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Creation 37(4):7–11, October 2015

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Focus: creation news and views 37(4)

Octopus changes colour in response to light

octopus-cartoon

Cephalopods, the group of mollusks that includes the squid, octopus, and cuttlefish, are famous for their amazing ability to blend quickly into their surroundings. But how could they know what colours were needed, since they are colour-blind? The answer is that their skin itself can sense light and change colour to respond—all in a few seconds. This could inspire man-made automatically camouflaging materials. We previously reported on this with squid (Creation 34(1):23, 2012; creation.com/colourblind-squid).

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have shown that the same effect occurs in the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). They shone light on the octopus’ skin, and within about 6 seconds, the skin responded by producing its characteristic camouflaging pattern of brown spots. The skin has the same light-sensitive chemical as its eyes, 2-opsin. In the skin, the light response stimulates muscles to stretch pigment sacs, resulting in the spreading of the brown spotted pattern over a wide area.

  • Eye-independent, light-activated chromatophore expansion (LACE) and expression of phototransduction genes in the skin of Octopus bimaculoides, J. Experimental Biology 218:1513–1520, 15 May 2015 | doi:10.1242/jeb.110908.
  • Octopus has automatic camouflage thanks to its light-sensing skin, New Scientist, 21 May 2015.

More islands explode into life

It’s the year for new islands. Within months, below-sea volcanic activity has birthed new landforms off Tonga and Japan.

In a six-week eruption that ended on 26 January 2015, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano created a new island 55 km (35 miles) off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean.

In March, volcanic activity 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Tokyo, added more area to a tiny, two-year-old landform called Nishinoshima. It is now a 2.5 km2 (1 sq mile) island which is being eagerly watched as a ‘natural laboratory’ to be kick-started by bird waste.

As was the case when Surtsey Island formed off Iceland in 1963, scientists are expecting abundant life to emerge on Nishinoshima when the lava cools. A Japanese biologist said “we’ll be able to observe the starting point of evolutionary processes”, but nothing could be further from the truth. The slow-and-gradual paradigm defines evolution but we see fast-forming geology and life coming from life, not from non-life.

  • New Japan volcano island ‘natural lab’ for life, phys.org/news, 17 May 2015.
  • New South Pacific island shows fast-forming geology, creation.com/fast-forming, 9 June 2015.

Jungle people reveal resistance to antibiotics

An isolated tribe in the Amazon jungle has revealed resistance to man-made antibiotics. A team of scientists made the discovery after collecting samples from villagers, which were then sequenced and analysed for their microbial DNA.

This shows that bacterial pathogens already had the genes for antibiotic resistance before they were exposed to man-made antibiotics. In the same way, bacteria recovered from the frozen guts of Northwest Passage explorers who died in the Arctic in 1845 before the discovery of antibiotics, showed antibiotic resistance.

This demonstrates that the bacterial resistance is not coming from new genetic information as needed for microbes-to-man evolution.

Even where mutations are involved in resistance, it normally results in breaking something (such as the uptake mechanism)—again, no new genetic information. For more, see creation.com/superbugs.

iStockphoto.com/filipefrazao kathmandu
  • Isolated hunter-gatherers living in the Amazon have the most diverse microbiome ever documented in humans, ifl science.com, 18 April 2015

Earthquake pushes Kathmandu further south

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that rocked Nepal, scientists have revealed that the land beneath the capital Kathmandu moved southwards about 3 m (10 ft).

Professor Sandy Steacy, head of the physical sciences department at the University of Adelaide, Australia, said the earthquake on 25 April occurred on the Himalayan Thrust fault. “The relative movement across the fault zone was on the order of three metres at its greatest, just north of Kathmandu,” she said.

The incredible forces that brought about these earthquakes are small compared with the convulsions of the earth’s crust that pushed up the mountains towards the end of Noah’s Flood. These terrible modern tragedies and human suffering provide another reminder that we live in a fallen world, which is why bad things happen. (See creation.com/death-fall and creation.com/death-questions.)

  • Quake moves Kathmandu but Everest height unchanged, experts say, phys.org/news, 28 April 2015.

‘Nazi cow’ cull

In the 1940s, by cross-breeding various European cattle with each other, Professor Heinz Heck and his brother Lutz, of the Munich and Berlin zoos, claimed to have re-created an aurochs. This was the original wild bull of Europe, and ancestor of European domestic cattle. It was a massively powerful creature standing almost 2 m (7 ft) at its shoulder (cf. Creation 14(2):25–28, 1992; creation.com/aurochs).

wikipedia.org aurochs

The experiment was apparently backed by the Nazi leader Hermann Göring who dreamed of releasing the animal, believed extinct since the 17th Century, into the wild for hunting.

The Heck cows, which ended up on a farm in Devon, England, certainly began to look more like the aurochs depictions in cave art, with their muscular stature, shaggy coats and large horns. Now it appears that their British owner found them too aggressive, saying that they would regularly try to kill him. So recently, all but the most mild-mannered ones were killed for meat.

