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Jotham’s Monthly Newsletter:
The Rabbit Hole of Research

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Happy Halloween! Lock Your Doors and Beware of Those Killer Plants!

Hey y’all, I hope this email finds you safe and well. Thanks for tuning into my Monthly Newsletter: Rabbit Hole of Research. As a laboratory scientist and a cross-genre writer (Sci-fi and Romance), my life is nothing but research. I will explore the science in fiction and try to bring some actual factual science to the things we read and see in fiction.

Just want to know what Jotham has been up to click here, Cool Reads (an exciting thriller: The Tear Collector and Comics and graphic stories: Guerrilla Publishing) or Giveaways (Diverse Sci-Fi giveaway C.L. Cannon Giveaway!
 

So How Did I Start Down the Sentient Plant Rabbit Hole of Research? 


October is one of my favorite months of the year, because of Halloween and our annual Pumpkin Carving Party. This year would have been the 14th year that we hosted the party, but due to Covid we had to cancel. Yet, it got me thinking about killer plants. “But Jotham,” I hear you all screaming, “It’s October, and we want to hear about vampires or zombies or—”


For the party I carve, make cheese and home-brew!
Follow me on Instagram to see more!

 

Well, I follow the rabbit hole of research where it leads me (and my education, I do have a PhD in Botany), and this month it leads me to Killer Plants! They’re green, They’re mean, but—Killer plants, really Jotham. Could plants take over the world—what would it take? What would we do? What’s that voice saying in the background?

 

“On the twenty third day of the month of September
In an early year of a decade not too long before our own,
The human race suddenly encountered a deadly
Threat to its very existence.
And this terrifying enemy surfaced,
As such enemies do,
In the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places.”

Prologue “The Little Shop of Horrors” (song by: Jennifer Leigh Warren, Leilani Jones, and Sheila Kay Davis)

 
Okay, okay, let’s stop before we all start singing along to the lyrics of Little Shop of Horror. Yes, I’m talking about sentient plants. Not many things are scarier than a tendril grabbing at your ankle and dragging you into a thicket of leafy appendages. Besides The Little Shop of Horror, sentient plants have been used in sci-fi, horror, and fantasy stories. The sentient plants can arrive from space, laboratory grown, Middle-Earth, or possessed by demon. Some of my favorites include: Day of the Triffids, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Evil Dead, Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. So, could those innocent looking, oxygen producing house plants one day rise up and conquer Earth—let’s go down the Rabbit Hole of Research and find out. 
 

The Scream! Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) 
Image by AtomicNumber14

 

Can Plants Move?

Perhaps the most familiar movement in plants, is the response to touch and the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) closes when an insect touches the flytrap's sensitive hair triggers. Besides the fly trap, other plants fold their leaves when touched, such as the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) and oxalis houseplant (Oxalis regnellii and Oxalis triangularis). This type of movement is called nastic (from the Greek word meaning to press). Also, plant tendrils can respond to touch by curling itself around the surface 

Plants also move in response to light, phototropism. This is where plants will follow a light source or the sun across the sky, like foxglove. Specialized hormones work to elongate one side of the plant faster than the other to cause the plant to bend and direct its growth toward or away from light. 

Some plant movements are benign, like closing their petals at night, and all sorts of environmental factors can cause a plant to re-direct its growth, or “move”. 

  • temperature—thermotropism
  • chemicals—chemotropism
  • gravity—geotropism or gravitropism
  • water—hydrotropism

Read more about plant movement at the Penn State Extension Website.


Okay so plants technically can move, but can they, you know, walk? Let me introduce you to the walking palm tree (Socratea exorrhiza) found in Latin America. The walking palm has a very unique root structure, instead of having one central trunk, the palm splits into many smaller trunks and roots off the ground, which gives the appearance of legs. But can it move—legend and some scientist suggests the plam can move. The working hypothesis is: as light or soil conditions change, the palm can “kill off” some of its roots and grow new ones in the favorable area, hence over time moving. There are other bits of research that dispute this claim—Read More about this fascinating tree here.
 


 

Can Plants, Hear, Smell or See? And Can They Do Anything About It?

It has been shown that plants emit sounds when cut. After being cut or bitten, plants can release chemicals to poison the leaf munchers, alert surrounding plants, and even “call” other insects to come and help it. Read more about plants that feel pain here.
 
Plants also respond to aspirin (check it out), very similarly to humans. Aspirin like molecules (salicylic acid) and receptors are found in plants (salicylic acid-binding protein 2) and tell the plant to boost its immune responses. 
 
Plants can feel, smell and hear approaching insects. It’s thought that Actin (key component in muscle fibers) is involved in the plants ability to sense its environment and may act in plants the same way as in muscles. An interesting article about plant senses.


