Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

Mighty Mouse Drug May Help Space Travel

One of the problems with space travel is that the human body was designed to live on Earth. When people are in weightlessness for an extended time, they lose muscle and bone mass. This loss can be as much as 20%. A possible solution might be called the “mighty mouse drug.”

Dr. Se-Jin Lee of the Jackson Laboratory at the University of Connecticut has published findings of a drug that blocks a pair of proteins that typically limit muscle mass. When scientists treated mice with this drug, they maintained their weight and muscle mass even when they were in the International Space Station for a month.

The application of this research can do more than provide a way for humans to survive a trip to Mars. It may also benefit people who are confined to a bed or a wheelchair.

This research reminds us that God designed our bodies to function in Earth’s gravity, just as He designed Earth to support life. Problems occur when we subject our physical bodies to forces they were not designed for. These problems require extreme solutions, and God has given us the ability to use science to find solutions such as the mighty mouse drug.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Associated Press 9/12/20, and Fierce Biotech.

Mystery of Cicada Wings and Raindrops

Mystery of Cicada Wings and Raindrops

We often see an animal or plant with remarkable abilities or properties that are not obvious how they work. One of those is the mystery of cicada wings and raindrops.

Scientists studying cicadas have noticed that their wings repel water and have antimicrobial properties. Every past attempt to understand how this works has destroyed the wing before finding the answer. However, it did appear that there were layers to the wing.

Scientific American (September 2020, page 21) describes a new method of analysis called microwave-assisted extraction. Using that method on cicada wings, scientists at Sandia National Laboratories peeled back the outer layer revealing a fantastic design.

Under the outer chemical layers, cicada wings have structures called nanopillars. When scientists removed the nanopillars’ chemical layers, they became shorter and bent towards each other, making the wing structure so close that water could not penetrate it. The chemical layers on top of the nanopillars kill microbes.

Marianne Alleyne, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was the study’s senior author. She said this knowledge will help scientists understand how to use chemicals and structure to engineer new products. “We can design new materials more rationally, making choices about the structure and chemistry based on what we have observed in nature,” Alleyne said. This is one more example of how science can copy nature to give us new products.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The mystery of cicada wings and raindrops is another example to verify that statement and show us ways to improve our lives here on Earth.

You can read more about the research project HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why Do Birds Have Eyes?

Why Do Birds Have Eyes?

Why do birds have eyes? That sounds like a silly question. Suppose you said, “So they can see,” you would be correct. But that’s not the only purpose for a bird’s eyes.

Bird’s eyes also serve to cool the bird’s body. People sweat, dogs pant, but birds have another cooling system. Flying is a high-energy activity, and it can raise a bird’s body temperature so much that the heat could damage its central nervous system. A bird’s eyes are designed to eliminate this problem.

As the wind rushes past the eyes of a flying bird, it evaporates water from the surface. This evaporation cools the blood in the nearby veins. The cooler blood prevents the temperature of the bird’s brain from going too high. Scientists proved this by putting hoods over the heads of some birds. If the eyes were covered, the brain temperature rose dramatically. If the eyes were uncovered, the brain temperature stayed constant.

So now you know. If someone asks you, “why do birds have eyes,” you can tell them, “To keep their brains cool.” We see many other amazing designs in birds. (Why do they fly north in spring? Why don’t they have ears? Why do some birds stand on one leg?) The design we see in all of life truly shows the wisdom of God.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Eating Dogs for Dinner

Eating Dogs for Dinner

One of the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised is the use of animals for food. People in many Asian countries eat animals that Americans would not think of using for food. An example is eating dogs for dinner.

Many years ago, while lecturing in London, a Chinese friend took me to an oriental restaurant for dinner. Since the menu was in Chinese, my host suggested that I let him order the meal. He said that he would get a variety of food so I could experience the diet of people who live in the area where he was born. I agreed but wrote down each item that was brought to me to sample.

When I got back to Indiana, I asked one of my students who spoke Chinese what I had eaten. He didn’t want to tell me. The first item was horse, the second was dog, and the third was cat. It was actually very good, but if he had told me that I was eating dog before it came to me on a plate, I am sure I would have balked at eating it.

The Week magazine (August 28, 2020, page 11) reported on eating dogs for dinner. The report says that the North Korean government is confiscating all pet dogs for use as food. Hungry North Koreans regard feeding a pet as wasteful, and the Communist government labels keeping a pet as a “bourgeois extravagance.” Authorities in North Korea are forcing households with pet dogs to surrender the animals for dog-meat distribution to restaurants and meat markets.

