Monday, 25 May 2015
Who would have guessed that tiny ants could apply mathematics? An article in ScienceDaily states:
“When ants go exploring in search of food they end up choosing collective routes that fit statistical distributions of probability. This has been demonstrated by a team of mathematicians after analysing the trails of a species of Argentine ant. Studies like this could be applied to coordinate the movement of micro-robots in cleaning contaminated areas for example.”
Ants are not the only animals that display collective intelligence. Starlings fly in flocks of up to 300,000 birds and never seem to collide.
Some other amazing examples of animal intelligence or skills that challenge evolutionary explanations:
· Bees might be able to use a mind map when navigating.
· Zebrafish make their own sunscreen.
· The bowerbird can imitate practically anything it hears.
· Dogs are better learners than chimpanzees.
· Cockatoos are better tool users than chimps.
· A fox can be more intelligent (and not just cunning) than we’d expect.
· The octopus is an “eight-legged marvel”.
Previously, ants were known to build living rafts to stay alive.
In a blind Darwinian world, we would not expect animals to be as intelligent as they are. Some have brains the size of a pinhead, and yet – as in the case of ants – their skills are amazingly complex. No wonder Proverbs 6:6 says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (NIV).
Plataforma SINC. 2015. Ants' movements hide mathematical patterns. ScienceDaily, (May 12).
Saturday, 23 May 2015
It’s a great time to believe in the Bible. Some of the amazing skills found in the animal kingdom that we get to know about almost daily point clearly to a very intelligent – and benevolent – author of all life.
A recent discovery features the zebrafish’s ability to make its own sunscreen.
For some time, researchers had known that bacteria, fungi and algae could produce sunscreen to protect them from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. But that zebrafish could also do so was a big surprise.
According to a report in eLife:
“It was thought for many years that the ability to synthesize small-molecule sunscreens was limited to microbes, and that higher marine organisms obtained these compounds exclusively from their diet. Now, in eLife, Taifo Mahmud and co-workers at Oregon State University—including Andrew Osborn, Khaled Almabruk and Garrett Holzwarth as joint first authors—show that zebrafish can synthesize gadusol (Osborn et al., 2015). They also present evidence that the pathway used by zebrafish to make gadusol is distinct from the pathway used by microorganisms to synthesize MAAs.”
Obviously, zebrafish have genes that can make gadusol.
The take away message from this discovery is that even in a fallen world, God, who knows everything, is interested in the welfare of not only humans but also of animals.
Brotherton, Carolyn A. and Emily P Balskus. 2015. Biochemistry: Shedding light on sunscreen biosynthesis in zebrafish. eLife (12 May).
Thursday, 21 May 2015
Mathematics can be wonderful. Just think about the Fibonacci sequence that is seen in almost everything that lives and in some things that don’t, such as broccoli, seeds, ammonite shells, flower petals, compound eyes and the arms of spiral galaxies.
But when it comes evolutionary mathematics, it’s an entirely different story. In 2010, Nature published a paper on supposedly 395 million year old fossilised tracks found in Poland.
That silenced some of the buzz around Tiktaalik, which was assumed to be the link between sea creatures and land animals.
Now, a new study claims that a “333-million-year-old” animal from Australia was the first tetrapod or four-footed animal to walk on land.
According to New Scientist:
“IT WAS one small fall for a tetrapod, but it signals one giant leap for tetrapod kind. A broken leg bone pushes back the emergence of our four-legged ancestors from water on to land by at least 2 million years.
A gap in the tetrapod fossil record means we know little about what happened between the time when limbs evolved from fish fins some 360 million years ago and the first land-adapted tetrapods appeared 330 million years ago.
To find out, Peter Bishop at the Queensland Museum in Hendra, Australia, and his colleagues analysed a rare tetrapod fossil from that gap, a 1.5-metre-long Ossinodus which lived some 333 million years ago in what is now Australia. They found that Ossinodus's forearm bones were strong enough to support the animal's body on land.”
As 395 million years old is somewhat older than 333 million years, one might wonder what this buzz is about. After all, 395 million –333 million equals 62 million, which, obviously, is a long time.
But in the evolutionary story, many birds are older than the dinosaurs from which they supposedly evolved, so perhaps we’re seeing a similar kind of mathematics here also.
Barras, Colin. 2015. Oldest broken bone reveals our ancestors' switch to life on land. New Scientist 3022 (20 May).
