Articles » Biochemistry
Spider Silk? Bring On the Nanny Goats
Spiders look scary and with good reason. They are all predators, you know. Their eight hairy legs and alarming mouth parts would frighten any potential victim. Although the usual victims are insects, even most people are reluctant to get too close to these creatures. Nevertheless, despite their frightening appearance, spiders are actually wonderfully designed organisms. Many species effortlessly produce an amazing product — spider silk. For forty years, scientists working for the American military, have sought to produce something like spider silk. Apparently this material is, by weight, five times stronger than steel. the military would love to use it for bullet proof vests, for parachutes, tents and surgical dressings. Until very recently however, all that the scientists produced was useless blobs. The spider, on the other hand, turns special proteins into as many as seven kinds of silk. The best plan would have been to let the spider do all that for us as well as for herself. Spider farming would have been fine, except that these fierce predators ate each other up. So it was back to the drawing board. Read the rest of this entry »
The Living Cell: Frankly Created
We hear all the time about how complicated living cells are. It makes us think that such entities were designed to work as they do. People who support the idea that all things came about by natural processes, however, do not want to think that there is a mind behind what we see in all living creatures from microbes up to the largest, most complicated organisms. These latter people want to show how the living cell developed spontaneously, without any direction. So they want to demonstrate that there were early cells which were much much simpler than what we see today, cells that could have appeared through natural processes. These scientists want to demonstrate that the barriers to spontaneous development are not too high. Read the rest of this entry »
Totally Unexpected Dinosaur Discoveries
It is interesting how dinosaur artifacts continue to amaze us. For example, in 1961, petroleum geologist R. L. Liscomb discovered a large bone bed on the banks of the Colville River in Alaska, not far from the Arctic Ocean. Since the bones were not perminieralized (fossilized), he assumed they were recent bison bones. He deposited some in a museum and for twenty years nobody gave the bones another thought. Then somebody noticed that these were Edmontosaurus bones (duckbill dinosaur). In 1985 palaeontologist William A. Clemens reported abundant dinosaur bones at the Liscomb site and in 1987 associate Kyle L. Davies described the condition of the dinosaur bones: “The quality of preservation is remarkable. The bones are stained a dark red brown but otherwise display little permineralization, crushing or distortion.” (J. Paleontology 61 #1 p. 198). Could such bones really be millions of years old as many scientists now supposed?
Upside Down Source of Fancy Photosynthesis
During the 1960s and 1970s, improved strains of wheat and rice resulted in a doubling of crop yields. Despite predictions of disaster from some environmentalists, the world continued to feed quickly growing human populations. This green revolution, kick-started by the research of American plant scientist Norman Borlaug and Indian rice geneticist M. S. Swaminathan, provided much higher yielding crops. However for optimum growth, these crops require the widespread application of nitrogen fertilizers and other chemicals. As a byproduct of this practice, a significant amount of fertilizer ends up in natural waterways. As a result, scientists now consider the application of such chemicals as “so last century!” (Nature October 30, 2014 p. S52). The hunt is now on for crops that do not require chemical inputs and yet produce high yields. Read the rest of this entry »
Water by Design
Did you ever stop to think about water? That most precious of resources, is an amazing compound. Indeed, as we all know, without this commodity, there is no life. Read the rest of this entry »
Why Ugly Bats are Beautiful!
If bats were prettier to look at, we might appreciate their amazing talents more. The fact is that bats exhibit some astonishing design features which our engineers and technologists really envy. Traditionally scientists have grouped bats according to their food preferences. There are the fruit bats with good eyesight, the insect consuming, echolocating bats and the vampire or blood consuming bats. Further research has revealed how amazingly these animals are designed for their life styles. Such studies have also revealed that the old fashioned ways of categorizing the creatures according to lifestyle and physical appearance do not really work. This has had some serious implications for ideas concerning whether Darwinian evolution could ever work or not. Read the rest of this entry »
You be the Industrial Sleuth
Imagine that you had never seen a car or any automobile before. You might well be curious as to how the device is able to move. So you examine some vehicles in motion and you come to the obvious conclusion that the wheels are the agents of motion. This is all very obvious and all very true. However if you build a device with chassis and wheels only, you will not get very far. What a car requires is an engine manufactured in a factory and fuel to run the engine. Of course your car needs mechanics to maintain the engine too. It is immediately evident to you that the whole system is the result of designers who conceived of the whole idea and who specify how your car is to be manufactured and operated. Read the rest of this entry »