WONDERS OF DESIGN  # 1

MATHEMATICS OF A SWIFTLET'S CLICKS: Swiftlets are small birds that live in southeastern Asia and Australia. They make their nests far back in dark caves. It is not difficult for an owl to fly through the woods at night, for a small amount of light is always present and owls have very large eyes. But the situation is far different for a swiftlet. There is no light in caves! And swiftlets have small eyes! How then is this little creature able to find its way through a cave, without running into the walls? Yet he does it.

Designed with fast: flying wings, such as swallows and swifts have, the swiftlet flies at high speed into its cave. Somehow it knows which cave to fly into. But, once inside, there is no glimmer of light to guide it. Yet rapidly and unerringly, it flies directly to one tiny nest. Arriving there, it is confronted with hundreds of nests which look exactly the same. How can it know which one is its own? Nevertheless, flying at top speed, the bird flies across even the largest cavern in only a few seconds: and then lands at the correct nest.

Part of the mystery is solved when we consider that the swiftlet has been given a type of radar (sonar) system. But this discovery only produces more mysteries. As the little bird enters the cave, it begins making a series of high: pitched clicks. The little bird has the ability to vary the frequency of the sounds; and, as it approaches the wall, it increases the number of clicks per second until they are emitted at about the rate of about 20 per second. The time required for the clicks to bounce off the wall and return reveals both the distance to the wall and its contours.

Scientists tried to figure out why the clicks vary in frequency as the bird gets closer to the wall. After applying some complicated mathematics, they discovered that the tiny bird: : with a brain an eighth as large as your little finger: : does this in order to hear the return echo! The problem is that the click must be so short and so exactly spaced apart, that its echo is heard by the ear of the bird: : before the next click is made. Otherwise the next click will drown the sound of the returning echo.

FOG: DRINKING BEETLE: How can a wingless beetle, living in a desert, get enough water? This one does it by drinking fog.

'Onymacris unguicularis' is the name of a little beetle that lives in the rainless wilderness of the Namib Desert, close to the southwestern coast of Africa. This flightless beetle spends most of its time underground in the sand dunes, where temperatures remain fairly constant. But when thirsty, it emerges from its little burrow and looks about. There is no water anywhere; rain comes only once in several years. The little fellow is not discouraged, but climbs to the crest of a sand dune, faces the breeze, and waits. Gradually fog condenses on its body. It just so happens that this beetle is born with several grooves on its face. Some of the water trickles down the grooves into the beetle's mouth. Happily, the little fellow goes searching for dry food and then returns to its burrow for a nap.

ELECTRICAL IMPULSES OF KNIFE FISH: The Amazon knife fish is a strange looking creature. It has no fins on the side, top, or tail; all its fins are beneath it: in one long, single wave of fin from front to back! Indeed, this eight: inch fish has no tail at all. The fish looks somewhat like a sideways butterknife, which narrows to a spear point at its hind end.

Its one, long ribbon: like fin undulates from one end to the other, something like millipede legs which move it through the water. As it travels, it can quickly go into reverse gear and swim backwards with that fin.

But the most unusual feature of this little fish is its lateral line. This horizontal line of cells on its side is an electrical generating plant, producing impulses which are sent out into the water to both one : side and the other. These 'impulses bounce off objects and quickly return where they are sensed by other receptor cells in its skin. The voltage of these cells is low, only about 3 to 10 volts of direct current. Yet the frequency of the impulses is high: : about 300 a second. As these impulses go outward, they create an electrical sending/receiving field of signals, which tell the fish what is around it: : in front, to the side, and even to the rear.

But imagine the problems which ought to occur when two knife fish come near each other! Both fish are sending out signals, and the resulting incoming confusion of patterns would be expected to "blind" both fish. But, no, the Designer gave these fish the ability to change wavelengths! As soon as two knife fish draw near to one another, they immediately stop transmitting impulses for a couple moments, and then both switch them back on: : but this time on different frequencies to each other!

UNDERGROUND FLOWERS: We all know that flowers never grow underground; but here are two that do:

There are two Australian species of orchid which, not only produce flowers under the earth's surface, but the entire plants are there also! The only exception is a tiny cluster of capsules which is occasionally pushed up to disperse the dustlike seeds.

