Wednesday, January 2, 2013

We need gravity for many things, but growing plants ain't one of them.

So says research conducted at the International Space Station.  Scientists were quite curious to see how plants would develop (if at all) in an environment where there is no real "up" or "down" for them to grow towards.   As Arabidopsis plants germinated in space, a control group of the same plant species was grown at the Kennedy Space Center.

The results?  The plants in space exhibited the same growth patterns as their counterparts on Earth.  Looking at the "skewing" patterns of the roots, scientists determined that the presence of gravity does not have altogether that much effect on how plants grow other than the plants in space tended to grow a bit slower.  The end results, however, were the same as those on Earth.  This appears to imply that other factors such as moisture and soil nutrients seem to be heavier contributors to plant growth than gravity.

Of course I'm already considering the science fiction angles.  I have a novel called Blindsight by Peter Watts.  Sadly, I've yet to read it but I aim to change that soon.  Among its many enticing plot aspects (alien pods, cybernetic biologists, and an actual space vampire), is the presence of...if I have not been spaceships.  That is to say, spaceships that are entirely alive and covered in biological matter.

Why not a "plant ship?"  I know, I know, plants exposed to the actual unforgiving nature of space is a far stretch, but we already know they do not require gravity and they may receive plenty of ultraviolet light.  How to get around the other pesky scientific factors?  I don't know, but I intend to explore the concept in further detail.  From what I understand, A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge has a bit of this concept present as well.  Time I adverted myself to that book in addition to Watts.

Also time to recon the used paperback store.

 My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents  

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