Paul Stamets Radio Interview On “The Power Of Fungi”

“Interview with Paul Stamets on a American Radio Radio Coast to Coast AM with host John B. Wells, I loved it and have listened several times so thought I’d share with you lot.”

John B. Wells was joined by fungi expert, Paul Stamets, who discussed how mushrooms can enhance the health of our forests, gardens and bodies. He attributed the limited knowledge about the power of mushrooms to their fleeting nature, which provides scientists little time to study them. Additionally, he mused that the varied effects of mushrooms, such as improved health, sustenance, and death, contribute to a sense of fear because “they are so poorly understood.” However, he marveled that there are over 5 million species of fungi on the planet, constituting more than half of the 10 million total species, of all organisms, on Earth.

Stamets shared numerous instances where the ability of fungi to survive and thrive in extreme environments has provided insights into potential ways that they could improve life on Earth. To that end, he revealed how, following the Chernobyl disaster, Ukranian scientists observed that mushrooms in the nearby forests were “hyperaccumulating radioactivity,” thus decontaminating large areas of land. As such, he suggested that the problems of radioactive fallout facing Japan, following the Fukushima disaster, may be alleviated via the use of mushrooms. Stamets also talked about how the unique survival abilities of various fungi forms could be used to both provide food for exploring astronauts as well as terraforming planets in the future.

Beyond the environmental benefits attributed to mushrooms, Stamets also detailed a myriad of ways that fungi have shown to be beneficial to human health. For instance, he shared the story of his mother’s battle with cancer and how, after being given six months to live in 2009, she supplemented her chemotherapy with ‘Turkey Tail’ mushrooms. Today, Stamets said, she has “no detectable tumors whatsoever” and her case has been called by cancer journals as a “best case outcome.” Furthermore, he cited studies of the ‘lion’s mane’ mushroom which was shown to reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in laboratory mice. Stamets was also enthusiastic about the potential therapeutic applications for “magic” mushrooms, since research has indicated they help in treating alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder, calling them “medicines for the soul.”

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Growing Asparagus In Meteorites To Prepare Us for Space Food

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For those of us without a green thumb, growing even the most hardy plants in perfect conditions can seem impossible. How about trying to grow plants on a meteorite? Well, at least one scientist is doing it, with moderate levels of success.

The thinking goes—if we’re going to have space colonies, we’re going to need some way to eat. Transporting all food from Earth isn’t realistic, and neither is bringing tons of bags of topsoil. Photos of asteroids, meteors, and other planets in our solar system look incredibly desolate, but, in fact, some of them contain many of the nutrients necessary to grow plants.

“People have been talking about terraforming, but what I’m trying to do is give some concrete evidence that it’s possible to do this, that it’s possible to grow in extraterrestrial materials,” Michael Mautner, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher and one of the world’s only “astroecologists” told me. “What I’ve found is that a range of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and even asparagus and potato plants—can survive with the nutrients that are in extraterrestrial materials.”

Asteroids and meteorites often contain phosphate, nitrates, and even water that plants can feed on. Mautner thinks it’s not outside the realm of possibility to directly grow certain plants on other planets, in some sort of protected environment.

An asparagus seedling in meteorite soil. Image: Michael Mautner

He’s not simply tossing asparagus seeds onto a meteorite, however—he’s grinding up the rock into something more closely resembling soil. His plan is to eventually find several different plants and extraterrestrial soils that make the most sense to farm, and use his experiments to develop a “rating system” for which are likely to fare best—a kind of interplanetary farmer’s almanac, if you will.

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