This week, I explore

1 – How can fungi help buildings become smarter?
2 – What is the science behind a massage?

1 – How can fungi help buildings become smarter?

Fungus, one of the first organisms to occupy Earth, is like a mothership that feeds all other the plants with essential nutrients.

Mycelium Time Lapse © Dr. Patrick Hickey, 2008.

It is estimated that there are about 1.5 million fungi species in total, of which around 70,000 (5%) have been scientifically described. Under each mushroom (fruiting body of the fungus) lies an extended and complicated network of mycelia that can extend to thousands of sq. miles. Scientists joke that the mycelia network is nature’s internet.

The Mushroom Life Cycle

A single cubic inch of soil can contain up to 8 miles of mycelia cell networks. These networks connect each plant and act as a highway for essential nutrients to travel from one part to another. They adapt the process of nutritional transfer as they are highly reactive to environmental changes. 

But how is it linked with buildings?

Together, buildings and construction contribute 39% of the world’s carbon footprint. Energy used to heat, cool, and light buildings account for 28% of these emissions: households are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases since 2015, accounting for a quarter of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.


Researchers have devised a way to engineer smart buildings using mycelia’s property. The network of lines and nodes act like logical gates, making them function just like an electrical circuit.

When mycelia react to different environmental conditions, the electrical signals vary. By programming what each electrical signal means, we can set other conditions. E.g. if mycelia react to high temperature, the associated electrical signals can set the air conditioning on.

And with the influx of data, the possibilities seem limitless. AI and Machine Learning experiments are already underway. 

2 – What is the science behind a massage?

“I could do with a nice massage”. Have you ever said that to yourself? What makes you say it? Were your muscles sore?

I am pretty sure you must have experienced your muscles going sore two days after an intense workout. Pain, during and after a workout, is constructive. It is a sign that our muscles are developing. But what causes this delayed onset muscle soreness, and how can massages help?

Pushing our muscles to the limit result in the following combination: increased blood flow to the specific muscle, lots of brain signals to instruct the muscle to work, and muscle fibres tearing apart (at a molecular level). 

To know how each part of the combination occurs, read previous curiosity boxes on how muscles work, what chemical ions get involved when signals travel in our nerves, and how we feel pain.

As a result, there is an inflammation of the muscle because of a calcium build up. Not doing anything about this causes that delayed soreness and can dampen your motivation to get back to the gym. 

This is where a massage helps. The act of pressing the muscle (where the inflammation is) mediates leukocyte migration and attenuates the inflammatory response. The result of this is a decrease in pain. Also, further studies on massages have shown to lower blood cortisol levels. Reducing cortisol results in a reduction of stress.

The scientific evidence on how exactly a massage helps in muscle recovery is still a new research field that requires a lot more work. Also, keep in mind that different types of exercises have different effects on our muscles, and therefore, we may require different recovery strategies. Along with massages, cold water treatment, foam rollers, or just stretching can do wonders.

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