How can these plants live underground? Both species feed on decaying plant material in the soil, breaking it down with the aid of fungi. They do all their growing and blooming beneath the top of the soil. Their flowers are regular orchid flowers!

The first, Rhizanthella gardneri, was discovered by accident in 1928 by J. Trott, a farmer who was plowing a field near Corrigin, western Australia. The second, Cryptanthemis slateri, was found by E. Slater in 1931 at Alum Mount in New South Wales. The little plants keep so well hidden that few have ever been found since then.

KNOWING WHERE TO JUMP: Gobies are small fish which, during low tides, like to swim in rock pools on the edge of the ocean. One species, the Bathygobius, enjoys jumping from one tidal pool, over rocks exposed above the water, into another rock pool on the other side. Researchers finally became intrigued by this habit and decided to investigate.

They discovered that this little fellow always jumps just the right amount, at the right place, and in the right direction: : without ever landing on rock! How can this fish know where to leap out of the water, and in what direction? It cannot see from one rock pool to the next. Surely it does not have the locations and shapes of all the rock pools pre: memorized in its tiny head! Although much of the area around a pool is exposed rock, with no nearby pools beyond it, yet the Goby always jumps at exactly just the right place. The scientists have guessed that, perhaps, when the tide earlier came in and covered all the rocks, the fish swam around and memorized all the bumps and hollows on the rock, and thus later know where to do its jumping. But, if that was true, then the mystery would only deepen even more. How could this very small fish have enough wisdom to go about in advance and learn all that?

VARIETIES OF ROSES: There is often a wide range of possibilities to which each natural species can be bred. Because of this, large numbers of subspecies can be developed. The making of new subspecies is not evolution.

An example of this would be the rose. More than 8,000 varieties of rose have been developed for garden cultivation, yet all of them are descended from only a few wild forms. Although roses have been cultivated by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Europeans, there were only four or five rose types by the end of the 18th century. This included the dog rose, musk rose, and red Provins rose.

Modern varieties, such as the hybrid tea rose (single: flowered) and floribundas (clusterflowered), began to be bred only around 1900, after the European species were crossed with cultivated oriental Chinese imports.

 MIGRATING LOBSTERS: Spiny lobsters live and spawn near coral reefs of the Bahamas and the Florida coast. But each fall, the lobsters know that it is time to leave. Storms occur throughout the year; yet, for some unknown reason, at the time that one of the autumn storms stirs the waters, the lobsters quickly know that migration time has come. Within a few hours they gather in large groups.

 Then they form into long, single: file lines and begin marching out into the ocean. They always know to move straight out, and not sideways. As they travel on the sand, each lobster touches his long antennae on the rear of the one in front of him. There is no hesitation about these marches; the creatures gather and immediately depart. As they go, they travel surprisingly fast, yet maintain their alertness. They can never know when their main enemy, the trigger fish, or another predator may suddenly dart down through the clear waters. Indeed, the lobsters are easy to see, for the tropical sands beneath them are often white.

 When a trigger fish does arrive, the lobsters instantly go into action. They form into circles, with their pincers held outward and upward in a menacing gesture. When the trigger fish, decides it is not worth getting pinched and leaves, the spiny lobsters reform into a line and continue their march. Finally, they reach a lower level and remain there throughout the winter. Since less food is available during the winter months, at these lower levels the colder water temperature helps slow their metabolism and they go into semihibernation until spring returns. Then they march in lines back to their summer feeding grounds. Who put all this understanding into the minds of the little lobsters? Could you train a lobster to do all that?

 POP GOES THE MOSS: The various sphagnum mosses (the kind you purchase at garden supply stores as mulch) grow in peat bogs. These mosses have a special way of ejecting their . seeds.

 In the final stage of ripening, the spore capsules shrink to about a quarter of their original size, compressing the air inside, and reshape into tiny gun barrels, each with its own airtight cap. Each barrel is very small: about 0.1 inch in length.

 Then the cap breaks under pressure, and the trapped air escapes with an audible pop, firing the packet of spores as far as 7 feet. How could this tiny plant devise a battery of natural air guns to disperse its dustlike spores?

