Feeds

Plants may be red and yellow in galactic boonies

Star Trek no longer accurate depiction of space flora?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA researchers claim we might find yellow or even red plants growing in other galaxies.

But probably not blue. That would be ridiculous.

In the latest issue of the Astrobiology journal (You don't subscribe?), a paper titled "Spectral Signatures of Photosynthesis II Coevolution with Other Stars And The Atmosphere on Extrasolar Worlds" suggests some planets may be largely populated with non-green plants.

(You can read the article here but honestly, you should take our word on it. These guys aren't mucking around with the science razzmatazz. If you try to read it on the toilet, you'll start to leak from both ends.)

The researchers' findings are based on how plants absorb and reflect different types of light.

Let's step back a moment: Chlorophyll in plants takes light from the sun and converts it into energy through photosynthesis.

Many of us were taught in school that plants are green because they absorb more blue and red light and less green. The reflection of green light makes plants appear that lovely color.

But you might have noticed nervous sweat beads appearing on your science teacher's brow while this was all being explained. The dirty secret is - scientists weren't positive why.

The paper has a theory:

In our solar system, more red light reaches Earth than other colors. (A galactic red light district if you will, ho ho ho *nudge *nudge.) Meanwhile, blue light is the easiest to absorb. Plants make efficient use of red and blue, leaving poor green spectrum light not unlike a banjo player in an orchestra.

On other planets, different colors might dominate the spectrum — leading to different color plants. Blue is still unlikely because it's just so darn easy to absorb.

However, from a mathematical standpoint, a young reporter might argue a theory of red and yellow plants is superfluous.

As far as the infinite expanses of the universe are concerned, a blanket statement of "______ exists" has a 100 per cent chance of being correct. So don't count blue plants out just yet. (Reporter's note: If it turns out space has a positive curvature and is not in fact infinite I'll buy you a Coke. It's still bloody huge though. And since the universe is therefore going to collapse upon itself maybe you should spend less time being so argumentative about these things.) ®

Bootnote

Nancy Kiang, a NASA biometeorologist who led the study, clarifies light absorption:

Just thought I'd pick here and there: there is more sunlight ENERGY in the blue-green, but more sunlight PARTICLES in the red.

The blue light isn't necessarily easier to absorb, but blue photons are more energetic and therefore easier to transmit along a sequence of pigments to a reaction center that does the biochemistry. Like the way energy gets from a power plant (blue) to your home, with losses along the way (you could have a gas tank right at home, too - red).

By the time the blue light energy gets there, it's become downgraded to red. Molecular reasons favor the blue, and environmental resource availability favors the red.

Thanks for trying to read the papers!

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.