Biomimicry 101: Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

mother-of-pearlBeads of nacre, also known as mother of pearl

When you ponder biomimicry, think design, intelligent design, and creation, but please don’t think evolution. And when considering biomimetic applications, let your imagination know no bounds.

This installment in our series on biomimicry examines biomaterials and tissue engineering, with an emphasis on the foreign body response and normal wound healing. This subject matter is intended to glorify God and His creation, which includes human beings as a special creation.

Biomaterials

A biomaterial may be thought of as engineered material (derived synthetically or naturally-occurring) placed into the body to minimize loss of structure and function. In some cases a biomaterial may be referred to as a biomedical material. In fact, The Williams Dictionary of Biomaterials (1999) defines a biomaterial as “material intended to interface with biological systems to evaluate, treat, augment or replace any tissue, organ or function of the body” (p. 42). Examples of the body systems where medical implants can be applied include the following:

  • Skeletal system—joint replacements, bone cement, bony defect repair, artificial tendon/ligament, and dental implants
    • Mollusk shells, such as oyster shells and mussel shells, have been studied as biomineralization models. In fact, the inner lustrous lining of shells such as oysters is nacre, otherwise known as mother of pearl (Luz and Mano, 2009).
  • Cardiovascular system—blood vessel prosthesis (grafts or stents), heart valves, implantable generators (pacemakers, defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices)
  • Organs—artificial heart, artificial kidney, artificial pancreas, and skin templates
  • Senses—neuromodulation stimulators (cochlear implants, and deep brain or spinal cord stimulators), intraocular lenses, contact lenses, implantable seizure-detection devices, and pain pumps

The goal of biomaterials science is to achieve biocompatibility. The Williams (1999) definition of biocompatibility is “the ability of a material to perform with an appropriate host response in a specific application” (p. 40). This implies survival of the material in a tissue matrix without causing significant inflammation or irritation on an ongoing basis. A truly biocompatible material would promote little-to-no such effects. Despite advances in technology, however, all currently available biomaterial implants are viewed by the body as foreign objects, also called foreign bodies. Foreign body implants trigger the body’s foreign body response, which is a protective immunological response that occurs in several steps. The final step is encapsulation, a process that effectually walls off the implant with stands of fibrous, connective tissue.

— Immunogenicity and the Foreign Body Response —

The term immunogenicity describes the likelihood of a foreign object triggering an immune response, such as the foreign body response. What follows is a synopsis of the foreign body response to an implant:

  • First, neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and tissue react to the implant by a process known as the inflammatory reaction. Simultaneously, certain proteins cover the surface of the implant with a thin film. These proteins also serve as signaling agents and markers, and are collectively known as matricellular proteins (Ratner, 2001).
  • Second, the inflammatory reaction can bring macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to the implant site. However, whether or not the macrophages are able to successfully engulf and extrude the foreign body determines the next step.
    • Neutrophils and macrophages are the two types of white blood cells of most importance in the scope of this discussion. White blood cells are also known by their group name leukocytes.
  • Third, in most, if not all cases of implanted foreign bodies, like those intended as medical devices and implants, macrophages are unable to extrude them. Consequently, the macrophages coalesce around the implant to form multi-nucleated giant cells, which act to encase the implant in granulated tissue called a granuloma. Over time, because of its fibrous connective tissue capsule, the granuloma effectually walls off the implant.
    • Figure 1 in the aforementioned article by Wininger, Bester, & Deshpande (2012) shows three locations, after time, where fibrous capsules are most likely to develop with an implantable spinal neurostimulator. These locations are the epidural space, the incision site for the tunneled lead wires, and the gluteal pocket that accepts the rechargeable battery. Figure 2 in the same article is the fluoroscopic image showing the lead wires in the epidural space of the thoracic spine. Again, the article examines the medical necessity and benefits of the application, and outlines how the benefits outweigh the risks in the case presented.

— Foreign Body Response: Fibrous, Connective Tissue Capsule —

Tissue encapsulation is the primary long-term defense to a foreign body implant. However, tissue encapsulation ultimately impacts the usefulness of the implant. In many cases, the thickness of the capsule plays a major role, with thicker capsules being more detrimental to the effectiveness of some implants than thinner ones around the same device type. Regardless of capsule thickness, however, the interface between the implant and tissue will encounter ongoing macrophage activity, which can be detrimental to the success and longevity of certain types of implants. For instance, osteoclasts (a macrophage-related cell associated with bony tissue) can eat away at bone adjacent to the surface of orthopedic implants, and thus loosen the integrity of the application.

A better understanding of the foreign body response, especially the factors that determine the thickness of fibrous tissue encapsulation, is an active area in biomaterials research. According to Anderson (2004):

The form and topography of the surface of the biomaterial determine the composition of the foreign-body reaction. With biocompatible materials, the composition of the foreign-body reaction in the implant site may be controlled by the surface properties of the biomaterial, the form of the implant, and the relationship between the surface area of the biomaterial and the volume of the implant. (p. 311)

Given the importance of the foreign body response and the consequences of tissue encapsulation, the role of the macrophage cannot be overestimated. In fact, researchers have discovered numerous macrophage phenotypes involved in both the foreign body response and normal wound healing (Kohl and DiPietro, 2011).

— A Closer Look: Normal Wound Healing —

In normal wound healing, “neutrophils and macrophages clean the wound site of bacteria, debris, and damaged tissue” (Ratner, 2001, p. 1343). Within this setting, macrophages along with other cells reconstruct the site with vascularized tissue. Noticeably, as part of the reconstruction and revascularization phases, numerous proteins, again, collectively called matricellular proteins, are involved. However, once a wound is healed (i.e., a vascularized network is achieved), the matricellular proteins are no longer needed, and they vanish from the wound site.

