February 17, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Plant Accelerates 600 G’s

Among the fastest organisms in the world is – a plant.  The bladderwort Utricularia, a carnivorous plant that lives in the water, sucks in its prey in a thousandth of a second with an acceleration 600 times the force of gravity.
    New Scientist and Science Daily reported on work by the University of Freiberg, where scientists filmed the action with a high-speed camera because “the motion is too fast to observe” with the naked eye.  BBC News included a video clip showing the action in slow motion.  The “remarkable door” that acts like a “flexible valve” operates by “glands in the plant that continually pump out water, creating a depression inside the tiny bladder,” the BBC News explained.  “When a passing creature stimulates microscopic, super-sensitive hairs, this trapdoor buckles inward and opens, allowing the bladderwort to suck in water and any unsuspecting creature it contains.”  Science Daily said there are four trigger hairs.  The resulting response “ranks among the fastest plant movements known so far.
    The BBC explained the scientists’ reaction to this phenomenon: “The plant’s tiny suction trap was much faster and more efficient than the scientists had predicted.”  Dr. Philippe Marmottant exclaimed, “The same trap can fire hundreds of times.  It is an amazing piece of mechanics.”  Science Daily explained, “Prey animals are sucked in with an acceleration of up to 600 times that of gravity, leaving them no chance to escape.  The door deformation involves a complete inversion of curvature which runs in several distinguishable intermediate steps.” 
    Marmottant and the other researchers would like to reverse-engineer this marvel: “the plant could provide a template to design miniature medical devices, such as a ‘lab-on-a-chip’, which samples tiny amounts of blood that could be used in diagnostic tests.”  None of the articles speculated on how this high-speed trap mechanism might have evolved, but Science Daily mentioned, “These so-called bladders have fascinated scientists since Darwin’s early works on carnivorous plants.”  It also shielded the question of origin of the bladderwort’s amazing design with the indirect, passive-voice statement, “This ultra-fast, complex and at the same time precise and highly repetitive movement is enabled by certain functional-morphological adaptations.

The wonders of nature should inspire design and lead to appreciation of design – not to storytelling about how stuff happens by mistake (01/26/2011).  Logic quiz: what do you get when you add mistakes to mistakes, or multiply mistakes by mistakes?  Mistakes.  What do you get when you add or multiply mistakes to design?  Broken designs.  Where, then, do good designs come from?  Design that minimizes mistakes – i.e., intelligent design.

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