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Media - Related Articles

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Media - Related Articles of Interest



Scientists Question Nature's Fundamental Laws


Public confidence in the "constants" of nature may be at an all time low. Recent research has found evidence that the value of certain fundamental parameters, such as the speed of light or the invisible glue that holds nuclei together, may have been different in the past.


"There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant," says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. "These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are."


The observed differences are small—roughly a few parts in a million—but the implications are huge: The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.


Lines of evidence

The evidence for varying constants focuses primarily on quasar studies.


Quasars are extremely luminous objects, powered by giant black holes. Some of them are so far away that their light was emitted 12 billion years ago.


Astronomers study the spectra of this ancient light to determine if the early universe was different than now. Specifically, they look at absorption lines, which are due to gas clouds between us and the quasars.


The lines reveal exactly what is in the clouds, since each type of atom has a "fingerprint"—a set of specific frequencies at which it absorbs.


In 1999, Murphy and his colleagues found the first convincing evidence that these fingerprints change with time. Using data from the Keck observatory in Hawaii, they detected a frequency difference between billion-year-old quasar lines and the corresponding lines measured on Earth.


What's in a constant

Because the frequencies of absorption lines depend on various parameters, the quasar observations are sometimes interpreted as indicating that light was faster in the past, or that the electron had a weaker charge.


But theorist Carlos Martins of the University of Cambridge tells LiveScience that this is not entirely correct: "It doesn't make sense to talk about a varying speed of light or electron charge."


This is because the values of these parameters include units that might change. The speed of light, for instance, might be measured one day with a ruler and a clock. If the next day the same measurement gave a different answer, no one could tell if the speed of light changed, the ruler length changed, or the clock ticking changed.


To avoid this confusion, scientists use dimensionless constants—pure numbers that are ratios of measured quantities.


In the case of the shifts in Murphy's data, the relevant dimensionless constant is the fine structure constant (often designated by the Greek letter alpha), which characterizes the strength of the electromagnetic force.


The researchers found that alpha was smaller in the past, but other "famous numbers" would not be immune to the vagaries of time.


"You would expect variation in all the fundamental constants," Murphy says.


It was therefore not entirely a surprise when—in April of this year—Patrick Petitjean of the Astrophysical Institute of Paris and his collaborators detected a change in the proton to electron mass ratio from molecular absorption lines in quasar spectra.


The mass variation can be interpreted as the strong force's coupling constant being larger in the early universe, Petitjean says.


A hole in the theory


Time-varying constants of nature violate Einstein's equivalence principle, which says that any experiment testing nuclear or electromagnetic forces should give the same result no matter where or when it is performed.


If this principle is broken, then two objects dropped in a gravitational field should fall at slightly different rates. Moreover, Einstein's gravitational theory—general relativity—would no longer be completely correct, Martins says.


A popular alternative to relativity, which assumes that sub-atomic particles are vibrating strings and that the universe has 10 or more spatial dimensions, actually predicts inconstant constants.


According to this string theory, the extra dimensions are hidden from us, but the "true" constants of nature are defined on all dimensions. Therefore, if the hidden dimensions expand or contract, we will notice this as a variation in our "local" 3D constants.


Even if string theory is not correct, the current model of gravity will likely need to be revised to unite it with the other three fundamental forces.


"We have an incomplete theory, so you look for holes that will point to a new theory," Murphy says. Varying constants may be just such a hole.


I found this article interesting because new information may change facts, as we have traditionally known them. Variation in the speed of light? Six more spatial dimensions? This is the reason that macroevolution and the origin of the universe should be presented as what is best understood today, but this could change as we learn more about our history and the universe! This is all that the revised standards are attempting to include from the previous version.



Scientists find skull of human ancestor


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia --Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said Saturday that they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.


The hominid cranium -- found in two pieces and believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old -- "comes from a very significant period and is very close to the appearance of the anatomically modern human," said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.


Archaeologists found the early human cranium five weeks ago at Gawis in Ethiopia's northeastern Afar region, Sileshi said.


Several stone tools and fossilized animals including two types of pigs, zebras, elephants, antelopes, cats, and rodents were also found at the site.


Sileshi, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist based at Indiana University, said most fossil hominids are found in pieces but the near-complete skull -- a rare find -- provided a wealth of information.


"The Gawis cranium provides us with the opportunity to look at the face of one of our ancestors," the archaeology project said in a statement.


Homo erectus, which many believe was an ancestor of modern Homo sapiens, is thought to have died out 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.


The cranium dates to a time about which little is known -- the transition from African Homo erectus to modern humans. The fossil record from Africa for this period is sparse and most of the specimens poorly dated, project archaeologists said.


The face and cranium of the fossil are recognizably different from those of modern humans, but bear unmistakable anatomical evidence that it belongs to the modern human's ancestry, Sileshi said.