Although the ‘bovine kind’ likely also included bison, buffalo, and yaks, these ‘recombination’ attempts could conceivably bring us somewhat closer to the original ancestral kind, which came off the Ark after the Flood. Similarly, recombining domestic breeds of dog could produce something closer to an earlier ‘mongrel’ group, which had less variety, but more potential for variation. Clearly, many domestic varieties of animal have specialized from their ancestral groups.

Such a process involves a thinning of the original gene pools, with each daughter population having less genetic information (variety/heterozygosity) than the parent group. This is the opposite of what molecules-to-man evolution requires.

  • ‘Nazi cows’: British farmer Derek Gow forced to cull herd of aggressive aurochs-like Heck cattle, abc.net.au, 7 January 2015.

Sleep rejuvenates the brain

Dr Jeff Iliff, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University, has described new discoveries on how the brain is designed to cleanse itself during sleep.

Although the human brain comprises only 2% of our body weight, it accounts for 20% of our total energy consumption. Scientists have found that the brain has an extensive blood supply that distributes oxygen and nutrients to every brain cell. But what about the waste management from all that electrical activity?

iStockphoto.com sleep

The rest of the body uses the lymphatic system to remove waste products, which are produced continuously. However, the brain does not have a lymphatic system.

Researchers have found that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) permeates the brain itself—it is not just on the outside. The CSF flows through the brain, removing waste (such as amyloid-beta, which forms plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease), which it then transfers to the blood for processing. The CSF flows along the outside of the blood vessels, as the brain’s cells shrink back and create space to allow the movement.

However, very little movement of CSF occurs during wakeful times, only when sleeping, which emphasises the importance of sleep.

Dr Iliff described this sophisticated system in terms of an “elegant design solution”, “It was ingenious, but it was also beautiful”, and “a really clever design solution”. Indeed so, and so we give our Creator the glory for His incredible ingenuity in the things He has made.

  • One more reason to get a good night’s sleep, ted.com, Oct 2014.

Ocean not from comets

According to the evolutionary story, the earth, sun, and planets formed in space from a swirling disc of dust and gas. If planets could form in such a way, the inner planets, including earth, would be dry. However, our planet is awash with water. Where did it come from? The ‘explanations’ involve comets and/or asteroids crashing into the earth, over eons of time, but both have problems.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to the comet 67P announced that the idea that comets are the source of Earth’s water doesn’t, well ‘hold water’. They found that the ratio of deuterium (‘heavy hydrogen’) to ordinary hydrogen in the comet water is different from the water on earth. So, the attention has turned back to asteroids. The problem is that asteroids don’t contain much water, so planetary scientists speculate that they must have been much wetter in the distant past.

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God … 2 Peter 3:5
  • Rosetta pours cold water on cometary origins of Earth’s oceans, blogs, scientificamerican.com/observations, December 10, 2014.

Stegosaurus plate size differences

The ‘plates’ on the backs of stegosaur dinosaurs may have differed in size between males and females, according to researcher Evan Saitta, from Bristol University, UK.

iStockphoto.com stegasaurus

After examining the plates of several stegosaurs buried together in Montana, USA, Saitta found they came in two types: one larger and broader and the other smaller and more spiky. He speculated that males and females were different, with males having the larger plates.

Saitta said: “Simply looking at them by eye, you can identify two varieties. But then you can also measure them and do a more quantitative analysis and demonstrate that, yes, there are two distinct varieties of plates.”

Sometimes it seems people miss the forest for the trees. The big-picture question from these stegosaurs is, “Why were such large animals buried and preserved together in a ‘graveyard’?” The answer—it was the global Flood described in the Bible.

  • Saitta, E.T., Evidence for sexual dimorphism in the plated dinosaur Stegosaurus mjosi (Ornithischia, Stegosauria) from the Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic) of western USA, PLOS One, 22 April 2015 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123503.
  • Graveyard clue to stegosaur plates, bbc.com, 22 April 2015.

In the blink of an eye …

iStockphoto.ocm/Anettelinnes eye

Not only are our eyes a serious problem for evolution, but eyelashes add to the puzzle because they are vital to proper eye function. We have explained previously the important role of tears (Creation 15(4):16–18, 1993; creation.com/tears). These are constantly threatened with evaporation, which is worse when air flows across the eyeball. Airflow also increases the amount of dust depositing on the eye.

A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that eyelashes drastically reduce airflow—if they are the right length. In tests on numerous mammals, they found that eyelashes are consistently one-third the width of their eyes. They said, “Wind tunnel experiments confirm that this optimal eyelash length reduces both deposition of airborne particles and evaporation of the tear film by a factor of two.”

Researchers also found that thick eyelashes (possessed by animals such as giraffes and kangaroos that live in bright dusty environments) were more effective at both blocking airflow across the eye and limiting light.

Such similarities that we share with other creatures show that we all had one incredibly intelligent Creator. That is, there is one divine mind behind the whole of creation.

