Focus: creation news and views 38(4)
Pregnancy: design ‘writ large’
Scientists have known for a while that a special protein called syncytin 1 is necessary for the formation of the placenta. At the beginning of pregnancy, an embryo must stick to the wall of the uterus (womb) and scientists at the University of Sheffield, UK, have shown that syncytin 1 is involved with this as well.
Another form of this protein, syncytin 2, is also necessary for a successful pregnancy. As the researchers say, “Syncytin expression is a prerequisite for embryo implantation and placentation.” Genes called HERV-W and HERV-FRD code for the two proteins. ‘HERV’ stands for Human Endogenous Retro Virus, a name that comes from the evolutionary claim that these genes came from accidental insertions of DNA into our genomes by viruses. Thus, HERV genes were seen as virus-derived, useless ‘junk’ DNA. But how can that be, since two such genes are now known to be absolutely necessary for reproduction?
- Soygur, B., and Moore, H., Expression of Syncytin 1 (HERV-W), in the preimplantation human blastocyst, embryonic stem cells and trophoblast cells derived in vitro, Human Reproduction 31(7):1455–1461, July 2016 | doi: 10.1093/humrep/dew097.
Crack hunter on the ocean floor
An orange-dotted tuskfish (Choerodon anchorago) has been captured on film using astonishing techniques to both uncover and then break open a clam.
The footage shot by evolutionary biologist Giacomo Bernardi shows the fish snapping shut its gill cover and “generating a pulse of water the same way that a book creates a puff of air when you close it” to uncover the clam.
It then carries the clam to a rock and cracks it open by “using several rapid head flicks and well-timed releases”. For video see ‘Orange-Dotted Tuskfish Uses Tool’ on Youtube.
Such complex skills in a fish, supposedly an extremely distant evolutionary relative to all other creatures known to use tools, such as humans, chimps and birds, defy evolutionary explanations and testify to a master Designer.
- Balcombe, J., Fishes Use Problem Solving and Invent Tools, scientificamerican.com, June 2016.
Brain drain powers innovation
In the race to improve the energy efficiency of computer chips, the human brain may hold the key, according to biologist Bruno Michel, IBM’s head of advanced micro-integration. He says the brain consumes only about 20 watts of power, which makes it about 10,000 times more energy-efficient than the best silicon machines invented.
Dr Michel is working on producing an electronic version of the network of blood vessels that channels energy to biological brains. This is another example of biomimetics or learning from the Master Designer. For more see creation.com/biomimetics.
- Brain scan: Bruno Michel, economist.com, March 2016.
Tiny germ has motorized grappling hooks
The soil germ Myxococcus xanthus usually travels in ‘wolf packs’ or biofilm swarms to hunt for other bacteria. New research has shown that they move with elaborate locomotion machinery. Caltech biophysicists used a technique called electron cryotomography to freeze the bacteria rapidly to lock their original structure, so they could be studied with an electron microscope. They also used genetics to make germs that lacked certain machinery components, and by comparing these deficient germs with the original, they could work out where the components go. From a number of 2D still shots, they were able to make 3D images of the locomotion machines.
The germs send out a long fibre called a pilus (plural pili), made of protein subunits called pilins. The pilus is sent by the type IV pilus machine (T4PM), which contains four interlocking rings. Using an ATP-powered motor that rotates, the machine adds one pilin at a time to the base. The growing pilus emerges through a pore, until it attaches to something.
This attachment causes the end pilin to change shape, which causes the same change in the next pilin, and so on down to the base. This is a signal for the germ to start reeling in the pilus, and in the process moving towards the object. It does so by substituting a reversing motor that takes out the pilins one at a time.
This motor may well be the strongest molecular motor for its size in the living world.
It’s notable that the original paper is entitled ‘Architecture of the type IVa pilus machine’. Architecture requires an Architect, and this stunning example is no exception.
- Chang, Y.W., et al., Architecture of the type IVa pilus machine, Science 351(6278):aad2001, March 2016 | doi: 10.1126/science.aad2001.
- Franco, M., Dramatic 3D images reveal super-small motors that drive bacteria, gizmag.com, March 2016.
Rapid rock erosion threatens millions
Hundreds of millions of dollars is being spent to rectify problems caused by faster-than-expected erosion in basalt rock that is threatening the safety of a hydroelectric arch dam in Africa. Completed in 1959, the Kariba Dam on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border is Africa’s biggest reservoir—with about 185 cubic kilometres (44 cubic miles) of water.
In less than 60 years, it already has cracks and decay, caused by the water from the dam’s sluices eroding the hard basalt rock at the base of the dam wall. The vast crater from this erosion is already about 90 m (300 ft) deep and 30 m (100 ft) wide and growing. Millions of people live downstream in the Zambezi River basin. Under their long-age assumptions, geologists would not have considered it possible that the erosion of the rock by water coming from the dam’s sluices could have been so rapid and so vast.
