God and Periplaneta Americana

I came to believe in God through Periplaneta americana, otherwise known as the American cockroach. That’s not actually true in my case–I came by other means–but I would pay handsomely for any book with that title. Heck, let’s go all the way, here’s the subtitle: Why cockroaches’ early warning system and 15 milliseconds reaction time [it takes 100 to blink] shattered [splattered?] my faith in Darwinism.

Here is why they are so hard to catch:

To measure the insect’s response to different wind currents, Rinberg glued a cockroach between two wind tunnel tubes, then attached electrodes (metal plates that measure electric current) to the roach’s nerve cells. When Rinberg bombarded the roach with different wind speeds from varying directions, he discovered its caused by nerve cells respond mostly to slow-moving currents. “That was surprising–you’d expect the roach to react to fast-moving wind currents,” Rinberg says. Turns out, leisurely currents are just the kind the cockroach’s natural predators–mainly frogs and wasps in the wild–produce before strike.

Two spiked “tails,” called cerci, on the end of a roach’s body, are covered with nearly 200 tiny hairs that act like antennas. Nerve cells attached to each hair detect precise measurements in wind strength and direction–and tell the roach whether it should chill out or scram.

It gets better [or worse]:

Cockroaches scurrying in response to threats aren’t random, but they aren’t entirely predictable either. Cockroaches choose from one of several preferred trajectories when running from a predator, and that variability is enough to confound their attackers most of the time.

You want quick?

Christopher Comer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studies roach escape behavior. “When you puff wind on a cockroach, it’s off and running in 50 milliseconds,” Comer says. “If you smack a roach’s antenna abruptly, it can turn and run in 15 to 20 milliseconds. Quicker than the blink [100ms] of an eye.” Compare that with a human, whose brain usually needs about 200 milliseconds (a fifth of a second) to respond to a stimulus.

Imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, engineers at Johns Hopkins University join the fan club:

They want to see if a mechanical device can mimic the insect’s behavior. So, they built a flexible, sensor-laden antenna. Like a cockroach’s wriggly antennae, the artificial antenna sends signals to a wheeled robot’s electronic brain, enabling the machine to scurry along walls, turn corners, and avoid obstacles.

Does all this, does any of this, sound random to you? Did earlier roaches reaction time of 300ms doom an earlier million year evolutionary cycle? Were there only one cerci and 50 hairs on the earlier roach models? If roaches developed more hairs, does that mean that rogaine is on its 2nd go around here on earth?

So while we know that we should see Christ in our fellow man, it’s a lot to ask to see God in the just vanquished Blattaria gumming up your kitchen floor at 3 in the morning. But however you may feel about His final products [especially non-insects], you can still appreciate the intelligent and divine design which they reflect.

See the Cockroach FAQ here.

Some articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.

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Why Roaches Rule

The cockroach is one wily critter. Merely walk into a room, or try to swat one, and chances are the roach will race into a corner before you can say “Gotcha!” Until recently, experts didn’t know what made the insect so crafty, but now scientists at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, N.J., think they have an answer: Roaches boast antenna-like sensors that detect tiny wind currents generated by potential predators.

Intrigued by the insect’s sophisticated warning system, physicist (scientist who studies energy and matter) Dima Rinberg wanted to know whether the common cockroach (Periplaneta americana) can distinguish between wind currents produced by the shutting of a door, for instance, and a predatory frog. “A cockroach doesn’t jump at just any breeze,” Rinberg says.

To measure the insect’s response to different wind currents, Rinberg glued a cockroach between two wind tunnel tubes, then attached electrodes (metal plates that measure electric current) to the roach’s nerve cells. When Rinberg bombarded the roach with different wind speeds from varying directions, he discovered its caused by nerve cells respond mostly to slow-moving currents. “That was surprising–you’d expect the roach to react to fast-moving wind currents,” Rinberg says. Turns out, leisurely currents are just the kind the cockroach’s natural predators–mainly frogs and wasps in the wild–produce before strike.

Two spiked “tails,” called cerci, on the end of a roach’s body, are covered with nearly 200 tiny hairs that act like antennas. Nerve cells attached to each hair detect precise measurements in wind strength and direction–and tell the roach whether it should chill out or scram.

Rinberg isn’t surprised the agile insects are experts in evading danger: “They’ve been around for more than 300 million years-100 times longer than humans.”

FAST FACT:

There are about 4,000 different roach species.

FAST FACT:

Roaches eat pretty much anything–food scraps, paper, clothing, dead insects and glue!
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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