"A good fossil provides anatomical evidence that allows us to refine our understanding of evolution. A great fossil forces us to re-examine our views of human origins. I believe the Gawis cranium is a great fossil," said Scott Simpson, a project paleontologist from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine at Cleveland, Ohio.


Scientists conducting surveys in the Gawis River drainage basin found the skull in a small gully, the project statement said.


"This is really exciting because it joins a limited number of fossils which appear to be evolutionary between Homo erectus and our own species Homo sapiens," said Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, who was not involved in the discovery but has followed the project.


Homo erectus left Africa about 2 million years ago and spread across Asia from Georgia in the Caucasus to China and Indonesia. It first appeared in Africa between 1 million and 2 million years ago.


Between 1 million and perhaps 200,000 years ago, one or more species existed in Africa that gave rise to the earliest members of our own species Homo sapiens -- between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago.


Delson said the fossil found in Ethiopia "might represent a population broadly ancestral to modern humans or it might prove to be one of several side branches which died out without living descendants."






Gawis cranium

The Gawis cranium is a hominid skull discovered on February 16, 2006 near the city of Gawis in Ethiopia. The skull is between 200,000 and 500,000 years old and appears to be an intermediate species between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. Scientists suspect the skull could be a transitional fossil that fills a gap in human evolutionary origins.


The skull was discovered by Asahmed Humet, a member of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project. It was found in a small gully at the Gawis river drainage basin in the Afar region, 300 miles southeast of Addis Ababa. The skull is a nearly complete cranium of what is believed to be a Middle Pleistocene human ancestor. While different from a modern human, the braincase, upper face and jaw of the cranium have unmistakeable anatomical evidence that belong to human ancestry.


Significant archaeological collections of stone tools and numerous fossil animals were also found at the site.


The discovery was reported by Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Project, who is based at the Stone Age Institute.


U.S. scientist Donald Johanson found the 3.2 million year old remains of Australopithecus afarensis (also known as "Lucy") in nearby Hadar, Ethiopia in 1974.





Press Release on a New Hominid Cranium from Gona, Afar, Ethiopia

I have only taken portions of this article where I perceive weaknesses in the assumption of the skull's age, thus evolutionary position. You are encouraged to read the article in full.


"At the discovery site and nearby areas, significant archaeological collections of Late Acheulean stone tool-making tradition and numerous fossil animals were found, opening a window into an intriguing and important period in the development of modern humans. The southwest portion of the project area near the Gawis River contains the youngest part of the archive which is estimated to the Middle Pleistocene. Most of the sediments containing the cranium are sands and silts, not datable by standard geologic methods. However, the region contains many active and recently active volcanoes that erupted periodically, blanketing the local landscape with thin, gray-colored layers of volcanic ash. These volcanic ash layers hold the key to dating the Gawis cranium and associated stone tools. Some ash layers in the Gona project area can be directly dated by the 40Ar/39Ar method, and others, by virtue of their distinctive chemical composition, can be matched to correlative dated layers outside the Gona area providing the opportunity to make this one of the best-dated human ancestors notes Jay Quade, Gona project geologist."


"The cranium was found by Asahmed Humet (project member) on February 16, 2006 while he and project scientists were conducting archaeological and geological reconnaissance survey in the Gawis river drainage basin in the Afar Regional Administration of Ethiopia. The cranium was found in a small gully at the base of a steep slope of soft sediments from which it had recently eroded. The specimen includes the braincase, upper face, and upper jaw. Several surface exposed stone tools were found at the hominid site. Additional contemporary stone tools excavated from the same stratigraphic level near the hominid site include Late Acheulian artifacts. A diversity of fossil animals including pigs (two types), zebras, elephants, multiple types of antelopes, small carnivores including cats, and numerous rodents were found at the same stratigraphic level as the Gawis cranium. "


The first paragraph indicates that both radioactive and relative dating could have been used. But the specific method is not identified in the article.

   The next paragraph indicates to me that the cranium was found independent of the strata that it was embedded in. The same can be said of the tools. Could weather caused erosion to move these artifacts down the slope into proximity to each other?

   Considering that the Stone Age Institute is responsible for the project and the find, there is an amazing dearth of information to substantiate the conclusions.




New Missing Link: Real or Imaginary?


It took 93 hits on Yahoo before a non-evolutionist or news report was found. Here it is.


The expression ‘yet another missing link unearthed’ is a rather tired cliché these days, but here we go again.


