Daily Dispatches

Protein vibration and God’s perfect timing


Research scientists at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, have discovered a “highly unexpected” link between physics and biology in the protein molecule that optimizes efficiency in these crucial building blocks in just one millionth of a millionth of a second. The researchers credit the microscopic, perfect timing to evolution, a coincidental improbability scoffed at by proponents of intelligent design.

The university scientists used laser spectroscopy to measure the bell-like vibration of the enzyme lysozyme, a bacteria-fighting protein. The vibration, measured at a frequency of a few terahertz—a million-million hertz—involves the entire protein, an indication that the motion transfers energy across proteins. Also, the protein vibrates for only one picosecond. That’s one millionth of a millionth of a second. Any shorter and the chemical reaction would be less efficient. Any longer and the react, unreact sequence would oscillate forever. The scientists credit the perfect timing to “evolution [that] has optimized enzymes to ring for just the right amount of time.”

“Yes, isn’t evolution wonderful,” quips Discovery Institute’s online publication, Evolution News and Views. “Once again, it has optimized something that had to be optimized before life began—all by unplanned, undirected, natural forces that knew nothing about optimization.” 

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Discovery Institute scientists question why the physicists should be so surprised at an apparent conspiracy between quantum mechanics and biological design that makes the most effective use of living processes. Their predecessor at the University of Glasgow, the great physicist Lord Kelvin in 1871 cited “overwhelmingly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design … all around us.”

The vibrating motions discovered by today’s researchers cause the protein molecules to bind with other molecules and perform the necessary functions for life, such as oxygen absorption and cell repair. The scientists now believe with this understanding of a link between physics and biology in the protein molecule they might be able to discover “whether these mechanical properties can be used to understand the function of complex living systems.”   

Dick Peterson
Dick Peterson

Dick lives in Summerville, S.C., is a former newspaper reporter and editor, and is now a freelance writer and caregiver for his wife with multiple sclerosis.


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