Some people talk to their plants. These plants talk to each other.

Like it or not, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital messaging services have become an intimate part of many of our lives. In fact, we collectively send 10 billion messages per day over Facebook! 

If we suppose that the average message is five words long (disclaimer: I have no idea if that's true, but it feels about right) and a novel is 50,000 words long, that means we collectively write enough to fill over a million books per day!


Would it surprise you if I said plants were just as chatty?

And if they're talking so much, what are they saying? 

Well, here's a couple samples of what a tree would say, if a tree could post to Facebook.

"Watch out for those giraffes!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, Hege/Flickr, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Acacia trees are thorny, green, and a favorite snack for elephants, antelopes, and giraffes. With so many big, voracious herbivores, you'd think they'd all be stripped bare in a day!

But it turns out acacias have a kind of mass alarm system. 

When a giraffe comes up and starts munching on acacia leaves, the victimized plant releases a bunch of ethylene gas. Any other acacias that "smell" it know it means danger and start pumping their leaves with nasty, poisonous chemicals to shoo the predators away.

And it's not just acacias. Sagebrush, willows, poplars, and tomatoes also seem to warn each other of attacks. Sometimes the messages even work across different species, although there's also evidence that different plants may use different chemical languages to encrypt their messages.

The messages don't just work over the air, either. Other studies have found that plants can communicate warnings through webs of underground fungal hairs (known as mycelium) that can reach across entire forests. It's like a big, fungal internet!

"Careful, I'm sick! Don't you catch it too!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, Gab997/Wikimedia Commons, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Speaking of the fungal Internet — evidence suggests that plants might use it to do more than just shout about predators. They might share health tips too.

In 2010, researchers in China discovered that tomato plants might use this fungal internet to warn each other when they're sick

The researchers planted a bunch of tomatoes, let the fungal Internet grow between them, then purposefully got one of the plants sick. Lo and behold, the sickie's hooked-up neighbors started taking defensive precautions like activating anti-disease chemicals.

"Help me out here, wasps!"

Spoof image. Base images from Facebook, darwin Bell/Wikimedia Commons, and siddhu2020/Flickr.

Ever heard the adage: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Well, some plants believe in that whole-heartedly.

We're not the only ones who love to munch on corn. Caterpillars also love to chow down on corn plants and, like the acacias, if a caterpillar starts to chow down on a corn plant, the plant will release chemical scents into the air.

But instead of warning other corn plants about the caterpillars, these scents are targeted at other insects — caterpillar-loving parasitic wasps. The scent is like a giant dinner bell for the wasps, shouting: "Caterpillar here! Come and get it!" The plants can even have specific scents for specific types of caterpillar!

And it's not just corn — a bunch of other plants do this too, including cotton and tobacco. That's not to mention all the other ways plants communicate with animals (like flowers).

We're just starting to understand how plants communicate.

OK, OK, time to stop anthropomorphizing a bit. A tree isn't going to start speaking to you, no matter how sophisticated these signals are (or what movies want us to think). 

"We are used to thinking of humans as the only organisms that are really perceptive. And now we're finding that – wow – plants can even do this.” — Professor Richard Karban

Trees are still trees. They don't have brains and are not intelligent, at least in the way most of us would think of intelligence.

And there are still a lot of questions and things to study. For example, professor Richard Karban, who is studying communication in sagebrush, says plants probably aren’t actually trying to broadcast every message. Instead, if they are signaling, they might just be trying to talk to closely related family members — with other plants eavesdropping in. So instead of a vegetable Facebook, the average forest might be more like the vegetable NSA.

But the fact that we're listening in at all is incredible. And maybe one day, scientists may be able to decipher these vegetable languages.

Imagine if, instead of spraying pesticides, we could "tell" plants to beware of bugs. A lot more work needs to be done before that though.

"It's an extremely difficult code and a really difficult problem," Karban said. 

But he added that it helps us understand the world around us

"We are used to thinking of humans as the only organisms that are really perceptive," he said. But as we've learned more, we've realized that many different animals are capable of taking in the world. "And now we're finding that – wow – plants can even do this. I think it is changing our view about what organisms are capable of ... and that by itself is pretty cool."

So the next time you go for a quiet walk in the woods, you might, in fact, be strolling through the greatest social media network in the world.

Heroes
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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