TED 2008: Paul Stamets on how mushrooms can help the world

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA)

Chris Anderson: If someone takes an obscure area of nature and spends a lifetime studying it, it can be applied to the world at large in interesting ways. Case in point, mycologist and author Paul Stamets, who believes mushrooms can save the world.

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1.3 billion years ago, fungi were the first plants organisms to come on land, other plants followed hundreds of millions years later. We have more in common with fungi than other plants. Mycelium breathes oxygen like us.

Stamets says he loves a challenge and saving the Earth is a good one. He will present a suite of six mycological solutions.

Mycelium holds 30x 30,000 times its mass. They are soil magicians. Creates a spongey soil. It is earth's natural internet, a biologically successful model. It's highly branched. If a path gets broken, their are redundant paths. It is sentient, leaping up in aftermath of your footprints, trying to grab debris. They generate humus soils, and provide a multi-directional transfer of nutrients to trees. The sequence of microbes that occur of rotting mushrooms are an important part of natural cycle of the forest. I'm in love with old growth forests and I'm a patriotic American because of them.

Fungi uses radiation as a source of energy, so the possibility of fungi existing on other planets is a "forgone conclusion."

Mushrooms produce strong antibiotics. Work well against flu. We should save the old growth forests as a mater of national defense.

Here's a Salon article from 2002 about Stamets, titled "How Mushrooms can Save the World."