 Evolutionists glibly tell us it all happened "by accident." But, first, it could not happen by accident. Only a fool would believe that (and the Bible defines a "fool" as one who does not believe in God [Psalm 14:1; 53:1]). Second, it could not even happen by human design. It would be impossible for a person to get a plant to do the things these little mosses regularly do in the process of preparing their seeds, packing them in for firing, and then shooting them off.

 SPIDER MAKES HIS DOOR:  Although only an inch long, the female trap: door spider makes excellent doors and latches. After digging a burrow six inches deep into soft ground, she lines the walls with silk, and then builds the front door.

 This is a circular lid about three: quarters of an inch across. A silken hinge is placed on one end, and gravel on the bottom. In this way, as soon as the lid is pulled over, it falls shut by its own weight. The top part of the door exactly matches the surroundings; and, because it just happens to have a carefully made beveled edge, the door cannot by the closest inspection be seen when closed. Throughout the day, the door remains shut, and the little spider inside is well: protected from enemies. When evening comes, the door is lifted and the little creature peers out to see if it is dark enough to begin the night's work.

 With the door open wide, the spider sits there, with two front feet sticking out, awaiting passersby. When an insect happens by, the door is shut and lunch is served.

 Sometimes the spider locks the door. This is especially done during molting time, when the door is tied down with ropes of silk. The males build similar tunnels.

 FAST: GROWING TREES: It is always a marvel how a tiny seed can grow into a mighty tree.  But, although it takes time for a tree to grow, some trees grow very rapidly.

 The fastest: growing tree in the world is the AIbizzia falcata, a tropical tree in the pea family. Scientists in Malaysia decided to measure how fast one could grow, and found it reached 35.2 feet in 13 months. Another in the same region grew 100 feet in five years. The Australian eucalyptus is also a speedy grower. One specimen attained 150 feet in 15 years.

 BABY GLUE GUNS: Ants have discovered that babies make good glue guns.

 The green tree ants of Australia make their homes out of living leaves. Several workers hold two leaves together, while others climb up the tree trunk carrying their children (the little grubs which will later change into adult ants). Arriving at the construction site, these ants give their babies a squeeze, and then point them toward the leaves. Back and forth they swing their babies across the junction of the leaves, and out of the baby comes a glue: like silk which spot: welds the leaves together. It looks as if a white, silken network is holding the leaves together. When the building project is finished, the ants move into their new home. Perhaps they thank their young for providing the nails to hold the house together.

 MILKING THE TREES:  That is what they do in Venezuela: milk trees.

 The South American milk tree (Brosimum utile) belongs to the fig family and produces a sap that looks, tastes, and is used just like cow's milk. Farmers go out and collect it. The trees are easy to care for; it is not necessary to chase after strays, string barb wire, round up the herd and put them into barns at night, or teach the young to drink out of pails.

 RUNNING ON WATER: How can a skimmer, the little beetles which glide effortlessly over a water pond, run across the surface of the water?

 It is now known that they are pulled by the surface tension of the water ahead of them. But how can this be, for is there not just as much surface tension in the water behind them? No, there is not. These little skimmers can only travel as fast as they do, because they lower the surface tension at the rear of their bodies in a very special manner. There is a small gland at the back end of their abdomens. A tiny amount of fluid from that gland is placed on the water as they run along. This fluid lowers the water's surface tension! But the surface tension ahead of them remains high, and it is an obscure law of physics that this difference tends to pull them forward!

 Seriously now: What self: respecting beetle would be able to figure out the complex chemical formula for that fluid, much less planning how to restructure its body in order to manufacture it in the gland it is produced in? How would he know enough about physics to understand, in the first place, what he was trying to do?

 Or could you, with your large brain, restructure your body? There is hardly a boy in the land who would not like to have the muscles and endurance of the tiger, but he cannot do it. If we cannot change our bodies, why should anyone imagine that animals can do it?

 MORE ABOUT CLOWNFISH: the clownfish, lives amid the stinging tentacles of the anemones without ever being injured by them. Scientists have puzzled over this for years. It has recently been discovered that the answer is that other fish have a certain chemical in the mucus covering their bodies which, when touched by the arm of an anemone, causes its stings to discharge. Clownfish lack this chemical, and are thus able to live amid those tentacles, and let the anemone defend them.

