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Almost Impossible Challenge

Almost Impossible Challenge

Intermediate

Some people like a good challenge and some don’t. Some people like the challenge of climbing Mount Everest, while others would prefer to stay home. Such people might point out that there are some challenges which are best ignored. There could well be challenges which are just too difficult or time consuming to undertake. For example, in August a team from Cambridge University reported that it took them twenty two years to produce a synthetic version of azadirachtin, a product which India’s neem tree (Azadirachta indica) effortlessly produces in large quantities. Read the rest of this entry »


Beauty in miniature

Beauty in miniature

Intermediate

Anybody studying biology today is aware that proteins form the molecular machines that keep the cells of our bodies healthy. But how many students are told that these proteins are actually beautiful? Read the rest of this entry »


Landmark Work: What’s Wrong with ‘Survival of the Fittest’

An exciting new book was published in the fall of 2017. The author, Nathaniel Jeanson, is a specialist in molecular biology and bioinformatics with a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard University. With such fancy credentials, one might expect his new book to be very difficult and full of technical mumbo-jumbo! Well, Dr. Jeanson does present some very interesting information, but he does undertake to make the discussion accessible to interested readers. Excellent illustrations (some in colour) really help. Nevertheless for reading this book a good background in high school biology at least would be a big help. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celebrating Rhythm!

Celebrating Rhythm!

IntermediateIntroductory

The 2017 award of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine to three Americans, Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young, has served to stimulate our interest in a phenomenon that is actually well-known. We all know why people get hungry about the same time of day, or wake up about the same time, or suffer from jet-lag. It is because of biological clocks. So what was so special about the work of these three scientists? The story actually goes back to 1729! Read the rest of this entry »


Chemical Delights

Chemical Delights

IntermediateIntroductory

As a rule, scientists seek answers. They want to answer the “why” questions. Why, for example, are plants green? Why is blood red? These are very simple queries compared to the biggies like why does quantum physics work. Nevertheless, believe it or not , we are as far from answering why chlorophyll is green, and blood cells are red, as we are from explaining quantum mechanics. Two commentators in fact recently termed the reason blood is red a “visual pun of molecular wit.” (Morrison and Morrison. 1998. Scientific American. March p. 106) The explanation for colour in chlorophyll is similarly obscure. The situation becomes even more interesting when we discover that chlorophyll and the heme component of hemoglobin are chemically extremely similar . Read the rest of this entry »


DNA by the Numbers

DNA by the Numbers

Intermediate

An avid fan of spy stories, I have read many which involve an apparently harmless document (like a friendly letter). But the document actually conveys dangerous information if one is provided with the appropriate convention for decoding it. Read the rest of this entry »


Dr. Paul Nelson Opened Our Minds

Dr. Paul Nelson Opened Our Minds

Intermediate

Dr. Paul Nelson is a prominent spokesperson for the creation and intelligent design communities. It was in that capacity that he introduced enthusiastic participants at the 2013 Creation Weekend in Edmonton, to new arguments and exciting information. Read the rest of this entry »


You have to wonder how a big science project in biology, which involved 32 laboratories from 10 countries and 440 scientists, and which cost $130 million, could be controversial with many other mainstream biologists. The lead articles were published in the journal Nature on September 6, 2012. What could be controversial about that? Well it transpires that many scientists, who were not involved, did not like the initial thinking on which the project was based, how the research was carried out, and how the conclusions were drawn. What certain mainstream scientists particularly did not like was that so many intelligent design and creation scientists were so pleased. Read the rest of this entry »


CSAA’s featured speaker for Creation Weekend 2011 was well known creation apologist Dr. Jerry Bergman. Large numbers of people came to hear one or more of his lectures and all declared themselves delighted with his genial, non-confrontational manner and his interesting material. In that Dr. Bergman’s area of expertise is biology, chemistry and medical anatomy, the issues he discussed were quite different from the geological topics which we have considered in recent years. This material demonstrated anew that the issue of creation is broad and encompasses all aspects of nature. Read the rest of this entry »


