Saturday, August 10, 2013

Espirit l'escalier

You know what? There are some things from my talk on mushrooms that I wished I handled differently, now that I have had a day to recover and think about it. Mostly, I am thinking of the questions that were asked, but I didn't give an answer that I thought was good.
The question that asked was stereotypical of a talk where people talk about the importance of something. "If x disappeared, how much trouble WOULD we be in?" Of course, I had to think of an answer on the spot, and I wanted to finish so I go enjoy my beer. That was one of the best beers I had, by the way.
Due to the beauty of the Internet, I can give a better answer to that question! I don't think anyone who follows this blog was in Philadelphia at the Frankford Hall when I gave my talk, but part of my inability to advertise comes from still being new at this and still being nervous. As I get older, I'll get better, I swear.
I said it would be bad, and I stand by it. If we lost just the fungus used for industrial purposes, it would knock us on our asses but we would cope. We got this far by being conniving little monkeys who are resourceful beyond belief. We would survive. If all fungus disappeared though. . .
We have yet to categorize half of the biology that exists in this world. Fungus is weirdly specific as well, it's hard to track it down. My aunt is fond of talking of the one that grows on the blond hair of a baby boy. And all of the functions it has is still a mystery to us. We are amazing in that we look at all of accomplishments, pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Nature and the world we live in is too large to be understood in the short amount of time we lived. It constantly shows us something we have never seen and defies expectations at every turn.
I brought up the paper I read during the winter about the research being done on the fungus in the stomaches of mice. Curiosity brought them to the point of eradicating the entire growth of fungus in the creatures stomachs. They got sick. We know there is rain in the rain forest, but we are not sure why. We know the presence of organic sodium particles in the atmosphere of the jungle seed the clouds, and according to a study published in August issue of Science last year, we think it might have to do with fungus. Fungus contributes greatly to soil health, helping with nutrient uptake to the plants, breaking down insoluble minerals for plant consumption, and helping creating humus for a healthy soil structure. But this all really just the tip of a very massive iceberg.
Really, the brilliant minds you see exist based on the work and ideas of the men who came before them. As Newton said, we are all dwarfs standing on the backs of giants. We have yet to see beyond the clouds.

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