Monday, April 28, 2008

Nitrogen Fixation: little dots in the dirt instruct PhDs in sustainable technology

Greetings all.
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Here is a great question for you and your futurist friends:
How do we feed the world's future population,
considering how tough it is today to feed a
mere 6 billion?

Much of the answer may lie in the process of nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen fixation is that process in living things in which abundant but not chemically available atmospheric nitrogen is changed into ammonia, a chemically accessible form of plant nutrition. The April 8, 2008, Science News has a very nice article on process and progress of nitrogen fixation:




In my view, this is a VERY IMPORTANT KEY in the entire issue of sustainability technology. But the reason I blog it today is just to pass on a picture and few nodules of of wisdom from the SN article. First, the picture of nitrogen fixing nodules on plant roots. SN says: ROOTS OF POWER. Plants by themselves can't use the form of nitrogen blowing around in the air, but they can recruit bacteria to set up nitrogen-processing hubs in nodules on roots.W. Eberhart, Getty Images

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BEGINNING WITH THE OBSERVATIONS ...
From the wealth of good info in the article, I just want to pass along four gems followed by related creation-evolution questions, and then leave the rest of the reading to you.
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First, how do plants get the nitrogen fixing job done?
By employing favorable BACTERIA to do the the job. SN says:
"Here's where humanity and their kin are routinely humbled by green slime. A roster of "simple" life forms, such as cyanobacteria floating in water or the rhizobia group of bacteria lurking in soil, breaks that bond. This feat, called nitrogen fixation, turns N2 into user-friendly ammonia.
Since 1920, the Haber-Bosch industrial process has let people sunder nitrogen's triple bond as long as there's energy available to raise temperatures to 400° to 500° Celsius and pressures to 200 atmospheres. Your basic pond scum fixes nitrogen at room temperature and everyday atmospheric pressure."
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Second, there is an exploratory 'dance' between plant and microbe before the N-fixing partnership is established.
Not every relationship betwen plant and microbe is beneficial. There is an cautious and intimate 'conversation' between plant and microbe before the partnership is established:
"'We have a really eloquent conversation that we can't quite translate,' says Bruce Hungate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Ann M. Hirsch of the University of California, Los Angeles says, 'I think of it as a dance, but maybe that's because I studied ballet for so long.' She and colleague Angie Lee, now at the University of California, San Diego, described nodulation in terms of ballet in a 2006 paper in Plant Signaling & Behavior. The process begins, they say, with a pas de deux between the legume root hairs, which release flavonoid compounds into the soil, and hang-about bacteria that, in turn, secrete molecules called Nod factors. Even faint traces of these substances prompt dramatic calcium movements within the root hairs."
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Third, the dots in the dirt are teaching the doctors of academe:
"Explorations of both plants and their microbes have found new, unsuspected diversity in nitrogen fixing and given scientists more partnerships to study for clues on how to engineer the process. Researchers are also refining their knowledge of how legumes use a chemical 'Craigslist' to find and negotiate with potential microbe workers. Science is apprenticing itself to the masters, crowding in to watch each nuance of the process. Even if the masters are just dots in the dirt." (italics D.U.)
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Fourth, it is not just by one simple means that nitrogen fixing is accomplished:
""We were used to boring gray colonies, milky white colonies, and up come these pink things," says Howieson. His collection of new nitrogen-fixing bacteria includes "strange, pink, fast-growing, slimy things" as well as an unpublished prize: "an orange, slimy, yet-to-be-named thing."
Another specialist in nitrogen-fixing nodules, Janet Sprent of the University of Dundee in Scotland, remembers simpler times for systematists. 'From the orderly situation of a century ago,' she says, 'we now have something approaching chaos.'
And, Sprent points out, scientists have barely even begun to survey the many species of tropical plants, especially trees in the legume family, that could easily harbor new species of nitrogen-fixing bacteria."
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ENDING WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR ORIGIN OF LIFE:
Actually, origin of life is not the only big question. The sustaining of life, which nitrogen fixing is all about, is equally important to keep in mind while considering the following key points:
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(1) SYMBIOSIS in all of its forms are evidence of CREATION, not of gradual evolution, since it requires the simultaneous appearance in time, space, and function of multiple interdependent organisms. For example, the phenomenon of sexual procreation is one oft enjoyed but less oft appreciated as a creation-affirming example of male-female symbiosis. From now on, when you hear "it takes two to tango," just think symbiosis => creation.. The pas de deux (ballet, "step of two") of microbe and plant communication is one more example of such symbiotic relationships.
Favor: CREATION.
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(2) CONVERGENT EVOLUTION is a term used by evolutionary biologists when organisms not closely related may independently demonstrate (or in doctrinaire evolutionist terminology, "evolve") similar traits. To the unbiased and fair-minded, the multitude of independent yet similar traits in nature shout "common origin from concept", which means "intelligence in design", which means creation! Evolutionists merely created the term "convergent evolution" to bluff and sound scientific while, in reality, saying, "Yeah, they really do look the same or do similar things in very divergent manners or with divergent biochemistry, and it is really cool, wow, yeah, but we don't know how or why."
When Janet Sprent said (above) that we now have a something approaching chaos, she means that there are many many new plant-microbe partnerships being identified. Instead of nearing completion of the N-fixing catalogue, they in fact are seeing that for every volume they complete, another ten volumes are identified which need to be filled. To borrow a doctrinaire evolutionist term, that would be "Convergent Evolution" with a capital "C" and "E."
Favor: CREATION
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(3) WHO IS THE TEACHER, WHO IS THE LEARNER?
You must have heard of the "Intelligent Design" controversy by now. If you have not, maybe you are a student in a public school somwhere using textbooks designed to brainwash you and to shield your poor little brain from dangerous (i.e., important) ideas. NASA spends billions of dollars to perhaps maybe somewhere sometime infer intelligent origin from some minimal signals from space. Meanwhile, the reigning tyrannical establishment of "science" denies (and decries discussion of) the notion that a few billion bytes of intricately formed and multiply compacted information in the human genome could come from any form of intelligence. Well, if you are in that crowd, I really can't help you because I only deal with stuff at a rational level. I simply can not take on the role of rescue ranger for the resolutely irrational.
So let the following quote from above speak for itself:
"Science is apprenticing itself to the masters, crowding in to watch each nuance of the process. Even if the masters are just dots in the dirt."
Favor: CREATION.
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AND WHAT GOD SAYS...
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The Holy Bible, Revelation 14:6-7 (NASB), says :
"And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'" (bold D.U.)
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Amen.
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Respectfully submitted, with shock and awe,
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D.U.

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