Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Electric Face: A Rendering Worth a Thousand Falsifications

From electron microscopes to earth-orbiting observatories, scientists use a variety of instruments to study nature by measuring, observing and yes, rendering. Measurements are graphed and fitted with mathematical models. Renderings, on the other hand, are not so easily quantified. This can make them less useful for the business of building quantitative models and making predictions. But renderings can, in an instant, convey a powerful message. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.

Consider, for instance, ribonuclease A, an enzyme that voraciously chops up RNA molecules. In the mid twentieth century scientists figured out how to determine the structure of such proteins using X-rays, and then later using other techniques as well. A protein sample is carefully crystallized and then exposed to an X-ray beam. The X-rays diffract as they pass through the sample and create a complex pattern which indicates the positions of the various atoms in the protein. Here is what the 124 amino acid ribonuclease A protein structure looks like when its many atoms are rendered in a three-dimensional graph:

As you can see, a graph of a protein’s individual atoms doesn’t tell you very much. It looks like, well, a bunch of atoms. But if we step back and consider the protein’s amino acids we see something very different. In a protein, the amino acids are sometimes wound tightly in a helix. Or they can be stretched out into a strand. These two patterns can be detected from the atomic locations and graphed. Here is the ribonuclease A structure again, but this time with these amino acid patterns rendered and their individual atoms left off the graph:

Suddenly a coherent structure is apparent.

Because ribonuclease A is such a voracious eater it sometimes needs to be turned off. Enter the ribonuclease inhibitor. Here are some different renderings of this beautiful horse-shoe shaped protein:

The ribonuclease inhibitor is shaped to dock with ribonuclease A and bring it to a halt. Here are renderings of the two proteins docked together:

Such renderings provide an immediate peek at the phenomena at work. They provide higher level information than do mere measurements. And it is interesting that these renderings were made with graphing tools that know nothing of ribonuclease A or ribonuclease inhibitors, in particular. Computer scientists have developed these powerful rendering tools based on general principles of protein structure. But these tools do nothing without the structural data provided by measurement techniques, such as X-ray diffraction.

So as with electron microscopes and astronomical observatories, these molecular tools create impressive, beautiful and meaningful renderings that are completely dependent on the measurements. The computer scientist creates the tool, but has no idea what rendering might emerge after the raw data are input.

A recent example of the power of rendering, and the importance of stepping back and choosing the right perspective, is the frog embryo’s electric face. If that sounds strange read on, for as one researcher said, “electric face” is the perfect description.

The body electric

Electricity is not just for engineers, it is crucial in biology as well. For instance, a cell contains various ionic compounds which give the cell interior a net charge. And the difference between the intracellular charge and that of the the external environment causes a voltage across the cell membrane. This membrane voltage is crucial in cellular biology. For instance, a wide variety of membrane proteins, such as channels that allow chemical in and out of the cell, are controlled by the membrane voltage. Change the voltage and you suddenly change the state of those proteins and their various actions.

Yes electricity is important in biology, but when Dany Adams left her digital camera and microscope apparatus running overnight, she had no idea what stunning electrical patterns would emerge on the frog embryo she was studying. Watch this video to learn more:

Here is a shorter video of just the embryo:

The video suggests that bioelectric signals presage the morphological development of the face. It also, in an instant, gives a peak at the phenomenal processes at work in biology. As the lead researcher said, “It’s a jaw dropper.”

The frog’s electric face is one of those renderings worth a thousand words. We could make detailed protein measurements showing that evolution cannot even explain how a single protein could have arisen. In fact there are 27 orders of magnitude between evolution’s expectations and reality. And that is going by the evolutionist’s own reckoning (in reality it is 100+ orders of magnitude). Or we could make detailed measurements of mutations and show that unicellular organisms are not likely to evolve spontaneously into elephants.

But the frog’s electric face, in an instant, reminds one of the utter absurdity of evolution. Religion drives science, and it matters.

* Hat tip to bornagain77


  1. * Hat tip to bornagain77

    bornagain77?? Oh, no... Leave all sanity behind, ye who enter.

  2. Unicellular organisms transform into elephants everyday. And Birds, and cats, and every sort of animal, including humans. You did it yourself in nine month in your mother's womb.

  3. Ritchie said, "Unicellular organisms transform into elephants everyday"

    And what the unicellular organisms transform into is precisely defined from the start by multiple levels of cellular systems processing and controls. Such precision contradicts goo to you evolution.

  4. Dr. Hunter, thanks for writing on this subject. The wonder that 'the electric frog' inspires is truly elusive to capture adequately in words. I think you have done well in trying to capture that inspirational wonder into words. Here is another video that, not nearly as 'shocking' as 'the electric frog', still inspires wonder. ,,, A wonder that seems to be severely neglected, even abused, by those who are given wholeheartedly to their religion of atheistic materialism:

    Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - Glimpses At Human Development In The Womb - video

    ============= Further note;

    The Human Body, despite how much Darwinists try to disparage it as junk, or vestigial, is simply amazing:

    The Human Body - You Are Amazing - video

    Human Anatomy - Impressive Transparent Visualization - Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - video

  5. This one was interesting. The end was hilarious though. According to the author: "We could make detailed protein measurements showing that evolution cannot even explain how a single protein could have arisen." And I have to say that wow, you know what? The author is absolutely right! And you know why I happen to agree with the author? Its simple: The Theory of Evolution does not state how life arose. Evolution merely states that all organisms have a common ancestor. Evolution cannot state how life began beause it is not concerned with how life began. Yet so many people, like our comedian author for example, think that Evolution is falsified because of their own ignorance. I suppose I can therefore make an accurate claim that calculus mathematics are wrong on the grounds that I cannot begin to comprehend them. Oh Dear...

  6. Thorton -

    It doesn't necessarily contradict the goo-to-you sequence. It does, however, contradict neo-Darwinism - that this happens from random mutation and natural selection. It also destroys many other parts of evolution, such as morphology-based phylogeny. If the development is guided by information instead of happenstance, then there is no reason to presume that, for instance, the principle of parsimony should apply.