Arms That See?

From Issue: Discovery 5/1/2004

Have you ever been to the beach or a large indoor aquarium? Maybe you have seen a starfish or a sea urchin. If so, perhaps you have also seen one of their cousins—the brittlestar. Also known as serpent stars, brittlestars usually have five thin, long arms attached to their small, disk-shaped bodies. Scientists have found an amazing thing about brittlestars.

The arms of the brittlestar are covered with tiny crystals. These crystals act as microscopic lenses that focus light onto nerves beneath the surface of the brittlestar’s arm—in fact, about five micrometers below the surface. The nerves, in turn, pick up the light signal and send it to the animal’s nervous system (the brittlestar has no brain!). The lenses are much better than anything humans have invented. The spherical lenses made by humans cause distortion. But the domes on the brittlestar’s arms (that are 1/20th of a millimeter across) focus light more precisely to avoid the blurring.

One scientist, working for Bell Laboratories and Lucent Technologies in New Jersey, says that the brittlestar’s design is like a digital camera that builds up a picture pixel by pixel. In fact, she says the tiny crystal balls of the brittlestar are “too similar to lenses to have been formed by chance.” Wow! What a statement! If the brittlestar’s crystals were not formed by chance, then they had to have been formed on purpose —designed by a higher intelligence! That Higher Intelligence is God!

Scientists and engineers hope to mimic the brittlestar model to design better microlenses. They hope to improve optical computers that process light rather than electricity. They may also be able to improve fiber optics and chip design, and may even bring other breakthroughs in technology.

The more we study the many wonders of nature, the more we realize that nature’s God is the God of the Bible—the Supreme Architect and Master Designer of the Universe.


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