Mushrooms: everybody’s favorite quirk of nature. From the psychedelic genus psilocybe and the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis that “mind control” ants, to the mushrooms that clean up oil spills and the mushrooms that may serve as planetary habitats, researchers have found yet another use for fungi: radiation protection.
“The greatest hazard for humans on deep-space exploration missions is radiation,” says a preliminary report in the bioRxiv journal. “Certain fungi thrive in high-radiation environments on Earth, such as the contamination radius of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant… These organisms appear to perform radiosynthesis, using pigments known as melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy. It is hypothesized that these organisms can be employed as a radiation shield to protect other lifeforms.”
Radiosynthesis runs parallel to photosynthesis — but instead of eating sunlight (UV radiation), these shrooms are eating gamma radiation. And it’s all possible through melanin, the same pigment that determines hair and skin color.
Beyond the “modern-day necessities” — cars, gas, electricity, and TikTok — the historically fundamental necessity, farming, contributes to a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. These emissions arise from agricultural practices, forestry, and land-use changes.
… Oh, and cow farts (or rather, their burps). Lest we forget the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that 14.5 percent of GHG emissions come from livestock, with cattle contributing to more than half of those emissions.
Since not-farming is not an option (and we can’t expect cows to never be gassy, even with dietary interventions), it’s high time for a sustainability overhaul of the agricultural industry: planet-friendly farming.
By now, we’ve all heard the age-old argument about whether tomatoes are a fruit or a vegetable. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled tomatoes were a vegetable for “tax purposes” in 1893, a botanist would tell you that vegetables aren’t real and that tomatoes are actually a berry.
While we’re at it, cucumbers, peppers, avocados, pumpkins, pomegranates, watermelons, oranges, lemons, limes, grapes, and bananas are all berries, too. Strawberries and raspberries, however, are not. They’re “accessory fruits.”
Cancer, one of the leading causes of death worldwide, appears to have afflicted the ferocious beasts the roamed the Earth with our prehistoric ancestors.
Earlier this month, research published in The Lancet Oncology Journal diagnosed a dinosaur with bone cancer. And this isn’t the first time researchers have made such a diagnosis based on dinosaur fossils.
Red speckles and poofy, majestical shapes that appear to be pulled straight from a fairy tale are most likely at the forefront of your mind when you think of mushrooms – or, perhaps, some colorful, swirly-whirly imagery and “hippie babble” come to mind.
But there’s far more to mushrooms than meets the eye. Mycelium, the vegetative part of fungi that forms during the hyphae growth stage of mushrooms, has piqued the interests of researchers around the globe.
In recent years, scientists have put mycelium under the microscope due to its physical strength and pharmacological properties. This has opened the floodgates for mycelia to serve as a natural construction compound for building houses or creating new medicines.
Blue is all around us, from the oceans to their reflection in the sky, but it’s very rare that you’ll see blue anywhere else in nature – unless you’re flipping through a Dr. Seuss book.
Wildflowers sporting a bluish-hue, which includes purple and violet flowers, only account for about 15 to 20 percent of all flower colors, says a 2018 Breeding Science journal review.
“Many ornamental plants with a high production volume, such as rose and chrysanthemum, lack the key genes for producing the blue delphinidin pigment or do not have an intracellular environment suitable for developing blue color,” the review explains.
While recent advancements in genetic engineering have allowed scientists to synthesize blue roses, chrysanthemums, orchids, and dahlias, the process isn’t as simple as “editing a few genes” (granted, gene editing isn’t such a simple process, either).
The cannabis industry has put terpenes on the map due to how they affect the scent, taste, and medicinal properties of the product. However, terpenes aren’t exclusive to cannabis – they’re found in plants, fruits, and spices.
Terpenes can be used to apply flavor or fragrance to products like essential oils or shampoos (just look at the ingredients of your favorite Lush soap). They also play a vital role in how plants interact with the environment, providing plants with an odor-based defense mechanism, says a 2015 3 Biotech article.
Furthermore, many people feel their body odor is affected by using cannabis and consuming certain foods can alter how you smell – including meat and tomatoes.
So, could terpenes be the culprit behind certain human body odors?
Unencumbered by words and semantics, plants express themselves through their luscious leaves and abundant blooms, which are the result of carefully calculated survival tactics that almost seem “thought out.”
These physical characteristics can tell human observers a lot about how the plant is doing; whether it needs more water or sunlight, warmth or humidity, and so forth – but, plants don’t have eyes like we do. They don’t have brains like ours, yet research shows they possess intelligence.
How far does that intelligence go? Do plants “think?”