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Old 10-23-2010, 04:36 PM
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Default Mycelium Studies

Well, I've been studying mycelium for a few days now and I am pretty amazed.

Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world | Video on TED.com
(Pay attention to 3:30 and few minutes onward)

Mycelium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Quote:
Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it. Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.

Looking at all of these facts... Is it possible that mycelium is Earth's Eywa?

I plan to discover this. My idea is to go to a forest, find some mushrooms and connect my equipment (multimeter, function generator and osciloscope) to them. I plan to study the following things:

- If I inject a certain signal in to the mushroom, will the return signal be different than the one injected? This might prove that mycelium somehow processes the signal.
- If I connect a signal source, how far away can i go to still read the signal from a mushroom? This might prove that mycelium covers a huge area underneath the ground and connects everything.
- Check if a signal can be read from plants. This might prove that mycelium not only connects mushrooms, but has some kind of a connection with plants as well.
- Find a way to communicate with this giant organism. This might be the hardest of all the tasks, but if I succeed, it might be amazing...

The only thing I'm not sure of is if it will work with electricity at all since it might work purely on protein exchange...

I guess ill have to take some sampolz and measure signal transduction...

Thoughts?
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Old 10-23-2010, 04:44 PM
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Good luck

There is a whole thread on this:
Is Eywa a fungal organism?

Personally, I don't think fungi on Earth have the sophistication, but it's certainly an interesting theory
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:09 PM
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Cool!

Not sure if you learned this already too, but mycelium are connected to plants.

Many species of fungus coexist with plants in a symbiotic relationship where the fungi's mycelium help the plant's roots obtain minerals and important ions for the plant's survival. It does this by drastically increasing the surface area (mycelium are very small, so they can form a dense, high-surface-area webbing around the roots) and using it's own chemical processes to break down the elements that the plant needs (especially phosphorus) into a form that is more easily taken up by the roots. In return, the plant gives the fungus sugars from photosynthesis.

However, it isn't quite that simple. These symbiotic relationships, called mycorrhizae, can have two forms; arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal. Arbuscular mycorrhizae actually grow into the roots and align themselves so that they have direct access to the plant's vascular tissues; this is still usually good for the plant, but occasionally the relationship can turn pathogenic, and fungus will hurt the plant. Ectomicrorrhizae, as the name might suggest, is the same thing but more of the mycelium sits on the outside of the root and it enters the root, but only surrounds the root cortex instead of going into it (IIRC).

The chief difference between fungi/plants on Earth and on Pandora is that the ones on Pandora can somehow send and recieve sophisticated signals on the same level as animal nervous systems (and some of them even seem to have central nervous systems altogether), but the ones that live here don't even have the beginning of that kind of biological hardware.


Anyway, I hope that you find something interesting. There are many different species of fungus that colonize forests and while different species may not have any forms of communication with each other, it would be interesting if large colonies could do that.

EDIT: Also, some mycelium are actually predatory in nature, creating traps out of sections if themselves for small soil arthropods. When the unsuspecting creatures walk into the trap, the cells become turgid and trap the animal. Then, the mycelium branches into the animal and digests it. Some trees actually get up to 25% of their Nitrogen resources from this process.;
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Last edited by Raiden; 10-23-2010 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:56 PM
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@ Raiden

Maybe they don't have the hardware, but they most definitely have sentience. If you watched the video, you'd notice that the scientist says that mycelium sprouts upwards to where a person stands to collect the filth off the feet for reprocessing. This means the colony KNOWS your location. I am pretty sure this proves some kind of sentience.
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Old 10-23-2010, 07:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thorinair View Post
@ Raiden

Maybe they don't have the hardware, but they most definitely have sentience. If you watched the video, you'd notice that the scientist says that mycelium sprouts upwards to where a person stands to collect the filth off the feet for reprocessing. This means the colony KNOWS your location. I am pretty sure this proves some kind of sentience.
Sentience - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

No, it proves it has basic sensory perception. It doesn't sense you, it senses what's on your feet, and in a similar fashion to how plants locate the sun with their leaves, tries to get at the nutrients on your feet.
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Old 10-23-2010, 07:34 PM
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Sentience or not, there still has to be a way to communicate with it. I would be satisfied enough to discover that it has some kind of an intelligence.

This doesn't have anything to do with mushrooms, but I already did some tests to prove intelligence in plants. I hooked up a plant I had to a multimeter and measured the electrical current. I managed to get different electrical responses depending on different music I played. It has been long known that plants can grow better if you play them classical music.
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Old 10-23-2010, 07:58 PM
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If it has no sentience, it has no intelligence. It does, what its always done.