What is more, some suggest the matricellular proteins play the key role in the applications of implanted biomaterials. According to Ratner (2001), “an understanding of the matricellular proteins involved in wound healing suggests novel surface modification approaches to improve the performance of implants, including endosseous devices” (p. 1343).

All of this leaves us with the impression that the supportive tissue around a medical implant site, including the cells adjacent to the site, plays a crucial role. This zone contains the extracellular matrix.

— The Extracellular Matrix and the Idea of Tissue Scaffolds —

Apart from blood, all cells in the human body reside within what is called the extracellular matrix. Chan and Leong (2008) reviewed five functions of the extracellular matrix:

  • Structural support for cells (i.e., a physical environment for cells)
  • Mechanical properties that are associated with normal tissue function, such as rigidity and elasticity
  • A regulatory function that provides cues for residing cells to regulate their activities
  • A growth factor reservoir that helps to regulate the activities of these factors
  • A degradable physical environment not only for new vascularization, but also for remodeling. This plasticity is a response to developmental, physiological, and pathological changes during tissue morphology, homeostasis (i.e., maintenance of equilibrium), and wound healing, respectively.

From a functional point of view, a tissue scaffold is the bioengineered analog of the extracellular matrix. What is more, O’Brien (2011) describes tissue scaffolds as one part of a three-pronged approach to tissue engineering. The remaining two prongs are the cells and the growth factors/bioreactor.

The concept of tissue engineering

In the late 20th century, the process of fabricating tissue in the laboratory became known as tissue engineering, and this effectually caused a paradigm shift in reconstructive surgery (Bell, 2000).

  • This exact argument can be made for regenerative medicine, which is a subject explored in greater detail later in this series. However, for now we may consider regenerative medicine as a branch of medicine that attempts to improve structure and function at the biological tissue level, and very often at the cellular level. Ultimately, the purpose is to prevent deficits that can lead to functional impairments at the organ and whole-body levels. In fact, the goals of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and even biomaterials, are closely related: minimize loss of (or attempt to improve) structure and function. What is more, because of the importance of minimizing loss, particularly functional loss at the whole-body level, the notion of regenerative rehabilitation has become a meaningful issue within the field of physical therapy to assist patients in improving their functional capacity.

Three examples of biomimicry applied to tissue engineering

Bone/nacre scaffolds

With respect to biomimicry and bony tissue engineering, no other material has been examined as intensely as nacre. This is because of nacre’s inherently high biocompatibility. What is more, the mechanical properties of nacre have also played a role in its investigation as a viable biomimetic. Nacre, as a biomineral, has a consistent hierarchal structure of mineral layering (Kakisawa & Sumitomo, 2011, and Luz & Mano, 2009). The use of nacre has been investigated in dental, oral and facial surgery, as well as various orthopedic applications (Gerhard et al., 2017, and Ratner, 2001). In fact, in recent years, biomimetic dentistry has emerged as a branch of dentistry, and nacre organic matrix extract has been used for enamel remineralization (Green, Lai, & Jung, 2014).

Bone/marine sponge collagen scaffolds

A recent approach in the development of a biocompatible bony matrix centers on the feasibility of modeling the marine sponge. Interest in developing sponge-based matrices exists because of the diversity in the types of sponges available and because of the porous properties of their skeletal frameworks that invite cellular infiltration (Green, Howard, Yang, Kelly, & Oreffo, 2003).

Heart/cardiac tissue engineering

Because of the unique makeup of cardiac tissue, the work surrounding cardiac tissue scaffolds has focused on mimicking the physiological properties of the heart itself. This fact is true whether we are talking about designing artificial heart valves that mimic the mechanical properties of native heart valve tissue (Capulli et al., 2017), or boldly seeking to engineer myocardial tissues that elicit the unique mechanical, biological, and electrical properties existing at cell-tissue interfaces throughout the heart (Kaiser & Coulombe, 2015).

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

– Psalm 139:13,14 (ESV)

Can you imagine a career researching and developing tissue scaffolds that might even mimic nature – God’s great creation?

Christian scholarship extending into professional roles is sincerely needed in education and culture. Chemical engineering and bioengineering can be a promising career for those who like to study physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry. As a starting point, we encourage you to reach out to teachers at Christian colleges. Undergraduate studies that include anatomy and physiology, as well as kinesiology, can provide a firm basis for learning the practical implications of biology and chemistry. This foundation can lead to future studies in biomaterials and tissue engineering, including biomimetic applications, as graduate students.

References

Anderson, J.M. (2004). Inflammation, wound healing, and the foreign-body response. In Ratner, B., Hoffman, A., Schoen, F., & Lemons, J. (Eds.), Biomaterials science: An introduction to materials in medicine (2nd ed., pp. 296-303). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.

Bell, E. (2000). Tissue engineering in perspective. In Lanza, R.P., Langer, R., & Vacanti, J. (Eds.), Principles of tissue engineering (2nd ed., pp. xxxv-xli). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Capulli, A.K., Emmert, M.Y., Pasqualini, F.S., Kehl, D., Caliskan, E., Lind, J.U., … Parker, K. (2017). JetValve: Rapid manufacturing of biohybrid scaffolds for biomimetic heart value replacement. Biomaterials, 133, 229-241. [View in article]

Chan, B.P., & Leong, K.W. (2008). Scaffolding in tissue engineering: General approaches and tissue-specific considerations. European Spine Journal, 17(supplement 4), 467-479. [View in article]

Gerhard, E.M., Wang, W., Li, C., Guo, J., Ozbolat, I.T., Rahn K.M., … Yang, J. (2017). Design strategies and applications of nacre-based biomaterials. Acta Biomaterialia, 54, 21-34. [View in article]

Green, D., Howard, D., Yang, X., Kelly, M., & Oreffo, R.O. (2003). Natural marine sponge fiber skeleton: a biomimetic scaffold for human osteoprogenitor cell attachment, growth, and differentiation. Tissue Engineering, 9(6), 1159-1166. [View in article]

