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Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Plants

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the try-explaining-that-one dept.

Space 211

sciencehabit writes "If Tatooine were real, it would probably be filled with black plants and trees. A new study finds that, to maximize energy absorption for photosynthesis, the flora on worlds that orbit two suns may have evolved to use one or more types of light-absorbing pigments that absorb across a broad range of wavelengths, which would tend to make the plant appear black or gray. Although the idea that planets that could host such life may sound far-fetched, such orbs may not be so rare: The team's computer simulations indicate that Earth-like planets can exist in several types of stable orbits in multistar systems. More than one-fourth of the sunlike stars in our galaxy and about half of the long-lived but dim, cool stars called red dwarfs are found in solar systems containing two or more stars, the researchers note."

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Getting tired (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873380)

For a moment I thought the title was: "Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Pants"
Why black pants? Why not yoga pants?

Shocking Colors of Alien Pants... er Plants. (1)

HiggsBison (678319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874408)

Scientific American had an article on this a few years ago. I kept misreading the title, imagining aliens wearing all manner of loud plaids and stripes.

Black or grey plants ?? (2)

dr-suess-fan (210327) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873382)

You mean like the plants on Gilligan's Island ?

Re:Black or grey plants ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873478)

And the coconuts grow with no husks!

Re:Black or grey plants ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873898)

The teamâ½ Â s computer simulations

Smooth, Slashdot. Real smooth.

Can these niggers* ever get a summary right?

* That's got nothing to do with skin color, African descent, etc. Nigger is as nigger does. Plenty of them are in fact white.

Black Pants (4, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873410)

Anyone else read this as "Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Pants?"

Re:Black Pants (2)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873500)

That's the intergalactical punishment for lying - forced to wear black pants on a world with two suns.

Re:Black Pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873716)

That's the intergalactical punishment for lying - forced to wear black pants on a world with two suns.

That is genuinely funny. The first thing on the internet to make me laugh out loud in months.

Re:Black Pants (2)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873616)

Anyone else read this as "Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Pants?"

Worlds With Two Suns
May Sport Black Pants;
the Scientists have said:
" that world's gone to plaid!"
and started on a Slashdot rant.

Re:Black Pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873750)

Worst. Limerick. Ever.

Re:Black Pants (1)

TheABomb (180342) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873856)

Especially if you're trying to wear a plaid with pants. That's just WRONG.

Re:Black Pants (1)

tantaliz3 (1074234) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873694)

Yea, that guy up there did. ^^

Re:Black Pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873724)

Put your pants back on, will ya!

/this joke contains imagery

Re:Black Pants (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874098)

I did, even after I re-read it several times. I was imagining alien beings trying to look slimmer while being lit from two directions at once or something...

Re:Black Pants (1)

straponego (521991) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874440)

I saw "Black Planet", which reminded me of Public Enemy and Sisters of Mercy. Somebody needs to mash that up.

For more than just two sun solor systems. (1)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873412)

What rays would correspond to each color? i assume yellow = green. it would follow that a red dwarf might have color different plants than our sun. This would go for all stars of different type correct ?

Re:For more than just two sun solor systems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873472)

Why, do you think, is the sky blue?

The sun might not be as yellow as it appears.

Re:For more than just two sun solor systems. (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873540)

The sky is blue because if it were white, we couldn't see the clouds.

Re:For more than just two sun solor systems. (1)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873550)

Yes, it is more white. my apologies for the errors. I was trying to crank out a response hoping to get the first post. silly me

Spam (1)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873414)

If you have over-abundance of light, why would you need extra absorption? That's needed when you have LESS light than the earthly average. Also, this implies the planet's life evolved exactly like Earth's for billions of years, which is impossible.

Re:Spam (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873464)

Wouldn't plants in a single-star system also maximize energy absorption? It's not like plants support the stars, so plants in multi-star systems don't need more energy than plants in single-start systems.

Do you think fish in the ocean maximize water usage more than insects in the desert?

Re:Spam (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873524)

Having more energy available in a larger spectrum means that having more pigments might payoff. Plants on earth absorb in the red and blue ranges, adding a third pigment to absorb green generally seems to cost more energy than is gained (remember, it takes energy, materials, and space to construct those pigments). If you have two stars with different spectral signatures, there's a larger energy payoff by having a larger diversity of pigments, and a larger diversity of pigments means more frequencies absorbed, making the plants black or grey in color.

