Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism

Ultraviolet Defense Mechanism
The human eye is an incredible creation. It not only allows us to sense the visual world around us, but its connection with the brain is amazing. The image that falls on the back of your eye is inverted, and your brain turns it over so that you see everything right side up. Most animals have eyes that do unique things, but not all of them use visible light. Ultraviolet light has a higher frequency than the light we can see. That means it is more energetic than the human eye can detect but less energetic than Xrays. Many animals use ultraviolet light as tools to enable them to survive. Some birds can see in the ultraviolet as do monitor lizards, some foxes, and some snakes. Sometimes ultraviolet vision helps them to find food. Other times prey use it as an ultraviolet defense mechanism.

Among the things those ultraviolet-seeing predators eat are lizards. A lizard called the blue-tongued skink lives on the ground throughout much of the continent of Australia. This lizard would seem to be an easy target for predatory birds and ground-dwelling animals. However, it has an ultraviolet defense. The tongue of the blue-tongued skink is highly efficient at reflecting ultraviolet light. When threatened by a predator, the lizard will open its mouth wide and stick out its tongue. The tongue will give off a blast of reflected ultraviolet light. Experiments show that birds and ground animals that see in the ultraviolet are startled by the sudden burst of ultraviolet radiation and veer away from the lizard.

One of the problematic things in designing any natural environment is building a system where living things can survive over the long term. If there is not a balance between predator and prey, the result is disastrous. Many years ago someone introduced rabbits to Australia. They had no natural enemies, and they reproduced so rapidly that soon the whole continent was overrun with them.

God has designed prey and predators in such a way that, if humans don’t mess it up, the environment and all of the living things in it can survive indefinitely. We are only now beginning to understand how difficult that is, even involving ultraviolet defense mechanisms. We need to allow the Earth to continue to be fruitful.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology journal and reported on CNET.com

Plants Spread Their Seeds

Plants Spread Their Seeds - Sandbox Tree
Plants use a wide range of methods to spread their seeds. Some plants have seeds encased in a shell or a fleshy bundle that various animals, including humans, like to eat. We are all familiar with nuts and fruits, but the basic design of these foods is to spread their seeds. We live in an area where poison ivy is a real nuisance, and getting rid of it this year won’t stop it from being a problem next year because birds eat the berries on the plant and replant the ivy all over our property. For good or bad, plants spread their seeds.

In our front yard, we have maple trees, and we all know about the helicopters that maple trees produce. We have cottonwood trees which have white flocculent packets that drift across the landscape carrying their seeds with them. We also have several plants with seeds encased in a bundle with barbs that stick to our clothes. Plants spread their seeds by many methods working together to make our world green and able to support a host of animal life.

Plants that shoot their seeds use one of the most interesting methods of seed disbursal. The seed pod in the picture is from the sandbox tree (Hura crepitans) nicknamed “the dynamite tree” because of the explosive way the pods burst open. In the segments of the pod, the outer and inner layers grow at different speeds. This creates tension as the surfaces push against each other. When the seeds are ready, the pressure becomes so great, that the capsule explodes. The sections that were initially convex rapidly flip to concave in a process known to engineers as snap-buckling. That explosion can shoot the seeds 100 feet (30 m) at speeds of 160 miles (257 km) per hour.

Some of us remember “jumping disks” we had as children. Two metals were fused together with the metals having different coefficients of linear expansion. If you rubbed the side of the disk with your finger making it hot, it would expand, and you could bend it, so the disk had tension produced and held by the expanded metal. As the disk cooled, it would eventually snap back to its original shape, causing it to jump into the air.

Scientists have tried since the time of Charles Darwin, who had a fascination with the Venus flytrap, to understand how a plant with no muscles could shoot seeds or snap closed to trap insects. It has only been in the last 20 years that high-speed cameras which can take 10,000 frames per second have allowed researchers to understand how this incredible design works.