Eye-Deal Example of Design

Eye-Deal Example of Design

Intermediate

The ability of fireflies to glow in the dark, delights those who have seen these insects in action. It really seems like a special talent. However a recent issue of National Geographic (March 2015) declared about bioluminescence: “Evolving to make light seems to be relatively easy — it has happened independently in at least 40 different lineages.” (p. 84) Just because we find a special talent in a number of very different creatures, does not mean that the talent was easily developed by chance. National Geographic is not aware that this unusual ability is much more reasonably explained as the choice of God, the creator. There are many examples where we can see the problem for evolution of special talents in very different creatures. And the camera eye is an ideal example. Read the rest of this entry »


Insect Talents are Special

Insect Talents are Special

Intermediate

Biologists tell us that the ability to detect and identify odours is perhaps the most important sense that animals need to survive. By means of odour detection, insects locate food, avoid toxins and predators, and communicate with others of their own species. Their sense of smell is located mainly in their antennae.

One insect that is particularly talented in many respects, is none other than the famous fruit fly. For example, these red-eyed beauties exhibit extremely good abilities to find rotting fruit. Because fruit flies are easy to culture, biologists first studied odour detecting talents in these creatures. The study was expected to be interesting but scarcely earth-shattering. But guess what! Drosophila (fruit fly) was the tip of the iceberg to reveal that insects exhibit odour detecting abilities that are highly unusual and a major problem for evolutionary expectations. Since then similar studies have been conducted on moths, beetles, other flies, cockroaches and social insects. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning Lots All Year

Learning Lots All Year

ChildrenIntroductory

Do you like to watch your favourite team show off their talents? Are you happy when they win? Sometimes it’s fun to be a spectator. All you have to do is cheer. Let’s be spectators in temperature races featuring that special competitor, the yeast cell.

Yeast is a tiny mold made up of a single cell. Yeast has the remarkable ability to turn sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. If there are more yeast cells, naturally, sugar is turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas at a faster rate. The happier the yeast is kept, the faster it grows and the more product it produces. Let’s see if temperature has any effect on how happy the yeast is and thus on how fast it grows and how much product it produces. Read the rest of this entry »


NO Tampering with Human Life

NO Tampering with Human Life

Intermediate

The scientist credited with developing a new type of stem cell, says he is very concerned about the process. The ethical problems go far beyond any issues with embryonic stem cells. Read the rest of this entry »


A recent list of the 100 most important “scientific discoveries that changed the world” lists Rick Smalley’s discovery of Buckyballs (English, 2014, p. 13). But who was this man? Richard (Rick) Smalley (June 6, 1943-October 28, 2005) was Professor of Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy at Rice University. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 (along with Sir Harry Kroto and Robert Curl) for the discovery and research on a new allotrope (form) of carbon. He called this unique soccerball-shaped molecule buckminsterfullerene, nicknamed buckyballs. Soon a more comprehensive category called fullerenes was proposed to include nanotubes. Read the rest of this entry »


One More Use for DNA

One More Use for DNA

Intermediate

Over the last decade, everything has become digital. We don’t capture images on film anymore, but in digital files. We don’t send letters, we send email messages. We don’t buy books, we download documents to an e-reader. Every organization has a website. Information is at our fingertips, but the whole system is extremely fragile.

The problems with our digital storage technologies are twofold. The data don’t last once they have been laid down and must be transferred to keep them fresh, while the technology for storage and reading keeps changing. An amusing example of this is NASA, which in the early 2000s, found that it was unable to access data from the space program of the 1960s and 1970s. So there they were, scouring internet auction sites to find second hand eight-inch floppy drives which could read their priceless data. Similar events of loss or near loss happen all the time. In 2009 when Yahoo! closed their GeoCities server, a huge amount of data was lost, perhaps “the most amount of history in the shortest amount of time, certainly on purpose, in living memory.”  Nobody seemed to notice, but if these had been paper documents which were lost from a library, the outcry would have been anguished indeed. The take home lesson is that as a digital society, we need better systems to store and read data. In view of this, some scientists have turned their attention not to a new system, but to a tried and true system, much better than modern devices. Enter DNA to the discussion. Read the rest of this entry »