Seed capsule origami described in ScienceDaily 18 July and Nature Communications doi:10.1038/ncomms1336, 7 June 2011.

The seed pods of the ice plant Delosperma nakurense consist of five triangular sections, which are tightly sealed in dry conditions, but open in moist conditions. This ensures the seeds are released in the best conditions for germination. Scientists at Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and the Technische Universität Dresden have studied the way the pods open when exposed to moisture, but close and reseal when they dry out. Hexagonal shaped cells in the pod lids have outer walls containing lignin which does not swell when wet, but they have inner cores containing cellulose which can absorb water and so swell. When the cellulose cores expand the cells elongate and change the shape of the lids so they open.

The scientists who studied the process described it as being like moveable origami. The cells forming the seed pod lids are no longer alive, so the movement depends on the arrangement and properties of the materials they are made from, rather than any cellular movement.

Peter Fratzl of the Biomaterials Department at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, explained: “The mechanism is interesting for technical applications because the energy for the directed movement is already stored in the material”. The researchers hope the study of this process will help design materials for use in modern technology. They wrote: “Extracted principles from this reliable and reversible actuated movement have relevance to the emerging field of ‘programmable matter’ with applications as far-reaching as the design of satellites and artificial muscles”.


Editorial Comment: It’s so obvious you should have spotted it by now: if engineers do develop “programmable matter”, it will only work because an intelligent creative engineer writes the programme, and applies it to matter which already possesses the necessary properties to respond to the programme. The lignin and the cellulose in the dead seed pod lids were laid down by living cells, but we all know the cells did not write the program. Neither did the lignin nor the cellulose write it.

In fact, the information in the cell to build the seed pods “programmed matter” is encoded on DNA molecules, which are made of chemicals that do not possess the property of making code, so we know the DNA did not write the code. Such information in cells has all the properties of a created code.

The more we understand how living things work, the more we see the effects of external information applied to matter and energy. Without the information, supplied for the programs, there would be no living organisms. Where did the information come from?

The code in the plants was written by the same intelligent Creator who programmed in advance all the matter in the cells, so they grew into the right shape and laid down the lignin and cellulose in the right places to respond to the changing conditions. As John’s Gospel says so well (John 1:1 –3) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God – all things were made by Him”.

Evidence News 31 August 2011

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