Here are some of the top scientific stories of the week from cosmology and evolution:
Humans are Related to All Life on Earth. In a recent article in the journal Nature, Douglas Theobald of Brandeis University concluded that there was less than a 1 in 102,860 chance that all life did not arise from a common ancestor. 102,860 is 1 followed by 2,860 zeros, an incomprehensibly large number. Big Think discusses the implications for human health. In my opinion, the theological implications of this connection are even more interesting.
New Physics Complication Lend Support to Multiverse Hypothesis? An article in Scientific American discusses why the Higgs Boson has significantly less mass than predicted. Speculations include the multiverse and other theories. It is a fascinating article, even though it confuses science with metaphysics. Unless the multiverse theory can be experimentally tested, it is in the realm of metaphysics.
World Population Could Be Nearly 11 Billion by 2100. A new statistical analysis shows the world population could reach nearly 11 billion by the end of the century, according to a United Nations report issued June 13. That’s about 800 million, or about 8 percent, more than the previous projection of 10.1 billion, issued in 2011.
Context Crucial When It Comes to Mutations in Genetic Evolution. According to the traditional view among biologists, a central tenet of evolutionary biology has been that the evolutionary fates of new mutations depend on whether their effects are good, bad or inconsequential with respect to reproductive success. Central to this view is that “good” mutations are always good and lead to reproductive success, while “bad” mutations are always bad and will be quickly weeded out of the gene pool. However, new research led by evolutionary biologist Jay Storz of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has found that whether a given mutation is good or bad is often determined by other mutations associated with it. In other words, genetic evolution is context-dependent.
Discovery of New Material State Counterintuitive to Laws of Physics. At the suburban Chicago laboratory, a group of scientists has seemingly defied the laws of physics and found a way to apply pressure to make a material expand instead of compress/contract. “It’s like squeezing a stone and forming a giant sponge,” said Karena Chapman, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory. “Materials are supposed to become denser and more compact under pressure. We are seeing the exact opposite. The pressure-treated material has half the density of the original state. This is counterintuitive to the laws of physics.”