Spam’s new frontier? Now even spinach can send emails | Vegetables

Will Kreznick

Name: Spinach. Age: About 2,000 years old, originating, it is said, in Persia. AKA: Spinacia oleracea. Appearance: Leafy, green, connected. Connected how? Wirelessly. Wirelessly connected to what, though? To email. I see. How can this be happening? Through a combination of nanotechnology, infrared detectors and the mobile network, if that […]

Name: Spinach.

Age: About 2,000 years old, originating, it is said, in Persia.

AKA: Spinacia oleracea.

Appearance: Leafy, green, connected.

Connected how? Wirelessly.

Wirelessly connected to what, though? To email.

I see. How can this be happening? Through a combination of nanotechnology, infrared detectors and the mobile network, if that makes sense.

You know what doesn’t make sense? The spinach part. Why would spinach need to receive emails? Don’t be silly – it doesn’t receive emails.

Of course not, sorry. It sends them.

Spinach is sending emails? To whom? At this stage, mostly to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The spinach plants have been engineered to act as self-powered auto-samplers in ambient groundwater.

What does that mean? It means the specially engineered spinach has embedded within its leaf mesophyll single-walled carbon nanotubes capable of fluorescing with an intensity relative to the level of nitroaromatics taken up by the roots. And then it sends an email.

So far, I’m with you not one step of the way. Basically, the plant is constantly monitoring the groundwater for traces of certain chemicals used in explosives.

Did they interview widely for this job before giving it to spinach? “Plants are very good analytical chemists,” says the research leader, Prof Michael Strano. “They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling groundwater and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves.”

How does it get to where the bombs are in the first place? This is just one potential application among many. “Plants are very environmentally responsive,” says Strano. “If we tap into those chemical signalling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access.”

It’s certainly sounds like cutting-edge stuff. Actually, the MIT study was conducted in 2016, but a recent article in Euronews caused the story go viral, because of the spinach and the emails.

I tell you what: I could believe a lot of the emails in my inbox were from spinach. Yes, lots of comments like that.

You just think: who wrote this nonsense? Some spinach? Don’t underestimate spinach – scientists have also found that spinach converted into carbon nanosheets can help make fuel cells more efficient.

Is there anything spinach isn’t good at? It’s quite easy to overcook.

Do say: “Hi, hope you’re well. Levels of nitroaromatic particles remain steady. If you need anything else please let me know. Things are crazy here!! Take care, spinachX.”

Don’t say: “Spinach, just text me yeah.”

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