Measurements of snapping plants show a g-force of 2400. Fighter pilots can handle about nine gs before passing out. A wide variety of designs allow plants to shoot seeds or snap shut to trap food. The American dwarf mistletoe uses a chemical heat system that explodes seeds. The wild petunia has 20 disk-shaped seeds in hooks. When the seed pod gets wet, it splits and launches the seeds like Frisbees, but much faster with revolution rates of nearly 100,000 rpm. The Venus flytrap apparently uses an electrical signal, but scientists are still studying it to learn exactly how it works.

Plants spread their seeds by many amazing mechanisms God has built into them, and which scientists are still trying to understand. Even more amazing is the complexity of the life-support systems on Earth that allow us to exist.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
For more on his topic, see “Physics of Rapid Movement in Plants” in Europhysics News
and a wonderful article “Meet the Speedsters of the Plant World” in Science News

Volcán de Fuego – Volcano of Fire

Volcán de Fuego
Volcán de Fuego is Spanish for Volcano of Fire, a volcanic mountain in Guatemala. It has been active on-and-off for years. On Sunday, June 3, 2018, it erupted with fury. It had previously flared up in January and February, but this was the worst so far this year. Volcán de Fuego is famous for spewing out smoke daily and being continuously active at a low level. This time it erupted violently resulting in many deaths. Molten lava, flying rocks, hot gasses including sulfur dioxide threaten homes and lives in the area. The pyroclastic flow travels at speeds up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour or more. The gas rose 5 miles (8 km) into the troposphere. The map shows the area where the wind has taken the dangerous sulfur dioxide. The photo is of a previous eruption.Volcano Fuego Eruption June 2018

At the same time of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego on the big island of Hawaii, Mount Kilauea is still erupting and creating massive destruction, but with no fatalities so far. The question is, “Why do we have volcanos?” Perhaps we should ask, “Why do we need volcanos?”

The answer to the first question has to do with the composition and structure of Earth. The crust of the Earth, along with the upper mantle below it, is divided into sections called tectonic plates. Volcanos (and earthquakes) often occur near the boundaries of those plates. The movement and repositioning of those plates created the continents we have today. Beneath Earth’s crust, there is hot and partially molten material in an area known as the mantle. Pressure and the decomposition of radioactive material within the core of the Earth cause the elevated temperature. The fact that the minerals are in a molten state because of the extreme heat allows the movement of the tectonic plates on the surface. A volcano is a rupture in Earth’s crust that allows the escape of hot lava and gas from a magma chamber below the surface.

The answer to the second question of why we need volcanos is that they are part of Earth’s recycling system. Erosion of Earth’s surface leaches away nutrients from the soil. Volcano eruptions bring to the surface essential nutrients to nourish the soil allowing plants to grow and making farming more productive. They also bring to the surface valuable minerals that we need for modern, advanced civilization. Volcanos have also created many islands, such as the Aleutian islands and the islands of Hawaii. The movement of tectonic plates and the eruption of volcanos have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Without the movement of the tectonic plates with the resulting earthquakes and volcanos, Earth’s crust would be flat and covered with water. We would not be here.

Although volcanos often cause the destruction of homes, disruption of weather patterns, and loss of life, they also play a vital role in giving us this vibrant, life-supporting planet. They are another evidence of God’s creative power.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Coevolution – Stretching Truth to the Limit

Coevolution and Angraecum sesquipedale
One of the interesting characteristics of modern-day evolutionists is how far they will stretch credibility to support the model they assume to be true. Carl Zimmer in his book Evolution–The Triumph of an Idea gives a classic example of such a stretch when he calls our attention to an orchid found in Madagascar named Angraecum sesquipedale. It’s a story of coevolution.