The COVID-19 issue originating in Chinese wet markets reminds us that what we eat can be an essential factor in human diseases. Knowing what dogs eat, where they go, and what their hygiene is like raises some serious concerns about what diseases they might carry. The Bible tells us to take care of our bodies as they are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Being careful about what we eat and how our food is handled and prepared should be part of caring for our bodies.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Self-Destruction Defense

Self-Destruction Defense in the Exploding Ant
AntWeb.org image of Order:Hymenoptera Family:Formicidae Genus:Camponotus Species:Camponotus saundersi Specimen:casent0179025 View:profile

How can an ant defend against a predator by blowing itself up? The worker ants of a species (Camponotus saundersi) that lives in Malaysia and Brunei use self-destruction defense. Let me explain.

These ants have two glands filled with toxic glue running the length of their bodies. When the ant seems to be losing its battle with a predator, it makes the ultimate sacrifice. By violently contracting its abdominal muscles, the ant ruptures its body. The explosion scatters sticky poison in all directions disabling the predator.

How can that benefit the ant? Obviously, that ant dies, but its action spares the rest of the colony from the predator. Humans sometimes sacrifice their own lives to save others. But, unlike humans, ants are not conscious of the fact that they are sacrificing themselves for their colony. How can we explain this by natural selection? Self-sacrificing ants would not reproduce to pass on that trait to their descendants. It must have been designed into the ants by the Master Designer of life.

These ants practice self-destruction defense even though they don’t understand the concept of self-sacrifice. However, I believe their Creator does. It’s expressed beautifully in the Bible. (See John 15:13 and John 3:16.)

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Blood Clotting Design

Blood Clotting Design

A couple of days ago, I accidentally sliced the tip of my finger with a sharp knife. It bled a lot for a while, but in a short time, the bleeding stopped. The bleeding probably helped cleanse any debris from the wound, but I didn’t want the bleeding to continue. If our blood did not clot, we could bleed to death from even a small injury. Blood clotting design, or coagulation, is a very complicated process that scientists have studied for years.

The process begins when a puncture to your skin injures a blood vessel exposing blood platelets to the collagen beyond the blood vessel’s lining. The platelets immediately bind to the collagen and each other, forming a temporary plug. This starts a whole series of complex chemical reactions involving proteins and enzymes called clotting factors.

A cascading series of a dozen steps must take place for coagulation to complete. The result is the creation of fibrin strands which strengthen the platelet plug and stop the bleeding. If any single factor of the clotting process is missing, the clot does not form, and the bleeding continues.

Hemophilia is a genetic defect that omits a clotting factor. It disrupts the process of blood clotting design such that people with hemophilia may bleed uncontrollably from even a small wound. This is an extremely simplified summary of the coagulation process involving a dozen factors requiring specific proteins and enzymes that must happen in a particular order. For more details, click HERE.

Without blood clotting, humans and other mammals could not have survived. All of the clotting factors had to be present at the beginning of mammal and human life, meaning that the coagulation process could not develop gradually by chance. The fact that our blood clots when we are injured is another evidence of design by an intelligent Creator.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Advantages of Cold Blood

Advantages of Cold Blood - Frog

Ectotherms are animals that are often described as “cold-blooded.” This group includes amphibians (such as frogs) and reptiles (such as snakes). These animals absorb heat from their surrounding environment instead of generating it internally from the food they eat. For that reason, they don’t need as much food to survive as a “warm-blooded” (endotherm) mammal or bird needs. That is one of the advantages of cold blood.

The food required for one mammal could feed 20 reptiles of the same size. So when food is in short supply, reptiles can survive when mammals may not be able to. Another advantage for ectotherms is that when the weather is cold, and food is scarce, they become inactive and don’t need to eat. This design allows for the efficient use of natural resources.

Also, ectotherms generally lay eggs and allow their young to hatch and survive on their own. The young can get their own food and even defend themselves. When temperatures are lower, frogs produce a larger number of females, and when it’s warmer, there are more males. This design considers the fact that cold weather makes the survival of the young less likely, so the larger number of females to lay eggs keeps the population steady. When survival is more likely because of warmer weather, not as many females are needed.

Without this system and the advantages of cold blood, the populations would vary widely. Cold-blooded animals are well designed to conserve resources and maintain the balance in nature. Design suggests a Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Magnetotactic Bacteria Finding Their Way

Magnetotactic Bacteria Finding Their Way

Before GPS, people found their way with a compass. Many still do. Did you know that finding your way is possible, even if you don’t have any eyes or ears, or even a brain, as long as you have a compass? Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) use the magnetic field of planet Earth to know which way to go. To do that, they have to build a compass. Realize that these are single-cell organisms that live in marine or freshwater habitats.

Inside the cells of all living things, there are subunits called organelles that perform various functions. MTB have organelles called magnetosomes that contain magnetic crystals. They build the magnetosomes by digesting iron and combining the iron with sulfur to form iron sulfide or with oxygen to form iron oxide. The iron oxide is also known as magnetite, and it’s a powerful magnet.

