Dandy Designs title

Making Color-title

Jewel (scarab) beetle Most living things have the colors that we see because of pigments that are in their skin or shells. The chemicals in these pigments absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect other wavelengths. The reflected wavelengths are what we see and identify as color. Researchers have discovered that there is another way that color can be produced, and the jewel (scarab) beetle, Chrysina gloriosa, gives its incredibly beautiful color by this method.

Examining the beetle’s exoskeleton under a high-powered microscope researchers have discovered the surface is a “richly decorated mosaic of cusps and color.” The surface has cells with five, six, and seven sides which gradually twist as layers get deeper. These cells look like snail shells turned on their sides. These regions are called focal conic domains, and they twist reflected light forming a clockwise helix which makes it circularly polarized. Since different colors have different energies, the amount of twisting will be proportional to the wavelength, so in the case of the jewel beetle the highest energy twisted is green, and the beetle is a glorious green color even though it has no pigment.

The beetle’s green color matches the plants in which it lives, and allows it to be camouflaged. Dr. Mohan Srinivasarao of the Georgia Institute of Technology is hopeful that copying this design system will allow scientists to develop devices that will use circular polarization as a means of manipulating light for new uses in technology. The sophistication of God’s design in the natural world is amazing, and the more we learn of the various methods God has employed the more sure we can be of His role in the creation.

Reference: Science News, August 15, 2009, page 12.

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