Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Future is Fungi

 Discover Magazine:

I recently listened to this excellent presentation by mycologist & naturalistic innovator Paul Stamets, about the role that mushrooms and other fungal organisms will play in the future of humanity & the planet.

The talk is an hour and a half long, and well worth the time to listen. It is full of thought-provoking information and research about the vital role performed by these unique lifeforms in the natural ecosystem. Stamets also discusses some of his technological developments, using living fungal systems.

Some of the important mycological breakthroughs that he discusses include the following uses of fungi & mycelial matter:

Cancer treatment through improved immune function
Water filtration
Antibacterial & antiviral properties
Cleanup of oil spills 
De-contamination of radiation zones
Biopesticides to repel harmful insects
Replenishment of depleted soil

The most unique aspect of the fungus is its mycelium- the branching, thread-like connective matter that is usually hidden within the soil or in its symbiotic partners. These are the chemical & enzymatic pathways that allow fungi to sense their environment and create novel strategies to deal with any situation they come across.

The visible forms we usually associate with fungi, such as the mushroom caps, are just the fruiting parts of the fungus that are used to release spores. The vegetative part of the fungus is actually the mycelium, within the soil.

The web-like structure of the fungal mycelia can be seen as a fractal representation of the interconnected nature of reality, which exists on all scales and in different forms.

This same kind of connectivity also defines the structure of large-scale cosmic network of galaxies, neural architecture in the brain, layouts of human cities, and the global distribution of The Internet.

Connectivity is a fundamental characteristic of The Universe.

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