The bacteria form chains of these magnetic crystals inside their cells. The magnetosome chain acts as a compass needle aligning the MTB to Earth’s magnetic field. In this way, the magnetotactic bacteria can “know” the direction to move. Why do these bacteria need to know directions? They are anaerobic bacteria, meaning that they survive without oxygen. Oxygen can be deadly to them, so they need to find an area away from it. Rather than blindly going around in circles looking for a safe place, they move in a straight line to their anaerobic safe zone.

In 1963, an Italian scientist first noticed certain bacteria aligning and moving in the direction of the north pole. It wasn’t until 2007 that scientists paid much attention to that observation. Without eyes, ears, or a brain, magnetotactic bacteria can find where they need to go. But without a brain, how can they know to do this? And how can a single-cell bacterium build the magnetosome organelles? These magnetic crystals are difficult for humans to create in a laboratory. In fact, scientists have found that the magnetite produced by bacteria is better for some applications than what the scientists can produce in the laboratory. For that reason, they are looking to find a way to mass-produce MTB to obtain their magnetosomes.

Who taught the magnetotactic bacteria this fantastic skill? Did one of them figure it out and then pass that knowledge on to future generations? We don’t think so. A better explanation is that the Master Designer programmed the skill into them.

You can read a scientific paper on MTB at THIS LINK. Leading evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) once said that if you could find a magnetic mechanism as part of a living organism, it would disprove evolution. You can read more about Haldane and his statement at THIS LINK.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

Sentinel Duty in Animal Behavior

During my seven years in the army, I was in a survey crew. Our job was to go out into the wilderness and survey objects to be fired upon by the artillery unit. Because we were accustomed to being on our own and concealing our movement with the terrain and natural objects, we were frequently assigned sentinel duty. That meant our survey crew was deployed around the perimeter of where our unit was sleeping for the night. We were there to watch for any enemy coming close to our unit. In combat, we were especially vulnerable, because we had no protection ourselves, and were frequently in enemy territory. Sentinel duty was essential for the survival of the whole unit, but it was a dangerous duty.

Animals also practice sentinel duty. Birds are especially adept at having sentinels during their migratory journeys when they are vulnerable to hawks, wolves, foxes, cats, snakes, and a wide variety of mammals. Studies have shown that most birds migrating in groups have a single bird to watch for predators while the other birds in the flock are foraging. Because sentinels are by themselves, easy to identify, and further from a place of safety than the rest of the flock, they are frequently the first to be eaten.

For humans, giving your life to protect the group is considered a moral responsibility. Why would a bird serve as a sentinel? If you believe in “survival of the fittest,” then being a sentinel makes no sense at all. You and your progeny can be quickly removed from the population, and any beneficial DNA you may have had is gone forever. Sentinel duty does not select the most fit of the flock and allow them to survive and produce more offspring.

Many animal behaviors in the natural world do not promote the survival of the individual but contribute to the group’s advancement. Sentinel duty seems to be built into life-forms to allow survival in a constantly changing environment. God has designed a wide variety of behaviors into living things to enable Earth to be full of every kind of living creature. Sentinel duty is one of those genetically programmed behaviors.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Butterfly Wings and Rain

Butterfly Wings and Rain

Look around the world of living things, and you will see a system that has been carefully designed. Not only the system, but the individual life-forms could not exist without careful engineering. Countless problems had to be anticipated and solved in the creation process, and one of those involves butterfly wings and rain.

One of my favorite memories of my wife Phyllis, before she passed away, was the last trip, which included a visit to a butterfly house. I went through the screened-in house in 20 minutes and waited outside for Phyllis to join me. After waiting for what seemed like a long time, I went back in to find her. She was sitting on a large rock, literally covered with butterflies. As they fluttered around, they kept landing on her. An attendant came up to me and asked me if my wife was diabetic. When I said she was, the attendant said, “That explains it. Her blood sugar must be high.” Later my wife described the sensation of delicate wings dancing all over her head and arms. She was afraid to move for fear of injuring those delicate wings.

That raised the question in my mind about butterfly wings and rain. How could something so delicate survive a heavy rainstorm? Recently, Cornell University posted an article addressing that question. Butterfly wings have tiny bumps that break up incoming drops of water into small droplets that don’t damage the wings. In addition to that, the wings have a water-resistant wax coating, so the droplets slide off, making the wings essentially dry, even in the rain.

Similar features to what we see in the design of butterfly wings also occur in other living things such as plant leaves and feathers. Those features must have been present from the very beginning of the existence of those life-forms. Otherwise, they would never have survived to produce offspring and pass on the genetic information.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The design of butterfly wings and rain is one more example of how we can build our faith as we see God’s creative wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2020