Green, D.W., Lai, W., & Jung, H. (2014). Evolving marine biomimetics for regenerative dentistry. Marine Drugs, 12(5), 2877-2912. [View in article]

Kaiser, N.J., & Coulombe, K.L.K. (2015). Physiologically inspired cardiac scaffolds for tailored in vivo function and heart regeneration. Biomedical Materials, 10(3), 1-26. [View in article]

Kakisawa, H., & Sumitomo, T. (2011). The toughening mechanism of nacre and structural materials inspired by nacre. Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, 12(6), 1-14. [View in article]

Koh, T.J., & DiPietro, L.A. (2011). Inflammation and wound healing: The role of the macrophage. Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine, 13(e23), 1-14. [View in article]

Luz, G.M., & Mano J.F. (2009). Biomimetic design of materials and biomaterials inspired by the structure of nacre. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 367, 1587-1605. [View in article]

O’Brien, F.J. (2011). Biomaterials & scaffolds for tissue engineering. Materials Today, 14(3), 88-95. [View in article]

Ratner, B.D. (2001). Replacing and renewing: Synthetic materials, biomimetics, and tissue engineering in implant dentistry. Journal of Dental Education, 65(12), 1340-1347. [View in article]

Sled, E. (2018). Biblical integration in anatomy and physiology: A design approach. Answers Research Journal, 11, 141-148. [View in article]

Williams, D.F. (Ed.) (1999). The Williams dictionary of biomaterials. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press.

Wininger, K.L., Bester, M.L., & Deshpande, K.K. (2012). Spinal cord stimulation to treat postthoracotomy neuralgia: Non–small-cell cancer: A case report. Pain Management Nursing, 13(1), 52-59. [View in article]

Previous articles in this series:

The next installment in our biomimetic series focuses on cardiovascular medicine!

Our next installment will discuss biomimetic applications in cardiovascular medicine, including commentary on how much of the work in cardiac tissue engineering is focusing on regenerative medicine. However, with respect to regenerative medicine, we will try to center our discussion on methods that think outside-the-stem-cell box.

Biomimicry 101: Introduction to Biomimicry (and Biomimetic Applications)

kingfishersThe common or Eurasian kingfisher (depicted above on the left), and the belted kingfisher (depicted above on the right).
bullet-trainThe nose of Japan’s 500 series bullet train was fabricated to mimic the design inherent in the beak of a kingfisher to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics as the train exits tunnels.

Since the 1940’s, biomimicry has become increasingly commonplace as an integral approach to problem solving. The word biomimicry means to mimic life; the adjective form of the word is biomimetics.

— Biomimicry and the Bullet Train —

Biomimetic applications are becoming more widespread, and solutions to the problems they solve are growing more and more purposeful and specialized, with the array of applications varying, for instance, from medicine to industrial design and industrial engineering. One exceptional case in recent years involved Japan’s 500 series bullet trains. A design flaw surfaced when this series came online in the late 1990’s. The issue boiled down to the bullet-shaped, rounded-off nose designated for each lead car. It was anticipated that this shape would be highly aerodynamic, but the contours favored a rather unnerving pressure gradient. This pressure gradient, known as a shock or pressure wave, triggered a sonic boom every time a train exited tunnels at operating speeds. To remedy this problem, train architects took their cues from kingfishers.

A kingfisher is a type of bird ranging throughout many temperate and tropical climates. Often one or two may be seen perched above banks along rivers and fresh water ponds and lakes (see the images of two different species of kingfishers above). As the name suggests, they feed on fish. What is more, the kingfisher often conveys a stately, prominent mannerism, which lends itself towards being somewhat showy. You might say they have good stage presence. As master anglers, kingfishers dive headfirst into the water to catch their meals. They strike with skilled accuracy — starting from a perch or in a hovering position, and then plunging out of the sky beak-first into the water like a dart. Yet, even though their beaks pierce the water, breaking the water’s surface tension, kingfishers barely create a ripple.

It was this ability, the zeroing out of the point-of-entry pressure wave, which made a distinct impression on the 500 series’ architects. And it was inspiration resulting from that impression which ended up being the key to solving the problematic sonic boom dilemma. With the dynamics of the kingfisher in mind, the architects retooled the nose of the bullet train to mimic the inherent design in the kingfisher’s beak. Indeed, after completing their imaginative and inspired rhinoplasty, the trains’ newly engineered noses nullified the pressure gradient that had once plagued them in the original fabrication. Most importantly, the new, elongated profile did away with the sonic boom altogether.

The example of the bullet train gives us a clear picture of how biomimicry can capture the imagination and attention of industrial designers and mechanical engineers. The 500 series bullet trains operated from 1997 to 2010.

Remark: By all accounts, the species of kingfisher that train designers took notice of is the common or Eurasian kingfisher (depicted above on the left). The kingfisher common to North America is the belted kingfisher (depicted above on the right).

— The Original Hook and Loop Fasteners —

The original hook and loop fasteners (think VELCRO® brand fasteners) lend another historical perspective on biomimicry. Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral discovered these novel fasteners. The story says that when walking his dog through the Swiss countryside in the early 1940’s, de Mestral was intrigued with the burrs that stuck to its fur coat (as well as to de Mestral’s clothes). Upon closer inspection, de Mestral realized that the tips of the spikes of a burr have a unique design, a tiny hook. And while each burr contained dozens of spikes, in reality each burr contained dozens of miniscule hooks. What is more, de Mestral came up with a way to duplicate these naturally-occurring miniaturized hooks synthetically, and he combined them with fasteners containing hundreds of tiny loops. Today, VELCRO® brand fasteners continue to be a well-known application of biomimicry, as they are by far one of the most widespread, useful examples.

