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.
The fact is that a Japanese robotic satellite that has been orbiting Venus since 2015 records data in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. The satellite has detected spectra for the chemical phosphine (PH3). Phosphine is a flammable, toxic gas made of one phosphorous atom attached to three hydrogen atoms. It is difficult to make in a typical chemistry lab. Biologists know that there are microbes that can make phosphine. Finding the chemical in the upper clouds of Venus, where the temperatures are low enough for the gas to exist, raised some questions about whether microbes could have produced it.
It is possible that the phosphine could have been produced by conditions on Venus that are not available on Earth. Such conditions could be very low pressures, long term effects of ultraviolet light, and long periods of time. The environment of Venus is highly toxic, even to microbes, so microbe production is unlikely. Scientists have found many of the chemicals essential to life or possibly produced by living organisms on several moons in the solar system. The creation process produces chemicals that can be associated with life, including water. The environmental parameters of all of these places are so extreme that no astronomer expects to see an alien walking around.
The Bible doesn’t say that Earth is the only place where life exists, and it may be that God has created life elsewhere. As humans leave our planet searching for chemicals and materials to meet the 21st century’s needs, we may find a storehouse of essential materials, both metallic and biological. Did science find life on Venus? No. This newest media hype does not tell us anything we didn’t already know, but the discovery is interesting.
One of the most interesting studies in botany is the study of plants that live in areas with little or no soil nutrients. Scientists give them the genus name Nepenthes. We commonly call them pitcher plants and they grow all around the Earth. These plants get their nitrogen and phosphorous by eating insects and animals. Darwin called them part of the “carnivorous syndrome.”
Most people don’t realize that there are well over 100 species of pitcher plants. Each species has some unique features, but there are many things they all have in common. All pitcher plants have a cup which is funnel-shaped or tubular with a sticky digestive fluid inside. The top of the tube has a rim called the peristome which is slippery and causes prey to tumble into the cup. There is a shelter over the top of the pitcher to keep out rainwater which would dilute the digestive juices.
There are highly specialized pitcher plants that eat different things. In 2009, botanists in the Philippines found plants that were nearly five feet (1.5 m) tall and had cups that were roughly a foot (.3 m) in diameter. In Borneo there are pitcher plants that can hold three quarts of liquid and trap lizards, mice, and other small rodents. One species secretes sugary nectar on the lid with a perch that attracts mountain tree shrews. The plant doesn’t eat the shrews, but as the shrew sits on the perch eating the nectar, the pitcher servies as what one study called a “tree shrew lavatory.” The shrew’s droppings provide nitrogen-rich food for the plant.
There are many areas where soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous, but for different reasons and in different amounts. Insects provide the missing nutrients for most Nepenthes in North America. The needs in a desert salt flat are very different from the needs in a tropical rain forest. It is quite a challenge to explain how the diversity that we see has come about by evolution. Furthermore, scientists cannot find an intermediate species, either fossil or living, to explain how Nepenthes developed by evolution. We see a common plan design with local adaptations allowing plants to thrive in environments that lack the essential nutrients for them to prosper.
Nepenthes are so unique that people sometimes collect them for house plants. They are a reminder that God has provided well-designed plants and animals for unique locations. The study of the Nepenthes genus teaches us how special needs for life are met by the intelligence of God as plants and animals reflect God’s wisdom.
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.
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.
There are many lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most tragic of these lessons has been the vilification of science. Many politicians and preachers have acted as if science is something to be opposed and feared. Many of our national leaders view science as an enemy of the economic welfare of the United States. Some preachers have portrayed science as an attempt of Satan to shut down the Church and prevent Christians from meeting together. What is the truth about science and COVID-19?