Although on a much smaller scale, what occurred at Kariba Dam gives an insight into the enormous, catastrophic forces of Noah’s Flood that reshaped the world.
- Race against time to save Kariba Dam, thezimbabwean.co, October 2015.
Explosive plant’s eye-popping actions
Researchers can now better explain the complex mechanism by which the plant Cardamine hirsuta—commonly known as popping cress—disperses its seed at speeds that boggle the mind.
As the pods burst open, instantaneously, the ejected seeds accelerate from zero to 10 m (32 ft) per second in about half a millisecond. High-speed cameras captured this and also helped unearth the secret to such explosive acceleration.
It was not—as previously thought—from pods drying out and cracking open. Instead, the fruit wall stores elastic energy through growth and expansion which it can rapidly release “at the right stage of development”.
The research team found that hydrated cells in the outer layer of the seed pod actually used their internal pressure to contract and generate tension.
Of course the researchers credited ‘evolution’ for giving us this amazing plant, but popping cress is yet another example of the Master Designer’s incredible ingenuity that continually challenges human imagination.
- A mathematical model explains how popping cress catapults its seeds into the air, phys.org, June 2016.
Something to write home about
The literacy of ancient people and the Bible are both discussed in a secular scientific journal in connection with writing found on shards of pottery from the desert fortress of Tel Arad in Israel.
Analysis revealed the writing—dated about six centuries before Christ—was from several people and showed that “the entire army apparatus, from high-ranking officials to humble vice-quartermasters of small desert outposts, was literate”.
The paper, titled “Algorithmic handwriting analysis of Judah’s military correspondence sheds light on composition of biblical texts”, is also an acknowledgment that people of this era were much more culturally sophisticated than some archaeologists would have the world believe.
In response to the find, Walter Kaiser Jr., president emeritus and Old Testament professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, USA, said:
“Biblical archaeology, especially in the 20th century, was one of the greatest witnesses to the historical points in the biblical text. Not that we were able to demonstrate everything—far from that. But there were so many confirmations that there was a high probability that perhaps the whole text is demonstrating exactly what the Bible proclaims.”
From the Bible we know that man was always intelligent, and the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6:1–8 includes teaching and writing God’s commandments.
- Pells, R., Pottery discovery offers new evidence of when Bible was written, independent.co.uk, April 2016.
- Holgate, T., Ancient sticky notes raise possibility that Bible was written earlier than scholars thought, biblesociety.org.au, May 2016.
Train up a child …
Evolutionists face a real problem. Children have a strong natural tendency towards seeing a designer in living things. How might evolutionists counteract this? Researchers recently suggested that instead of teaching kids about evolution in high school, or just before, teach it to them when their minds are still malleable enough to accept it without trouble.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that 5–8-year-olds managed to imbibe evolution more easily than older children. The irony is that even this is a perverse proof of biblical wisdom: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). For more, see: creation.com/evolutionising-children.
- Gjersoe, N., Evolution makes scientific sense. So why do many people reject it? guardian.com. March 2016.
Predators eating produce?
Science Daily’s article ‘Crocodile confession: Meat-eating predators occasionally eat fruit’ may surprise people used to evolutionary explanations of origins.
In a survival-of-the-fittest, ‘red in tooth and claw’ world the idea of crocodilians munching on watermelons and kumquats may seem preposterous, but that is what observational science is showing.
“The authors looked at 18 species of crocodilian ranging from the American alligator to the fearsome Nile crocodile and found 13 of the species consumed some form of fruit including a variety of berries, legumes, nuts, and grains.”
(See also ‘Cannibal Deer?’ on p. 43 for another surprising, though opposite, phenomenon.)
The Bible says that in the beginning everything was ‘very good’ and that creatures only ate plants. There was no carnivorous activity (Genesis 1:29–31). Death and bloodshed came into the creation only after Adam sinned, so it is no surprise to biblical creationists that we see a remnant of God’s initially ‘good’ creation even in our fallen world.
- Crocodile confession: Meat-eating predators occasionally eat fruit, sciencedaily.com, August 2013.
- Youtube: Alligator Smashes Watermelon!, and Alligator eating kumquats
Speedier carbon-14 dating method
Italian researchers have developed a faster and cheaper method that they say will provide carbon dating results within hours. It involves a highly sensitive optical technique for detecting radiocarbon dioxide concentration and differs from the slower, standard process that uses an accelerator mass spectrometer and takes weeks to deliver results.
The researchers say their instrument can detect radiocarbon dioxide concentration with a precision of 0.4 percent, which rivals the 0.2 percent precision of the current testing methods.
Carbon-14 ‘dates’ are calculated on the measured ratio of radioactive carbon-14 to normal carbon-12 (14C/12C). Mainly used on samples which were once alive, such as wood or bone, the measured 14C/12C ratio is compared with the ratio in living things today.