Remark: Please click here to learn more about the history of VELCRO® brand fasteners, including the fun fact that these fasteners accompanied Neil Armstrong during mankind’s first walk on the moon. (As a side note, readers who are interested in knowing more about Neil Armstrong may do so via our recent blog that celebrated the 49th anniversary of Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. In addition, readers will also find interesting tidbits comparing and contrasting evolutionary theories about the moon versus its creation.)

— Biomimetic Innovation —

Because biomimicry is such an innovative and unique field of study, we at Ashland Creation Colloquium are dedicating an entire series to the topic. We are calling the series Biomimicry 101. Our aim is to showcase creation. Creation is the biblical account of everything concerning our world and the universe (i.e., the who, what, when, where, and why – and perhaps even the how). At its core, creation takes into account “intelligent design” via a designer (i.e., creator). This designer is the God of the Bible.

Remark: Creation scientists carefully consider biblical perspectives when exploring, testing, and describing the richness of the universe. Given that scientists specialize in particular fields of study, creation scientists explore the universe through specific scientific disciplines encompassing the finite to the infinite, i.e., the life sciences to the field of cosmology.

For the balance of this article, we will clarify several key terms that lay a foundation for relevant and comparative studies instrumental to the field of biomimicry. Then, given this foundation, we outline topical categories that will be covered for the remainder of the series.

Key terms – the so-called “bio” group:

The intent of this section is to help differentiate between key terms, which collectively, we will refer to as the “bio” group. Individuals who work within this group are well-suited to explore and apply biomimicry.

Biomimicry, biomimetic(s), and bionic(s)

  • As defined above, the first two terms simply refer to mimicking life, with the first term being a noun and the second term the adjective form.
  • From the perspective of science and medicine, bionics may be thought of as the integration of that which is mechanical with that which is physiological (via a better understanding of the nervous system). The best example is functional electrical stimulation, which is a field that seeks to restore movement and automatic function, among other goals. Technology brought about by neural engineering is at the core of bionics, the leading edge of the neural interface.

Bioengineering

  • We can think of bioengineering as a broad category that focuses on medical applications. The field of regenerative medicine gives us a prime example. One specific area of research in regenerative medicine is the attempt to rectify impairments associated with the loss of normal spinal function. For example, attempts are ongoing to regenerate diseased vertebral discs, as well as damaged nerve cells (i.e., neurons) within the spinal cord.
  • Bioengineering may be defined within the broader category of biomedical engineering. However, because bioengineering focuses almost purely on innovations in healthcare and medicine, distinguishing between bioengineering and biomedical engineering can have practical advantages for clear communication.

Biomedical Engineering

  • As described above, biomedical engineering can serve as an umbrella term for bioengineering. The reason refers to the recognition of the term biomedical engineers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify individuals who work in biomedical engineering. However, often the term biomedical engineer is used by individuals who service medical equipment, such as physical therapy equipment, operating room equipment, or heart monitors. In most regions across the country, you will find a biomedical engineering department housed in your local hospital, where the hospital staff may simply call the department “biomed.”

Bioneer versus Biomedical Engineer

  • The term bioneer is a recently introduced term which combines the words “biological” and “pioneer.” And although bioneer has not received a formal definition, it seems to be used in a colloquial sense to describe a person at the forefront of the biological sciences frontier.
  • In contrast to bioneer, the term biomedical engineer has been widely adopted. According to the website of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (click here), biomedical engineers are individuals who “combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.”
    • Field engineer is a term sometimes used within biomedical engineering. The term is mostly associated with biomedical engineers employed by the makers of highly specialized medical equipment, such as MRI and PET scanners. These individuals have gone through specialized training to travel in the field to handle more delicate service and repair requests.

Biostatistics

  • The discipline that integrates statistical analysis with the biological sciences is biostatistics. For example, a biostatistician may work with biologists, chemists, material scientists, chemical engineers, and industrial engineers to apply statistical methods that help solve real-world problems. Biostatisticians also provide analytical guidance for feasibility studies, preliminary research for investigational trials, and ongoing support for current research programs.

Biosensor(s)

  • Biosensors are devices that use biological agents and/or processes in the detection of other biological agents and/or processes, as well as devices that detect biological states and diseases. Devices that use biological agents to detect other biological agents include microfluidic chips that can be engineered for the detection of malaria, for example, or a microelectromechanical system (often abbreviated MEMS) that can be used to detect Dengue virus. This type of technology is often referred to as lab-on-a-chip technology or point-of-care testing. An example of techniques that detect biological states and diseases is molecular imaging, which is considered the frontier in biosensing in the field of diagnostic medical imaging over the past few decades. Molecular imaging detects physiological abnormalities; it is synonymous with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET scans), and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT scans).

Biomaterial(s)

  • Biomaterials are engineered materials placed into the body to minimize loss of structure and function. The material or object placed into the body is known as a foreign body. Based on our body’s reaction to such materials, there are three characterizations of the foreign body, as follows:
    • Intolerable
    • Tolerable
    • Biocompatible
      • The goal of biomaterial engineers is to achieve biocompatibility. To date, however, this goal has not yet truly been attained. Therefore, understanding normal tissue healing and foreign body response becomes critical to achieving biocompatibility.

Biomechanics (think Kinesiology)

  • The study of biomechanics is to better understand the mechanics of the body, and it includes human locomotion as well as body systems (such as the cardiovascular system). A biomechanics approach to locomotion first considers statics versus dynamics, and then considers kinetics and kinematics. We can say that kinetics examines the external forces acting on the body, and that kinematics describes movement without regard to such forces. Often the words biomechanics and kinesiology are used interchangeably. However, kinesiology means the study of movement, and it is more intently focused on anatomy and physiology, particularly the neuromusculoskeletal system.

The focus of this series seeks to relate the benefits of biomimicry on the humanities, and the topics that will be surveyed are as follows:

  • Biomaterials
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Other Medical Applications
  • Biosensors
  • Fire Extinguishers, Winglets, and Wings
  • Insert: On Eagles Wings
  • Water Purification Systems
  • Human Gait: Biomechanics/Kinesiology
  • For More Information (and Education)
    • Here we feature a formal biomimicry fellowship sponsored through the University of Akron’s Integrated Bioscience PhD Program, and similarly highlight the Great Lakes Biomimicry Institute.