The first problem here is a failure to understand what science is and how it works. Webster’s Dictionary defines science as “systematic knowledge.” Knowledge is simply an understanding of facts. God gave Israel into the hand of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. One of the first things Nebuchadnezzar did was to separate the best of the children who were “well-favored, and skillful in all wisdom and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” and take them to Babylon (Daniel 1:3-4). This led to Daniel becoming a huge asset to Israel. The Psalmist repeated over and over that scientific information builds faith. Psalms 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night shows knowledge.” Psalms 119:66, and 139:6 praise knowledge. Proverbs 1:22 and 1:29 talk about people who hate knowledge. Colossians 2:3 tells us that God has within Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Peter admonished Christians to escape corruption and add to their faith virtue and knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-6).
In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul tells Timothy to “keep that which is committed to your trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so-called.” There is a vast difference between knowledge and babblings or oppositions. Science deals with the facts of the COVID-19 virus. How we respond to what we know of the facts is up to each of us.
Science tells us to practice social distancing or wear a mask. The motivation behind rejecting those health practices are worldly pleasures and greed. Trying to test God by expecting Him to void the logical consequences of our actions is like handling snakes or drinking poison.
Many times we see animal behavior that seems impossible to explain. We see an interesting example of that in wading shorebirds called phalaropes. These birds can get food that is too deep in the water for them to reach.
Instead of the typical methods used by shorebirds to capture their food, phalaropes take a different approach. They spin around and around in one place at the breakneck speed of one complete rotation a second. They kick seven to eight times on each spin and move their heads to where they can quickly snap up food. Researchers have found that these birds can detect prey, thrust and seize with their bills, transport and swallow the prey, and do it all in half-a-second.
As an old physics teacher, I always had a few “tricks” up my sleeve to throw at my students when they looked like they might be dozing off. Here is one that was usually a part of our studies of kinetics and the laws of solids, liquids, and gases. Prince Rupert’s drops are glass tear-drop shaped beads with a tail. In Hawaii, these drops occur naturally and are called Pele’s tears in honor of the volcano goddess Pele. My students learned lessons from Prince Rupert’s drop, and perhaps you can too.
In 1660 Prince Rupert of the Rhine introduced the drops to English scientists. The drops are made by quickly dripping very hot glass into water. As the glass cools, it becomes hard and clear. The bead part can withstand 3400 pounds (15,000 Newtons) of force. You can hit it with a hammer and it won’t break. The tail of the drop is very thin, and you can easily break it. The result is that the entire bead violently explodes into millions of dust-sized fragments.
If a student were dozing off, I would do my old “A or F” trick. I would tell the student if they could break the tail off the glass bead they would get an A, but if they broke the bead or scratched it in any way they would get an F. With the class watching, the student would carefully break off the tip, and to their surprise, the tear-drop would explode. Then the rest of the students would want to try it, leading to lessons from Prince Rupert’s drop.
The physics behind this is fascinating. The glass behaves as a liquid according to Pascal’s Law, which says, “Pressure exerted on a fluid is distributed uniformly throughout the fluid.” Because the tail has a very small diameter, the pressure exerted on the tail is beyond the tensile strength of the glass. The modulus graph for this material is very strange, with the glass not bending or stretching and thus having no elastic limit. We can see glass behaving as a liquid in other cases. Windows in old houses tend to flow so that the windowpane is thicker at the bottom than at the top. Scientists have learned lessons from Prince Rupert’s drop that gave us toughened glass for the screens in today’s phones and tablets.
We can also learn some lessons from Prince Rupert’s drop. One is that things are not always what they appear to be. The drops are beautiful. Shining a laser into them produces interesting light patterns. The bulb of the drop seems to be indestructible, but a small change in the tail produces wholesale destruction in the entire thing. What was once a beautiful tear-shaped drop of glass is now a pile of powder.
The moral challenges that we all face are very much the same. Things are not always what they appear to be. Something beautiful can become an ugly pile of dust if it has even a single break in any part of it. Sex is beautiful and used as it was designed to be, it can bring great joy and love. One misuse of it can turn a life into an ugly thing that can’t be put back together by any physical process. Only the healing that Christ brings can restore the beauty of a broken sexual relationship.