Reports on the internet are surfacing with claims that scientists have found a new ‘hominid’ cranium, believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old, which they believe ‘could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man’


The find, discovered in Gawis, Ethiopia less than two months ago, is said to be a ‘near-complete skull’ and is referred to as the ‘Gawis cranium’. According to paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw the ‘face and cranium of the fossil are recognizably different from those of modern humans, but bear unmistakable anatomical evidence that it belongs to the modern human’s ancestry’.1 True to form, like many of its ‘missing link’ predecessors, this new ‘hominid’ is tipped to force a rethink of current theories on human evolution. According to paleontologist Scott Simpson ‘A great fossil forces us to re-examine our views of human origins. I believe the Gawis cranium is a great fossil’.


Currently there is little more information about the Gawis cranium than the above, and as yet no pictures of the specimen, so it is not possible to analyze the anatomy of this particular skull until more information is at hand. However, when reading claims like this it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Because of ideology, any such skull age dated by evolutionists as 500,000 to 250,000 years old is by definition a ‘hominid’ to them. Also, the lure of ‘fame and fortune’ that goes along with finding a ‘missing link’ influences its interpretation as such.


As indicated by evolutionist John Reader:

   ‘Preconceived notions have played a fundamental role in the study of fossil man. Indeed, the science itself was not founded upon the evidence of fossils that needed explanation but upon the notion that if mankind had evolved then fossils would provide the evidence of links between modern and ancestral forms’


It has to be understood that the interpretation of the fossil specimen is heavily biased according to the researchers’ framework, which in nearly all cases is evolutionary. In the introduction to his textbook on human evolution, titled Paleoanthropology, multiregional evolutionist Milford Wolpoff writes:

   ‘I believe a framework is not something that can be eliminated in order to provide “objectivity”. In my view, “objectivity” does not exist in science. Even in the act of gathering data, decisions about what data to record and what to ignore reflect the framework of the scientist’


The reality is that scientists, both evolutionists and creationists, tend to interpret what they see in the world (the data if you like) through their own peculiar lenses, which represent their framework, worldview, ideology, philosophy, religion, or whatever you want to call it. If the lenses have evolution written on them then the data will usually be molded to fit that preferred framework, and if evolution is a false worldview, then a wrong picture of human origin emerges.


According to the Bible God ‘made of one blood all nations of men’ (Acts 17:26). There is no room for any ‘ape-men’ pre-dating humans because ‘from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). Therefore, all the supposed ape-men belong either to the genus Homo and are descendants of Adam and Eve, or they belong to extinct apes.


From a biblical perspective the only way to correctly interpret the fossils of alleged ape-men is to throw out the whole evolutionary framework of looking at these fossils, and instead interpret them without ‘evolutionary’ constraints. There is enormous variation in skull size and shape in so called ‘modern humans’, and there undoubtedly was even greater variation in the past. Add environmental and dietary factors, and many of the alleged ‘hominids’ in the genus Homo, such as Neandertals, Homo erectus and other so-called ‘archaics’, can be explained as simply variations within the human population. However, the effects of pathology should also be considered, particularly now that evidence increasingly indicates that the famous Hobbit (suggested as being a dwarfed Homo erectus specimen according to its discoverers, but given the separate species name Homo floresiensis) was a microcephalic modern human, perhaps a microcephalic pygmy.


The technology of the stone artifacts associated with the supposed species Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua exhibited ‘a level of complexity previously thought to be the sole purview of H. sapiens’,6 suggesting human-like intelligence. Hence, it may be that the tools belonged to other non-microcephalic humans of the same population, but either way the Hobbit was human, as was the maker of the tools. However, if the Hobbit turns out to be a microcephalic modern human then one may legitimately ask what other supposed ‘hominids’ are simply microcephalic humans, particularly some of the smaller Homo erectus/ Homo habilis crania.


Back in the late Victorian era in the 19th Century when the field of human evolution was in its infancy, and when the only fossil finds of any note in regards to human origins were a few Neanderthal finds, Carl Vogt, a prominent anthropologist of this era, and an ‘early evolutionist’, commented in his Lectures On Man that:

   ‘If a fossil microcephalic skull were found, without a lower jaw and an upper row of teeth, every naturalist would at once declare it to be the cranium of an ape, as in such a mutilated skull there would not be found the least characteristic mark which would justify an opposite inference’.

He also remarked ‘that microcephali and born idiots present as perfect a series from man to the ape as may be wished for’. With the Hobbit find Vogt’s argument is becoming increasingly relevant. If pathological modern human skulls can exhibit such extreme variation, then why invent ape-men or missing links as explanations?


About the author

Peter Line’s undergraduate major was in biophysics. After that he completed a masters degree and a Ph.D., both in the area of neuroscience. He has had a keen interest in the creation/evolution issue ever since becoming a Christian, as evolution was a stumbling block to him believing God’s Word was true.

I didn't quite follow all of that but looks like Peter is not overly impressed. Certainly the 'world view' of the discoverer will bias their presentation unless extreme care is taken. His points on variation are well taken.
















To Be continued 7/21/06

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