When you find yourself pondering just what biomimicry is, think design, intelligent design, and creation, but please don’t think evolution. And then when considering biomimetic applications, let your imagination know no bounds.

The next installment in our biomimetic series will deal with biomaterials!

Coming soon – a series capturing the delight that is biomimicry

kingfishersThe common or Eurasian kingfisher (depicted above on the left), and the belted kingfisher (depicted above on the right).
bullet-trainThe nose of Japan’s 500 series bullet train was fabricated to mimic the design inherent in the beak of a kingfisher to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics as the train exits tunnels.

The word biomimicry means to mimic life; the adjective form of the word is biomimetics.

Because biomimicry is such an innovative and unique field of study, we at Ashland Creation Colloquium are dedicating a series that covers this topic to help shed further light on it. We are calling the series Biomimicry 101. Our aim is to showcase creation. Creation is the biblical account of everything concerning our world and the universe (i.e., the who, what, when, where, and why (and probing the how)).

What follows are two selected excerpts from the introduction to the series:

…Yet, even as their beaks pierce the water, breaking the water’s surface tension, a kingfisher barely creates a ripple….

…It was this ability, the zeroing out of the point-of-entry pressure wave, which made a distinct impression on the 500 series’ architects. And it was inspiration subject to that impression which ended up being the key to solving the problematic sonic boom dilemma….

The focus of this series seeks to relate the benefits of biomimicry on the humanities, and the topics that will be surveyed are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Biomaterials
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Other Medical Applications
  • Biosensors
  • Fire Extinguishers, Winglets, and Wings
  • Insert: On Eagles Wings
  • Water Purification Systems
  • Human Gait: Biomechanics/Kinesiology
  • For More Information (and Education)
  • Concluding Remarks

Please look for entries on our series on biomimicry in the coming weeks and months!

Interviewing Steven Gollmer, PhD

The Creation Science Fellowship recently held its Eighth International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from July 29th to August 1st, 2018. During the conference, Dr. Steven Gollmer, professor of physics at Cedarville University in Ohio, spoke on two fascinating subjects. In his presentation titled “Man, Machine, Scientific Models and Creation Science,” Dr. Gollmer discussed how innate analytical power of computerized simulations and machine learning will never override our God-given human insight to carefully discern between proper and improper computational outputs. Moreover, in the paper that accompanied his talk, Dr. Gollmer noted that “with a proper understanding of the nature of man, creation scientists are well suited to evaluate the unique role human investigators play in the choice, guidance and interpretation of that which is processed by the machine.”

In his second presentation called “Effect of Aerosol Distributions on Precipitation Patterns Needed for a Rapid Ice Age,” Dr. Gollmer updated conference attendees on the status of his efforts in developing a global-scale computational model for post-Flood Ice Age precipitation. Because Dr. Gollmer is using software developed by NASA, a completed climate model of this sort would be recognized and welcomed by many climate scientists and graduate students as a benchmark model. In addition, secular and creation scientists who specialize in local weather patterns could then use the model to customize their own locality-based models to gain a clearer picture of localized post-Flood Ice Age effects. Furthermore, apart from the obvious benefit of obtaining a benchmark model within the field of climatology, the intrinsic features of the model would be of added value within the creation science literature to help archeologists, for example, better understand the post-Flood movements of humankind around the globe.

Collected as part of the Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, both of Dr. Gollmer’s papers are available as free downloads. Please click on the aforementioned presentation titles to connect to the associated paper.

Editorial note: To carry out his work on Ice Age precipitation patterns following the Global Flood, Dr. Gollmer is using state-of-the-art computational software for climate modeling developed by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). This software is called GISS Model E2. Moreover, Dr. Gollmer is operating the project using the most current version of GISS Model E2 — known as AR5. (Please click here to learn more about the GISS global climate modeling project.)

Our interview with Dr. Gollmer

In light of a busy conference schedule, we at Ashland Creation Colloquium were delighted that Dr. Gollmer agreed to be interviewed. It is our hope that students will be encouraged by what Dr. Gollmer had to say with respect to his worldview, as well as motivated through his work at Cedarville University concerning the study of origins, specifically post-Flood Ice Age climate modeling.
*****     *****     *****
Kevin Wininger from Ashland Creation Colloquium conducted the interview.

