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Dino feathers, alien algae, robot's best friend

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Dino feathers (Discover Magazine)

Remember how, in Jurassic Park, they extracted dinosaur DNA from bugs trapped in amber? Well, they haven't done that, but they've found dinosaur feathers in amber. Along with things that are not quite feathery but have been dubbed "dino fuzz." And we can tell the colors. So far, they've found gray, brown, black, and white. No purple yet. Sorry, Barney.

Alien algae (Discover Magazine)

During a meteor shower, recently, British scientists sent a balloon up to the stratosphere, and it came back with some odd stuff in it: pieces of diatom shell. Diatoms are one-celled algae. How did they get into stratosphere? The Journal of Cosmology insists they came from outer space. This journal is the mouthpiece of Chandra Wickramasinghe, who, like his late co-author Fred Hoyle, is an astrophysicist of solid reputation. But he and Hoyle also believe in panspermia, the theory that life came to Earth as spores from outer space. This idea is not widely received.

Robot's best friend (Discover Magazine again)

Dogs react to robots just as they do to people -- provided the dog has seen its owner interact socially with the robot. (The robot has a face on a screen and talks.) Once they've seen their owners "accept" the robot, the dogs will take cues from the robot to find treats. This is cute, but may also be a way of testing robot designs for how well they'll interact with us.


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