What if plants could be smart home devices? That’s the idea of Harpreet Sareen and Pattie Maes in their cyborg botany research.
These experiments led the researchers to possible future applications that include sending notifications—the plant might jiggle to alert you when your package is delivered, for instance—or as a motion sensor, which could help you keep track of your pet or be applied to security systems.
Cool idea. When most people talk about “invisible interfaces” they usually mean things like smart clothing or using your voice like with a HomePod. Now if only trees transmitted Wi-Fi…
How about some wholesome news for once? Recently, botanists in Hawaii used a drone to find a flower they thought was extinct: Hibiscadelphus woodii.
During the expedition that led to the rediscovery of H. woodii, Wood and Nyberg had hiked hundreds of feet down the Kalalau Valley cliffs, but the difficult terrain prevented them from going any further.
It was then that Nyberg deployed the drone, flying it further down the cliffs, toward the sea, to take a closer look at a specific area of interest. Able to get within a meter or two of the sheer cliff face, he was able to confirm the continued existence of H. woodii.
Thus Spoke the Plant by Monica Gagliano is what she calls a “phytobiography.” She tells a story of her journey into the frontiers of plant science, and how it changed her life. The book is a little too New Agey for my taste though, and I had thought there would be more science. Instead it reads like an example of neopagan literature, with plant spirits, shamans, and drug-induced vision quests. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, it just surprised me to read it from a scientist. Nevertheless, Ms. Gagliano has certainly made strides in her field and is changing how we think of plants.