pole to study the earliest moments of the cosmos.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced Monday that the BICEP 2 telescope might have detected the aftermath of the “cosmic inflation” that they think occurred just after the universe arose 13.8 billion years ago in the so-called Big Bang.

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How old is sonar? Fossilized whale skull puts it at over 32 million years.

cotylocara maceio

Sperm whales do it. Dolphins do it. Orcas do it. And now, researchers have unveiled the fossilized skull of a 28-million-year-old marine mammal that did it too – used sound to find its next meal or swim safely through turbid waters.

The creature, Cotylocara macei, is the earliest known cetacean to show skeletal evidence for a natural form of sonar, according to a research team reporting the results in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

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Ice Age fossils discovered in L.A. subway construction

Ice Age fossilsAn exploratory dig for Los Angeles' subway extension project has uncovered Ice Age fossils.

The discoveries so far have included geoducks (large clams), sand dollars and digger pine tree cones and seeds, and a rock that "appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old," according to the Metro Rail's blog.

The expansion of L.A.'s purple line is near the La Brea Tar Pits, where many fossils have been found. The exploratory shaft for the subway route is now 65 feet deep, according to Metro.

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New magnetic material could boost electronics

New magnetic materialA highly sensitive magnetic material that could transform computer hard drives and energy storage devices has been discovered.  The metal bilayer needs only a small shift in temperature to dramatically alter its magnetism - a tremendously useful property in electronic engineering.

"No other material known to man can do this. It's a huge effect. And we can engineer it," said Ivan Schuller, of the University of California, San Diego.

He presented his findings at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver.

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How Liberty University Creates Creationists

Liberty Universitys a Christian professor who has tangled with evangelical institutions over evolution, I am often invited to don the mantle of “heretic.” The invitation typically comes in the form of an interview in which I am asked to respond to questions that will identify me as a liberal-throw-the-bible-under-the-bus lost soul who has no business calling himself a Christian.

I recently received two such requests in a week. One email came from a sophomore at Liberty University, as part of an assignment for the course “Creation Studies 290: History of Life.” Founded by Jerry Fallwell in 1971, Liberty is the largest evangelical university in the world if you include its large population of online students, and America’s largest nonprofit university. “Creation Studies 209” is required of all of Liberty’s 100,000-plus students and claims to provide a “thorough understanding of the creation-evolution controversy,” and “draws upon knowledge from religion, science, philosophy and history.”

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At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest

oz crystalScientists have used a powerful new technique to prove that some tiny crystals found in Western Australia are indeed the oldest known materials formed on Earth.  Back in 2001, scientists reported that one of the zircon crystals was about 4.4 billion years old — so old that not everyone believed it.

"There have been challenges, because nothing in science goes without being questioned. It always has to be proven," says , a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The crystals formed just tens of millions of years after an early proto-Earth was melted by a violent impact with a Mars-sized object. The crash created the moon and turned our young planet into a red ball of molten rock.

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African fossil reveals clues to evolution of ape-human lineage

fossil findScientists say evidence of an African environment inhabited by an ancient ape species provides insights into the early diversification of the ape-human lineage.

Knowledge of the environment inhabited by the early ape Proconsul can help in understanding and interpreting the connection between habitat preferences and that diversification, they said.

Proconsul and a primate relative, Dendropithecus, inhabited "a widespread, dense, multistoried, closed canopy" forest on Rusinga Island in Kenya, the researchers report in the journal Nature Communications.

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