 In addition, in the reefs off Australia and New Guinea, the clownfish protects the anemone. The butterfly fish is in that region, and: also lacking that chemical: it is able to bite off parts of the anemone. But when it swims near, the little clownfish comes out and attacks it, driving it away. In this way, the clownfish protects the anemone which protects it.

 FISH THAT BUILD NESTS: Some fish are born in nests. The labyrinth family (which include the Siamese fighting fish) are air-breathing fish. They build nests in vegetation near the surface. Sticky bubbles are blown by the male, who places the eggs in the nest and watches over them until they are born, and thereafter for a time.

 The stickleback fish also builds nests. The male collects pieces of aquatic plants, and glues them together with a cement secreted from its kidneys. Placing the plant mass in a small pit in the sand, it then makes a burrow or tunnel inside, where the eggs are then laid.

 Other fish form depressions in the sand and remain there to care for their young after they hatch. But no other nesting material is used.

 Nesting, whether done by birds or fish, is actually a very complicated pattern. It is not something that a weak: minded bird or fish could ever ,have thought up by itself. Yet most birds and some fish regularly do it.

 It is of interest that, even if a solitary bird had actually stumbled upon the idea of making a nest, that bird would not have taught it to its babies. So the pattern would have stopped right there. Just as there is no way that the pattern could be started, there is no way it could be passed on to the next generation. "Oh," someone will reply, "the information simply passed into the genes." Not so, any good scientist will tell you that there is no such thing as inheritance of acquired characteristics.

 STICK-BEATING BIRD: No, this isn't a stick beating a bird, but a bird beating with a stick. The huge black palm cockatoo of northern Australia enjoys screeching high notes and whistling low ones to its neighbors. It wants everyone to know it is there. Yet even this is not enough to satisfy it. To insure that no rival cockatoos enter their territory, breeding pairs signal their ownership of a territory by breaking off a small stick with their claws and beating it against a hollow tree.

 HEAD-DOOR FROGS: Some Mexican tree frogs use their heads to survive. Called helmet frogs, they have bony crests on top of their skulls. When drought begins, these little frogs climb into tree trunks or into holes in bromeliads (plants of the pineapple family) that grow high in trees.

 Once inside, they use the tops of their heads to seal off the entrance! Then they just sit there till rain falls again. Little water is lost through their head, and it makes an excellent camouflage at the doorway to their home.

 MILKY WAY CAVES:  The fungus: gnat of New Zealand lives in dark caves. You can find them there by the millions. Each of these little insects first makes a horizontal maze, which looks something like a spider web. Then it drips down several dozen mucus threads, which hang downward from its nest. Each of these threads has globs of glue at several points on the thread: and those threads glow in the dark.

 Entering one of these caves and gazing upward, you will see the steady, unblinking light of millions of stars overhead. Some seem slightly closer, and some farther away. Everywhere you look above you, the stars shine.

 SKIN BREATHERS: Most amphibians breathe with gills when they are larvae in the water, and later with lungs when they become adults and live on land. But there are also land: living, cavedwelling, tree: climbing, and water: living species that do not breathe through lungs or gills. Instead, they breathe through their skin!

 An example of this would be the frogs of the genus Telmatobius. These little frogs live underwater in lakes in the high Andes. That water is cold! Yet these frogs, having no gills or lungs, are able to absorb oxygen from the water through their skin.

 EGG PRODUCERS: Some people wish each hen in their chicken yard would produce at least one egg a day. But some creatures can do better than that. A single female cod can produce six million eggs in one spawning. A female fruit fly is far too small to do as well as the codfish but, even she can lay 200 eggs in a season in batches of a hundred at a time.

 Yet there are creatures which can produce far more eggs than that. These include the corals, jellyfish, sea urchins and mollusks. The champion is the giant clam. Once each year, for 30 or 40 years, it will shoot one thousand million eggs out into the water. This is 1,000,000,000, or a full billion.

 The largest litter produced by any placental mammal is that of the Microtus, a tiny meadow mouse living in North America. This little creature can give birth to 9 babies at a time, and produce 17 litters in a breeding season. Thus it is capable of producing 150 young each year.