  • Eyelashes divert airflow to protect the eye, Journal of the Royal Society Interface 12(105), April 2015 | doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.1294.

Singer’s strange sympathies

In April 2015, controversial ‘ethicist’ Peter Singer said that government should ration healthcare by refusing to treat severely disabled infants. However, the National Council on Disability published a response, saying, “People with disabilities commonly report more satisfaction with their lives than others might expect. Though it might surprise Singer and those with limited imaginations, even people with disabilities who encounter obstacles, prejudice, and discrimination, derive satisfaction and pleasure from their lives.”

And “Medical personnel are not always knowledgeable of special education and rehabilitation techniques, specialized accommodations, independent living philosophy, and other factors that may spell the difference between a direly-limited future and a satisfying and fulfilling one for an individual with a disability. And it seems, neither are some philosophers on media tours eager to sell their latest book.”

Of course, as Christians, we believe that human life is inherently valuable because we are created in God’s image. Any other standard will lead to some people being deemed ‘disposable’ as Singer shows. It’s no coincidence that Nazi Germany shared his ardent evolutionism.

  • NCD response to controversial Peter Singer interview advocating the killing of disabled infants: “Professor, do your homework”, ncd.gov, 23 April 2015.

Isolated island mammoths a dying kind

After studying the genome sequences of two woolly mammoths, researchers concluded that a population bottleneck contributed to their extinction.

One mammoth—dated at 4,300 years old using long-age assumptions—was from Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean about 85 miles (140 km) from the Russian mainland in the waters between it and Alaska.

The researchers found that when compared with a much older mammoth from north-eastern Siberia, there was significantly less genetic diversity on Wrangel Island. That is not at all surprising given the isolation from the mainland population (see creation.com/riddle and creation.com/snapfreeze).

Previous research into Wrangel Island mammoths discounted the impact of reduced genetic diversity and concluded that human activity and/or environmental factors killed off healthy creatures.

These mammoths populated these areas after Noah’s Flood and became extinct toward the end of the Ice Age.

  • Complete genomes reveal signatures of demographic and genetic declines in the Woolly Mammoth, cell.com/current-biology, 23 April 2015.
  • Mammoths’ extinction not due to inbreeding, study finds, bbc.com, 23 March 2012.

queen

Atheist fundamentalists as intolerant as murderous monarchs

A senior English judge has singled out atheist fundamentalists for wanting to suppress Christianity and labelled them as intolerant as the murderous monarchs of the Tudor dynasty.

The just-retired Sir Michael Tugendhat, a Roman Catholic, noted that the rise of secularism was translating into hostility against those who held to a belief in a superhuman being.

Such people, he said, “sometimes exhibit an attitude to freedom of religion and freedom of speech which is as restrictive as that of Elizabeth I or Burghley”.

Sir Michael, 70, said he was concerned that lawsuits involving religion had increased in recent years. Just as with atheists wanting to suppress even a mention of creation in schools (see creation.com/schoolattack) they are bringing various ‘equality’ cases particularly against Christians. Their aim is to make Christians conform to a redefined set of morals without the right to public dissent.

Sir Michael rightly observed: “Freedom which is confined entirely to the privacy of a person’s home is a form of oppression.”

  • Atheist militants who silence Christians are as bad as Tudor tyrants, says top judge, dailymail.co.uk, 15 May 2015.

Fly headed in the right direction

Researchers Drs Vivek Jayaraman and Johannes Seelig have discovered that activity in a fruit fly’s brain shows a pattern that follows the direction it’s headed.

They recorded images of neurons firing in what they describe as “compass-like” activity. And they marvelled at the “surprising” complexity considering the size of the brain.

Jayaraman, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland, US, said “the fly may have a lot to tell us” about how bigger brains accomplish similar tasks.

As with all of God’s creatures, the fly was perfectly designed to function with no ‘upward’ development from any ‘lower’ form. Rather than surprise at the complexity, there should be awe at the Designer.

  • Donut-shaped ‘compass’ glimpsed inside fly brain, bbc.com, 13 May 2015.
  • Neural dynamics for landmark orientation and angular path integration, Nature 521(7551):186–191, May 2015.
iStockphoto.com volcano

Mantle plumes a ‘just so’ story?

The widely accepted idea that volcanoes arise from narrow jets of magma rising from the earth’s mantle may be wrong. Based on new seismology data, researchers from Caltech and University of Miami claim that ‘mantle plumes’ don’t actually exist. They say volcanoes form from sheets of magma thousands of kilometres across, not far under the crust.

Professors Don Anderson and James Natland said that with the installation of more seismic stations more closely spaced, and with their improved analysis, they were able to confirm that there are no narrow mantle plumes.

Anderson, from Caltech, says that mantle plumes “are akin to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ about how giraffes got their long necks.” This illustrates that geological ideas, even ones that are widely accepted, can be challenged with new information.

  • Mantle updrafts and mechanisms of oceanic volcanism, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111(41):E4298–E4304, 2014.