Seeds can figure out which way is up to the surface when they germinate, but they don't have intelligence. Fungi on trees can tell North/South/East/West when they grow. Plants have pre-programmed instructions just like any other living thing. Don't confuse instinct with intelligence.
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Old 10-23-2010, 08:26 PM
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I think this "argument" is pointless as anyone can think what they like because we know nothing about the truth. Science is advancing, new things are being discovered with each day. Who knows if our perception of what mycelium is might change one day?
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Old 10-23-2010, 08:30 PM
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Based on other creatures, both similar, and different, I cannot reasonably assume that what appears to be intelligence, is anything more than instinct.

For a different creature, lets take wolves. They're cunning group hunters, but are they really "intelligent"? No, they appear that way, but what they do just comes to them, they don't plot or scheme, They know what they need, and how to get it naturally.

They do not change their environments to suit them in any way. They don't innovate, they don't create. In fact, trying to communicate with it would be pointless in itself, why would a fungus need to communicate? Why would it need to develop thought patterns?
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Old 10-23-2010, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aihwa View Post
Based on other creatures, both similar, and different, I cannot reasonably assume that what appears to be intelligence, is anything more than instinct.

For a different creature, lets take wolves. They're cunning group hunters, but are they really "intelligent"? No, they appear that way, but what they do just comes to them, they don't plot or scheme, They know what they need, and how to get it naturally.

They do not change their environments to suit them in any way. They don't innovate, they don't create. In fact, trying to communicate with it would be pointless in itself, why would a fungus need to communicate? Why would it need to develop thought patterns?
We've been over the animal intelligence stuff before.....

Aiwha you're sort of derailing the thread, but you are correct......even the largest fungi do not posses true sentience, they only mimic it through the effects they have on the environment. Everything they do is an instinct added to a catalogue of instincts compiled by thier ancestors and passed down through genetics. But, like I said, under the right conditions and with enough time, I do think that they could develop such traits.

As for animals, each Phylum has their own "animal intelligence" poster child/children. Mammals have Apes, Dolphins, and Wolves, Reptiles have Monitor lizards, Birds have African Grey Parrots and Ravens, Fish have Sharks, Groupers, and Cichlids, and so on......

None of these are sentient. Some get very very close, like apes and dolphins, but they do not possess it.

These facts have been accepted by the scientific community at large, so stop arguing about it. This is a thread about fungi. Maybe you should make a thread in debate if you want to pursue this further.....

ON TOPIC:


Anyway, here are some pictures of the carnivorous fungi:





These show two different types of traps working to capture prey; the first one uses the rings in the hyphae to "handcuff" nematode worms. After a worm triggers the trap, the cells in the ring expand, and the worm is caught. Then, feeding hyphae are extended into the worm's body, and it is consumed.

The second one appears to be more of a disorganized net that coils around soil invertebrates that wander too close.

And, here is a video of a different kind of fungus:





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Last edited by Raiden; 10-23-2010 at 08:56 PM.
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Old 10-23-2010, 08:45 PM
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This is cool. Very interesting. Keep us updated with your findings.
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Old 10-23-2010, 09:15 PM
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Those Cordyceps are some messed up stuff, creepy...
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Old 10-24-2010, 06:31 AM
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iirc, we were discussing which species had the distinction of being second most advanced to humanity. Not necessarily most intelligent or sentient.
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Old 10-29-2010, 05:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raiden View Post


Last year my biology teacher showed us this documentary. The music makes this seriously creepy. Did anyone notice the line, "The more numerous the species, the more likely it is to be attacked by cordyceps..." What if it evolves a taste for humans...

I don't believe fungus is sentient, however there is definitely more to it than we currently know. You know, if you were to present this idea to a real scientist, they'd say you have a funny sense of humor. I think this is a great idea.

*Warning! Technical Stuff Ahead!*
I don't think your experiment is practical, but it can be done. Mycelia are in the ground, hence grounded. A single cell width mycelium would leak current badly, as it's actual function is to absorb nutrients, not contain electrical potential. Any signal you attempt to inject into the fungus would have to be so high voltage and low frequency that you'd be more likely to start a wildfire or kill yourself than collect meaningful data. You're looking for a change in signal, and there definitely will be, but it won't be due to sentience, but capacitance. Any waveform that you manage to pick up would be "smoothed out" by the bulk capacitance of the soil. If you feed a sawtooth wave in, you'll get more or less get a sine wave out. And at the energies required to do this, you're basically transmitting into the air as well using the wire connected to the spike in the ground, which essentially becomes a grounded monopole antenna. You'll need to shield ALL of your cables to prevent the signal from hopping through the air instead of your intended target. Oh, and ditch the multimeter, it wouldn't do you any good. (and your plant voltage experiment is invalid unless your common isn't floating. You need a ground in there somewhere for voltage to mean anything)

Last edited by Sight Unseen; 10-29-2010 at 05:04 AM.
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