Tag Archives: Feeding

Carson Weitnauer reviews the new DVD on hummingbird flight

Here is a review of a new DVD from Illustra Media about birds and flight. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Excerpt:

First, the film features interviews with a variety of scientists, a philosopher, and a wildlife photographer. The full list includes Carsten Egevang, Thomas Emmel, Ann Gauger, Paul Nelson, Timothy Standish, and Dylan Winter. While some of the interviews felt a bit repetitive, they were generally woven together with skill, suggestively making the case for intelligent design. (One of the weakest moments is when one of them admits he wants to “make a shrine” to honor the birds).

I don’t see why anything is wrong with that! These are birds we are talking about – not cats.

He continues:

That’s the power of the ‘argument’ in the film: they don’t quote any holy books, they don’t make up any “Christian” facts, they just explain, in some detail, how the different component parts of a bird makes avian flight possible. From the development of the egg, to the first flight of a new bird, to a microscopic view of the feathers, to the unique functionality of the hummingbird’s tongue and the distinct nature of its flight, to the extraordinary coordination of the massive starling murmuration, and the unbelievable migration pattern of the artic tern, the question is raised: how could this have come about by an unguided process of survival of the fittest, random mutation, and lots of time?

Flight is an “all or nothing proposition.” Either you can fly or you can’t. But to fly, birds require numerous, highly sophisticated systems to work in coordination: the rapid beating of the heart, the huge breast muscles to power the wings, an efficient respiratory system, a lightweight digestive system, navigational systems for migration, an internal gyroscope for stable flight, acute vision to identify food, and more. How could all of these interconnected systems have emerged, without any foresight or plan, to create the new ability to fly?

Furthermore, it is clear that hummingbirds are a very unique kind of bird, with, for example, wings that can beat more than a hundred times a second and a heart that can beat more than 1,250 times a minute. Hummingbirds eat so much, the equivalent amount of daily food for an adult human would be 150 pounds a day! To accomplish this feeding frenzy, the tongue extends and withdraws a unique mechanism in less than one-twentieth of a second, thousands of times a day.

The second line of argument is the comparison of birds with award-winning, groundbreaking examples of intelligently designed flying machines. That is, when you compare a Boeing 747 or the “Nano Air Vehicle” (an experimental surveillance drone), it is evident that the flying systems of birds are more advanced. Why, the film asks, if we so readily accept ‘intelligent design’ for 747s, are we averse to using this same explanation for birds?

[…]The third feature is a wide range of computer animations that provide detail and insight into various biological components. I was worried these might be cheesy or overwrought, but they are instead illuminating and interesting. Nor are they stuffed into the film to show off some fancy computer graphics, but inserted with purpose, to more emphatically make distinct points. The professional standards make these animations a strong addition to the overall effect of the film.

I already have this DVD, and I am going to watch it this weekend, and this review makes me even more interested in doing that. Sometimes I quote something from a review here and think “now the readers don’t need to read it” but I really do recommend clicking through and reading this review of the Flight DVD. He’s not just reviewing the DVD, there are a lot of opinions and ideas in there!

I noticed that Carson had some words of caution about Paul Nelson and Tim Standish because they are young Earth creationists, but I don’t think that is a problem because there is a huge difference between a Ken Ham or a Ken Hovind and a Paul Nelson or a Tim Standish. Paul Nelson has a PhD in philosophy of science from the University of Chicago and Tim Standish has a PhD in biology from George Mason University. They are also both involved with the intelligent design movement. These are not outsiders.

By the way, I posted previously about how scientists are trying to reverse engineer the design of the flight feature in the hummingbird system, for use in nanorobotics.

UPDATE: Eric Chabot of Ratio Christi has another review of it here.

Scientists trying to mimic the design of hummingbirds with nanorobots

From Evolution News.

Excerpt:

In the Illustra documentary Flight, Dr. Thomas Emell of the University of Florida asks us to consider the speed of the synapses firing during the birds’ wingbeats (more than 100 times a second) and heartbeats (1,250 times a minute). Now, we see that each wingbeat, taking place in less than 10 milliseconds, involves even more control: tuning the wing shape at each position to optimize lift.

Masateru Maeda, a PhD student at Chiba University in Japan, captured the footage.

