The list of mycologists whose names are widely known outside the field of fungi is short, the most important of which is Paul Stamets. Stamets was educated in the mossy, moldy, and mushy Pacific Northwest and lived there for a long time, and has made many contributions in the past few decades-perhaps the best summary can be found in his 2005 book Mycelium in action: how mushrooms can help save the world. But now he is looking outside the earth to discover new ways that mushrooms can help explore space.
In a new “celestial mycology” adventure Joint launch with NASA, Stamets and various research teams are studying how to use fungi to establish alien habitats, and someday they may even be terraformed planets. This is not the first time Stamets’ career has intersected with speculative space science. He also recently received an honor that many researchers believe is only slightly less sacred than the Nobel Prize: Star Trek A character named after him.
Scientific american Talked with Stamets about the extraordinary influence on the emerging field of astronomy.
[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]
First of all, the question of whether there is a chicken or an egg first: Star Trek: Discovery Name a character after you, because you have already begun to explore astronomy, or the idea of astronomy is influenced by Star Trek?
CBS found me and said Star Trek Want to talk to me: “We are in the dungeon, we have about a dozen people, our mission is Star Trek: Discovery, We hit a brick wall and we saw your TED talk. “I mentioned the use of fungi to transform the Earth on other planets.
What separate Star Trek You know, from other science fiction novels, it really pioneered the importance of inclusiveness, recognizing that the diversity of our members of society gives us strength. In fact, this is what I learned as a mycologist: the biodiversity of our ecosystems gives us resilience. In the end, diversity wins.
So I told them that it is very reasonable to use fungi to transform the earth on other planets. Fungi are the first creatures that came to land and chew rocks. Fungi gave birth to animals about 650 million years ago. We are the descendants of these fungal networks.
I said, “You can have all these concepts for free. I am a Star Trek Fan; I don’t want anything. I said, “But, you know, I always wanted to be the first astronomer. In the end, they said, “Astronomers, we like that!” What a great sentence; we can use it. “
In our non-fictional world, how would you define the term astronomy?
Astrobiology is obviously a subset of astrobiology, so astrobiology will be the study of extraterrestrial organisms.
Really, you are talking about the biology of the universe-in the biology of the universe it is our fungus. Therefore, celestial mycology will be the study of fungal biology in the entire universe. I think it is inevitable that we will find fungi on other planets someday.
How can earth’s fungi help the development of human habitats and even entire ecosystems on other planets?
[Plants that support terraforming] Need minerals and pair fungi with human plants and debris [causes them to] It breaks down into a form and then forms a fertile soil that can help produce food for astronauts. Growing food with one seed is much easier than taking a ton of food into space, right? In terms of payload, nature is incredibly efficient. The payload of naturally produced food is much better than the payload of your rocket carrying food.
Your current research plan with NASA has two phases. The first involves determining the best fungal species for decomposing the weathered layer of asteroids. Do you currently have any possible candidates?
Basically, the weathered layer is asteroid dust. [Research teams] Already built [synthetic] It should mimic the composition of the weathered layer found on the surface of asteroids and Mars. So we are now working with them. There is a set of about 700 species of fungi in my cultural library. I made some suggestions and I am happy to say that the oyster mushroom is one of the best mushrooms we have tried on the weathered layer so far.
Just recently, we discovered some unexpected synergistic effects. When we take a species and give it a source of nutrition, we want to know to what extent it will grow into a weathered layer. [with its mycelial roots]. When we use one type of fungus, we observe its coverage in the weathered layer, and then we combine it with other types of fungi-each type of fungus does not have that large coverage. When we have multiple fungi at the same time, the abduction range far exceeds expectations. In some ways, it just proves the whole concept of biodiversity.
The second stage of the proposal involves determining the most effective method of using fungi after selecting the best type. What might that look like?
The universe is rich in hydrocarbons. What oyster mushrooms are really good at is breaking down hydrocarbons and breaking them down and reorganizing them into fungal carbohydrates, which are converted into sugars. Of course, sugar is an absolutely essential nutrient for almost all life forms on earth that I know. Therefore, the idea of using hydrocarbons as raw materials for oyster mushrooms is meaningful.
Now you have these start/stop. Without the input of other essential nutrients, you can only go so far. Therefore, fungi cannot use hydrocarbons alone-they need to be enhanced. This is where we have to supplement them. But once you start to produce this reaction, it becomes catalytic—that is, self-sustaining. The more food you provide for this catalytic reaction, the more biodiversity you have. Likewise, you are letting other organisms grow and die. They become a resource that can provide vitamins, other minerals, and perhaps other decomposable organic compounds, such as cellulose or lignin. They can promote these fungi to grow bigger, and then support more plants to produce more cellulose. . Then they die, they decompose, and these myceliums—shallow, usually circular colonies of hyphae—and then begin to grow more and more. Therefore, you are creating a miniature oasis environment that may be just a blob. Then these things began to be explained in detail. As their communities became more diverse and complex, these shots of life began to become larger oasis. When the oasis environment is large enough, it can feed humans.
In addition to producing healthy soil, some teams are studying how to use fungi to grow structures on other planets. Can you tell me more about how this so-called mycotecture works?
For example, we planted a lot of Ganoderma lucidum mycelium. We grow Ganoderma lucidum blocks. We want to crush these pieces in order to turn them into soil or obtain other value-added products. So we dried these Ganoderma lucidum pieces, and we tried to crush them.but we can not Crush them. You can saw them with a saw blade, but if you try to hit them with a hammer or something, they won’t break. So this great engineer built a stainless steel hydraulic press for us, I have about 20,000 psi [pounds per square inch] On this printing machine, we gave it my Ganoderma lucidum block, which was bent in stainless steel. Trying to compress it, it actually broke the machine. This thing crushes rocks all day long, not mycelium.
Their structure is very strong. They are also good at thermal insulation, so their thermal insulation properties are excellent. In addition, these may become batteries. You can install solar panels on structures made from mycelium on Mars. (The entire mycelium contains about 85% carbon, and research shows that porous carbon can be an excellent capacitor.) Then you can pre-plant them and arrange them in a form to make them nano-batteries. Then not only can they keep you away from the cold on the surface of Mars or asteroids, but the house itself becomes a huge battery because they are rich in carbon fiber. So, for me, it’s really cool.
What is your timetable for all of these? Is this an application we might see in ten years or a century?
tomorrow. It’s happening now. I guess it will be implemented in space in 10 to 20 years.
Before we end, let us speculate a bit more. What are some of the more wonderful ways mushrooms are used in space?
Okay, what can I tell you? I believe some of your editors might say, “No way, we won’t publish this.” But I think it makes sense to use psilocybin mushrooms in space flight.There are now more than 65 articles… on ClinicalTrials.gov that psilocybin can help people overcome [post-traumatic stress disorder], Loneliness and depression. Do you think astronauts will feel lonely, depressed, and post-traumatic stress disorder? I think so. How are you going to help them?
Under strictly controlled conditions, our astronauts [being] Being able to carry psilocybin in space and observe the universe will not feel distant and lonely, but feel that they are part of this huge consciousness, which will give them a better mental and emotional state of mind in order to interact with others. Astronauts work together and continue their mission. I think isolation, loneliness and depression will be the main problems faced by astronauts.
So I say sincerely: NASA and anyone else who works and studies space settlements, you should consider that psilocybin should be an important part of your psychological toolkit, so that astronauts can endure loneliness and challenges. Space and isolation.
Psilocybin cultivates creativity; more creative people will come up with more solutions. I think that in a sense, this is a fertile ecosystem that can lead to the sustainability of mankind in space.