Kevin: Thank you for your time and agreeing to our interview. I know we’ve each had exciting conference schedules.
Dr. Gollmer: You’re welcome. It’s been a very interesting conference thus far.
*****     *****     *****
Kevin: Let’s start with the topic of origins. How do you think life began?
Dr. Gollmer: I think life is a special creation of God — in that God made the universe, the earth, and life. I believe God made all life, including human beings as a special creation.
Kevin: Very concisely stated. I like that. So let’s dive a little deeper and talk a little bit about the idea of the beginning of consciousness, particularly comparing and contrasting the idea of consciousness against the evolutionary construct of the “primordial soup.” Do you think that such a construct can adequately, or even ultimately, describe the beginning of consciousness?
Dr. Gollmer: That’s a great question. Let me answer it by taking a broad brush stroke that accounts for ideas associated with materialism, emergence (or vitalism), and Christian theism. For materialists, if we first understand there is no evidence for spontaneous generation (transition from non-life to life) within their primordial soup model, then I think such a model likewise cannot explain the beginning of consciousness. At best they would have to ultimately find it extremely improbable. Now, for those who hold to the philosophies of vitalism, which basically say there is a unifying life principle in the things around us, they might subscribe to the idea that as the dynamic complexity of a system increases it becomes ordered and ultimately generates consciousness. Instead of being highly improbable, consciousness is seen as being inevitable with enough complexity. However, the theistic Christian turns to a personal Creator, that is, a creator who is not distant. The theistic Christian knows that consciousness is possible because one of the many attributes of God is consciousness.
Kevin: I appreciate the thoughtfulness in your response. Now, what about finding meaning in life, do you think life has any meaning?
Dr. Gollmer: Yes, as a Christian, my purpose is to know the Creator, and from there discover what His purpose is for me. However, to the materialist, sadly, life has no meaning except for meaning defined by an individual or group in the context of the present environment, but clearly they have no ultimate meaning of life. In the view of the vitalist, we are just predestined, so for them meaning is defined by connecting one’s self with the so-called “cosmic essence.” However, this is somewhat ironic, since a Buddhist, as just one example of a vitalist, seeks to divest the self. For my own ultimate purpose, however, again it is to know God better and to trust what His ultimate purpose is for me. From there I get to discover how I can fit that role.
Kevin: Well put, and again, I appreciate your thoughtful answer. So if we think about morality, how can we know what is right and wrong, or can’t we?
Dr. Gollmer: Both right and wrong can be known because God has revealed Himself to His creation through the Bible (the Scriptures), which tells us God exists and shows us how He communicates with us.
Kevin: Do you think our conscience plays a role?
Dr. Gollmer: Yes, because we were created in the image of God, and thus, even in man’s fallen state there is a knowledge of God. Let me offer an example from the Bible. In the Bible we find discussion, in the first chapter of Romans, in the twentieth verse, about God’s eternal power and divine nature. It says that both of these attributes have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, and therefore we have no excuse, or right, claiming a lack of conscience. Also, in the second chapter of Romans, in verses fourteen and fifteen, we read that the law (what we may call today “right and wrong”) is written on our hearts, and that it is none other than our conscience that bears witness of this. However, given this knowing, or knowledge, unfortunately people sometimes work at training their conscience to do, or periodically accommodate, bad or wrong things, telling themselves that such things aren’t bad or wrong because it works for them in some pressing moment.
Kevin: Thank you for each and every one of your thorough replies. As we round out this part of the interview, let’s talk about our destiny. What are your thoughts on what happens to us when we die?
Dr. Gollmer: When we die we face our Creator. The Bible says in the Book of Hebrews, in chapter nine and verse twenty-seven, that it is once appointed for man to die, and then judgment after that. This judgment for those without Christ is a judgment of condemnation, but for those in Christ, of works. By “works” I mean evidence of salvation. Salvation is a free gift, a gift that when I accepted, I became part of God’s family, at which point I found myself striving to seek out things pleasing to Him, and, in turn, pleasing to me too.
Kevin: Has there ever been a time in your life when you thought hard about any of these questions?
Dr. Gollmer: I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old. However, with respect to origins, in high school I regrettably put up my hand when the teacher asked if anyone believed the earth was old (simply for fear of ridicule), while my friend put up his hand when the teacher asked if anyone believed the earth was young. Sometime afterwards, I read Dr. Henry Morris’s book The Bible and Modern Science, and I was able to reconcile and sharpen my understanding that there was no conflict between a young earth creation and science.
Editorial note: The 1951 book The Bible and Modern Science by Henry M. Morris was revised and updated in 1979, and that revision included a new title, Science and the Bible. (Please click here for an online preview of a 1986 publication of the 1979 title.)
Kevin: And when reflecting upon your life experiences, have any of your views or beliefs concerning these questions ever changed?
Dr. Gollmer: Although within the larger framework of biblical creation my beliefs haven’t changed, my responses to the details inherent to questions about origins have been sorted out. For instance, I’ve learned the incredible importance of not throwing out pat answers, but rather the importance of engaging someone in a thorough and well-meaning discussion (Morris’s book played a role in that).
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Kevin: Thank you again Dr. Gollmer for your straight answers about your worldview. I find it very encouraging and appreciate this time. Let’s now zero in on some of the exciting science you are involved in. To start out, have you always been interested in climate modeling?
Dr. Gollmer: No, but I’ve always been interested in science and math. I started out as a geology major at the University of Illinois, but as it turned out I wasn’t as interested in geology as I thought. For my second semester during my freshman year I transferred to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota, and studied education. Specifically, I concentrated on a science and math track within the education major, and earned a bachelor’s degree. I also found out I really liked this career path when I started my student teaching requirements at the high school level. But, I wanted to go on to graduate school so I could eventually teach at a Christian college. Because physics teachers always seem to be in demand, and physics combines both science and math, I decided to focus on physics. So, from there I went to Northern Illinois University and obtained a second bachelor’s degree, but this time in physics. After that I went back to the University of Illinois to earn a master’s degree in physics and was involved in research at the university’s nuclear physics laboratory. This research was heavily weighted in theory and I learned that my interests were more aligned with applied physics. I should add that although very valuable, physics at the very small scale is heavily laden with theory. Mathematical models generated by theoreticians are validated by experimental data collected by particle detectors and analyzed for statistical significance. From there I taught at a Christian high school for a year while I looked for a graduate program. After a number of applications, serious thought and prayer, I attended Purdue University, where I eventually earned a doctorate degree in atmospheric science.
Also, and this is important, my previous work in physics prepared me well for my graduate program and led to my work in climate modeling. There was a class project during my doctorate degree that provided an opportunity to run and analyze data from a climate model. This ultimately provided the experience I needed when I began modeling the post-Flood Ice Age climate.
I think finally I would say that my first freshman semester at the University of Illinois was a pivotal moment in my life. I realized I needed to seek God’s purpose for my life and I could achieve that much better at a Christian college. God used those impressions from that semester at the U. of I., and the fact that my sister and friends were attending Pillsbury, to help direct me to Pillsbury Baptist Bible College.
Kevin: And what about now? Please talk about the role and emphasis of the physics courses and the physics program at Cedarville University.
Dr. Gollmer: My class load includes teaching first year calculus-based physics to engineering students mixed together with teaching several upper-level physics courses. Overall, I try to impress upon my students how to do physics, and how they can best prepare for success in physics in graduate school, if that is the direction of their life. The emphasis is on how physics works and how God ordered the creation. Importantly, given my academic environment there are plenty of opportunities to talk about young earth creation, faith in Christ, and how Christ created the world.
Kevin: Excellent! So what do you think is the biggest challenge, such as the biggest barrier or the biggest limit, currently in your area of study? In other words, what is the next big thing?
Dr. Gollmer: As far as the biggest challenge, there is simply more to do than there is time to do it. And although I like having multiple brands in the fire, I’ve learned to set priorities. I like the challenge of a project and the ‘start’ of it, that is, all of the research that goes into establishing the foundation of the project. It is both exciting and engaging. I can envision working on post-Flood climate, such as my post-Flood Ice Age precipitation project, for another five years. I anticipate this will bring to a conclusion my current research questions and provide a benchmark scenario, which can be passed on to the upcoming generation of creation scientists. I would then like to pursue data science or so-called “big data,” such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. I would like to help establish and facilitate this sort of program at Cedarville. I think data science, particularly machine learning, will be one of the next big things.
Kevin: Your talk on man, machine, and creation science was indeed interesting and very well received, as was your talk on post-Flood climate modeling of the Ice Age. Do you have any advice for high school or college-aged young people interested in physics or meteorology?
Dr. Gollmer: My advice for high school students is to learn math, and to learn math well. There is a certain perception in high school about what math is and it is not always positive. So I would like to say dig in and understand math because physics really is applied mathematics — applying physics to real world situations. Learn to especially appreciate math word problems. They were a struggle for me at first, but I’m convinced that each of us can find a way to navigate through them.
Kevin: That’s sound advice, especially since I too have always liked mathematics, but may have also struggled with it at times. What would be your advice for high school or college-aged young people seeking higher education in general?
Dr. Gollmer: Work on learning for life. Don’t waste classes in high school in order to ‘just’ get by. In English class, for example, work hard at what communication and communicating is. In history class, learn your history and know the context of the time and place in which you live. Let the learning be your goal: make that your intention, and challenge yourself to do your best.
Kevin: Very, very usable advice, and also very insightful!
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Kevin: Okay, so we have time for one last question. Given that all of God’s Word is important for our daily lives, is there a part of the Bible that resonates with you more strongly or speaks the most to you?
Dr. Gollmer: I’ve found that I have developed a strong appreciation for the Book of James. Many people refer to it as the Proverbs of the New Testament. For a Christian, I find James contains many pertinent verses that speak directly to me, and on the whole James touches upon many relevant and practical aspects of life and faith.
As far as my work and career as a teacher, I strive to exhibit patience in helping students with their perspectives on things, perhaps much in the same way that Moses might have done when leading the children of Israel in the wilderness. So let me also add there’s much we can learn when thinking about Moses as a leader. While we call Moses the most meek man, I sometimes wonder if Moses had to struggle with his own pride given his position of high esteem in his early life, and then with his audacity and disobedience in striking the second rock for water rather than speaking to it as God had directed. The take-home message is that we should strive daily to hear God and His purpose for our lives, and this can be accomplished through listening to what God has to tell us when we read Scripture — God’s revelation to us as Creator and through Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Editorial note: In the Bible, Moses is referenced as the meekest man in his time in the twelfth chapter and third verse of the Book of Numbers.
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Kevin: Dr. Gollmer, I want to thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk with me. I greatly appreciate hearing your views, and learning about your work as a teacher and your contributions to creation science research. I think your testimony and the work of your colleagues both at Cedarville and here at the conference will serve to mentor future generations. Thank you again.
Dr. Gollmer: Thank you, and it’s been my pleasure.

