This article is from
Creation 40(3):55, July 2018

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What’s your address?


© OpenStreetMap contributorsaddress

One little-known problem is that of addresses. Most Western countries use a hierarchical system that numbers houses on a street, within a city, within a territory, within a country. That works well enough for some places, but street names can be repetitive or very easily confused with each other (Park Street vs Park Drive vs Park Circle, for instance), and this has consequences ranging from the minorly annoying to life-threatening (e.g. if an ambulance can’t find a critically ill patient). And in very rural places or developing countries, this is not the best or most practical way to address.

One universal way to address places is with GPS coordinates, but a string of numbers is hard to remember, and transposing two numbers can put someone far off their intended destination. So a team translated GPS coordinates into 3-word-strings to create What3Words. This system divides the earth’s surface into some 57 trillion squares each of three square metres, and gives each its own three-word address. For instance, ‘prices.slippery.traps’ will locate the Eiffel Tower, and Sydney Opera House is found by going to ‘tiny.loses.tree’.1

Nigeria recently adopted this system as the official system for its mail. A news report states that “a poor address system has been a serious concern for citizens”. Only 20% of Nigerian houses have addresses where mail can be delivered, and this also has implications for access to other services. Nigerian officials hope to increase this number to 70 percent using What3Words.2

Living things have their own ‘address problem’. Proteins are created in one place and transported to another where they are actually used. But there any many different destinations, so how does each protein get to where it needs to go? Tiny walking machines called kinesin motors carry protein packets to their destination within a cell.3 They know where to go because the “proteins carry signals that act as ZIP [postal] codes, helping them to find their correct locations within the cell.” The discoverer of this signal, cellular and molecular biologist Dr Günter Blobel (b. 1936), won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

When this addressing system goes wrong, it causes serious health problems such as cystic fibrosis and other hereditary illnesses.4 Unfortunately, after the Fall, the superbly designed processes in the human body, created in original perfection, have broken down in various ways. But how can evolution explain the origin of such a well-designed system?

Posted on homepage: 21 October 2019

References and notes

  1. See map.What3Words.com. Return to text.
  2. Moyer, E., High-tech snail-mail service What3words goes big in Africa, cnet.com, 2 August 2017. Return to text.
  3. See Smith, C., Incredible kinesin! creation.com/incredible-kinesin, 26 June 2012. Return to text.
  4. Altman, L., Rockefeller U. biologist wins Nobel Prize for protein cell research, New York Times, 12 October 1999; nytimes.com. Return to text.