 MOST EXTENSIVE MINER: The Russian mole rat is a champion burrower. In its search for underground bulbs, roots, and tubers, it excavates long tunnels that include resting chambers, food storage rooms, and nesting areas. Scientists excavated one tunnel system in the former Soviet Union and found it was 1,180 feet in length. They calculated that it took about two months to construct.

 The Russian mole rat is blind and digs with its teeth, not with its claws. It rams its head into the soil to loosen it as it chews out new tunnels. Every so often, it comes to the surface and makes a mound of earth from the tunnel. The longest tunnel had 114 interconnected mounds. If that little rat can do that, just think what you can accomplish!

 CHILDREN'S CHILDREN: The greenfly is a live: bearer insect, which means it does not lay eggs but brings forth its babies live, as mammals do.

 But the greenfly does it a little differently. During the summer months, when there are lots of food plants in leaf, she produces eggs within herself which are self: fertile; that is they were never fertilized by a male. In addition, all her eggs will hatch into females. But there is more: Each of her daughters will automatically be fertile, so that daughter will, in turn, be able to lay fertile eggs. 

 MORE ON THE KANGAROO: After being born, the baby kangaroo journeys to its mother's pouch and begins nursing. After about 9 months it will begin climbing out of its mother's pouch and begin feeding. But, at times, it will jump back in and continue taking milk. Then, at 10 months it no longer jumps in, but remains with its mother and reaches in from time to time to take more milk, until it is 18 months old.

 There are two striking facts about this: (1) The mother frequently has already given birth to another tiny baby which is also in the pouch nursing, so she will have a baby and an adolescent nursing at the same time. (2) The teat giving milk to the infant produces different milk than the one which the older one drinks from! It matters not which teat it is; the older one will always receive a different composition of milk than the baby kangaroo is given. The tiny infant has very different nutritional needs. But the question is how can the mother vary the type of milk which is given, at the same time, to both an adolescent and an infant kangaroo?

 An example of this is the red kangaroo, which provides milk both to a tiny joey attached in the pouch to a teat, and also to a large joey which has left the pouch. The older one is given milk with a 33 percent higher proportion of protein and a 400 percent higher proportion of fat.

 IDENTICAL QUADRUPLETS EVERY TIME: The female nine: banded armadillo is a common armadillo, which ranges from the southern United States to northern Brazil. It only bears identical quadruplets. This means that all four babies in each litter come from one egg, which split after fertilization. So each litter is always the same sex. 

 FRIGHTENING THE ENEMY: Evolutionists tell us that creatures in the wild think through the best ways to avoid being attacked, and then develop those features. But, of course, this cannot be true. There is no way an animal can change its features, or through "inheritance of acquired characteristics," give them to its offspring. But the myth is adhered to, because the obvious explanation is unwanted. The truth is that a Master Designer provided the little creature with what it needed.

 The Australian frilled lizard is about 3 feet long. When an enemy draws near, this lizard raises a frill which normally is flat along the back. This frill stands out in a circular disk which can be 2 feet across. How did that frill get there? Did the lizard "will it" into existence? Did it tinker with its own DNA? How does it know to use it to frighten enemies?

 The lizard adds to this immense, apparent increase in size by opening its mouth, which is bright yellow inside. By now, the situation is surely looking worse, as far as the predator is concerned. Then, to settle the matter once and for all, the lizard gives a terrible hissing sound and slowly moves toward the enemy. By that time, the troublemaker generally decides to leave.

 BABY NURSERY: The eider duck sets devotedly on her eggs without eating anything. When they hatch, she leads them down to the pond. Entering it with her newborn there are often many other ducklings already there that are supervised by one or two adult females, some of which are not mothers. She leaves her brood with them, and departs to find food. Because some of the food is in deeper waters, she may be gone for several days. Upon her return, she, at times, will help take care of the nursery while other mothers leave.

 The French word for "nursery" is creche (pronounced kresh). When animals care for their babies in nurseries, scientists call it a "creche." Some eider duck creches have been counted at over 500. If marauding gulls appear, the adult females sound an alarm, and the young gather close about them. If the gull tries to catch one, the adult will try to grab him by the legs and pull him down into the water. As for the chicks, they only need protection from these adult nursery attendants, for they are well: able to find food for themselves.

