Why are whales bigger now than prehistorically? How are laws governing "genetic privacy" impacting scientific research? And what's up with that flickering star that keeps bothering astronomers? It's Earthy Thursday, our segment for science and Earth-related news! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

It's commonly known that whales are among the biggest living organisms in the world today, but what might not be generally realized is that they've gotten a lot bigger than they used to be. Recently, scientists tried to pin down why and how. Popular Science has the details on what they surmised.

Global warming is already beginning to have an impact on communities around the world. And, unfortunately, that impact is predominantly concentrated in poorer areas. Environmentalist website Grist has more.

As genetic profiling becomes easier and we gain more understanding of how genes impact our lives, many are becoming concerned about the potential for discrimination on the basis of one's genes (like in the dystopian film Gattaca). However, it's not just consumers who are worried about "genetic privacy:" scientists are worried fears about discrimination are also causing people to withdraw from studies or decline to participate at all, impacting the quality of genetic research. As a result, scientists are now pushing to tighten genetic privacy laws to protect consumers.

One of the most controversial forms of experimental medicine is the use of embryonic stem cells to try and treat debilitating diseases like Parkinson's. Much of the controversy comes from the use of stem cells acquired specifically from aborted fetuses that are donated afterwards to scientific research. Nonetheless, there are some promising breakthroughs in the field and many countries are pushing towards new trials, such as China.

You may have heard awhile back about the bizarre star that kept flickering in a way that confused astronomers looking for a natural phenomenon. Well... they're still confused. Is it aliens? Is it a planet that broke up into a debris field? No one's quite sure though National Geographic has a list of what's on the table.