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Stefano Mancuso: Revolus Rustlin –

Are plants suitable only for decorating a balcony or for dining, or do they offer much more than that, for example a guide to solving global problems? Not only that, as the Italian scientist believes, will influence the love of green spaces, even those who have not yet wanted to have anything to do with plants.

Unexpected abilities of plants
Stefano Mancuso
: The Plant Revolution: Plants as Inspiration for the Future of Mankind. Across. Jerry ShabashikMalvern, 2020, 264 s.

The last common ancestor of plants and animals lived about a billion years ago. Since then, the two empires have traversed their own evolutionary path, and over hundreds of millions of years each have embarked on a completely opposite way of life. The animals that the plants choose sometimes seem uninteresting, boring, and sometimes different from the animated, live animals to the point that we forget that they are complete and very distinct living creatures, and without their services we will find it difficult to surpass them and other animals. And not only that. Plant life strategies are not only interesting in and of themselves, but they can inspire humanity from them in trying to deal with some of the fiery problems of today’s world. At least in the book Plant revolution (The Plant Revolution: Plants Really Invented Our Future, 2017) an Italian scientist Stefano MancusoWhich Czech readers do not encounter for the first time. Already in 2018, they had the opportunity to get to know her through a small, but interesting book Delicate greeneryIt has already been written in collaboration with journalist Alessandra Fiolova.

Plant revolution On Delicate greeneryWhich analyzed, for example, the senses of plants and ended with an exploration of plant intelligence, to some extent follows. The first part of the nine chapters deals with the question of whether plants have some form of memory, and the author cannot imagine any kind of intelligence that “lacks some, even a special form of memory.” As the experience was later described with sensitive shyness (inspired by a somewhat torn experiment more than two hundred years ago in which researchers observed the response of plants to carriage rides in the streets of Paris), plants have a form of memory that helps them. They deal better with frequent stressors, they really have it. The question is how does this memory work. According to the author, the so-called epigenetic information plays an important role, which, unlike the genetic information, is not encoded in the nucleotide sequence of DNA. But other hypotheses are also presented.

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However, as the subtitle suggests (Plants as inspiration for the future of mankind), The goal of the book is not only to clarify the unknown properties of plants, but also how they can inspire different areas of human endeavor. The author draws attention, for example, to the use of knowledge about plant body structure in robots. Following the example of human and animal resemblances, he uses the Plantoid nomenclature for robots whose design is inspired by the body of plants. According to Mancos, who was personally involved in designing the first botanicals, these robotic devices could be used, for example, in exploring the planets of the solar system. Unlike conventional chariots that cross the surface of Mars, phytoplankton will be much smaller (and cheaper), so large quantities can be released into the atmosphere, after which they will fall to the surface like seeds and cover as much area as possible. Then, they will “take root”, open the “leaves” and observe the properties of soil and air over a much larger area than a single, expensive device can handle. Plants, such as Royal Victoria (named in honor of British Queen Victoria), became a true source of inspiration in architecture. Victoria Royal is the largest representative of the water lily family in the world and served, among other things, as a model for the construction of the façade of the Crystal Palace, which was hastily built on the occasion of the World’s Fair held in 1851 in London.

Another topic the author touched upon Delicate greeneryIt is a simulation, which the author defines as the transmission of a signal (visual, olfactory, auditory) by an object to another being in order to influence its behavior in its favor. One of the masters of simulation is the crawler Boquila trifolata, Which can almost mimic the shape of the leaves of every shrub or tree they climb, and one plant, depending on specific models, can create different types of leaves on different parts of its body. However, the question remains how does he do it (how does he know what shape of paper to create) and why. Probably the answer to the second question is protection. However, it is more complicated with the first case. The author considers the most heretical idea that this creeper can perceive the shape of form sheets in a certain way (something that can be called sight) and then imitate them. An interesting example of mimicry is the so-called “Vavilov mimicry,” a term referring to the phenomenon in which weeds resemble the domesticated ones, helping them to spread.

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Plants are absolutely good manipulators. Insects are attracted to nectar that provides them with pollination for little food, while birds and other animals are attracted to the sweet fruits that hide the seeds, allowing them to distance themselves from the parent plant. But the nectar doesn’t just have to be in the flowers. Scientists have speculated about the function of nectar outside flowers as early as the 19th century, and it has long been assumed that acacias, for example, reward ants in this way, providing them protection from herbivores. This has been cited as an example of mutually beneficial cooperation, but the situation may not be as rosy as it sounds. The secreted nectar also appears to contain addictive substances in ants, so they don’t have much options to help the plant or not. Addiction, Mancuso also explains the popularity of chili peppers in humans.

In addition to the aforementioned book, it also discusses in detail the “democratic” decision-making of plants, for example regarding the behavior of a large number of root tips when examining soils that resemble the behavior of social insects. And it doesn’t just stay with plants. The author gradually turns them into human society and highlights the benefits of democratic decision-making, which, in his opinion, has clear support everywhere in nature, from neurons to bees. Also of interest is the chapter describing an experiment examining the behavior of the roots in weightlessness (in flight parabolism), which revealed a surprisingly fast reaction to the tips of the root in a fresh state (after less than two seconds at minimal gravity, great action potential appeared). Although this may seem somewhat unnecessary, it must be borne in mind that plants are so important to human life that they are unlikely to dispense with them during long spaceflight (due to oxygen, diet, and well-being), and thus they are of The good news is how they will behave in a low-gravity environment. The final chapter next presents the floating greenhouse project, which turns salt water into fresh water without providing energy and other resources and then using it to irrigate the cultivated crops. It is hoped that similar (prototype works well) greenhouses floating in the human oceans will help fight food, irrigation water and arable land in the future.

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Infectious enthusiasm
Like Mancus’ previous book, he offers Plant revolution Very stimulating and fun to read, this time also a large number of illustrations. The author approaches the topic with tremendous enthusiasm and often moves freely from pure science to personal observations or humorous stories related to various experiences (for example, a root examination during parabolic flights warned him that he did not have a strong stomach as he had thought). It is also good that it gives the reader an insight under the cover of his own research and shows that science can be very entertaining and that this opportunity or varied solutions, semi-‘Patmatic’ often play a role. In short, the love for plants breathes on all sides, and although the author may take a lot of credit for them, it is somewhat the same tolerable position we see in the parasitologists who see parasites behind it all, and the microbiologists who make up the microbes. Center for them. Life, or mycologists according to which we still do not appreciate how important mushrooms are to terrestrial life.

satisfaction Plant revolution It also does not strictly adhere to the latest scientific research, and in almost every chapter it makes several trips into the history of science, which give the topic the necessary context. And sometimes it goes further, as shown, for example, in the chapter on democratic decision-making in plants, which also refers (and is widely quoted) to ancient philosophers. With such a deeper approach, which American famous people often lack, for example, Mancuso is somewhat similar to his compatriot, the Physicist. Carla Rovellho. Plant revolution In any case, it is a very good choice for anyone wanting to learn something about the wonderful world of plants. Then it is especially recommended as supplementary study materials for elementary and high schools, because it clearly shows that botany doesn’t have to be really boring.

On a similar topic:
Peter Wolbin
: The Secret Life of Trees

© Pavel Pecháček