Don’t worry! Fungi will save the world

http://www.geek.com/articles/news/students-discover-fungus-that-loves-to-eat-plastic-2012022/

and

http://bmcdb.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/amazonian-plastic-eating-fungi/

So we can clean up the world’s excess plastic problem. Which is about politics/decency/collective will, not technical difficulties.

Same for radiation:

http://fungalgenomes.org/blog/2007/05/melaninized-fungi-use-ionizing-radiation-for-energy/

 and

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070522210932.htm

‘Radiation-Eating’ Fungi Finding Could Trigger Recalculation Of Earth’s Energy Balance And Help Feed Astronauts

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2007) — Scientists have long assumed that fungi exist mainly to decompose matter into chemicals that other organisms can then use. But researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found evidence that fungi possess a previously undiscovered talent with profound implications: the ability to use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.

And lastly:

“Most of you reading this article are at least vaguely familiar with the Chernobyl disaster, a clusterfuck of experimentation and negligence that led to the worst nuclear plant disaster in history. It irradiated a huge area around the plant and left the neighboring town of Pripyat so much of a ghost town that we declared it one of the creepiest places on Earth. It’s so apocalyptic that they’ve even based video game levels on it.


One of the less successful RollerCoaster Tycoon scenarios.

But even in this area that is as close to Fallout-like radioactive wasteland as real world can offer, life prevails. The dead, contaminated Red Forest created by the radiation is showing signs of life. Rare and endangered animals have found a safe haven in the area avoided by humans. And, inside the ominous plant — on the Ground Zero site — mushrooms are happily feasting on radiation.

That’s right: There is life inside the reactor of Chernobyl. And it eats radiation.


We didn’t say it looks cool

This radiotropic fungus has adapted to turn gamma radiation into food — it’s not the only organism that can absorb radiation, but it is by far the best at it. The fungus’ radiation-eating properties obviously piqued scientists interests since it could help radically reduce radiation levels in contaminated areas. But there’s also another reason science wants to take a closer look at the Chernobyl mushroom: The scientists are looking at ways to use the radiation absorbing fungus as food.”

( one of the above links is from this fun scientific site: http://www.scienceagogo.com/index.shtml )

CaperAsh Commentary:

Well, maybe this should go on the other more general blog designed to keep this one baking/food centric, but I have it here because this is a blog by someone who is into natural fermentation for a living. And yeast is, after all, a type of fungus. So I use the work of various fungi to pay my bills. Also, bread has such a bad rap these days – the latest fad being gluten free (which I am sure is very good for some people but still it’s a fad) – and in general modern urban people are so frightened of the microbial world, believing that sterility is next to godliness and so forth, that maybe this blog can help re-balance things in their favour, so to speak, emulating them in its tiny, humble, almost invisible way.

Now to wax more philosophical: we tend to cognitively divide things into discrete parts and segments. If we didn’t, we couldn’t use words as the building blocks of language. We can distinguish between things like books and tables, but also feelings like anger and discontent, and no end of other things. Differentiation is the source of both individuation (aka me and you) as well as procreation (aka males, females and the seemingly inevitable – for humans – ‘my doesn’t SHE look good! effect, behaviour and impregnated result!). So differentiation ain’t necessarily a terrible thang.

BUT: it also might engender fallacious perceptions, seeing discrete entities where there are none, or more importantly perhaps ascribing particular motivations and character traits where there are none, or at least we are misinterpreting them. This whole ‘drive to survive’ business is based on the premise that individual being do whatever it takes to survive and procreate. It’s a very reasonable supposition. But maybe it’s not true. Maybe it is just LIFE LIVING in a myriad of forms, one thing feeding of another being a way for energy to keep warfing and woofing, like clouds expanding and contracting, appearing and disappearing in the sky of general, all-pervasive life-force fielded Being. Maybe.

Or in terms of these fungi: maybe fungi is one way the life force field on this planet throws out life forms capable of feeding of any type of energy. Just because radiation is deadly for us doesn’t mean it ain’t delightfully life-sustaining for somebody else.

This also gives us a chance to have a little think about what we mean by motivation and intelligence. Are the fungi intelligent? Or put another way: can we say they are not intelligent? I won’t go further into that here, but just to say that perhaps intelligence is in the field around the activity rather than something possessed by the being or behaviour evidencing intelligence.

Which is why, for example, I regard the modern Western belief that our ‘intelligence’ is ‘in the brain’ as no more than a very childish superstition and have no doubt that a hundred years or so from now people will laugh at the notion, just as a few hundred years ago they would have if anyone had been foolish enough to float the idea.

And lest you think ‘them’s ain’t fightin’ words’, google a little on ‘the enteric brain’ and you will learn that there is far more synaptic activity down there then there is behind the skull. As far as I can best surmise (given the dearth of intelligent research about human beings these days) one of the main functions of the brain is to coordinate sensory data. This is no mean function but it’s not the same as ‘intelligence’, or at least not the sum total of what we think of as intelligence. I read a few years back somewhere that when you make the decision to raise your arms, for example, the electric activity starts in the gut and then 1/30 second later is in the head. Food for thought….or maybe it’s food as thought….

Of course they wouldn’t have because of the Inquisition, but that’s another story!

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