 

Music and Plants

Many houseplant owner with a green thumb will tell you that talking to plants, and playing them music will help them grow. I’m guessing those beautiful green houseplants come more from regular watering and feeding than random musings. Yet, there is growing evidence that plants can hear their environment and respond. Yes, plants can hear themselves being eaten (think about that next time you’re munching on a salad—“Help me”—). Seriously, once plants hear themselves being eaten by an insect, they release chemicals which are unappealing. Plants can distinguish between similar acoustic sounds in the environment (such as wind, or their human roommates playing Wu-Tang Clan) and not deploy their defensive capabilities. Read more.
 


Audrey II
Image by AtomicNumber14

 


Can Plants See? 

Humans only have two eyes and two types of photoreceptors (rods and cones) to see the world with, whereas plants have many types of photoreceptors (Arabidopsis has eleven). Unlike humans where light is comfort, for plants light is food and essential to survival. Because plants are mostly stationary they have to take in more information about their environment and respond to changes. 
 

If Plants Can Move, See, Hear, Smell—Can They Think?

Plants do not have a central nervous system or brain like humans. But plants do use electrical signaling, like a nervous system (physiologist John Burdon-Sanderson proposed it as a mechanism for the action of the Venus flytrap as early as 1874). More recently glutamate receptors have been discovered in plants.
Glutamate is an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, and appears to have the same role in plants, except, as I mentioned, plants do not have nervous systems. Or do they?
 
So, can plants think? Are they intelligent? Maybe not in a human-centric way, but the idea of plant-intelligence is gaining traction. Law makers in Switzerland are trying to set guidelines designed to protect "the dignity of plants". Check out this Nature article.
 


What’s It All Mean? Are Killer Plants Coming For You, Barbara?

So, it seems plants are far more complex than we think and humans may have more in common with plants than we know. But plants still have a long way to go before they wage war on the human race. Still you should keep an eye on those house plants, don’t forget to water and feed them regularly and maybe switch to soft rock, because Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to mess with. Until next time! Happy Halloween!

 
Hope you enjoyed this little trip down my research rabbit hole, and will join me next time as I reveal the actual factual science in fiction and fantasy.
 
Did I get something wrong ... right? Let me know, please Email
 

Question for you: What’s your favorite Halloween Monster Movie? I have a few in mind, tell me yours and I’ll check it out. Who knows I may even follow it down the rabbit hole. Email.

 

If you want to keep up with me on the interwebs, find me at your favorite digital hangout!

 

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Writing Update:

My debut sci-fi psychological thriller, ‘Will you still Love Me, If I become Someone Else?’ Is in production! This means a release date and cover reveal will be coming up. In preparation of this I am building my advance reader list. These will be the first readers of the book, a number of you have already singed up, but I still have some spots left. If interested in learning more and getting a free digital copy of my book, please sign-up here
 

My Rom-Com novella will be released in a Box-Set, and the new cover was revealed. You can pre-order at your favorite e-book store: 

 I’m getting excited. I cannot wait to share this story with you all!

My Rom-Com novella, ‘Tomorrow May Be Too Late, will be released in the Askew Ever After Box-Set, January 21st 2021. The very sexy cover was revealed.
You can pre-order at your favorite e-book store here! If you already placed an order, thank-you.

Cool Stuff To Check Out
(One Thriller, some Comics and a Give Away):

C.L Cannon’s Giveaway

Click Here to follow some amazing authors across the web and enter to win hardbacks of A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi, and Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, plus a Children of Blood and Bone pillow, a Shuri travel mug, a City of Brass notebook, and An Ember In The Ashes sticker!

You can also come back every day for special tasks that will earn you daily entry points!

Great Thriller By Shawn Burgess

I just finished reading Shawn’s Debut Novel, “The Tear Collector”. If you are a fan of Stephen Kings psycological thriller/horror, then this is a must read.

Description:

When a young autistic girl goes missing from a small Appalachian community, the residents of Harper Pass descend into chaos. Brooks Raker and his friends stumble across the police investigation, and as they dig deeper into the mysterious events, the boys realize the fate of their missing classmate pales in comparison with the evil lurking in the shadows of the quiet little town.

With four boys who believe something sinister is at work, and an ambitious reporter breathing down his neck, Detective Holt of the Harper Pass Police Department must confront his doubts and follow the evidence. A chain of disappearances and suspicious deaths, leads Holt to the doorstep of the mysterious and reclusive Professor Wadlow who may know exactly what has come to collect in Harper Pass. 

Can the detective and the boys work together to unravel the dark secrets of Harper Pass before those secrets devour them all?

Cool Comics and Graphic Stories

I hope everyone takes some time to check out Guerrilla publishing and support all the Chicagoland comic creators! This is an amazing group of writers and artists. Check them out here! 

You can also follow them on Instagram and see more of their amazing art and stories.


Formed in 2017 the award winning Guerrilla Publishing brings a new type of revolution of indie  comics. With titles such as Humalien, The Epic Misadventures of Deathbag,  The Ralphs, Kaneesha, and Tales from the Cryptic Closet,  Guerrilla Publishing goes across various genres not limiting themselves to one type of storytelling for one type of age group.  Head on over to GuerrillaPublishinggroup.com check out the various title and read the Revolution! 

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Copyright © 2020 Jotham Austin, II Author, All rights reserved.


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