News to Note, July 23, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on July 23, 2011
Featured in News to Know

The Ark sails, Dawn over Vesta, parallel universes, turtle puzzles, cosmic mapping

1.Ark Encounter Sails Forward In Kentucky

Ark Encounter sails forward in Kentucky.

2. Dawn Over Asteriod Vesta Expected to Shed Light on Ancient Origins

Dawn over Vesta expected to shed light on ancient origins

3. Faith in the Multiverse

Faith in the multiverse

4. Turtles Still Baffle Evolutionists

Turtles in search of their long lost ancestor discover genes trump holes in the head.

5. Astronomers Redraw the Cosmic Map

Precise measurements of distortions in cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) are now being used to redraw the cosmic map of ancient deep space.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Hummingbirds do not live by sugar alone. How can the hummingbird’s long slender bill so perfectly suited to sip nectar catch “the equivalent of 300 fruit flies a day [it needs] to survive”? Researchers from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center teamed up with Cornell engineers to discover the secret. The hummingbird’s “lower beak flexes by as much as 25 degrees when it opens, while also widening at the base to create a larger surface for catching insects.” And whereas most insect-eating birds have a cartilaginous hinge near the beak’s base, hummingbird beaks are solid bone. “Their beaks snap shut in less than a hundredth of a second.” That requires a sudden burst of a lot of energy. The beak’s thinness and density are perfectly designed to store elastic energy in the bone when the beak flexes. Then with a sudden release, the beak snaps shut on dinner. This “snap-buckling” design is also seen in Venus fly traps and in the cicada’s song-generating ribs. Again, we see God as the Master Engineer using a distinctive design principle in completely disparate organisms to meet their needs.
  • A sauropod egg from Argentina has been harboring fossilized wasp cocoons, although not for 70 million years as some paleontologists presume. Dr. Jorge Genise of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales says, “This is the first time that these cocoons are found closely associated with an egg.” The fossilized cocoons, 2–3 cm long and 1 cm wide, “were most similar in size and shape to the cocoons of some species of modern wasp.” Many wasps lay their eggs in the bodies of other insects or spiders so that the wasp larvae can feed on the host. Given that this behavior is familiar to us, researchers propose that the broken sauropod egg was being eaten by some sort of insect which then had the misfortune to play host to a wasp. It seems the food chain in the dinosaur world worked the same way it does today!
  • Peer-review, long the gold-standard for scientific publication, is supposed to ensure that only work which meets scrupulous scientific standards gains acceptance. Lately, the process has come under fire. Some note that peer-review “inhibits the rapid, free exchange of scientific information” and blocks dissemination of scientific ideas which deviate from traditionally held positions. This article explores the value and the imperfections of the process. Because the publish-or-perish philosophy reigns over careers and funding, scientists are under pressure to conform. Peer-review can bless that which conforms and screen out that which does not. Creation scientists and others who hold non-mainstream positions understand that scientific facts are always interpreted in accordance with the presuppositions of the observer. Therein lies the value of peer-review journals such as Answer Research Journal. Check it out at
  • A new technique to efficiently re-engineer bacterial genomes combines bacteria’s inherent ability to swap genetic material with the recently developed MAGE method of automated genome engineering. MAGE has been “called an evolution machine for its ability to accelerate targeted genetic change in living cells.” Researchers used MAGE to replace one gene which codes for a “stop” command rather than a protein product. Then as bacteria passed the new codon around, the team selected the substituted bacteria. They kept the process going “ in 32 strains of E. coli, and then coaxed those partially-edited strains along an evolutionary path toward a single cell line in which all 314 instances of the codon had been replaced.” Practically speaking, this technique should be applicable for industrial and pharmaceutical biomanufacturing, inserting many copies of desired instructions into bacterial genomes. But despite the researchers’ desire “to challenge people to think about the genome as something that's highly malleable, highly editable,” these E. coli bacteria were still E. coli bacteria. In fact, this “evolution machine” evolves nothing but instead takes advantage of the very processes God built into microbes from the beginning. See The Role of Genomic Islands, Mutation, and Displacement in the Origin of Bacterial Pathogenicity and Antibiotic Resistance of Bacteria: An Example of Evolution in Action? for more information.
  • Nature Materials reports a breakthrough in adult stem cell technology. “Currently, when adult stem cells are harvested from a patient, they are then cultured in a laboratory to increase the quantities of cells and create a batch of sufficient volume to kick-start the process of cellular regeneration.” Researchers at Glasgow and Southampton universities have produced a nano-pitted plastic surface which helps the stem cells “retain skeletal stem cell phenotype using surface topography,” thus getting the desired cells in greater numbers. “The implications for research and future interventions for patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases are substantial,” according to Professor Richard Oreffo. Dr. Matthew Dalby adds, “This new nano-structured surface can be used to very effectively culture mesencyhmal stem cells, taken from sources such as bone marrow, which can then be put to use in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic and connective tissues.” He hopes this new technology will be “the first step on the road to developing large-scale stem cell culture factories” applicable to many other common diseases.

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