Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

A beautiful design humans can’t replicate

Science | Scientists have discovered yet another feature in nature that is beyond our best engineering technology
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/04/18, 02:27 pm

Once again researchers have discovered a design in God’s creation that, thus far, human engineers cannot mimic.

In a study published in the journal Small, researchers investigated the rainbow design on the thorax and wing casings of the Philippine snout weevil. The snout weevil sports circular scales arranged in concentric circles of colors ranging from blue in the center to red on the outside—the same order as the colors of the rainbow. The weevil’s colors entice design engineers because, unlike human-made color images, the insect’s rainbow circles provide a high color fidelity regardless of the angle from which one views them.

The study revealed that 3-D crystal structures made from chitin, the substance found in most insect exoskeletons, produce the vibrant color palette. The size of the crystal structures and the volume of chitin determine the display of color. The larger scales with larger crystals and more chitin reflect red light and the smaller scales with smaller crystals and less chitin reflect blue.

In most animals with chitin, the size and volume of the structures is fixed, and their orientation determines their color, with different angles reflecting different wavelengths of colors, Vinodkumar Saranathan, the lead researcher, explained in a statement.

According to Saranathan, most insects can produce one or two colors, but rarely can a single insect produce a whole spectrum of color. And the weevil’s ability to simultaneously control both the size and volume of the structures to display fine-tuned color is unique. Current technology cannot come close to such color synthesis, he said.

If engineers ever mastered the snout weevil’s design, it would offer applications in any industry that deals with color production. Engineers could use it to create digital screen displays that the user could view from any angle with no image or color distortion. Researchers could also use it to create cosmetics and paints with purer and more vivid hues.

“The ultimate aim of research in this field is to figure out how the weevil self-assembles these structures, because with our current technology we are unable to do so,” Saranathan said.

Perhaps the divine Engineer who placed the rainbow in the sky could assist the researchers in discovering how He also placed the same hues on the wings of the snout weevil.

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Talmadge Associated Press/Photo by Eric Talmadge Brown tree snake

Slithery hitchhikers could decimate local bird populations

An international research team led by University of Queensland scientists has discovered how brown tree snakes, native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, invaded the island of Guam and devastated its native bird populations. The scientists say a similar fate threatens the Hawaiian Islands.

In the study published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution, the team discovered that brown tree snakes invaded Guam by sneaking aboard airplanes during World War II. The snake’s venom, though not dangerous to humans, is extremely toxic to birds.

“The snake hitchhiked on troop carriers from the Australian region and has since driven multiple native bird species into extinction, with only three species now found on the island,” Bryan Fry, one of the researchers, said in a statement.

The same thing could happen in Hawaii, where the United States continues to fly military planes from Guam and the snakes continue to hitchhike, according to Fry.

“They’re regularly intercepted in the Hawaii airports, so if these direct flights are allowed to continue, it’s only a matter of time until they get to Hawaii and wipe out the birds like they did on Guam,” he said. —J.B.

iStock/daniilphotos iStock/daniilphotos

Plastic-carrying mosquitoes

Researchers recently discovered an unusual mode of transportation for plastic pollution: the mosquito.

In a study reported in Biology Letters, scientists found mosquito larvae ingest tiny bits of microplastics, which are defined as plastic pieces smaller than 5 millimeters wide. The microplastics can stay in a mosquito even after it becomes an adult and flies away from its watery nursery, putting land predators such as birds, bats, and other animals at risk of contamination.

Researchers put small fluorescent yellow and green plastic beads about the size of red blood cells into beakers filled with water and hungry mosquito larvae. When the larvae became adults, the researchers found the glowing beads inside the mosquitos’ Malpighian tubules, kidney-like structures.

Scientists consider microplastics toxic to many underwater animals, but the new discovery suggests they may pose a threat to insect-eating land animals as well. To date, scientists remain unsure about how microplastic ingestion could affect humans. —J.B.

Japan lands rovers on an asteroid

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, launched in December 2014, just successfully landed two hopping robots on Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid 3.2 billion kilometers from Earth, Live Science reported.

The spacecraft flew to within 120 feet of the 900-meter-wide asteroid before deploying the rovers to the surface. Then the spacecraft ascended to an altitude of about 12.5 miles above the asteroid, where it will continue to map the asteroid, determine its mineral content, scout out landing sites, and measure its mass, density, and gravity.

Meanwhile, the rovers will move along the surface taking photographs, gathering data, and analyzing soil samples. Hayabusa2 will deploy a larger rover, called MASCOT, later this month and another tiny robot next year. Ultimately, the spacecraft will bring soil samples back to Earth at the end of 2020 for further analysis. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  • MM
    Posted: Thu, 10/04/2018 06:33 pm

    Is the size of the plastic piece ingested by mosquito larvae supposed to read 5 microns? 5 millimeters seems quite large.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 10/05/2018 11:22 am

    Thank you for raising the question. Microplastics are defined as being 5 mm or less, not that mosquito larvae necessarily ingest pieces that large. The article has been edited to clarify that.

  •  jrmbasso's picture
    Posted: Thu, 10/04/2018 07:02 pm

    How much do each of these hoppers weigh in the gravity of the  asteroid?

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/05/2018 10:30 am

    I once went to a conference and paint companies had an interest in developing paint that could change color. For example, you wanted to go home and you are in a lively and spiritually joyful  mood, so you say, “Siri play home music Jira” where your home music system comes on with the following on:

    ”Siri set paintings to victorious Christians” and your paintings switch appropriately on, one being the following:

    Next you say, “Siri set inner house color serious, hopeful, joyful and victorious. The colors are instantly set where the living room has gold trim and white walls. The other rooms are set with different colors but complimentary.

    Next, you say “Siri home lighting soft and temperature 68 F. Fountain set to gentle brook.” All is set accordingly and you are ready to arrive home optimal in comfort ready to prepare your study on “Victorious Christian Living” based on John 15.

    Just imagine this scenario with color adjusting walls and other mood enhancing effects in the IoTs world of the future!

  • Judy Farrington
    Posted: Fri, 10/05/2018 01:17 pm

    Great article about the snout weevil. And how amazing that so many willfully miss the Grand Designer. Thank you!

  • DakotaLutheran
    Posted: Sat, 10/06/2018 09:56 am

    The story of the brown tree snakes is fairly common: where an organism from one part of the globe is introduced into another resulting in dramatic changes in the populations in the "invaded" region. The "invasion" of kudzo from Japan into the American South is another example. There are two things that I wonder about in all these cases. First, did these species produce the kinds of "catastropic" effects in the places from which they originate? If not, why not? I suspect it is something like the disasterous affect that the introduction of Europeans into the Native American populations produced. Europeans had developed strategies for surviving these diseases. The Native Americans had not. So is the same thing going on in the case of brown tree snakes and kudzo? That is, the snakes and the vegetation are not nearly as successful in the regions where they are originally form because strategies have been developed to prevent them from being overly successful. The reason to believe this is the case is evidenced by my second question, viz., if these organisms are too successful, wouldn't that be ultimately detrimental to their own survival? If the snakes wipe out all on the birds on Quam, what will be left for them to live on? Hence, the very survival of the snake requires that some kind of strategy arise that prevents them from being overly successful. The "dilemma" is not so easily seen in the case of the Europeans and the kudzo, but nonetheless instructive. We have been granted by God an incredible capability, one which by its very power can overwhelm its environment and ultimately undermine our very existence. Whether or not one believes in anthropomorphic climate warming or not, the possiblily is there, one that might be interpreted as a natural law, one established for our own good.