How Nature Does It
The proliferation of microprocessors and the growth of distributed communications networks hold mysteries as deep as the origins of life [and] the source of our own intelligence. . . .
You arrive in Utah and set out on a hike in early October. You fill your backpack with some fruits and veggies, a bottle of water, and a snack bar or two. You put on your hiking boots and set off into a glorious stand of trees that are glowing in the still morning light. A few hours later, having worked up a good sweat, you shed your jacket and stop by a stream that bubbles through the rocks below. You lean against one of the trees and just listen to the sound of the forest. It is fall, and the leaves are turning. As you look around, you notice something odd. It seems as if the entire forest has gotten the idea to change colors all at the same time. As far as you can see, all the leaves are a particular shade of yellow. You are surrounded by Nature with a capital N. In fact, you are in the midst of one of the world’s most massive living organisms.
Say hello to Pando.1 It is a male quaking aspen and it has been your companion since you set out this morning. It has been thriving here for over 80,000 years, just waiting for you to stop by. Pando is an example of what Nature can do when she feels like showing off. This stand of trees is called a monoclonal colony. Pando propagates using something called a rhizome, which is an underground horizontal stem of ...