Could you imagine yourself in a role that helps us better understand the relation between the heating and cooling of the planet?

Starting out now in your own discovery of the intricacies concerning God’s creation through scientific study might very well help you in discerning what path you should take in the future. Christian scholarship extending into a variety of professional roles, such as physicists, mathematicians, meteorologists, engineers, teachers, historians, and archeologists, is sincerely needed in education and culture.

hurricane-francesPath of Hurricane Frances (2004)

Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Perhaps our writing prompt on climatology and oceanography was developed specifically for you!

We invite you to explore the writing prompts and entry rules/guidelines for our creation science writing contest (see the essay contests web page, and please feel free to download the page’s printer friendly version). Look specifically for the selected question on climatology and oceanography, and then download “On the Study of Climate and Oceanography.” Students choosing this topic will discuss the heating and cooling of the planet in a fun and challenging way.

Report from Pittsburgh: Part 3

The third and final day at the Eighth International Conference on Creationism rounded out an extremely productive meeting. As before, what follows are a few highlights of selected sessions.

  • Andrew Snelling from Answers in Genesis gave an intriguing presentation on the correlation between radiohalos, primarily those with polonium as their radiocenters, and the location of ore veins embedded within rock (actually both the radiohalos and the ore veins are embedded in rock). The correlation was strong enough to offer evidence that given the right circumstances the presence of radiohalos could be used to pinpoint geological locations that demand further exploration for hydrothermal ore veins. The paper for this presentation, and thus, part of the official proceedings journal for the conference, is “Radiohalos as an Exploration Pathfinder for Granite-Related Hydrothermal Ore Veins: A Case Study in the New England Batholith, Eastern Australia.”
  • Denver Seely of Mississippi State University presented current findings from an investigation that remains ongoing via the collaboration of a specialized working group. The group is looking at computerized simulations of near impact celestial objects (by way of finite element simulations of such pass-by events with the earth, or so-called “near misses” of the earth). Specifically, they are carefully examining the influence that a given passing body (either a Moon-sized object or an Earth-sized object) would impose on terrestrial deformations during the creation week/Global Flood. This is a first of its kind study. As it turns out, of the five parameters utilized (stationary body size, core material, core/mantle thickness ratio, passing object mass, and passing object distance), the most heavily influential on terrestrial deformation were core material and the core/mantle ratio. The paper for this presentation as well as the conference’s proceedings is “Finite Element Analysis of Large Body Deformation Induced by a Catastrophic Near Impact Event.”
  • Steven Gollmer of Cedarville University gave his second presentation. For this talk, the results from his work on post-Flood Ice Age precipitation climate modeling were discussed. The paper for this presentation, and thus, part of the official proceedings journal for the conference, is “Effect of Aerosol Distributions on Precipitation Patterns Needed for a Rapid Ice Age.”

