Welcome to Scientific Mystery Monday hosted by Dr. John Ashton, author of Evolution Impossible. This series is designed to explore scientific research that shows the wonders of God's Creation. This research will help defend the Bible against scientific philosophies including evolution.


Sound is always produced and heard as a vibration, whether a violin string, vocal chords, or our ear drums. Sound vibrations in our hearing range vary between 20 and 20,000 cycles per second. Sound waves travel in air as vibrating air molecules, and they also transmit through water as pressure waves. Underwater microphones, or hydrophones, have long been used to track whale migrations, fish populations and submarines. The devices also map the seafloor and service undersea oil wells.

Major shortcomings of hydrophones include their insensitivity to weak sound vibrations, and also their failure to operate under conditions of high pressures at great water depths. Hydrophones, as well as our own eardrums, typically have an air chamber on the inner side of a vibrating membrane. This design works well in air, but pressure changes under water compress the membrane inward and interfere with its vibration.

Scientists at Stanford University recently improved underwater sound detection by copying the hearing ability of orcas, also called killer whales. These magnificent creatures have specialized ear drums which function over a great range of intensity (loudness), pitch (low to high frequencies), and pressure (depth of water). The hearing ability results from orcas being designed with water on both sides of their eardrum. This feature adjusts to pressure changes and allows the whales to hear clearly at any depth of water. Orcas communicate with squeals and clicks over distances of miles. Their sound recordings can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTEvEE6fq6k.

The newly designed electronic hydrophones have a vibrating membrane enveloped in water and covered with microscopic openings. The tiny holes maintain equal pressure on the sides of the membrane regardless of water depth. Inside the instrument, a laser beam reflects from the membrane and measures small vibrations, somewhat like a DVD player detects a reflected laser signal from a spinning disk.

The new underwater detector measures sounds over a frequency range of 17 octaves and a loudness range of 160 decibels which is hundreds of times the sensitivity of our own hearing. Most likely, orca whales have hearing ability far beyond even that of the new instruments.

It is typically assumed that orcas and all other creatures have fine-tuned their abilities over millions of years of mutations and natural selection. However, this explanation fails in at least three ways. First, mutations are genetic mistakes and do not increase the complexity or design of living organisms. Second, some of the most impressive designs in nature are found in fossils such as trilobites. The fossil record does not show a progressive increase in design over time. Instead, intelligent design clearly has been present since the Creation. A third problem with evolutionary progress over time is that many impressive designs are found in nonliving parts of nature, carbon buckyballs for example. These and other design examples will be explored in future Scientific Mystery Monday articles. Examples also may be found at the website DiscoveryofDesign.com and in the book Discovery of Design (Don DeYoung and Derrik Hobbs, Master Books, 2009).

Questions for further study

1. The deepest spot in the ocean is closest to _____ miles.

a. 0.7 b. 7 c. 70 d. 700

2. Sound vibration frequency is measured in cycles per second, also called ______.

a. harmonics  b. helmholtz  c. henries  d.hertz

3. Orcas are air breathers and can stay under water for about 20 ______.

a. seconds  b. minutes  c. hours  d. days


Don DeYoung is Chairman of Physical Sciences, Grace College, Winona Lake, Indiana. Courses taught include physics, astronomy and mathematics.  He joined the Grace faculty in 1972, and has spent sabbatical leaves in California, Europe, and the South Pacific.  Don is currently president of the Creation Research Society with 1,700 members worldwide.  This group funds research, publishes a technical quarterly journal, and operates a laboratory in Arizona.  Don speaks on creation topics and believes that the details of nature are a powerful testimony to the Creator's care for mankind. You can visit Dr. DeYoung's website at www.discoveryofdesign.com.

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Comment by Kathy Balman on January 28, 2013 at 8:15pm

Great post. We are currently learning about Marine Mammals. I think I will work some of this stuff into our learning over the next few weeks.

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