The ultimate aim of his measurements of the movements of the wings is to copy their function in the design of flying robots.

If something works, it’s “not happening by accident,” Discovery Institute Fellow Paul Nelson reminds us in the Illustra film. He describes how the unique shape of the shoulder bone allows the wing to invert on the reverse stroke, creating lift on both strokes. Now, Maeda has found that hovering also requires the hummingbirds to be able to sense their wings’ shapes and respond accordingly.

Mr Maeda said that the birds must have a very acute sense of their wings’ shape in order to remain so still in the air.

“If the wing shape isn’t optimised,” he explained, “it will fail to produce lift and the bird will start to sink.

“So it must be able to sense this and correct the shape of its wings.”

What this implies is that the wing shape (involving control of the flight feathers’ ability to slide as they flap), is under instantaneous control of the hummingbirds’ central nervous system. The speed of signals from brain to flight muscles now becomes even more astonishing.

In the documentary, viewers see a robotic hummingbird called the Nano Air Vehicle able to hover in mid-air. Its wings, however, perform simple back-and-forth movements while its stiff body floats upright in a fixed position. It has no internal guidance system, no heart or brain, and no fine control of wing shape. Without the human operator and his joystick, it would crash into the nearest wall. No wonder Nelson says that, despite its being a “sensational piece of engineering,” it is still “light years behind the bird that inspired its creation.”

What the Evolution News article didn’t mention is that even if the scientists and engineers can mimic the flying capability of hummingbirds by intelligently designing robots, they are missing out on a valuable aspect of what makes a humminbird a hummingbird. Can you guess what it is?

Take a look at this video:

Isn’t that amazing? Now, everyone knows that I am huge admirer of birds, and I have had birds as pets for most of my life. I know what these amazing little creatures can do firsthand. Not only can they fly, but they can build relationships with human beings – trusting them not to hurt them. No robot hummingbird can do that. Hummingbirds are exquisitely designed, and their design cries out for an explanation.

Understanding the effect of sex on your brain chemistry

This article was sent to me by my friend Andrew. It’s by Marcia Segelstein.

Marcia is trying to make the same point about sex that Miriam Grossmann made in her book “Unprotected”. The point is that although bureaucrats and educrats love to tell people about the riskiness of behaviors like smoking and obesity, they don’t tell people the truth about the dangers of casual sex, because they don’t want to antagonize special interest groups like feminists and gay activists.

In the article, Marcia talks about the mental effects of casual sex. She talks about dopamine first, but the one I want to tell you about is called oxytocin. It is very important that you parents of young ladies understand this and present this evidence to your daughters. (The male version of this phenomenon is also explained in the article, it’s called vasopressin).

Excerpt:

Oxytocin is another important brain chemical we are now learning more about.  Oxytocin helps females, in particular, bond with other people.  When a new mother breastfeeds her infant, for example, oxytocin floods her brain.  The effect is powerful.  She feels a strong desire to be with her baby, and is willing to suffer the sleepless nights and inconveniences that come with having a baby.

Oxytocin also helps females bond with men.  When a woman and man touch each other in a loving way, oxytocin is released in her brain.  It makes her want more of that loving touch, and she begins to feel a bond with her partner.  Sexual intercourse leads to the release of even more oxytocin, a desire to repeat the contact, and even stronger bonding.  But, like dopamine, oxytocin is values-neutral.  It’s a chemical reaction, or, as the authors write: “[I]t is an involuntary process that cannot distinguish between a one-night stand and a lifelong soul mate.  Oxytocin can cause a woman to bond to a man even during what was expected to be a short-term sexual relationship.”  So when that short-term relationship ends, the emotional fallout can be devastating, thanks to oxytocin.

Another significant finding about oxytocin is that it produces feelings of trust.  That can be good or bad, depending on the situation.  “While the hormonal effect of oxytocin is ideal for marriage, it can cause problems for the unmarried woman or girl who is approached by a man desiring sex….[T]he warning is that a woman’s brain can cause her to be blindsided by a bad relationship that she thought was good because of the physical contact and the oxytocin response it generates.”

This is why Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse says that the only smart sex is married sex. Otherwise you are just coarsening your own self. Neil Simpson calls this the duct tape theory of sex. He explains why sex is like duct tape here. Don’t order your children around – give them the data so they understand the why of chastity.