Re:Spam (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873608)

Absorbing more light can give you more energy, unless you have problems with over-heating. Maybe the plants would need to absorb less light so they don't have problems with too much energy. Perhaps the plants on that planet will be white!

Re:Spam (2)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873914)

If there's more light energy to be collected, maybe they have enough energy to be mobile. But then they wouldn't be plants, they'd be ents.

Re:Spam (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873618)

No. Exactly the opposite. With two suns, there is abundant light energy kicking around, so there's no need to absorb a wider spectrum. Thus the plants will use LESS pigments and appear brown and yellow.

Re:Spam (2)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873712)

The amount of energy available is independent of the number of stars. Two colder suns or further away would easily provide less energy than one hotter or closer sun. Not to mention that having too much energy means the planet is a hot sterile rock (at least in terms of earth like biology).

Re:Spam (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873850)

. Not to mention that having too much energy means the planet is a hot sterile rock (at least in terms of earth like biology).

Aww. Why'd you have to go and qualify it? I was gonna call you an "ugly bag of mostly water!"

Re:Spam (1)

knotprawn (1935752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874294)

Haha. I remember that episode!

Re:Spam (3, Interesting)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873766)

If you're talking about a system with 2 very similar stars in terms of distance, length of day, intensity, etc.

But what if one star is dominant? At what point is it not worth harvesting light from the secondary star?

Rather than black plants that absorb a fuller range of frequencies, you might get 2 parallel evolutionary paths. Green trees would grow tall from the light of the large yellow star, while the underbrush would be full of red leafy ferns which absorb light from the smaller star.

Re:Spam (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874476)

Green trees would grow tall from the light of the large yellow star, while the underbrush would be full of red leafy ferns which absorb light from the smaller star.

If the large star's light can't penetrate the trees to get to the underbrush, why would the smaller star's light do so?

Re:Spam (2)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873784)

The pigments are not very efficient: most of the light plants absorb ends up as heat. They have to reflect some of the light to avoid getting too hot and/or losing moisture too fast.

Give them another billion years and they'll have 90% efficient full-spectrum pigments plus a variable-reflectance surface that they can tune to control leaf temperature.

Re:Spam (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874404)

Stars are either going to be close enough together that both will rise and set very close together, -OR- they will be far enough apart that one appears as a very bright, and the other is too far away to offer enough light for growth.

Orbital mechanics dictate that you see two close stars, or one close and one VERY distant star.

In the first case, life supporting planets would have to orbit a common center of gravity of the two planets, and viewed from such a planet, the stars would rise and set together (or very close together). Plants would not likely evolve to distinguish the difference, they would simply evolve to benefit from the average of the two stars.

In the second case, the companion star would have to be a great distance away, and would never contribute significant light to the planet orbiting the main star. In this case the light received from the closest star would so-overwhelm the distant star that plants would be tuned to the close star only. (No plant life is known to benefit from moon light).

There is very little chance that a planet would survive being located exactly half way between binary stars, such that two bright suns rise and set at opposite horizons. Such a planet is is a very perilous and unstable position and would probably not exist long enough in that location to evolve plant life.

Re:Spam (2)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873470)

If you have over-abundance of light, why would you need extra absorption?

Competition. If you have two species which coexist, and one of them develops the ability to make use of more of the spectrum, that species will reproduce faster, produce more biomass, whatever. The species which doesn't will be overrun.

Re:Spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873602)

The point still stands, why would it be any more likely to develop on a bistelar system than our own?

The only reason I can think of is that plants on this planet adapted to the primary frequency of our one star, while those plants would have to adapt to having a bimodal light source.

Re:Spam (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873864)

The only reason I can think of is that plants on this planet adapted to the primary frequency of our one star, while those plants would have to adapt to having a bimodal light source.

