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The future is not clean and antiseptic
June 16, 2007 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Slime molds may control our future computers and robots, and fungi may protect us in outer space.
posted by bad grammar (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I, for one, welcome our.... oh forget it...
posted by wfrgms at 9:28 AM on June 16, 2007


Apropos of mostly nothing, I was in a used book store in Charlottesville, VA a couple of years ago and stumbled upon a book called How To Know the True Slime Molds. Obviously, I immediately paid $3.00 for that gem.
posted by psmith at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2007


Fungal bioremediation is the future.
What fungi expert Paul Stamets has discovered is that mycelium also breaks down hydrocarbons —the base structure in many pollutants. So, for instance, when soil contaminated with diesel oil is inoculated with strains of oyster mushroom mycelia, the soil loses its toxicity in just eight weeks.
posted by prostyle at 9:55 AM on June 16, 2007


In this future, will we have to be able to identify portobello mushrooms?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:06 AM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fungus among us!
posted by pax digita at 10:08 AM on June 16, 2007


More about slime molds, lest anyone escape knowing what amazingly cool organisms they are. The cellular slime molds are my personal fave.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2007


Also, for anyone who (like me) likes fungi and related taxa way too much, I recommend this very beautiful book. (Though sadly, it's all mushrooms. Don go expecting chytrids, or anything like that.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:41 AM on June 16, 2007


Rudy Rucker has been writing about the computing power of slime molds for more than a decade. Read Wetware, Software, Freeware and Frek and the Elixir. They all feature a human computer interface called "moldies."
posted by Dave Faris at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2007


The cellular slime molds are my personal fave.

Uh:
These spend most of their lives as separate amoeboid cells; however, upon the release of a chemical signal, the individual cells aggregate into a great swarm. Up to 125,000 individual cells aggregate and flow together, forming a multicellular mass called a pseudoplasmodium that resembles a slug and crawls about ingesting similar food in the same way as a plasmodial slime mold...
Great. So if the robots don't join together and overthrow us their brains will crawl out and eat us while we're asleep.
posted by Opposite George at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2007


Man, that fungi/melanin thing seems to me to have profound evolutionary implications. Maybe I'm overestimating them, though.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:07 PM on June 16, 2007


I can see what EB's thinking, and I had the same gut reaction. Somewhere down the line, people are going to have to consider the ethical considerations of hooking up slime molds to run these robots, etc. I don't know, it just seems--this is so unscientific, I know, sorry--creepy.

A more logical argument would be that forming a multicellular mass to crawl about so that you can ingest food seems pretty advanced (despite the lack of a central nervous system).
posted by misha at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2007


Somewhere down the line, people are going to have to consider the ethical considerations of hooking up slime molds to run these robots, etc. I don't know, it just seems--this is so unscientific, I know, sorry--creepy.

Not much different from breeding crops and animals to serve various ends. We've been playing god for awhile now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:48 PM on June 16, 2007


“I can see what EB's thinking, and I had the same gut reaction.”

Actually, that wasn't what I was thinking at all. I meant this has implications for some specifics in evolutionary theory. That fungi would evolve a mechanism for turning higher levels of ionizing radiation to its advantage is very interesting in the context of the high lethality and (I assume) species die-off rate and high mutation rate of an environment high in ionizing radiation.

I do agree that there are ethical considerations that will become paramount at some point of advanced technologies based on these foundations. Just like genetically engineering boosted cognitive abilities of animals or artificial intelligence, it will be tempting to use biological engineering to build cognitively advanced biomachines to solve complex problems.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:04 PM on June 16, 2007


Well it's about time they did something for us!

I once had the joy of writing captions for a kid's textbook on molds and fungi. Perfect kid material; I got to tell them about dog's-vomit slime molds and mushrooms that will kill you super-dead.

And in an interesting choice of state boosterism, our recently-rented U-Haul truck had a big promotion on its side of the world's largest organism; the armarillia in Oregon.
posted by emjaybee at 3:06 PM on June 16, 2007


Nostoc.
posted by Tube at 3:34 PM on June 16, 2007


Man, that fungi/melanin thing seems to me to have profound evolutionary implications.

@Ethereal Bligh: I want a symbiotic relationship with a toxin-emollifying and radiation-buffering slime mold NOW!
posted by humannaire at 5:08 PM on June 16, 2007


“I once had the joy of writing captions for a kid's textbook on molds and fungi. Perfect kid material; I got to tell them about dog's-vomit slime molds and mushrooms that will kill you super-dead.”

Ha! My friend was a textbook editor and had a lot of fun picking photos and writing insets and captions for a high-school science text that the kids could have fun with by, in some cases, snickering at.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:32 PM on June 16, 2007


Well it's about time they did something for us!

I agree, their nutritional value is far below that of the humble food ration %.
posted by IronLizard at 5:56 PM on June 16, 2007


Slime molds may control our future computers

And how is that different from Microsoft?
posted by watsondog at 8:37 PM on June 16, 2007


And how is that different from Microsoft?

Slime mold won't have a monopoly and may smell somewhat less.
posted by IronLizard at 8:49 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


DUDE! I totally worked with the collection that the last article is focused on, collected from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Reactor 4 itself. I was in charge of sequencing their ribosomal DNA to determine their respective species.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 9:04 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Slime molds rule! and so does Joan Strassmann. Sorry, I don't get many chances to give her props.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


i am the slime from your video (ipod)
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 11:35 PM on June 16, 2007


Okay, I now officially have an enormous brain-crush on The Strassman and Queller Group. Thanks for posting that, unknowncommand.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:33 AM on June 17, 2007


Thanks for your comments, guys (and girls and asexually reproducing spore-forming entities). This is my first Mefi FPP and I didn't know if you'd like it.
posted by bad grammar at 12:59 PM on June 17, 2007


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