 In South America, the Patagonian cavy (which is somewhat similar to the guinea pig) is also initially cared for in a creche of babies hidden in a tunnel by the rocks. One of the fathers cares for the group till the mothers return from feeding. Upon her arrival, she gives a call and out come about a dozen cavies. She sniffs among them, until she finds her two, and then leads them away. More babies are dropped off, and more mothers return for theirs. The babies remain in the nursery tunnel, guarded by an adult above. Adults never use the tunnel, although they initially dig it for the nursery.

 When bats return to their caves after feeding, they must find their own within a nursery of a million or more baby bats! Each mother flies in and lands close to her own. Then she calls for several seconds and her baby gives an answering squeak. Formerly it was believed that they merely nursed whatever baby they landed near. But genetic tests established that it was their own. How they find their own child in such an immense nursery is astounding. After nursing her own, she flies off to another section of the large cave, hangs from the ceiling, and sleeps for a time. Then she flies off to obtain more food to feed her only baby. 

 VISION SKIN DEEP: Some insects can see light through their skin, even when their eyes are covered. Experiments were done on moth and butterfly caterpillars, when their eyes were covered. There are other insects which also have this ability.

 In addition, they often have eyes in very unusual places.

 SUNGLASSES TOO:  Yes, even sunglasses existed in nature before man began using them. Seabirds, such as gulls, terns, and skuas have built: in sunglasses. All day long they have to search for food, as they glide above the ocean's surface. Staring down into the waves for fish, the glint of sunlight on the waves reflects up into the eyes. The solution is sunglasses, which they have.

 The retinas of these birds contain minute droplets of reddish oil. This has a filtering effect on light entering the eye, and screens out much of the sun's blue light. This cuts down on the glare, without lessening their ability to see the fish near the surface.

 FLICKER'S LONG TONGUE: Woodpeckers like to eat beetle grubs. Cocking their heads to one side and then another, they carefully listen for them. When the grub is heard chewing its way through the wood: which it does most of the time,: the bird swiftly bangs on the tree with its sharp bill, drilling a hole as it proceeds.

 Then it reaches out its enormously long tongue. How can a tongue be four times as long as the beak, when the beak itself is very, very long? It took special designing; accidents could never have produced the tongue of the woodpecker.

 This tongue is attached to a slender bony rod housed in a sheath which extends back into its head, circles around the back of its skull and then extends over its top to the front of the face. In some woodpecker species, it also coils around the right eye socket.

 Then there is the American flicker. This woodpecker: like bird is equally amazing. The tongue is so long that, after reaching around the back of the skull, it extends beyond the eye: socket and into the upper beak. Here it enters the right nostril so that the bird can only breathe through the left one. Flickers use this tongue to extract ants and termites after drilling for them.

 But a tongue is not enough. The flicker must put something on the tongue to deal with those ants. Its saliva, wetting the tongue, does two things: First, it makes it sticky, so the ants will adhere to it; and, second, the saliva is alkaline, to counteract the formic acid of ant stings.

 The evolutionists will tell us that all this came about by slow, laborious chance. But, obviously, such complicated structures and functions could not develop by accident even once in millions of years. : Yet in the world we find six others, totally different creatures which use this long, sticky tongue method to catch ants: the numbat, a marsupial in Australia (which is something like a small antelope); the aardvark in Africa; the pangolins in Asia and Africa (which are covered with horny plates, so they resemble giant moving fir: cones); and three very different anteaters of South America: the gazelle: sized giant of the savannahs, the squirrel: sized pygmy which lives in the tops of forests, and the monkey: sized tamandua which lives in the mid: tree levels.

 As usual, the evolutionists have no answer. To make matters worse, paleontologists tell us that they can find no fossil evidence of any antiquity to explain these matters to us. In other words, there is no evidence that the woodpecker, flicker, anteater, and the others evolved from anything else.

 JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN: The bronze cuckoo of New Zealand abandons its young and flies to its off: season feeding grounds, located far away. After the babies hatch, they become strong enough to fly. But they have never seen their parents and have no adult bird to guide them. Added to this is the fact that, when their parents left New Zealand, they flew to a place where no other bird in New Zealand flies to. So, as soon as these babies are strong enough for vigorous flight, what do they do? Why, they fly after their parents: and take exactly the same route. Here is the story:

 The young set out each March on a 4,000-mile migration from their parents' breeding grounds in New Zealand. They fly west to the ocean's edgeand keep going. How would you like to do that? The Pacific is an incredibly big ocean.