You may recall from high school biology that flowers have both female organs called pistils and male organs called anthers. To cross-pollinate from one flower to another, the pollen from one plant must go to the “eggs” of another plant of the same species. The problem, in this case, is that the orchid has an 11 to 16 inch (28-40 cm) shaft at the bottom of which is a pool of nectar. It is far out of the reach of the usual pollinators of Madagascar. So how does pollination occur? It turns out that there is a microscopic moth that does the pollinating. What is unusual about this moth is that it has a tongue that is coiled up like a watch-spring taking up virtually no space. When the moth uncurls the tongue, it is 16 inches (40 cm) long. While the tongue is drinking in the nectar, the head and body of the moth are pollinating the orchid.

This is classic symbiosis. The orchid cannot reproduce without the moth, and the moth would starve to death without the orchid. The question is, “How could such a relationship came into existence?” Evolutionists would have us believe that the orchid evolved the shaft, the nectar pool, and the placement of the pollen at precisely the same time that the moth evolved the watch-spring tongue. At some point in the process, the two came together, and the symbiotic relationship was born.

The orchid and the moth are just one of a vast number of symbiotic relationships between species. Some of those mutual relationships are between predators and prey with physical characteristics that allow both to survive. Biologists say that it is just a matter of coevolution. However, as our understanding of genetics has improved, the difficulty in explaining these symbiotic relationships has gotten worse. Not only are the physical characteristics needed, but the genetic combinations must be very specific.

You will find more details on this interesting subject in F. LaGard Smith’s book Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem published by Westbow Press.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Jerboa by Design

Jerboa by Design
One of the things that scientists have studied in some detail is food chains. We now understand that for life to proliferate in harsh environments, it sometimes takes a highly specialized animal that is unique to that environment to fill the niche of food that other animals need. The deserts of northwest China, southern Mongolia, northern Africa, and the Arabian peninsula are good examples of harsh environments. The creature at the foundation of the food chain for higher forms of life is the jerboa by design.

This animal is about three inches (7.6 cm) long but has a tail that is over six inches (15 cm) and is flared at its end. The body is mouse-like, but the ears are a third longer than its head. The snout is like a pig’s, and its back legs look like a miniature model of a kangaroo. The back feet are elongated and very powerful and are covered with tufts of stiff hair. The front legs are very short, just barely able to reach its mouth.

The jerboa uses all of its unusual characteristics in a way that allows it to survive in an environment where most animals couldn’t last a day. The tufts on the feet enable it to walk on sand. The large ears are sensitive to very low volume sounds to hear predators approaching. The tail is a prop for standing still, and it gives stability when the animal jumps. It’s like a rudder in the air. When chased by a predator, the jerboa will change directions quickly and often to avoid capture. It can hop at up to 15 miles (24 km) per hour.

The jerboa ‘s diet is almost entirely insects, and it plays a major role in controlling the insect populations. The jerboa is a primary food source for birds of prey. The jerboa’s unique features enable it to survive even though it has many predators.

There are elaborate evolutionary explanations as to how this animal developed, but we see the jerboa by design. So many characteristics are unique to the jerboa that it requires a good imagination to derive a possible evolutionary scenario. God has designed creatures to fill even the harshest environments. Their capacity to adapt to those environments is further testimony to the wisdom built into the creation everywhere we look.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth’s Climate Cycle

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth's Climate Cycle
A new study shows that gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle. A research group at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University released the study on May 7, 2018. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, and Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. Together they have a significant influence on the Earth’s climate.

Dennis Kent, who led the study said, “The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes.” The study shows that there is a repeating cycle which they calculate takes 405,000 years. That cycle causes wobbles in the Earth’s orbit leading to climate extremes. Not only do studies like this help us understand the past, but they also help in our understanding of current global conditions such as climate change.

The enormous number of things that have to be just what they are for life to exist on Earth continues to grow. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake, a founder of the SETI program, presented an equation that attempted to calculate the number of “earths” that might exist in our galaxy. Drake’s equation took the variables that must be right for a planet like ours to support life. He then multiplied the variables together to get the probability of another planet like ours.

Dr. Drake had only seven variables in his calculation, and today that number exceeds 50. We list 47 of them on our doesgodexist.org website, but even that list is far from complete. Now that we know that the gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle, we have one more factor to add to the list.

