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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Biology Is Too Slow!

Humans are pumping a lot of energy around. When it comes to energy we don't mess around. We like our energy highly concentrated. We dig it up, refine it, convert it, and pump it through wires or pipes or the air like there is no tomorrow.

Nature is adaptive. Right? Nature finds a way. Right? So where are the animals and plants that suckle upon high power lines, that find their adaptive way into fuel tanks and batteries? Surely they could. Surely the same nature that goes gaga around mid ocean heat vents and can learn to metabolize the worst toxins we can throw into ponds... that good old adaptive nature should find a way to co-evolve with 50 thousand volt transmission lines.

And there are other (new) tits for nature to suckle. I fully expect our air to become less and less transparent to radio transmissions. If we can build devices that can grab radio energy right out of the air.… surely airborne molds and other microorganisms can do so. Are they? Doesn't look like it. What weird life forms would be best suited to radio-metabolism? Plants grab photons in the visible (radiation) band. Photosynthesis (in plants) is a respiratory affair - requiring oxygen and nitrogen for the primary reactions, but they also rely on heavy and rigid structural support to get up into the air where they can maximize their surface interface and solar exposure. Actually, when you think about it, a plant would be more efficient if it spent no energy fighting gravity, and instead laid flat on the surface of the land. Plants must only grow into the air to compete away from shade the shade of other plants and to increase respiration surface area.

Anyway, and this is a bit of an aside, but would there be a way for lighter than air super-colonies of single celled animals to maximize access to radio energy without the need for the heavy structure and vascular transport terrestrial plants employ? Maybe the radio scenario is ludicrous. Surely there is lots of background microwave energy constantly streaming by. Surely radio waves have been around as long as biology has been around. If radio was a good source of energy, nature would have already found a way. Maybe big bang radiation doesn't pack much of a wallop. Is it possible that communication intended radio is more energetic? More localized. Easier to exploit. I can imagine some type of group-dynamic in which individual floating animals or proto-animals learn to orient themselves such that they become a reflective parabola or fresnel lens concentrating radio energy to a focal point where other animals absorb the energy in some sort of symbiotic bio-community. Many other scenarios are conceivable.

Are plants learning to seed near highways to take advantage of air movement and carbon dioxide? There are a million ways in which human activity effects environments in ways that provide energy and stability clines. Surely life is reacting in step.

The pace of culture is so much faster than most organisms can genetically respond. The smallest organisms with the shortest life spans that have the greatest populations spread over the largest geographies are the organisms most likely to take advantage of our frenetic environmental messings.

Are they? Is anyone paying attention?

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