As if we do not get enough spam already, how would you like to get an email from your spinach plants?
Sound crazy? Not really.
Researchers are playing around with spinach that has carbon nanotubes in them. This could radically alter the data we receive from the environment.
The team at MIT is hoping that this technology will provide us with warnings about pollution and climate change. After all, plants are aware of environmental changes long before we are aware of them.
So how does this work? Obviously a plant can pick up an IPhone and type out a message.
The plants don’t use a mouse and keyboard, of course – instead carbon nanotubes within their leaves emit a fluorescent signal detectable by infrared cameras.
When the cameras detect a change, a simple device sends an email to researchers.
This is not a far-fetched experiment. In fact, it is becoming a larger part of scientific research. Plants are very good at monitoring their environment, with a root system that is designed to constantly take tabs on the water and nutritional components of the soil.
The plants have been designed so the nanotubes emit a signal when they detect nitroaromatics in water – a compound often found in explosives.
The technology is not unique: it’s part of an emerging field where electronic components work within or with plants, known as ‘plant nanobionics’.
“This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier,” said Professor Michael Strano, who led the research.
Research such as this shows the interconnectedness of everything. The fact that spinach can be programmed to monitor groundwater for pollutants is a huge step forward. "Interacting" with plant life is a wonderful way to keep track of the environment around us.
We are quickly moving into a world where everything has sensors in it. The amount of data that is produced keeps jumping exponentially. All this data is analyzed, helping researchers to arrive at new conclusions.
Having an early warning system is of utmost priority. Only recently have we been able to be made aware of catastrophes before they happen. There is still a lot we cannot forecast so having some assistance from "Mother Nature" couldn't hurt.
It would obviously help areas where farming is critical. For example, drought conditions are something that are tough to plan on. However, plants tend to be aware when that is on the horizon. Being able to be alerted could help us to alter where we get our food from, reducing the dependence upon the soon to be affected areas.
We know the agriculture industry came a long way in the last few decades. It is one of the leaders in autonomous technology since many vehicles on a farm are automated. This, however, starts to cast the world of agriculture in a different light. It is one thing to have sensors in the soil; it is another matter completely when the plants, themselves, are the sensors.
For years, we have watched the worlds of information technology and biology merge. The Bio-Tech industry is on an explosive path. This is just another example of some of the advancements being made by researchers.
If the universe is truly indeed nothing more than data, then we are going to see the continued trend in this direction. Everything will start merging together to create a wealth of knowledge. As computation keeps advancing, we will be able to better process what is fed to us.
They say this is the most interesting time to be alive and articles like this prove it. Just when you thought that things could not get any zanier, this appears.
I wonder how the spinach actually takes. Perhaps the sensors add to the flavor.
Once again, keep an eye on technology because it is vital to all investment and career decisions. Things are changing rapidly and to a degree that few of us can comprehend. If you do not believe that, just consider that the spinach you someday might eat will have email capabilties.
It is a fast changing world. Buckle in because it will be a wild ride.
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