Our planet is a delicate place, with an incredible number of factors all contributing to an environment where we can survive, and where humans have survived for a very long time. The more we know about the creation, the more evidence we see for a Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Advanced Civilization Support

Advanced Civilization Support
We have often mentioned before the evidence that our planet was designed to support life. More than that, it was designed to support advanced life. It was even designed to support advanced civilization.

You can see evidence for advanced civilization support in the minerals of Earth’s crust—minerals that are essential for machinery and electronics that enable technology. One thing which perhaps you have not considered is how the size of our planet also supports advanced civilization. Among the achievements of science is space flight. The ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface makes it possible for us to place satellites in orbit. Those satellites include:

*Communication satellites which make possible nationwide and international television, news, sports, telephone, and video conversations.
*Global positioning satellites giving us GPS which we use for many purposes including airplane, ship, and personal navigation plus farming and safety uses.
*Weather satellites giving us advance warning of storms and helping to keep us safe.
*Observational satellites that allow us to study and learn more about our planet.
*Telescopic satellites which enable us to study our solar system and the universe.

We often fail to realize how important those satellites are for our advanced civilization. Also, the ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface allows us to send out space probes to explore our solar system and universe.

What does the design of our planet have to do with our ability to leave the surface? The answer relates to gravity. Astronomers have been looking for habitable planets orbiting other stars. They believe that they have found many of those exoplanets. However, the planets that are more likely to be located in habitable zones (where liquid water can exist) are much larger than Earth. A much-larger rocky planet would have much more mass and therefore much more gravity. Launching a rocket into space from such a planet would be much more difficult, if not impossible. Even airplane flight and the flight of birds could be affected by increased gravity.

A planet with a diameter 70 percent greater than Earth’s diameter would have ten times the mass. The advantage of having much more gravity would be that a planet like that could hold a thicker atmosphere which could give more protection from harmful cosmic rays and incoming asteroids. The disadvantage of a thicker atmosphere would be that it might also block useful solar rays. However, getting a rocket off the ground and into space could be prohibitive. It would require a much larger rocket which would require more fuel. That would require an even larger rocket to carry the extra fuel. The weight of the larger rocket and fuel would require an even larger rocket requiring even more fuel. This quickly spirals out of control.

So what is the conclusion? We live on a planet that is large enough to hold an atmosphere that protects us but small enough that we can to break the bond of gravity to go into space. A smaller planet would not have the atmosphere we need. A larger planet would not allow us to explore beyond our planet or even to send up satellites that help to make advanced civilization possible. As Goldilocks might say, “God made it just right.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Insect Migrations and Earth’s Ecosystems

Insect Migrations and Earth's Ecosystems
It is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and one of the joys of spring is seeing the amazing migrations of birds as they move north from their wintering grounds. We watch the birds without thinking of the logistics that are involved in millions of birds moving over fast distances. How do you feed these hordes of living things? Their needs are even greater than usual because of the energy required for the long flights. We may not realize the importance of insect migrations that occur at the same time. What collateral benefits does this system create?

Dara Satterfield of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. says, “Trillions of insects around the world migrate every year, and we’re just beginning to understand their connections to ecosystems and human life.” This migration not only feeds birds, but they pollinate wild plants and gobble agricultural pests.

We have written in our quarterly journal about the spring migration of monarch butterflies from Mexico to North America. In Europe and Africa, the migration is even more amazing and complex. Each spring the painted lady butterfly travels from Africa across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea into Europe and then retraces that journey in the fall. Because their life expectancy is so short, it takes six generations of butterflies to accomplish this migration. The butterflies avoid the extreme heat of North Africa in the summer, but they arrive in Africa just in time to feed from the flowers in the fall. Those butterflies are vital to the balance of living things in Europe.

Some of the insect migrations are very important to human food production. The marmalade hoverfly eats aphids during the larvae stage, and as adults they pollinate plants. The volume of insects is seen most clearly in the Pyrenees and Alps. Millions of hoverflies use the winds blowing through the mountain passes to get from one place to another. Scientists have been monitoring this migration because of its economic importance to agriculture in Africa and Europe. There is also a hoverfly migration in the western United States, but it has not been studied.