Carbon-14 decays relatively rapidly, over thousands of years, and—in evolutionary thinking—should not be found in samples of objects claimed to be millions of years old. But it has, in dinosaur fossils and coal said to be many millions of years old and even in diamonds supposedly more than a billion years old. Creationists will benefit from this new technology and potentially uncover more examples that run counter to long-age thinking and point to a young earth. For more, see: creation.com/diamonds.
- Optical Approach Offers Faster and Less Expensive Method for Carbon Dating, osa.org, April 2016.
Thorny plant sparks fuel-cell efficiency
One of the engineering challenges of electric cars is that the proton-exchange membrane in their fuel cells needs to stay constantly hydrated to maintain performance. The skin must not dry out. Currently this is achieved by placing the fuel cells alongside a radiator, water reservoir, and a humidifier. But these take up a large amount of space and use significant power.
Researchers have found a more efficient alternative, inspired by the way the cactus plant’s stomatal pores help the cactus retain water. These ‘tiny cracks’ on the outside of the plant open at night when it is cool and humid, and close when the day is hot and dry. Similarly, the researchers’ new membrane, or skin, has a hydrophobic coating with nanometre-scale cracks. These ‘nano-cracks’ widen when exposed to humidifying conditions, and close when it is drier.
Co-researcher Cara Doherty of Australia’s CSIRO explained, “This means that fuel cells can remain hydrated without the need for bulky external humidifier equipment. We also found that the skin made the fuel cells up to four times as efficient in hot and dry conditions.”
This latest design feature of electric car fuel cells, inspired by the cactus, has another important implication. For something to even have a true ‘design feature’ it must have had a designer who made it.
- Cactus inspired skin gives electric cars a spike, csiro.au, April 2016.
- Nanocrack-regulated self-humidifying membranes, Nature 532(7600):480–483, April 2016 | doi:10.1038/nature17634.
Adult stem cells reverse brain damage
Researchers are ‘stunned’ by the results of a study that shows that adult stem cells can reverse brain damage due to strokes. “The one-time therapy involved surgeons drilling a hole into the study participants’ skulls and injecting stem cells in several locations around the area damaged by the stroke.” The stem cells were obtained from the patients’ own blood marrow, so pose no ethical dilemma, and no chance of rejection by the patient’s body. Seven of the 18 patients “experienced significant improvement”, meaning that stem cells could be a viable treatment for brain-damaged people.
This supports what we’ve long stated, that ethically sound adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells that require the death of a unique individual, are the best chance for medical breakthroughs.
- Cha, A.E., Stanford researchers ‘stunned’ by stem cell experiment that helped stroke patient walk, washingtonpost.com, June 2016. See also creation.com/stem-cells.
Saturn’s moons younger than the dinosaurs?
Studies of the orbits of some of Saturn’s 62 moons have led scientists to conclude they are much younger than the assumed age of their planet of over 4 billion years. As the moons orbit Saturn, they are very slowly moving outwards, much like our moon is doing in relation to the earth. The moons should have interacted with each other over the assumed billions of years but their orbits do not exhibit the expected characteristics, leading scientists to conclude that the moons cannot be older than about 100 million years. The researchers wrote:
“This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period, the era of the dinosaurs.”
The scientists wonder how the moons, and presumably the rings, could be so (relatively) young. They speculate an earlier configuration of moons must have collided forming the rings from the debris along with the present moons.
It is important to note that the 100 million years is a maximum age, and so is consistent with the young age indicated from the Bible. That is, Saturn, its moons and its rings are only a few thousand years old at most. That is so whether or not the ring particles were created on Day 4 of Creation Week, some 6,000 years ago, or arose from later cosmic collisions.
- Moons of Saturn may be younger than the dinosaurs, seti.org, March 2016
Scientists observe insects becoming new species
The mainstream media continues to conflate speciation with ‘evolution’. A recent study stated:
“… evolutionary changes in one species of fruit fly triggered a cascade of evolutionary changes in three species of wasps …
… not only did the fruit fly evolve into a new species, but so did each of the wasps. The speciation process took a mere 160 years. The research sheds light not only on how some new life-forms originate …”
But wasps and fruit flies turning into different varieties of wasps and fruit flies hardly explains how ‘new life-forms originate’! And there was something significant the researchers found astonishing:
“‘We tend to think of evolution occurring over millions of years,’ said Scott Egan, evolutionary biologist at Rice University and co-author of the study. ‘What jumped out at me is that [a new species] can emerge in contemporary time.’”
In fact rapid speciation, which often surprises evolutionists as the above quote shows, is expected from the biblical creationist model, since life’s bio-diversity derived from the various kinds Noah took on board the Ark just 4,500 years ago (see creation.com/speedy). And speciation (caused by the ‘reshuffling’ or degradation of already existing genetic information) is not evolution (which requires brand new genetic information to come into existence). So, rather than support ‘evolution over millions of years’ this observation actually supports the true history in God’s Word.
- Scientists observe wasps evolving into new species, wsj.com, October 2015.