June 23, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Plants Use Electrical Sunscreen

Perhaps only a scientist, or a kid, would worry about how a plant doesn’t get sunburn, but it took elaborate scientific work for six months to find the answer.  EurekAlert told about research at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State that found how plants get rid of excess solar energy.  They use carotenoids, molecules responsible for the yellow color of fruits and vegetables, like electrical wires to convey excess electrons safely away from their light-harvesting machines: “Carotenoids act as ‘wires’ to carry away the extra sunlight energy in the form of unwanted electrons, somehow wicking away the extra electrons across long distances from locations that could damage plant tissues and photosynthesis.”
    It’s no wonder these wires were not found earlier.  They are a “miniscule 2.8 nanometers long and less than a single nanometer thick, or about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.”  Carotenoids are not particularly conductive, but exceed the specifications required by the plant.  The surprise was that these molecules are able to shuttle the electrons across their surfaces without becoming oxidized themselves.  The new work sheds light on the process of photoprotection, “an intricate internal defense mechanism, … which acts like sunscreen to ward off the sun’s harmful rays.”  See also our 01/24/2005 entry on photoprotection, “one of Nature’s supreme examples of nanoscale engineering.”

Do a word search in this article for anything about evolution.  We got “word not found.”  The research was not motivated by or benefited by evolutionary speculation.  The scientists just wanted “to more fully understand how photosynthesis works.”  Students use similar motivation in auto shop without assuming car engines evolved from rocks.
    Notice where this research came from: the Biodesign Research Institute at U of A, whose starting point is “exploring the remarkable structure and function of living systems…. Inspired by nature and powered by collaboration, our bold new approach ensures that discoveries are rapidly translated into real-world benefits.”  (We left out the sentence in the middle that made no sense: “From microbes to man, these systems have been honed by thousands of years of natural selection.”  At least thousands is down from millions, and the sentence could be interpreted to mean that the systems were already present.)  Anyway, good research is flowing from another of the popular new interdisciplinary academic centers seeking to understand and apply biological design (05/13/2006, 06/25/2005).  The Darwin Party has nothing to offer this new trend in biodesign research and should get out of the way.  This is intelligent design science at work: stimulating and productive.

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Categories: Amazing Facts

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