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The Shrimp Eyes Have It

By Jeff Zweerink - November 11, 2009
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Louis Armstrong was one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. His style of singing and playing shifted the focus of jazz from collective improvisation to solo performances. In particular, many later musicians emulated his innovative way of using vocal sounds to enhance the impact of his jazz music. Just as the work of future musicians reflect the genius of Armstrong's jazz, so scientists continue to imitate designs in nature to improve our technology.

A recent example of such imitation involves the eye of a creature known as a "mantis shrimp". Neither a mantis nor a shrimp, the organism resembles both.

Spot Shrimp
Spot Shrimp

Giant African Mantis
Giant African Mantis

In spite of having a tiny brain, the mantis shrimp exhibits a great deal of complexity. It sees in twelve colors (humans see three). Mantis shrimp eyes also distinguish different forms of polarized light. A great diversity of organisms (including fish, amphibian, arthropods, and octopi) use light polarization for various purposes. However, recent research published in Nature Photonics found the polarization mechanism in mantis shrimp works far better than anything humanly produced.

Manmade devices such as DVD and Blu-Ray players use a quarter-wave plate to manipulate polarized light. Typically, these quarter-wave plates only work for a single wavelength of light. However, the light sensitive cells in mantis shrimp act as quarter-wave plates that work effectively for all wavelengths of light from infrared to visible to ultraviolet. Two quotes from the lead author of the paper help communicate the remarkable nature of these shrimp eyes:

Our work reveals for the first time the unique design and mechanism of the quarter-wave plate in the mantis shrimp's eye. It really is exceptional—out-performing anything we humans have so far been able to create.

What's particularly exciting is how beautifully simple it is. This natural mechanism, comprised of cell membranes rolled into tubes, completely outperforms synthetic designs. It could help us make better optical devices in the future using liquid crystals that have been chemically engineered to mimic the properties of the cells in the mantis shrimp's eye. (emphasis added)

One key component of RTB's creation model states that since God created this universe and the life it contains, that life should exhibit design. The complexity and structure of the mantis shrimp's eye displays design similar to, but better than, human inventions. Furthermore, according to the Bible, humanity itself reflects the image of God. Consequently, humanity's desire to create and design new things flows out of this reflection.

Many musicians recognized the brilliance of Louis Armstrong's work and imitated it to improve their own music. The fact that humans can discover superior designs in living organisms and imitate those designs to improve our technology adds evidence in favor of the argument that God is the Creator and that humans indeed are created in His image.


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