Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Noah's Ark - temperature control

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Ark design is its HVAC system. Many animals are highly dependent on a consistent temperature and environment that meets their normal lifestyle, so would have to have this provided for their seven-month cruise. Some animals are adapted for arctic conditions, some for the tropics. Some thrive in wet conditions, some in arid. Even humans, who have adapted to more habitats than any other animal, cannot survive unprotected for more than a few hours in the harshest deserts or the most frigid arctic zones, though there are adapted animals living in both places. So I wonder, how did Noah generate some rooms with dry, baking heat, and others with bitter cold, all on the same Ark? I'm sure that zookeepers would love to know the secret.

In a similar vein, how did Noah provide for all the freshwater animals? They couldn't have survived seven months of saltwater, so Noah must have taken them all on board as well. He must have provided the Ark with a wide diversity of ponds for all the freshwater fish, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and others, and set all these different ponds to the correct temperature and chemical conditions. And how did he collect them, and disperse them after the Flood? Even taking the Ark on a sea cruise before the Flood would not have allowed him to visit all the freshwater habitats, and afterwards, of course, the Ark was on Mt. Ararat, so I am at a loss as to how he got them back to their ponds after the Flood was over.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Noah's Ark - social insects, and plantlife

Having just two individuals of a species of social insect (such as ants, bees and termites) can be a problem. The male is often a drone whose sole purpose is to fertilize a queen. And the queen may be virtually unable to feed herself, being dependent on the workers. But if there is just one drone and one queen, there are no workers. And I think these are considered "unclean", so Noah could not use the "seven" exception for clean animals and birds to sneak in some workers. Presumably, then, each queen must start laying eggs immediately, to generate enough workers to support the colony. Now termites should be in good shape, because the Ark is made of wood, and most of the ants will be OK since there will be lots of detritus and food remains around. But I'm not sure where the social bees and wasps will get their nourishment, since all the flowers will be underwater for seven months.

But that suggest another problem to me. After the flood, all the terrestrial plantlife on the planet will be dead, having been indundated by saltwater for so long. Most of the animals on board depend on plants for food, and will starve before the earth can recover. Pretty tough to be fruitful and multiply when there is nothing to eat. And learning from Carthage, when the land has been salted, it can take much longer than normal to recover. Anyway, all those plants that have co-evolved with pollinating insects can't spread without the insects, and the insects can't thrive without the plants. Oops.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Noah's Ark - food

Noah had to not only put the animals on the Ark, but also their food. For example, consider the elephants. There are three species, with a male and female of each, for six elephants on board. Each one eats about 500 pounds of food per day, which requires 60 tons of food for a brief forty-day cruise. For the full five or seven months (depending on your tradition), this could mean up to 315 tons of food just for the elephants. The largest elephant on record weighed 13 tons, so the food weighs at least four times as much as the elephants themselves. And this is for just one type of animal. There are also five species of rhino, two species of hippo, more than fifty species of deer, about ninety species of antelopes, plus horses, giraffes, camels, pigs, cattle, sheep, and more, just in the ungulates. All of those will require large amounts of food, too. And we haven't even gotten to the carnivores, rodents, marsupials, and all the other mammals. Plus all the birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Plus the snails, slugs, land crabs, spiders, and a simply huge number of insects (remember, 350,000 species of beetles alone!).

An additional logistics problem is that many of these diets are so highly specialized, and the proper food must be obtained for each animal. Humans and pigs are so atypical, in that we will eat nearly anything. There are animals that feed only on the material of a single type of plant, so the vast job of collecting and maintaining all those different plants, from all over the world, would exceed the capability of any quartermaster system in existence today, with all of our technological resources. How did Noah accomplish it? For Genesis states that he was to load the Ark with not only the animals, but also their food. Wow!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Noah's Ark - the extra cruises

How did Noah get the island-dwelling animals on board the Ark? I assume that before the flood, he took the Ark around the world to pick them up. Otherwise, how would he have gotten the koalas from Australia, the kiwis from New Zealand, the giant tortoises from the Galapagos, and the forty-two different tree snails that were found only in Hawaii? For that matter, how did he get all the South American animals (New World monkeys, giant anteaters, alpacas, anacondas, etc.)? Too bad we didn't get the details of that cruise.

And after the flood, how did he get them back home, since the Ark was stuck on Mt. Ararat? I suppose he must have made a second Ark, to haul them all back. As far as I know, the Ark did not have engines, so these two extra cruises must have taken an awfully long time. Perhaps that is why Noah had to live 950 years.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Noah's Ark - beetles

Consider the beetles on the Ark. There are at least 350,000 species of beetles, which must walk up the gangplank two by two. If one pair arrives every second around the clock, it takes more than four days just to load the beetles. And if they each get one square inch of deck space, it takes an area of 32 by 32 cubits to hold them (remember, the Ark itself is only 50 cubits wide). I'm guessing they were loaded before the elephants and rhinos, to avoid squashing problems.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Noah's Ark - Two by two

So the animals went on board the Ark in pairs, one male and one female (well, to be more accurate, Genesis states some went on board as sevens... some pretty kinky sex there, I guess). That makes me wonder about those species of animals with no males, such as the New Mexico whiptail lizard (must have been a long walk to get to the Ark, but that's another story). All of the whiptails are females, and they reproduce parthenogenetically (virgin birth, you know). Not only that, but the females engage in mounting behavior with each other. So did Noah acknowledge these animal lesbians as they came on board? Or did he just pretend that one was a male?

Incidentally, if you are not aware, homosexuality is far from "unnatural". To find lots and lots of examples in the animal kingdom, take a look at Biological Exuberance, by Bruce Bagemihl.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Noah's Ark - parasites

If all the animals were on the Ark, then the human endo- and ecto-parasites must have been there, presumably inside or on members of Noah's family (in Christian tradition, they were the only humans on board). Must not have been a very pleasant cruise... fleas, ticks, tapeworms, lots of different roundworms (including the nasty Guinea worm). They were ridden with multiple diseases, such as schistosoma, filariasus, toxocara, and malaria. A bunch of these parasites would have been causing diarrhea, vomiting, fever, blood loss, and lots of itching. I'm guessing both Noah and his wife had crabs and scabies. They were probably more than ready to get back on solid land and start their long healing process.