Very fascinating piece within the Guardian-Right here’s the introduction
The examine of fungi has lengthy been overshadowed by extra glamorous scientific quests. However biologist Merlin Sheldrake is on a mission to alter that
As a boy, Merlin Sheldrake actually cherished the autumn. Within the backyard of his mother and father’ home – he grew up a number of moments from Hampstead Heath, which is the place he and I are strolling proper now, on an overcast summer season morning – the leaves would fall from a giant chestnut tree, forming light drifts into which he preferred nothing greater than to hurl himself. Wriggling round till he was totally submerged, Sheldrake would lie there, fairly content material, “buried within the rustle, misplaced in curious smells”. As he writes in his wondrous new e book, Entangled Life, these autumnal piles had been each locations to cover and worlds to discover.
However because the months handed, they shrank: reaching into them, looking for out why, he would pull out matter that regarded extra like soil than leaves. What was happening? Turning to his father for a solution (he’s the son of Rupert Sheldrake, the controversial science author finest identified for proposing the idea of “morphic resonance”) was how he first got here to study decomposition, and thus it’s to those rotting leaves that we might hint his unique curiosity within the “uncared for megascience” of mycology – the examine of fungi – even when neglect is a relative time period. “In east Asia, fungi have been cherished and revered for 1000’s of years,” he says. “In China, there are temples to the person who labored out tips on how to domesticate shiitake mushrooms. However sure, within the west it has been uncared for.”
There are, he thinks, two causes for this. The primary is easy: solely lately have applied sciences been obtainable that enable scientists totally to analyze the fungal world; to open up the hidden realms that lie beneath us, invisible to the attention. The second is historic. “There may be an entrenched disciplinary bias,” he says. “Fungi weren’t seen as their very own kingdom of life till the 60s. Mycologists had been put in a nook of the plant sciences division, quite than in their very own fungal sciences division.