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Pando (tree) (wikipedia.org)
92 points by lelf on June 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

Learning about this a while back absolutely blew my mind. (So much so that I submitted it to HN, where it was roundly ignored. Oh well :-)

Anyways, it's a new and strange idea to me that this organism, covering a mountainside, is really more properly thought of as an absolutely massive underground body that sends shoots above ground to breed and collect energy. Makes me feel weird when I consider the quantity and variety of life below my feet.

Secondly, it's 80,000 years old. That made me consider the variety of timescales that life exists in. I wonder if this is considered in the search for extraterrestrial life. Would we even be able to detect an organism whose life spans more than ten thousand years, and what about a million?

I wish we could see a timelapse of the above and below ground growth of this magnificent life form. I wonder if it has "moved" in that time, expanding and shifting into more fertile areas and atrophying in others.

Would an organism that lives for millions or hundreds of millions of years detect our momentary flash?

Our lives (and civilization) are incredibly short on a universal time frame. This is very cool - we are the fastest creators of complexity and order we know of. We are a piece of the universe that has become sentient; (arguably) the only part capable of choosing whether to grow or die.

Our understanding of life is inherently limited by our context; an enormous tree is nearly alien yet it is very closely related to us. At a philosophical level we can begin to assess the basic requirements for life: an infrastructure that can store, propagate, modify, and execute code to alter itself and the world around it.

> we are the fastest creators of complexity

I like that definition. I also tend to define humans as having a large spectrum of scale interactions. We explored and sensed from nanoscopic to cosmic.

To bounce off on your penultimate paragraph:


edit: its off-topic

This surprised me: " The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kg (6,600 short tons)"

I always tought that one ton was equal to 1,000kg. So this could be a typing mistake on wikipedia, but then I followed the link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ton and found out that is quite a mess its definition:

"In the United Kingdom the ton is defined as 2,240 pounds (1,016 kg) (avoirdupois pounds).[2] From 1965 the UK embarked upon a programme of metrication and gradually introduced metric units, including the tonne (metric ton), defined as 1000 kg (2,204.6 lbs). The UK Weights and Measures Act 1985 explicitly excluded from use for trade many units and terms, including the ton and the term "metric ton" for "tonne".[3]

In the United States and formerly Canada[4] a ton is defined to be 2,000 pounds (907 kg)."

Any case, for me, living in a country using the metric system, appears that I should use the word "tonne" as translation for "tonelada" (metric ton in portuguese). This means that I am thinking the wrong quantity whenever I read "ton" on a american text. Quite a discovery!

thanks! as the hyperlink was only at thw word "ton" (and to the url above); I assumed "short" was part of the phrase, not of the unit name. Something meaning that 6,600 was a rounded number or something like that (enlgish is not my first language).

Just fixed it on Wikipedia. :-)

"Tonne" is a UK-ism, safest and least ambiguous is to just write 'metric ton'.

'Tonne' works in Australia, India and most commonwealth countries and former colonies too.

Generally when things are different between English and American English, the English one is more widely used due to colonialism.

Sure, my point is, there is no room for confusion whatsoever with 'metric ton' or 'metric tonne', if you prefer.

Clicked this expecting to read about some crazy data structure.

I was wrong, but not disappointed.

Is this the only instance of this species? Why doesn't it have other instances elsewhere that behave the same way?

As the article explains, it grew to this size under very favorable circumstances: forest fires keep burning down competing conifers, and a shift in climate some 10,000 years ago made it so separate aspens couldn't really flourish.

Also in the article it mentions other clonal groups in Utah and elsewhere.

Interconnected stands of Aspen are actually common in areas where Aspen trees grow. Pando is just a particularly old and huge one. In the autumn, you can sometimes tell where two separate stands share a mountainside, because the clones tend to turn yellow all at once, and you can see that one side of the mountain is still somewhat green while the other has turned yellow. I lived in an Aspen forest in Park City that was like that.

There's a co-work space and startup hub in Park City, Utah called Pando Labs that's named after Pando: http://www.pandolabs.org/

I was just at a web design conference, and Ethan Marcotte cited this as part of his presentation while talking about 'networks of content' in responsive Web design.

Also the origin of the news site Pando:


What's the news here?

Potential headline: "Hey, I just learned about an interesting thing."

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