Scientists have discovered the oldest known three-dimensional remnant of mammal hair.
Dated at 100 million years old, the two mammal hairs are entombed in amber (fossilized resin from ancient trees) next to a fly pupa. The amber was found in southwest France by Romain Vullo of the University of Rennes; its contents were studied by Vullo and colleagues Didier Neraudeau and Vincent Girard.
According to the scientists, the three-dimensional structure of the hair shows it to be incredibly similar to modern mammal hair—implying, as BBC News reports, that “the shape and structure of mammal hair has remained unchanged over a vast period of time.”
The scientists do not know what animal left the hair, nor how it became encased in amber, though they have some ideas. For example, an animal may have brushed by a tree, with resin becoming smeared in its fur.
Of course, there’s an interpretation of the discovery other than that mammal hair has remained unchanged over millions of years: that the resin encasing the hair (and the hair itself) aren’t millions of years old, but rather thousands of years old—and that the mammal whose hair was stuck in the resin was very similar to mammals today. That interpretation is at least as consistent with the evidence as the old-ages interpretation, and it makes more sense given the tenets of creation and evolution.
The same conclusion holds for a new book about other remains preserved in amber. “In one amber fossil, a 100-million-year-old gecko shows the same sophisticated method of toe adhesion that allows it to walk easily on vertical and even inverted surfaces—a capability that served it well when it was skittering away from dinosaurs then, or is skipping through the jungles of Southeast Asia today,” reports the Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette Times.
For the third time in as many weeks, we’re reporting on purported evidence of water on ancient Mars.
This week, the news comes from a team at the University of Colorado–Boulder that studied what they consider Martian “deltas,” which they use (as is meant on Earth) to describe the piles of sediment deposited at the downstream end of a river. According to the scientists, those Martian deltas mark what was once sea level on Mars.
Part of their evidence is the uniform elevation of some of these deltas, even though they are distributed across the entire planet. Of 52 Martian deltas, 17 are within 177 meters of a mean elevation they consider the former sea level. Much of what has been identified as former shoreline on Mars also fits in this range. According to the team, the evidence points to the erstwhile elevation of the planet’s ancient ocean.
University of Virginia–Charlottesville fluvial geologist Alan Howard, although cautious about the team’s conclusion, concedes that the data “does suggest . . . something in the way of a large body of water.” Others are more skeptical, however, arguing that the existence of valleys that lie well below the supposed sea level contradicts the argument.
The debate over the amount and distribution of water in Mars’s past is far from settled, and this research is only the latest development in that conversation. Meanwhile, other researchers recently proposed a “frozen water cycle” for ancient Mars. Of course, while most of the Mars research is prompted by intriguing evidence, much of it is guided by evolutionary views about the existence of Martian life. Also, we have pointed out before the contradiction that secular scientists are seemingly eager to find evidence of a massive amount of water on ancient Mars, yet they ignore evidence of a worldwide Flood on the ancient Earth.
Archaeologists in Israel have excavated artifacts thought to be from an ancient pagan temple.
The cache dates to between 1550 and 1200 BC and includes some 200 objects, of which half were “perfectly preserved,” National Geographic News reports. Among the objects are small ritual stands, a cup sculpted with a human face, oil vessels, and tableware, all found in a rock hollow at the Tel Qashish site in northern Israel. The scientists have not yet uncovered the temple itself, but they believe it is buried nearby.
Team member Edwin van den Brink described the probable uses of some of the artifacts:
“On top of these stands were placed either food offerings or incense for a pleasant scent during worship of the god or goddess in the temple. . . . The face was part of a vessel in which libations were offered to the god or goddess of that temple. It is not assumed to be a face of the god or goddess, but is probably of one of the worshipers who gave this as a gift to the gods.”
Van den Brink added that many of the ritual items were imported from Greece. The site itself was destroyed at some point, and the objects may have been stored away specifically for safekeeping.
Where do the artifacts fit within biblical history? If the archaeologists’ dating is accurate, the objects may have belonged to the peoples who occupied the land before the Israelites destroyed them (mostly), in accordance (partially) with God’s command. If the dating is inaccurate, however, the objects may have belonged to idol worshippers of Israel (either the unified nation or the Northern Kingdom—such as the heterodox religious system built by Jeroboam). In any event, the find comports with the idol worship we know occurred at various points in the history of Canaan and ancient Israel.
If the Higgs boson is some physicists’ “God,” then it turns out some physicists are polytheists.
