Focus: news of interest about creation and evolution

Ancient animal comes to life

One of the geological oddities of the century has taken place in the bleak Siberian region of Yakutia. A ‘prehistoric’ animal called a triton—a tailed amphibious creature resembling some small salamanders—suddenly came to life and began moving when Soviet miners unknowingly excavated it while digging in the polar tundra. Soviet scientists believe it may have been frozen alive in the permafrost for several thousand years.

The remarkable animal was discovered by goldminers excavating sand in the polar plains at a depth of 10 metres (33 feet) the same depth at which geologists have found remains of mammoths, the large extinct woolly species of elephant. The Soviet news agency, Tass, reported from the east Siberian city of Yakutsk—which in winter is one of the coldest places on earth—that when the triton was put in the sun it suddenly began to move as the astounded miners watched.

The 30-volume Great Soviet Encyclopaedia says the average length of a triton is 18 centimetres (seven inches). Five modern species exist in the Soviet Union, and they feed on water insects, small crustaceans, slugs, worms, spiders and other insects.

The Weekend Australian, 27–28 June 1987, p. 10.

Pliosaur is a real gem!

The bones of a pliosaur which have turned to opal are being placed on permanent display by an opal dealer in Melbourne, Australia. The pliosaur, a short-necked extinct marine reptile, was found by a miner at the Andamooka opal fields in South Australia more than 10 years ago . It was bought by Melbourne opal dealer Andrew Cody, who says that while most of the opalized pliosaur is a low-grade variety of the mineral, parts of it are high quality crystal opal that would be highly valued as gems anywhere in the world.

The Age (Melbourne), 9 April 1987, p.3.

Puzzling Pluto plainly a planet

The US space agency’s discovery that Pluto has an extensive atmosphere bolsters its status as a planet, astronomers say. The findings undercut suggestions that Pluto should be reclassified as an asteroid.

Since its discovery in 1930 Pluto has been something of a puzzle. The fact that it is considerably smaller than the other outer planets was obvious because it failed to show a discernible disc even when observed through the largest telescopes of the time. But much has remained unknown about Pluto. Now information yielded by the IRAS satellite during its sky survey has revealed not only a more accurate diameter for Pluto (2200 km) and its moon Charon (1300 km), but also that the planet has a significant atmosphere. No asteroids are known to have an atmosphere.

The findings were pleasant news to retired astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, 81, who discovered Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh had felt hurt by a ‘manufactured controversy’ over whether the planet should be called an asteroid.

Nature, 14–20 May 1987, pp. 127–129.

The Courier-Mail, 16 May 1987, p.10.

Waddling pterosaurs?

It is well accepted that those giant extinct flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, were highly proficient in the air. But how pterosaurs walked or moved when they landed on the ground is another story. Did they walk upright like birds, or sprawl like bats?

Some palaeontologists believed the creatures had an erect stance like that of birds. Others preferred a reconstruction which restricted the pterosaurs’ land movement to an ungainly waddle. It all depends on how you angle the pelvis socket. The recent discovery of two relatively uncrushed pterosaur-pelves from West Germany and Australia now supports the idea that the hind limbs of pterosaurs splayed out, giving a clumsy, sprawling gait. Consequently they would have sought the safety of trees and cliffs, where they would have spent most of their lives hanging. It seems, then, that when grounded the pterosaur’s stance and gait were more like a bat’s than bird’s, but mostly they were uniquely pterosaurian.

Nature, May 1987, pp.13–14.

‘Uniquely pterosaurian’ is what we might expect, because pterosaurs didn’t evolve into bats or birds they were created unique like all other kinds of God’s creatures.

Footprints riddle

A rare set of footprints in stone, said to have been made by Australian Aborigines 5,000 years ago, have been found on Australia’s arid Nullarbor Plain.

Archaeologists from the Australian National University in Canberra learned about the prints from Aborigines.

Team leader Dr Scott Cane said three prints were found on the floor of an old salt lake near the southern coastline. One print was believed to belong to a young man and was about size nine. A second print was thought to belong to an older woman with a broad short foot.

Alongside the human prints were prints of a giant emu and a giant kangaroo which may have stood three metres (10 feet) high. According to one newspaper report, Dr Cane said this print might be 30,000 years old.

The Courier-Mail and The West Australian, 13 June 1987, p. 12.

This report is puzzling. The kangaroo print might be 30,000 years old and the Aboriginal print is believed to be only 5, 000 years old. Either there’s something wrong with the dating, or kangaroos are very patient.

Magnetic field dead in 1400 years

The intensity of earth’s main magnetic field has weakened by about 10 percent over the past 140 years, according to the latest results from an international study. In theory, if the field keeps diminishing at that rate, it would fall to zero in about 1400 years. As that happened, compasses would progressively become less useful.

Many scientists believe the field may then reverse in polarity—meaning that compass needles would indicate that south was north, and birds which use their built-in ability to detect these fields for navigation purposes would be confused.

Laboratory News (Sydney), June 1987, p.40.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1987.

According to Dr Thomas G. Barnes, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Texas at El Paso, there is no valid scientific theory for magnetic field reversals. In his technical monograph on the earth’s magnetic field, Dr Barnes proposes that the magnetic field was created with sizable magnetic energy which has been decaying ever since. He concludes that the earth is headed for extinction within a few thousand years, and that it could not have been created more than several thousand years ago. (Origin and Destiny of the Earth’s Magnetic Field (Revised ed.), Thomas G. Barnes, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon (California), 1983.)

Ed. Note: more recent creationist research by Dr Russell Humphreys confirms that the magnetic field has reversed, but there is much evidence that the reversals happened very rapidly, and probably during the year of the Flood. So this evidence, with some modification, is still a headache for old-earth beliefs. See The Earth’s Magnetic Field is Young, and J.D. Sarfati, ‘The earth’s magnetic field: Evidence that the earth is young’, Creation 20(2):15–17, March–May 1998.

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