A University of Colorado biologist working with the Pentagon is developing plants that can detect bombs. Yes: Terrorism-fighting plants that change color in the presence of certain chemicals. The 21st century is wild, isn't it?
Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes about Professor Jane Medford, who's been working on this project for seven years, manipulating plant DNA to respond to specific stimuli:
...the "receptor" proteins in [plant] DNA... respond naturally to threatening stimuli. If a bug chews on a leaf, for instance, the plant releases a series of chemical signals called terpenoids - "a cavalry call," Medford says, that thickens the leaf cuticle in defense.
Medford and her team designed a computer model to manipulate the receptors: Basically, the model instructs the protein to react when coming in contact with chemicals found in explosives or common air or water pollutants....
Right now, Medford estimates she's three to four years out. Her labs have genetically designed plants blanching white when they come into contact with TNT. But that's in a research lab, where the amount of light is constant, "no wind, no rain, no bugs, no people dumping coffee."
Now! Some people might think it is a little, you know, completely terrifying, that soon plants, of all things, will be full-fledged apparatuses of the surveillance state. Some people might be a little uneasy with the idea that we can, and should, marshal every object in existence, including plants, into the service of our soul-killing fetish for security. Some people might think that we should just leave plants the fuck alone, and deal with terrorism and violence and fear in other, perhaps more direct, ways!
Not me, though. I say, bring it on. I say, can we do this rocks? Can we do this with the fucking air? I say, let's give plants guns, too! A bomb-detecting plant with a fucking gun! The future is awesome!!