The Higgs boson is a hypothetical subatomic particle: hypothetical because, despite its prediction from the “Standard Model” of physics, no one has been able to detect it in years of trying. Its nickname, the “God particle,” comes because physicists believe it will explain why all other particles have mass. We reported on the hunt for the Higgs boson in In Search of God, shortly before Europe’s Large Hadron Collider began operating to search for it. (To learn more about the LHC, see A Miniature Big Bang or More Hot Air? and Beams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider.)
Now, a U.S. team suggests there may be more than one version of the Higgs boson. Researchers have reported on anomalous results from Fermilab’s Tevatron particle accelerator that resulted in a physics event known as “CP violation,” in which matter and anti-matter behave in unexpected, asymmetric fashion. According to the team, the event can be explained if there are multiple Higgs bosons—five, to be specific.
While the argument—and interpretation—is of course highly technical, the search for and the debate over the Higgs boson can still be understood in light of the biblical worldview. Physicists are trying to search for the most fundamental particles that make up everything we observe in the universe. That, in and of itself, is compatible with the scientific quest to understand God’s created cosmos. The appellation of the “God particle” to the Higgs boson is partially representative of the particle’s theoretical importance in the Standard Model. But for some physicists (see again In Search of God), the search is not about understanding God, but about replacing Him.
Two stories this week report on astronomical objects—moons and a planet—that may have formed relatively “recently,” at least in terms of billions-of-years belief.
ScienceNOW covers simulations that show that some of Saturn’s moons may have formed as “recently” as 10 million years ago. That may sound like long ago, but it pales in comparison to the alleged “4 billion years old” age of Saturn’s other moons. Based on the simulation, study coauthor Sébastien Charnoz, a planetary scientist at Paris Diderot University, explained, “We see that it is possible, even today, to form new [moons].”
In related news reported by the BBC, astronomers have discovered an exoplanet orbiting the extremely young (again, relatively) star Beta Pictoris b. (An exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star other than our own sun.) This makes Beta Pictoris b the youngest star known to host a planet—the star is “only” 12 million years old, less than half a percent of the sun’s supposed age. “The presence of an exoplanet around Beta [Pictoris b] proves that [gas giants] of about nine Jupiter masses form on a time scale of 10 to 12 million years—very early in the formation of the stars themselves,” noted the European Southern Observatory’s Markus Kasper.
If planetary and lunar formation can occur far faster than astronomers previously believed in the past, could it be that planets and moons can actually form more rapidly than astronomers believe today? Given the short time period during which humans have actively been able to study the universe, we can only collect “snapshots” of what’s going on in the universe. The conclusion that such objects take millions or billions of years to form is not an observation, but instead an interpretation based on a uniformitarian view of the universe. In the same way, a belief that planets, moons, and other stellar objects could have formed either thousands of years ago at creation or in the thousands of years since is an interpretation based on a biblical view of the universe.
Another news story this week helps emphasize our point. Time magazine covers a new study that argues that many of the sun’s comets didn’t form in our solar system at all, instead having come from elsewhere in the galaxy. The conclusion stems from the fact that the Oort cloud seems “too big to have all been birthed by our proto-sun.”
The idea of the Oort cloud goes something like this: if our solar system’s comets are routinely destroyed (through melting/decay, collisions, etc.), the solar system should have run out of comets millions of years ago. Therefore there must be far more than we think, lurking unseen far beyond Pluto’s orbit, in a large cloud. Occasionally, an interstellar object causes a comet’s orbit to destabilize and it travels toward the sun, often for a final voyage.
But Southwest Research Institute astronomer Hal Levison points out that the hypothesized size of the Oort cloud is “a couple of orders of magnitude” too big to have come from the same matter that (supposedly) formed the sun and the planets of the solar system. Levison and others have created a computer model that places the origins of the Oort cloud comets in the days when the sun was part of a larger interstellar body of matter. In the end, Time reports, “just about every Oort Cloud comet that visits the inner solar system, including Halleys’ . . . , formed around a star other than the Sun,” and we are “likely to have seen only one locally born comet in the history of human observation.”
The conclusion may be sound based on the same presuppositions that gave rise to the Oort cloud: namely, that the sun’s comets should all be gone after billions of years, and thus that we must explain why comets are still around. But given that the Oort cloud can’t be seen, old-agers must have faith in such an object to sustain their uniformitarian perspective, whereas comets pose no problem for the young-age, biblical view.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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