The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence

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The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence

Nicholas P Money


Quote:When researchers followed the transfer of nutrients in the lab, further remarkable discoveries were in store. In a tray of soil, hyphae were observed to make contact with a block of beechwood. They grew over its surface and penetrated the solid structure, secreting enzymes that broke down the polymers in the wood and released sugars that fuelled their metabolism. Once the fungus exhausted the energy in the woodblock, it grew out in all directions, foraging once again. Here is where the mindfulness of the fungus becomes clear. When a mycelium located a second block of beechwood and was then placed in a fresh tray, it would emerge from the same side of the block that had allowed it to hit pay-dirt the first time. It remembered that growing from a particular face of the woodblock had resulted in a food reward before, and so sought to repeat its prior success. The fungus in these experiments showed spatial recognition, memory and intelligence. It’s a conscious organism.



Quote:The behavioural complexity of fungi increases when they interact with living trees and shrubs rather than dead wood. Some of these relationships are destructive while others are mutually supportive. Pathogenic fungi can be very cunning in how they feed on plants and evade their defences. Mycorrhizal fungi are more cooperative, penetrating tree roots and establishing tight physical connections through which they pass water and dissolved minerals to the trees, in return for food produced by photosynthesis. The mycelium of the mycorrhizal fungus operates as an accessory root system for the tree, spreading over a larger territory with its filamentous hyphae than the plant can cover with its own rootlets.
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Wow Sci - you start so many interesting threads, nobody has the time to keep up with them!

David
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When I saw the title of this thread, "The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence" it made me think of flat earthers. LOL
(2021-09-10, 01:19 PM)Brian Wrote: When I saw the title of this thread, "The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence" it made me think of flat earthers. LOL

Apparently Skeptiko is suffering from Flat Earthers. I hope you have ways to repel such stuff from this forum.
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(2021-09-05, 08:13 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence

Nicholas P Money

A  cultural note:

The scriptwriters for the recent TV series Star Trek Discovery (the current high-quality Star Trek TV franchise, on CBS (Paramount+)) are evidently very aware of this research since they incorporated semi-intelligent and psychically and multi-dimensionally powerful mycelial fungi in the basic plot of this series, as the technological basis for the advanced spaceship's super-high-velocity "fungal" spacewarp drive.
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For those interested, here's some more on this. It's quite a work of imagination by the scriptwriters. 

From Forbes, registration required:

Quote:In Star Trek: Discovery, a new type of technology takes us even faster than warp drive: the spore drive. Instead of traveling slower-than-light (via impulse engines) or even faster-than-light through space (via warp drive), the spore drive enables an instantaneous "jump" from one location in space to another, disconnected place a great distance away. The idea has been dismissed as a massive science blunder, but the right circumstances could take it from the realm of science fiction to real-life science.

Spore drive, where a network of mycelium spores spread across the Universe allow a spacecraft to instantaneously travel from one disconnected point to another, as though they miraculously teleported.

According to the show, there's a network of fungal spores from a special type of mushroom known as a mycelium. These spores are spread all throughout the galaxy, and permeate not only space, but sub-space as well.

By interfacing with this spore network from a special room present on the ship, a Displacement Activated Spore Hub (DASH) drive enables the ship to travel from space, into subspace, and back into space at a completely disconnected location. It's a clever idea, for sure, that envisions a mechanism for traveling to distant locations more quickly and precisely than even a warp drive could enable.

But, as Star Trek presented it, it's fundamentally flawed.

Here are some reasons why.

Star Trek: Discovery relies on the ability of a certain animal — a space tardigrade — to do horizontal gene transfer and incorporate foreign DNA into its own genome. But animals cannot do horizontal gene transfer; only bacteria can. The original paper that contended this was debunked here and here.
Mycelium does form an enormous network here on Earth, but this is due to its connected root structure. The problem is that mycelium is an advanced form of life that required billions of years of evolution on Earth before existing; it could not have arisen in other solar systems, galaxies, or universes.
Even if these spores were quantum mechanically entangled, they could not be used to teleport matter, or even to communicate faster-than-light.
Although it might be a fun sci-fi idea, the science behind it is untenable.

But that's not quite all the sides of this thing. This sci-fi idea can be rescued. Maybe it's not completely untenable, if the evolution of the fungal spores somehow has transitioned into an existence partially in a fourth spatial dimension: 

Quote:A spaceship, through some connection with some entity that at least partially resides outside of our three spatial dimensions, may in principle be able to transport itself from one location to another faster than via any known means. (So) the spore drive enables transportation to occur faster than normal engines; faster than light; even faster than warp drive would allow.

 A spaceship, through some connection with some entity that at least partially resides outside of our three spatial dimensions, is able to transport itself from one location to another faster than via any known means. The spore drive enables transportation to occur faster than normal engines; faster than light; even faster than warp drive would allow.
(This post was last modified: 2021-12-30, 10:00 PM by nbtruthman.)
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Contrary to the article in Forbes, the Star Trek : Discovery "spore drive" plot element continues to be scientifically confirmed by new research. It seems that this is the case for two elements of the Star Trek: Discovery plot: (1) the subspace-entangled tardigrades, and (2) horizontal gene transfer with tardigrades:

"(In quantum entanglement)...a change to one particle's spin or momentum instantaneously changes the other particle in the same way — even when the two particles are separated by incredibly large distances.
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Quote:"The phenomenon of quantum entanglement is so strange that even Albert Einstein had his doubts about it, famously nicknaming the process "spooky action at a distance." Essentially, the effect occurs when two teeny, tiny subatomic particles become bound to one another so that a change to one particle's spin or momentum instantaneously changes the other particle in the same way — even when the two particles are separated by incredibly large distances (from https://www.space.com/tardigrade-quantum...experiment).
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(To check if this applies to complex multicellular tardigrades), the team placed each frozen tardigrade between two capacitor plates of a superconductor circuit that formed a quantum bit, or "qubit" — a unit of information used in quantum computing. When the tardigrade came into contact with the qubit (named Qubit B), it shifted the qubit's resonant frequency. That tardigrade-qubit-hybrid was then coupled to a second nearby circuit (Qubit A), so that the two qubits became entangled. Over several tests that followed, the researchers saw that the frequency of both qubits and the tardigrade changed in tandem, resembling (and implying) a three-part entangled system.

Fungal spores are even smaller than tardigrades and are similarly environmentally rugged, so it isn't too much of a stretch to go to quantum entangled spores."

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Quote:Furthermore, the objection that multicellular eukaryotes (like tardigrades) can't undergo horizontal gene transfer has been successfully challenged (from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4033532/ ):

"Available data indicate that no insurmountable barrier to HGT exists, even in complex multicellular eukaryotes. In addition, the discovery of both recent and ancient HGT events in all major eukaryotic groups suggests that HGT has been a regular occurrence throughout the history of eukaryotic evolution. A model of HGT is proposed that suggests both unicellular and early developmental stages as likely entry points for foreign genes into multicellular eukaryotes."
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