 With no bird to instruct or guide them, these young birds accurately follow the path of the parent flock over a route of 1,250 miles of open sea. Arriving in northern Australia, they turn north, fly to the ocean's edge: and start off again. Arriving in Papua New Guinea, they head off again. This time they fly the grueling distance to the Bismarck Archipelago.

 Just one slight error in direction, and they would die. Why? Because not one of the birds can swim. 

 AMAZING HOUSE OF THE TERMITE: Termites build their homes of mud. Their homes are amazing structures, as we will learn below. Yet those large, complicated buildings are made by creatures which are blind. They have no instructors to teach them, and they spend their lives laboring in the dark. Nevertheless, they accomplish a lot.

 Termites, of which there are over 2,000 species, only feed on dead plants and animals, and have very soft bodies which need the protection of strong homes. And the houses of some species are among the strongest in the world.

 It all starts with two termites: a king and Queen. They burrow into the earth and lay eggs. For the rest of her life, the Queen will continue to lay eggs. Gradually, an immense colony of termites comes into being. Working together, they construct an immense turret of hardened mud that reaches high above ground. In northern Australia, in order to keep the termite tower cool, each of these tall spires is made in the form of a long, upright, rectangular wedge. Each side may be 10 feet across and 15 feet high, while only a couple feet thick at the bottom and Quite thin at the top. So the wedge points upward. The narrow part of the termite tower lies north and south; the broad side is toward the east and west.

 The colony is Quite cold by sunrise, but their home Quickly warms up because the morning light shines on its broad east face. Then comes the hot, midday sun. But now the narrow edge of the nest faces its burning rays. In late afternoon, as everything cools, extra sunlight falls on the termite's home to help keep it warm through the night.

 The lesson here is that it is well, in hot areas, to build one's house with the long side facing east and west.

 But how can a blind termite, working inside the darkness of mud cavities, know which direction to face the tower towards? Would you know if you were as small, and weak, and blind as the termite?

 Scientists have decided that the termites use two things to aid them in orienting their homes: (1) They use the warmth of the sunlight. But it takes more than the sun circling overhead; intelligent thought about how to place the slab tower in relation to that moving orb of light is also needed. Frankly, the termite is not smart enough to figure it out.

 (2) The termite builds in relation to magnetic north. Experiments have been carried out, in which powerful magnets were placed around a termite nest. The termites inside were still able to face their towers in the correct direction, but they no longer placed their nests inside in the right places. So they use solar heat to orient the direction of the tower, but magnetic north to tell them where, within the darkness of the tower, to place the nests of their young.

 Termite homes, located in tropical areas, have different problems. There is too much rain and the little creatures could be drowned out, and their homes ruined by the downpours. If you were a blind termite, how would you solve that puzzle? The termites do it by constructing circular towers with conical roofs, to better shed the water as it fails. One might consider that a simple solution. But if you were as blind as a termite, with a brain as big as one, how would you know how to build circular towers or conical roofs? Moreover, the eves of those conical towers project outward, so the rain cascading off of them falls away from the base of the tower. That takes far more thinking than a termite is able to give to the project.

 When these termites enlarge their homes, they go up through the roof and add new sections; each section with its own new conical roof protruding out from the side. The tower ultimately looks like a Chinese pagoda.

 The bellicose termites in Africa are warlike, hence their name. In Nigeria, they build an underground nest containing a room with a huge circular ceiling, large enough for a man to crawl into. It is 10: 12 feet in diameter and about 2 feet high. It is filled with vertical shafts down to the water table. Termites go down there to gather moist dirt to be used in enlarging their castle. "Castle?" yes, it looks like a castle. Rising above the termite made underground cavern is a cluster of towers and minarets grouped around a central spire that may rise 20 feet into the air. In this tower is to be found floor after floor of nursery sections, fungus gardens, food storerooms, and other areas, including the royal chambers where the king and Queen live.