The size of these insect migrations is hard to comprehend, and we fail to understand the complexity of this system. Studies in the southern United Kingdom estimate that 3.5 trillion insects migrate over that area every year. Without those insect migrations, ecosystems on this planet could not exist.

Those of us who believe in God’s design of the creation see this as one more evidence that the simple statement “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth” is a massive oversimplification. We truly can “know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth's Magnetic Field
You might say that planet Earth is a very large magnet. We have mentioned before Earth’s magnetic field that is generated by the iron core. The movement of that molten iron generates a magnetic field surrounding our planet. We can see the effect of that field every time we use a compass to find directions.

What you may not realize is that there is also a magnetic field generated by the ocean. Salt water is a good conductor of electricity. Moving electric currents generate magnetic fields. Hans Christian Ørsted discovered that by accident in 1820 when he noticed that placing a compass near a wire carrying an electric current caused deflection of the compass needle.

Salt dissolved in the oceans’ water creates ions, which are electrically charged particles. The movement of ocean tides causes those charged particles to move. Electric current is electrically charged particles in motion. Since electric current generates a magnetic field, the ocean tides generate magnetic fields. Because the movement of ocean currents and tides is complex, the magnetic fields generated by the oceans are more complex than the big magnetic field of the Earth. They are also 20,000 times weaker than Earth’s main magnetic field making them harder to measure.

Today’s satellite technology allows us to map the oceans’ magnetic field. The European Space Agency used three satellites to create a network called “Swarm.” They used the data from those satellites to create a 3-D digital map of this little-known magnetic field. The research shows how the field changes over time. Although the oceans create a relatively small part of Earth’s magnetic field, they play an important role. Mapping this field also give scientists a better picture of how the oceans flow all the way down to the seabeds. That information gives us a better understanding of Earth’s climate.

Combined with the magnetic field produced by the molten core and rocks in Earth’s crust, we are protected by a “cocoon” surrounding our planet. You might say, “Protected from what?” Our Sun frequently erupts in solar storms releasing charged particles that escape into space. Many of those particles travel to the Earth. We call it “solar wind.” Without a protective magnetic shield, those particles would reach Earth’s surface disrupting power grids and aircraft navigation. More basic than that, they would damage human cells causing cancers and other health problems.

We don’t think it’s by chance that we have the protection of Earth’s magnetic field. We see this as one more evidence of the provision of God to make possible life on this planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

New Human Organ Discovery

There Is a New Human Organ Discovery
With all that science knows about the human body, it is truly amazing that they have just made a new human organ discovery. Scientists at the New York University Langone School of Medicine have announced the discovery of a previously unknown organ in the human body. They gave it the name “interstitium.”

The human body is about 60% water, most of which is in the cells. The interstitium is a network of fluid-filled spaces, and it holds about 20% of all the fluid in the human body. The reason this organ wasn’t detected earlier is that researchers treat and dehydrate the tissue samples before they put them under a microscope. That causes the interstitium to collapse. Until now researchers saw the interstitium as a dense wall of the protein collagen. They now realize that it is not a wall but an “open, fluid-filled highway” supported by a lattice of collagen.

The interstitium organ plays a major role in the immune system. Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which sends out white blood cells to fight infection. The interstitium’s role in the body’s battle against infection is significant, and this discovery may change how some difficult infections are treated.

Medical researchers discovered the interstitium by using a new imaging technique called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) to examine living tissue. They found interstitium tissue under the surface of the skin, in the lining of the digestive tract and lungs, and surrounding the muscles. This new human organ discovery helps explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body.

We still have much to learn about the design and function of our bodies, but we see God’s wisdom and the complexity of His creation as we grow in our understanding of how our bodies work. David said it best in Psalms 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works God, and my soul knows that very well.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018