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15 January 2011

BBC News: “Beetle Defence Inspires University of Leeds Research”

The amazing Bombardier beetle has long been a favorite of intelligent design advocates, who ask how the insect’s amazing self-defense mechanism could have arisen in stepwise fashion. Now, researchers have imitated that incredible mechanism.

When threatened, the Bombardier beetle can expel stinky, toxic steam with high accuracy at a predator, giving the beetle time to escape. Scientists at the University of Leeds, with support from Swedish Biomimetics 3000, recently received an award for their work studying and copying the beetle’s defensive mechanism.

The researchers first endeavored to fully understand the method by which the beetle creates the toxic explosion. Then, a scaled-up man-made simulation was designed that uses special techniques to shoot liquids up to 13 ft (4 m) away. The technology in the simulation allows the researchers to precisely control various aspects of the spray, including droplet size, temperature, and velocity. The device is also environmentally friendly, as the sprays are based on water. (Most aerosol sprays are based on environmentally unfriendly propellants.)

Andy McIntosh, the professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory who headed the team, noted, “Nobody had studied the beetle from a physics and engineering perspective as we did, and we didn’t appreciate how much we would learn from it.” The team foresees potential applications for the device in everything from needle-free injections to fire extinguishers.

We often conclude our reports on scientists who are imitating God’s designs with the sad note that they attribute those designs to evolution, not God. But that isn’t the case this time. In fact, the name Andy McIntosh may sound familiar, because McIntosh is not only an award-winning scientist, but also a young-earth creationist. The research therefore provides not only another fascinating look at the incredible complexity and sophistication of biological creation, but also a reminder that one can be a Bible-believing young-earth creationist and a top-notch scientist at the same time.

(In other news of God’s creation inspiring engineer’s designs, scientists have developed a camera that can see like a trilobite!)

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