Shawnee News-Star Sunday Feb. 4th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg May the Force be with You A meme is defined as a catchphrase about a certain theme passed on from person to person.   'May the Force be with You' turned into a stellar meme, but first was said by General Dodonna to his rebel troops before […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Feb. 4th 2018

My Ancient Stormtrooper

Becky Emerson Carlberg

May the Force be with You

A meme is defined as a catchphrase about a certain theme passed on from person to person.   'May the Force be with You' turned into a stellar meme, but first was said by General Dodonna to his rebel troops before the battle of Yavin in 'Star Wars: Episode IV:   A New Hope' (1977).   This Star Wars movie I saw on the first date with a guy I barely knew.   On the way to the movie, he informed me he had enough money for his ticket, but did I mind buying mine.   His excuse was having barbeque beforehand. Don't remember much about that Star Wars movie, except I could have donned a storm trooper outfit, grabbed a lightsaber and my date would have been history.     How we ever managed a second date is beyond me, but eventually he became my husband.

We and 'the Force' meme seem to be surviving the test of time, but what, exactly are we talking about?   The Star Wars definition of 'the Force': An energy field created by all living things that binds and connects us and literally holds our galaxy together.   I wonder how this interacts with dark matter, something else that has not actually been seen, but over 90% of the universe is surrounded by it.   Theoretically dark matter is responsible for the formation of galaxies, but we have not yet actually found it.   As they say in the X-Files 'the Truth is Out There.'

The last movie I just watched was 'Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.'   It is the middle movie in the Star Wars sequel of the third trilogy and well worth a sack of popcorn.   Many of the Star Wars regulars were there, and even Yoda made an appearance.   Episode IX is in preproduction and is expected to be out in 2019.   Carrie Fisher played the role of Princess Leia Organa in five Star Wars movies.   She was to have the key role in next year's movie but, alas, was called to a distant galaxy far, far away.   The script is being rewritten.

The Force and the Life Force have in common the energy that exists in all living things that keeps them alive.   Do you think plants have a strong life force or just cope with the whims of nature to survive and reproduce?   In the May 2017 issue of Discover magazine is the article 'Smarty Plants' by Martz Zaraska.   The subtitle says it all: 'They learn.   They remember.   They make decisions.   Your garden greenery is brainier than you think.'

Darwin proposed in1880 that plants have special cells with the ability to crunch information like a human brain and direct root growth.   If so, the brains of plants might be concentrated or scattered throughout the plant roots, stems, or leaves.  Do we really know?

Neighborhood of Trees

Plants can remember what happens to them. Italian researchers repeatedly dropped potted mimosa plants six inches to the ground.   Mimosa leaves are sensitive to touch and fold immediately as a response to danger. By the fourth drop, the leaves weren't closing as fast. After 60 falls, the uninjured plants ignored the jolts and refused to spend energy to close their leaves.   Figuring the plants were probably exhausted, the scientists then vigorously shook the pots instead of dropping them.   The mimosa plants instantly closed their leaves to protect themselves from that danger.   Is their memory similar to dark matter?

Plants talk with each other by sending and picking up molecules in the air, and through their root network like voices along telephone lines. To test this theory, bean plants were divided into three groups.   The first were inundated with aphids that sucked and destroyed them (poor guys).   The second group was aphid-free but shared common roots with the first group (the screams must have been horrible.)   The third was the control group, distinctly separate and far away from the other two.   Apparently the first group under attack sent info via the roots to the second group that began producing aphid-repellant chemicals. The third group was totally unaware and did not produce the aphid defense chemicals.

Stand in the middle of a forest and take a deep breath.   Your nose will pick up the scent of the forest, but these are chemicals emitted by the plants themselves. When a tree is attacked by insects, its healthy neighbors begin producing higher levels of tannins and other natural insect repellants.   They know, either through the air or the roots.

Empty Watering Hole

Plants in drought emit chemicals their fellow plants can detect.   The signals are transferred to others further away that are not as stressed.   The messages say prepare for hard times.   These plants on the edge begin closing their stomata (tiny holes on the leaves) to slow moisture loss.   Not exactly an altruistic act, plants in drought are weaker and more vulnerable to pest attacks.   If other plants in the general area are healthier and stronger, the vulnerable plants blend in and the attraction to hungry insects is tamped down.   Clever.

Humans talk loudly or yell to attract the attention of other humans.   Plants converse in the language of chemical molecules that are released into the air.   Did you know plants recognize their own family?   Seedling research uncovered the little plants sensed each other by body shape through the different patterns of visible or reflected red to blue light.   They recognize each other just like us when we see someone we know.   Some plants can count via sensory hairs, as the Venus flytrap.   The touch of an insect fires off electrical messages, similar to nerve impulses in animals.     The flytrap knows its catch is alive, not a bit of leaf, and shuts its leaves together, releasing digestive juices to do their magic.

Are plants candidates for MENSA?   Depends on how you define intelligence.   Most of us are plant blind and know little about the photosynthetic beings with which we share the earth.   If you are willing to recognize plants as vital companions, you will probably then treat them better and with more respect.

During this time of deepening drought, please restrain from clearing trees and plants, understory or otherwise, to fit in with your concept of creating a tidy unnatural landscape that can be easily manipulated with machinery.   Your actions just increase the area of parched soils and intensify water loss. All those roots, trunks and stems retain moisture and the roots help bring water up toward the surface. The future spring leaves will help moderate drought effects by adding shade and increasing humidity levels.   The plants are trying to help you.  They have been here a long time. Put away the saws and bulldozers and give the trees and plants a chance.

'Much to learn you still have my old Padawan (apprentice).   This is just the beginning.'  Yoda

The dry winter still reigns