Those of us who are interested in the subject of creation have been excited about some new data which will help us understand the cosmos. Apparently God has built into the creation various devices to help us more clearly see what He has created. Among those devices are fast radio bursts (FRBs).
When high mass stars draw in matter, they emit various frequencies of radio waves. Neutron stars and black holes release radio waves in a wide range of different energies. High energy waves travel through space without being affected a great deal by anything. Lower energy radio waves are affected by whatever material they pass through. Recent research has shown that in interstellar space there are variations in the actual speed of radio waves coming from a common source, depending on how much intergalactic material the waves are going through.
The material that slows the radiation is the ordinary particles called baryons, including protons and neutrons. We now know that interstellar space is full of the matter that makes up our galaxy, but at a very low density. These microscopic baryons do not emit light so we have not been able to detect their presence in the past. Fast radio bursts can make it possible for us to observe them because of the effect they have on the speed of the radiation.
Astronomers know from observing the light that was emitted when the universe was young that baryons should be the source of five percent of all the mass and energy in the cosmos. If that was true at the beginning, it should also be true today. However, the stars and gas we can see only account for half of that amount. The baryons are not uniform or isotropic in their distribution, but rather exist as filaments making a sort of web of low density matter which can be measured using FRBs. Astronomers are optimistic that this discovery will account for the “missing mass” in the creation. (This is the missing mass of regular matter, not dark matter, which is still a mystery.)
When the Bible challenges us to “know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20), it implies that this process is ongoing. In the 21st century we are blessed with new and better tools to see what God has made. Like the microscope, fast radio bursts open whole new vistas for us so that we can see and understand more of the handiwork of God.
We see misunderstandings of the question of falsification by both atheists and religionists. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?
Let us begin this discussion by giving a simple definition of falsification. The Falsification Principle, initially proposed by Karl Popper, is a way of demarcating science from non-science. It suggests that for a theory to be considered scientific, it must be testable and falsifiable. For example, the hypothesis that “all swans are white,” can be falsified by observing a black swan.
It always disturbs me to read a religious writing that claims scientific proof that a faith healer accomplished a miracle cure. An excellent example of this was William Nolen’s studies reported in a book titled In Search of A Miracle released in 1975. Nolen investigated the claims of faith healers Kathryn Kulman and Norbu Chen. He showed that there were observable, natural explanations for what had been called “miracles.” Nolen believed he could test Kulman and Chen’s claims by investigating whether there were other explanations for their claimed miracles. There were, so they could not be scientifically proven to be true. What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God? You can have faith in someone, but you cannot call it science.
The scientific community is guilty of the same kind of error when it promotes an idea that cannot be tested and calls it science. It is fashionable in today’s world for scientists to propose the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes. They use this idea to explain how our universe could be fine-tuned for life. With a nearly infinite number of universes, we just happen to be in the one with all of the right stuff for life. Multiverse proposals say that quantum pops create universes and that an infinite number of pops would eventually produce every possible set of properties, including ours.
That is an interesting fantasy, but it is just that. There is no way to falsify that proposal, and so it is not scientific. Skeptics will be quick to point out that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is also not falsifiable, and that is true. But look at the logical outcome of these two choices. If God created the universe and placed humans in it, then there is a reason there is something instead of nothing, and there is a purpose for our existence. If the faith statement of the multiverse is true, the question of why we exist remains unanswered, and any purpose for the “pops” is pure fantasy.
Romans 1:20 tells us we can know there is a God through the things He has made. The Bible, as a whole, brings us understanding that we are part of a struggle between good and evil and that God is love and wants to have a relationship with us. We can’t offer scientific proof of that, so it is a statement of faith. But it is far more full of meaning and purpose than to speak of what we see in the cosmos as “quantum pops” of something without a cause or purpose. So the question we all have to entertain is, “What is falsification, and how does it relate to faith in God?” The proposed multiverse alternative to God is not falsifiable, and therefore it is faith and not science. In what do you place your faith?