Posted by: paulgarner | December 16, 2010

Bombardier Beetle research wins prestigious award

Scientists at Leeds University have won a prestigious Times Higher Education award for their research on the toxic spray mechanism of the Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus sp.). The Bombardier Beetle has long been of interest to creationists as an example of extraordinary design and so it perhaps comes as no surprise that the Leeds University team was led by a creationist, Professor Andy McIntosh. Here’s what the BBC report had to say:

The deadly defence system of a tiny African beetle has inspired award-winning research into a new generation of technology.

The 2cm (0.8in) long Bombardier beetle defends itself with toxic steam which it can blast up to 20cm (8in).

A team of scientists from the University of Leeds have developed a technology which is based on the beetle’s spray mechanism.

They say it may lead to improvements in the automotive and health industries.

The team’s work has received the outstanding contribution to innovation and technology title at the Times Higher Education awards in London.

The award was given to the university and the Swedish Biomimetics 3000 company, which has sponsored the project.

Needle-free injections

The chemical and physical characteristics of the spray and the insect’s physiology were simulated using a scaled-up experimental rig, which uses heating and flash evaporation techniques to propel a variety of liquids up to 4m (13ft).

The university said the resulting technology was environmentally friendly, as it used a water-based spray system in place of the “damaging propellants found in traditional aerosol sprays”.

The project took five years to develop from first concept to prototype.

The university said the new technology allowed droplet size, temperature and velocity to be closely controlled, “allowing advancements in a variety of areas where the properties of the mist is critical”.

It said it could inspire new types of nebulisers, needle-free injections, fire extinguishers and powerful fuel injection systems.

The university’s professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory, Andy McIntosh, who led the research team, said: “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.”

Of course, an unresolved question for creationists relates to the mode of design involved in this remarkable mechanism. Was the beetle created with it in the first place? If so, what was it used for in the pre-Fall world? Or is it an example of mediated design, in which latent traits only became phenotypically expressed some time after creation? If so, what were the mechanisms involved? And what are the theological implications of traits associated with survival in the post-Fall world being front-loaded into organisms from the very beginning? Lots of questions!

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