Posted by jlwile on September 15, 2011
The bombardier beetle is an amazing animal. It has a fully-functional chemical weapon that it uses to protect itself. Inside its body are two chambers that are separated by a muscle-controlled valve. In the first chamber, the beetle makes and stores hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone. In the second chamber, it makes and stores two enzymes. When the beetle feels threatened, it opens the valve between the two chambers, which allows all the chemicals to mix. The enzymes catalyze a reaction between the hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, resulting in the production of a very hot gas. The gas builds up pressure and is then released, shooting from the abdomen and hitting whatever the beetle thinks is a threat. As shown in the video above, this weapon is quite effective.
The bombardier beetle has fascinated young-earth creationists for quite some time, because its chemical weapon is best understood as a product of design. This fascination caused Dr. Andy McIntosh, a young-earth creationist, to lead his research team at the University of Leeds to develop an artificial system that mimics the bombardier beetle’s weaponry. What was the result? New technology that received the 2010 Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology award at the Times Higher Education awards ceremony in London.
Dr. McIntosh is a professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory at the University of Leeds and performs original research into how pressure waves interact with flames and how hazardous materials are ignited. Because he reads the young-earth creationist literature, he is very familiar with the exquisite design of the bombardier beetle. As a result, he decided to see if it could teach his team anything new in the areas related to their research.
One way you can learn about a system is to try to build your own model of it, so that’s what Mcintosh’s team did. Over the course of five years, they made a scaled-up version of the insect’s defense mechanism and used it to propel a variety of liquids several feet. Along the way, they learned a lot about controlling a liquid’s droplet size, temperature, and velocity. As McIntosh says:
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.
They apparently learned a lot, since they say their research can lead to significant advancements in the design of nebulizers, medical injection systems, fire extinguishers, and fuel injection systems.
As I have mentioned before, young-earth creationism is good for science. This research shows that young-earth creationism is also good for engineering.