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Fish were supposed to be cold-blooded, but researchers have discovered that there is at least one exception - the opah (Lampris guttatus), also known as moonfish. Science magazine states that it
“lives in deep, cold water, but it generates heat from its massive pectoral muscles. And it conserves that warmth thanks to body fat and the special structure of blood vessels in its gills.”
The opah manages to keep its body temperature 5 °C warmer than the water, thanks to an amazing design feature:
In contrast to other fish, “the opah has an elaborate network of tiny blood vessels, in which arteries lie next to veins in tightly packed arrays.”
As the article shows, this looks very much like a designed feature:
“This arrangement of paired arteries and veins is known as a rete mirabile, or ‘wonderful net,’ …The opah is the first fish discovered with a rete mirabile around its gills. The gills’ heat exchanger is wrapped in a centimeter-thick layer of fat, which is unusual in fish.“
When it comes to the animal kingdom, words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘amazing’ are not understatements. Time and again, the features we see in animals make us wonder how wonderfully they are made.
There’s no sign of the handiwork of the blind watchmaker.
Stokstad, Erik. 2015. Scientists discover first warm-bodied fish. Science (14 May).
Sunday, 17 May 2015
Even in the animal kingdom, appearances can be misleading. We would not think that bowerbirds with their tiny brains could imitate almost anything they hear or that robins could use quantum technology to navigate from one continent to another, always finding the same place they left the previous year.
Even after the cosmic Fall, it’s a wonderful world. When we think about how bees navigate, how hummingbirds are designed, what gecko feet are like and how incredibly powerful the
mantis shrimp is, we would probably agree that we live in a world full of wonders.
Here’s one more addition to the list. A brief article in New Scientist featuring an animal most of us have probably never seen states the following:
“Take one look at a flying lemur, or colugo, sitting in a tree and it brings to mind a scrawny kid forced to wear his big brother's hand-me-downs. Flaps of skin hang around its ankles and get in the way as it clambers awkwardly around the forest.
Once the colugo leaps into the air, though, everything changes. Its baggy folds transform into enormous wings as the animal sails gracefully through the canopy.”
It is logical to think that the One who is full of grace and truth (Jesus) would create animals that can sail gracefully through the air.
The gracefulness we see in the animal is just a partial reflection of true grace, which saves us.
Piotrowksi, Jan. 2015. Zoologger: The clumsy tree-dweller transforms into a gliding ace. New Scientist (15 May ).
Friday, 15 May 2015
How do you get everything from nothing?
The short answer is that you can’t, regardless of how many million years you try. Contrary to what some atheists like Stephen Hawking say, there is no way the entire universe could make itself and everything in it.
Quantum fluctuations cannot salvage bad thinking.
It might be good to remember what Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) said about this atheistic dilemma:
“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything."
Chesterton was a famous writer and Christian thinker who was not afraid to criticise Darwinian evolution and atheism.
While evolution is an ideology that has passed its shelf life, Chesterton’s thoughts are as fresh as they were two or three generations ago.
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Hardly a week goes by without a paper on molecular machines being published in a major science journal. Recently, PNAS published a study on the cytoplasmic dynein, which transports cargo by walking along a microtubule.
Fine-tuning is very much evident in its walk:
“Cytoplasmic dynein is the primary minus-end–directed microtubule (MT) motor. It is unclear how dynein coordinates ATP hydrolysis and MT attachment within and between its two motor domains, each containing four AAA+ ATPases (AAA: ATPase associated with various cellular activities), AAA1–4. We characterize how mechanical tension and nucleotide states of AAA1 and AAA3 regulate dynein–MT binding. Dynein binds MTs tighter when subjected to tension opposite its normal motility. ADP binding to AAA3 unexpectedly weakens MT-binding strength and reduces the bond strength anisotropy. Finally, AAA3 'gates' the activity of AAA1: ATP binding to AAA1 induces MT release only if AAA3 contains nucleotide. This work expands understanding of the role of force in dynein mechanochemistry and identifies regulatory functions of AAA3.”
A kinesin motor does practically the same thing, but in the opposite or plus-end direction. Both the dynein and kinesin suggest that our cells work in anything but a haphazard way.
In other words, fine-tuning and amazing design are evident from start to finish.
Nicholas, Matthew P. et al. 2015. Cytoplasmic dynein regulates its attachment to microtubules via nucleotide state-switched mechanosensing at multiple AAA domains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417422112