Remark: Please click here to read our interview with Dr. Gollmer.

  • Phillip Dennis spoke on a young earth cosmology incorporating Einstein field equations and general relativity. The paper for this presentation, and thus, part of the official proceedings journal for the conference, is “Consistent Young Earth Relativistic Cosmology.” Of note is that this presentation was complementary with the earlier talk on special relativity by Tichomir Tenev. In other words, neither of the two talks conflicted each other.

The Cosmology Workshop was moderated by Robert Hill, Ed.D, and featured panelists: Russell Humphreys, PhD; Phillip Dennis, PhD; Jason Lisle, PhD; and Danny Faulkner, PhD. The title of the workshop was “What are the Necessary Ingredients for a Biblical/Scientific Young-Earth Cosmology?”

Cosmology also found its way into the spotlight for the free evening session open to the public. Here Jason Lisle, PhD, presented an overview of evolutionary cosmological models, and also made several poignant comments on young-earth cosmological models. His presentation was named “Cosmology: Problems for Evolutionary Models and Suggestions by Creation Scientists.”

Report from Pittsburgh: Part 2

The second day at the Eighth International Conference on Creationism yielded even more fascinating presentations. Again, what follows is a quick list of several selected talks.

  • For those familiar with her investigative work in archeology (perhaps in part via our report posted yesterday on the Ipuwer Papyrus), independent researcher Anne Habermehl discussed unique findings from southeastern Turkey that not only baffle secular archeologists but also go against the grain of the conventional timeline. Please view the paper (see link) for this presentation, as well as the conference’s proceedings, called “A Creationist View of Göbekli Tepe: Timeline and Other Considerations.”
  • Tichomir Tenev of Mississippi State University gave an extraordinary talk on a solution to the starlight problem via special relativity. One of the most interesting aspects of this solution is that it is independent of a variety of confounding factors. The working group’s paper for this presentation as well as the conference’s proceedings is “A Solution for the Distant Starlight Problem Using Creation Time Coordinates.”
  • On behalf of a number of authors conducting biomimcry research on the bombardier beetle, Andy McIntosh, PhD and DSc, visiting professor of thermodynamics from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, engaged conference attendees with remarkable insights into efforts to mimic the spray design of this beetle species. Discussion centered not only on God’s great design of the bombardier beetle, but also on several practical applications of the research results to date, such as new and improved fire extinguishers. The paper for Dr. McIntosh’s presentation as well as the conference’s proceedings is “The Extraordinary Design of the Bombardier Beetle—A Classic Example of Biomimetics.” (Note that the website www.bombardierbeetle.org also offers an entertaining overview of this topic, courtesy of Dr. McIntosh.)
  • Steven Gollmer of Cedarville University talked about the role of God-given human insight among the landscape of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The paper for this presentation, and thus, part of the official proceedings journal for the conference, is “Man, Machine, Scientific Models and Creation Science.”

Remark: Please click here to read our interview with Dr. Gollmer.

The Geoscience Workshop was moderated by John Whitmore, PhD, and panelists included: Steve Austin, PhD; John Baumgardner, PhD; Paul Garner, MS; and Timothy Clarey, PhD. The title of the workshop was “Flood Boundaries: Where Are We, and Where Do We Need To Be?”

Geoscience also took the stage for the free evening event open to the public. Here Steve Austin, PhD, described the so-called “mudrock revolution,” as well as proposed the scientific and research advantages of building a working model for rapid mud layer deposits. His presentation was aptly named “Building a Machine that Deposits Mud Layers Rapidly.”

Report from Pittsburgh: Part 1

The first day at the Eighth International Conference on Creationism yielded extremely fascinating presentations given the variety of topics. What follows is a quick list of several selected talks.

  • Independent researcher Anne Habermehl presented on archeology, in her discussion and paper (see link) called “The Ipuwer Papyrus and the Exodus.” Here the topic was extra-biblical evidence for the Exodus.
  • Matthew McLain of The Master’s University spoke on birds and dinosaurs. This talked centered on the evolutionary hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs. However, contrary to popular belief, based on results from the research carried out for this presentation, birds and dinosaurs were shown not to be related through common (or evolutionary) descent. Results further showed that birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs in the larger framework of God’s creation. The research team’s paper for the presentation is “Feathered Dinosaurs Reconsidered: New Insights from Baraminology and Ethnotaxonomy.”
  • Joseph Francis of The Master’s University talked about the beneficial role of viruses. The research team’s paper for this presentation is “Bacteriophages as Beneficial Regulators of the Mammalian Microbiome.”

The Bioscience Workshop was moderated by Bob Harsh, and featured panelists: Kurt Wise, PhD; Jean Lightner, DVM; and Todd Wood, PhD. The title of the workshop was “Baraminology: Where Are We, Where Do We Need To Be, and How Do We Get There?”

Dinosaur soft tissue was in the spotlight for the conference’s free evening event that was open to the public. Here Kevin Anderson, PhD, gave an update on- and answered questions about- the iDINO project. His presentation was titled “A Creation Biology Update: Soft Dinosaur Tissue and Its Support for the Creation Model.”

Remark: iDINO is an acronym that stands for Investigation of Dinosaur Intact Natural Osteo-Tissue.