And a Voice Spoke out of the Thunderstorm

Thinking about electrosynthesis.

I can imagine an organism that turns movement into stored energy by means of piezoelectric elements (which is actually less convoluted and weird than oriental wasps and their photovoltaic larvae). In other words, the wind blows on the “plant,” moving elements of it around, and the plant synthesizes sugars.

I can further imagine that in some situations, it benefits the plant to reverse this pathway, burning calories to generate electrical potential in its tissues. Shocking intruders might be one way to go, but another is to utilize the attraction between negative and positive elements in order to move around.

When released into the air, spores of different individuals could flip their electrical potentials around to attract each other and increase the chances of successful impact and mating. If being swept up in a storm, the spores could play with their charges to stick together into more complex shapes, forming themselves into “flying carpets” and “paper airplanes” in order to better control their descent back to earth.

THAT sort of behavior, in turn, might lead to the evolution of static-charge-based logic circuits suspended in storm cells, where a mass of spores churns through calculations in order to most effectively select good environments in which to land and germinate. These suspended mats would be composed mostly of non-reproductive “somatic germ-cells,” whose function is to run calculations, form stable flight configurations, and harvest and convert energy, all in the support of a small number of real reproductive germ-cells.

We can even bring visual changes into the mix. If the mats have visual systems (perhaps by forming a sphere and converting their entire swarm into a pinhole camera), they might flip white-black elements rapidly back and forth to create images like the e-ink display of a kindle. Even COOLER, though, by selectively turning large parts of their storm cell dark (heat-absorbing) or light (heat-dissipating) these mats could steer and sustain the wind keeping them up. Perhaps there are permanent or very-long-lived cyclones on this planet, kept “alive” by the work of millions of flipping, static-charged spores.

You’d also have a lot of interesting related species and ramifications: electric stinging nettles, hunting clouds of spores that attack and shock or asphyxiate animals, battling dust-devils, wind-blasted channels through inconvenient mountain-ranges, mining of iron-bearing rock to produce electrical generators made of spinning metallic dust, a whole host of areal filter-feeders, lightning-spiders that build nests to steal the electrical potential of passing storms…

Plus, if the way these things coordinate with each other is through electrical discharge, they can absolutely have them hijack a human’s nervous system. Imagine a man with a small tornado engulfing his head…

Ooh! Getting goosebumps here!

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