 The entire structure is so large that: if termites were the size of people: their residential/office building/factory complex would be a mile high. Could mankind devise a structure so immense, so complicated? Yes, modern man, with his computers, written records, architects, and engineers could make such an immense building. But how can tiny, blind creatures: the size and intellect of worms: manage a proportionally: sized process, much less devise it?

 Before concluding this section, let us view the air conditioning system used in this colossal structure. If you have difficulty understanding the following description, please know that, generation after generation, blind termites build this complicated way: and the result is a high: quality air conditioning system:

 In the center of the cavernous below: ground floor is a massive clay pillar. This supports a thick earthen plate which forms the ceiling of the cellar, and supports the immense weight of the central core of the structures built in the tower.

 Down in this basement cellar, the tiny: brained termites build the cooling unit of their Central Air Conditioning System Processor. This consists of a spiral of rings of thin vertical vanes, up to 6 inches deep, centered around the pillar, spiraling outward and covering the ceiling of the cavernous basement. The coils of each row of the spiral are only an inch or so apart. The lower edge of the vanes have holes, to increase the flow of air around and through them. The sides of these vanes are encrusted with salt.

 These delicate and complicated vanes, made of hardened mud, absorbs moisture through the ceiling from the tower above. This decidedly cools the incoming air, making the cellar the coldest place in the entire building: The evaporating moisture leaves the white salts on the vanes.

 Heat, generated by the termites and their fungus gardens in the tower, causes air from the cellar to rise through the passageways and chambers linking the entire structure. But, as any college: trained civil engineer would know, the cooling system is not yet complete. A network of flues must be installed to take the hot air down to the cooling unit in the cellar. Yes, the ignorant, blind termites also provided those flues! From high up in the tower, a number of these ventilation shafts run downward. As they go, they collect air from the entire tower and send it down, past the floor plate, into the cool cellar. As heat is produced in the various apartments of the tower, the air flows downward through the flues, drawn by the coolness of the cellar beneath.

 The heat exchange problem has been solved, but there is yet another one: gaseous exchange. .

 Air may be flowing throughout the cellar/tower, nicely cooling it, but carbon dioxide must be eliminated. The problem here is that no casual openings to the outside are permitted. The termites have only a few tiny entrances to the outside world, and carefully guard each one against their many enemies. Yet they must somehow refresh their air. Ask an engineering student to solve that one. He has enough equations, calculators, and material specifications that he ought to be able to provide you with a workable answer.

 But those blind termites, the size of very small worms, were applying the solution before your engineer was born, the first college was built, and the first books were invented.

 The flues are built into the outer walls of the tower. The lining of the flues, facing the outside of the structure, are built of specially porous earthen material. During construction, the termites dig small areas: or galleries: out from the flues toward the outer surface of the outside walls. These galleries end very close to the outer surface so gases can easily diffuse through the earth. As the stale air travels slowly through the flues, the carbon dioxide flows out and oxygen flows in. By the time the air has arrived at the cellar, it has been oxygenated and refreshed. In the cellar it is cooled and then sent back up into the tower!

Any thinking human being could, without advance training, use the above guidelines to work out an excellent air: conditioning system for a house. The only basic requirement is moist heat in the upper part of the building. Engineers today call their modified versions "passive air conditioning," but the termites have used it ever since they came into existence. With this system operational, the termites are able to keep their fungus beds permanently between 30C and 31C, exactly the temperature the fungus need to grow and digest the food the termites give them.

 At this point, you might wonder why those termites cultivate such fungus beds. While many other termites go out and eat wood, which microbes in their stomachs digest for them, the bellicose termites only eat fungus (they lack those stomach microbes). So they cultivate gardens of manure in which fungus grows. The fungus grows best within a very precise temperature range of 30-31C. However, the processes of decay in the gardens produces a lot of heat (for it operates somewhat like a compost heap). If you think about that awhile, you will realize that this frail termite, which cannot live outside his termite house, needs his fungus gardens, and yet, without complicated air-conditioning, cannot maintain those beds. The termite colony needs everything just right to begin with.

 We have here another which came first, the "chicken-and-the-egg" puzzle. The world is full of them; they are all solved by the great truth that God is the Creator. Nothing else can explain those puzzles.

Return to Nature:

CONTINUE: WONDERS OF DESIGN # 2