Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

Design in cockroach mate-sniffing behavior

Science | God gave the unwanted pests complex abilities
by Julie Borg
Posted 3/01/18, 01:54 pm

Although most people do not want to share their homes with cockroaches, God designed the little pests with some fascinating abilities, such as running up to 3 mph. Researchers know male cockroaches find a mate through their sense of smell, but in a high-speed pursuit, how does a suitor manage to stay on the trail of his rapidly moving love interest? In a study appearing in Current Biology, researchers investigated the puzzle, and Discovery Institute experts noted that the intricacy of the process points to an intelligent designer.

The researchers found that a male cockroach detects a female’s scent through olfactory sensory cells on its antennae. A female gives off a cocktail of odor molecules that allows the male to find and track her even in the dark. The researchers focused on just one type of odor molecule and found the antenna contains some 36,000 sensor cells that respond to it.

Discovery Institute experts likened the process to a 36,000-string guitar. Just like each string on a guitar possesses its own properties, the researchers found 12 different kinds of strings that respond to this one particular type of molecule given off by female cockroaches. And while all that takes place, the roach’s brain continues to receive thousands of other inputs from other odors and molecules in the odor cocktail. As the female moves about, the location of her fragrance constantly alters, causing the male to continually adjust to the ever-changing signals.

The researchers credited evolution for the complex system a cockroach uses to sniff out a mate. But Discovery Institute experts found that explanation groundless. “One thing we know is that every time we see a functioning system with similar complexity, we know it came from an intelligent cause,” they wrote on the organization’s blog, Evolution News & Science Today.

Creative Commons/Photo by Carole Raddato Creative Commons/Photo by Carole Raddato The Plutonium

Toxic mist collects at Roman ‘Gates of Hell’

In the ancient city of Hierapolis, Roman priests led sacrificial bulls down a path and through an eerie stone gate that opened to a cave-like grotto filled with a thick, gloomy mist. In that grotto, the bulls mysteriously dropped dead, but the priests emerged unscathed. Some people began to believe the gate, and others like it across the Mediterranean region, were actually the portals to hell as described in Greek and Roman mythology. Now researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany believe they discovered a scientific explanation for the phenomenon, Science reported.

The stone doorway, rediscovered seven years ago in modern-day Turkey, stands in one of the area’s most geologically active regions. Even today a deep fissure beneath the site constantly emits a visible mist of volcanic carbon dioxide. The gate, known as the Plutonium, for Pluto, the mythical god of the underworld, sits directly above it and still often claims the lives of birds that venture too close.

The researchers discovered that daytime temperatures dissipate the carbon dioxide, but at night a deadly gas lake collects on the arena floor. By dawn, the carbon dioxide concentration at a height of 15 inches above the floor reaches 35 percent, a saturation level high enough to asphyxiate animals and people within minutes. But concentrations fall rapidly at greater heights.

Hardy Pfanz, a volcano biologist and one of the researchers, told Science the priests likely performed their sacrifices only in the morning or evening hours when the carbon dioxide levels reached their highest point. The bulls lacked the height to keep their heads fully above the noxious gas, and as they became dizzy their heads likely fell lower, exposing them to even more deadly concentrations. But the priests stood tall enough to breathe safely. —J.B

Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar A clay seal that might have belonged to the prophet Isaiah

Possible seal of Isaiah discovered

Archaeologists believe that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah may have etched his name on a 2,700-year-old clay seal unearthed at the foot of the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The half-inch-wide, oval piece of clay, which the archaeologists called a bulla, carries the ancient Hebrew inscription, belonging “to Isaiah.”

The slightly damaged seal contains three sections, Biblical Archaeology Review reported. The upper portion shows the lower part of a grazing doe, a symbol of blessing and protection also found on other seals excavated in Jerusalem. The middle section, on which the name appears, ends with the word nvy, but the piece sustained damage, making it impossible for archaeologists to tell if another letter followed those three. If the Hebrew letter aleph appeared at the end of the word, it would spell the word for prophet, identifying the seal as the signature of one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament.

Isaiah’s prophecies were recorded under four Judean kings over a span of decades. The book of 2 Kings describes a close relationship between Isaiah and King Hezekiah, who turned to Isaiah for counsel when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, threatened to destroy Jerusalem around 700 B.C. Archaeologists found the bulla less than 10 feet from the spot where they unearthed the seal of King Hezekiah in 2015.

“If it is the case that this bulla is indeed that of the prophet Isaiah, then it should not come as a surprise to discover this bulla next to one bearing King Hezekiah’s name, given the symbiotic relationship of the prophet Isaiah and King Hezekiah described in the Bible,” Eilat Mazar, who led the research team, said in a statement to the Biblical Archaeology Review. —J.B.

Using viruses to prevent food poisoning

Some viruses can cause disease, but others, known as bacteriophages, can infect and destroy illness-causing bacteria. Researchers at the University of Helsinki investigated the use of bacteriophages, or just “phages,” to prevent food poisoning. They discovered that use of phages not only effectively inhibits bacterial growth in food but also continues to kill bacteria even during refrigeration. The treatment also curtailed bacterial growth in kitchenware such as cutting boards and knives.

Mikael Skurnik, the lead researcher, said the use of phages may become a routine part of food processing with phage mixtures that can kill several different types of bacteria. One phage product, already marketed in the United States, prevents the growth of listeria on raw foods. —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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  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Fri, 03/02/2018 06:57 am

    I'm pondering the idea that what cockroaches do to continue their species could be called love.  My how the meaning of that word has changed over the recent years.   Just sayin'.  Great article.