The world just keeps getting weirder. Although I very much appreciate—“believe in,” if you will—science, sometimes the technology aspect of STEM leaves me scratching my primate cranium. What’s got the fingers going this morning is spinach. Not just any spinach. According to a story on Euronews, “Scientists Have Taught Spinach to Send Emails.” There are not a few Homo sapiens, it seems, who might learn something from our leafy greens. The tech comes, not surprisingly, from MIT. When spinach roots detect certain compounds left by landmines in the soil, it triggers sensors that send an email alert to a human being who’s probably eaten some of their (the spinach’s) very family members. I’m not denying that this is very impressive, but it raises once again that troubling question of consciousness and our botanical cousins.
Some people live to eat. I’m one of those who falls into the other category—those who eat to live. In my life I’ve gone from being a picky omnivore to being a somewhat adventurous omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. I’m not sure how much more restricted I can make my diet if I leave out plants. I’ve watched those time-lapse videos of trees moving. They move even more slowly than I do when my back’s acting up, but they really do move. If they had legs and speeded up a bit we’d call it walking. Studies into plant consciousness are finding new evidence that our brainless greens are remarkably intelligent. Perhaps some could have made a better president than 45. I wonder if spinach can tweet?
People can be endlessly inventive. Our thirst for information is never quenched. Universities are among those rare places where ideas can be pursued and it can be considered work. While I don’t think everyone necessarily needs to go on to higher education, I can see the benefits it would have for a culture. Indeed, would we have armed mobs trying to take over because of a fact-based election loss? I wonder if the spinach would take place in “stopping the steal.” Hopefully it would fact-check more than those who simply follow the leader. Consciousness and education can work together for a powerful good. I’m not sure why Popeye’s favorite was chosen for this experiment, but it does seem to show that we can all get along if we really want to. Maybe then we could meet in the salad aisle rather than out in the field looking for explosives.