That's the hypothesis exactly. If the plant experiences one spectrum for part of the year, and some other spectrum for the other part, there are really two ways it could adapt to that. It could develop two independent photosynthesis pathways which are optimized for the two types of spectra -- in which case, one wonders how efficient those will be during the transitional period where it is seeing a mixture of spectra instead of one or the other -- or, it could develop a more general-purpose photosynthesis pathway that covers all the possibilities effectively. In that case, the plant would probably appear dingy to our human eyes.

Re:Spam (4, Insightful)

adonoman (624929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873606)

But absorption has to be balanced with water-retention and a host of other factors. If absorbing more of the spectrum is good, then why aren't all plants on earth black? The fact that we see them as green implies that they are reflecting back at least some of the spectrum (it turns out chlorophyll is surprisingly poor at absorbing green light).

Re:Spam (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873872)

It would only be surprising how poor chlorophyll is at absorbing green light if it weren't green...

Re:Spam (2)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874428)

It would only be surprising how poor chlorophyll is at absorbing green light if it weren't green...

It's surprising because the peak of the sun's spectrum is in the green. So the plants ignore the strongest part of the spectrum. That is surprising.

Re:Spam (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873922)

(it turns out chlorophyll is surprisingly poor at absorbing green light).

Why, exactly, is that surprising? Wouldn't that be a given considering how our color-perception works? (Not a flame, I'm genuinely curious and occasionally learn cool stuff even on /.)

Re:Spam (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873966)

But absorption has to be balanced with water-retention and a host of other factors. If absorbing more of the spectrum is good, then why aren't all plants on earth black?

The prevalence of green plants in all environments from arid to extremely humid would tend to discount your water-supply based theory. I would assume it's a simple energy balance that's the main culprit. On our planet, the energy cost of evolving/manufacturing a green-absorbing chlorophyll exceeds the energy a plant would get from it. If the planet were getting energy from two suns, that would shift the energy balance in favor of a more-expensive-to-manufacture chlorophyll which absorbs the green part of the spectrum.

To further substantiate this, green is the strongest part of the visible spectrum that we receive from the sun. That plants do not absorb this indicates it must be significantly cheaper to manufacture red- and yellow-absorbing chlorophyll. Enough so to offset the lesser amount of red and yellow light in the spectrum here.

Re:Spam (1)

slinches (1540051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873942)

Another possibility are symbiotic relationships between plant species. The higher ones absorbing certain wavelengths and being transparent to those that plants below absorb. This would allow for many color variations instead of just black or gray.

Re:Spam (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873726)

There's nothing to suggest that either of the suns would provide as much energy to a planet as our sun does to Earth. Maybe they desperately need the energy from both, and still don't get as much as the average plant would on Earth.

Lovelock's Daisyworld (RIP Sarah Jane Smith) (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874020)

James Lovelock's Daisyworld demonstrates what will happen in simple terms.

If the input of light is "ideal", there will be an equal number of light-absorbing and light-reflecting surfaces, as increasing the number of plants reflecting light will cool the planet below the light-reflecing plant's ideal temperature and vice versa.

If the light of the planet is high, then the number of light-reflecting surfaces must increase in order for the ecosystem to be stable. Indeed, negative feedback is the only way to MAKE it stable.

Thus, if there is way too much light (but not so much that life cannot survive), the number of absorbing surfaces will fall close to zero andthe number of reflecting surfaces will increase to whatever the surface can support.

Re:Spam (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874446)

You won't have an over abundance of light.

Plants evolve to thrive on the light available. You would have nearly the perfect amount, the amount just right for the plant that evolved there.

Viewing it as if your were an African Violate suddenly transported and trying to cope with a different configuration of suns is the mistake this article makes.

There is no basis for suggesting one color over another for plants on such a world.

simulation is only good... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873434)

keep in mind that results from simulation is accurate only if the models used are valid and complete.

Re:simulation is only good... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873528)

Obsess about AGW much?
 

Re:simulation is only good... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873798)

> Obsess about AGW much?

Evidently you do, yes.

crazy daisy world! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874038)

Plants could be one color when one sun was up, then turn a lighter color as both suns were illuminating the area they're in. Then they wouldn't need to evolve, they could just maintain a dynamic equilibrium. So these planets would just be overrun with these weird plants, they'd never evolve televangelists to tell them that they didn't evolve from apes.

White Plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873438)

If there are two suns, wouldn't the plants be white?

Black would result in too much sun absorption...

I could see black plants in an area with an extremely low amount of sunlight.

you wouldn't understand (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873440)

why's it always got to be about race with you guys? can't we just get along?

Which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873456)

Which character encoding includes â½ Â ?

Fucking curly quotes, how do they work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873510)

The teamâ½ Â s computer simulations indicate that

UNICODE FAIL.

Re:Fucking curly quotes, how do they work? (1)

TheABomb (180342) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873894)

Well, thank Jah it's only 1997. Can you imagine a website trying to get away with that, say fourteen years from now?

How would they look to the natives? (1)

robably (1044462) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873530)

I imagine it would also mean that any life that evolved there would evolve an eye that would be capable of seeing a broader spectrum of light as well, though, so the plants wouldn't look black to them.

Still, it's cool; worlds with black & grey plants. Very Star Trek.

Re:How would they look to the natives? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873654)

Good point. There's nothing about red, green, and blue that says they have to be the primary colors of visible light; the fact that we perceive them that way is a function of the way our cone cells work. IIRC, there are birds that can see four primary colors, while various mammals (e.g. dogs) are not actually "colorblind" but only see two primary colors, which makes their range of color perception more limited than ours. On a world with two suns having different spectra, you'd expect animals to evolve eyes capable of seeing more than any animal on Earth.

Re:How would they look to the natives? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873720)

I imagine it would also mean that any life that evolved there would evolve an eye that would be capable of seeing a broader spectrum of light as well, though, so the plants wouldn't look black to them

Water vapor in air is our primary limitation, not solar spectrum. Look at the electronics guys who try to transmit data thru the air using light... Aside from any safety concerns, they all seem to converge on red wavelengths. The atmosphere is a pretty good attenuator above UV and below red. At "long" distances its a pretty poor blue conductor due to scattering.

I would predict animals in a desert should have a wider eye spectral response than marine animals.

Re:How would they look to the natives? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874116)

I hate to follow up to myself but I forgot another very important limitation... Look at the optical resolution vs wavelength equations for a given eye size.

Examine our solar spectrum at the top and bottom of the atmosphere.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_Spectrum.png [wikipedia.org]

Below 400 or so nM is a waste of time due to oxygen adsorption. Above 800 nM or so is a waste of time due to water adsorption.

Why do we have no / very few animals using the bright rnages around 1100 and 1200 and 1600? To get the same resolution as my eyes get at 500 or so nM would require eyes with a diameter roughly 2 to 3 times as large for those wavelengths... And volume / mass / caloric requirement increases as the cube. So, to go infrared at reasonable resolution I'd have to invest probably a couple pounds of biomatter to get "good human vision" in my new giant eyes. On the positive side a lot of womens clothing fabric is transparent at those wavelengths. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs....

In summary, don't matter what the big flashlight in the sky is squeezing out, UV vision is useless in an oxygen atmosphere, and IR vision is either really low res or really freaking biologically expensive or is blocked by water vapor. Its "visual spectrum" or nothin.

Planets around two suns probably would be lifeless (4, Insightful)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873534)

The problem is that most of the stable orbits for a planet in a binary system result in very hot temperatures for part of it's orbit and freezing for the rest of the orbit.
1: planet orbits one of the two suns and is between two suns for part of orbit.
2: planet orbits both suns in a highly elliptical orbit taking it in and out of the 'goldilocks' zone where liquid water can exisit.
3: planet orbits both suns in a figure 8 orbit with similar results to #2

If BOTH suns are small and close together the planet could orbit both at a 'just right' distance to allow liquid water, but might be too close to the suns and be rotation locked with days and nights 1/2 a year long (like our moon).

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (3, Funny)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873614)

The problem is that most of the stable orbits for a planet in a binary system result in very hot temperatures for part of it's orbit and freezing for the rest of the orbit.

So a lot like Canada then?

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (2)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873704)

Yes. It's unknown if life there will politely mock Americans, but given the dual nature of their system, a passive-aggressive attitude seems likely.

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873754)

It helps if the two stars are like Pluto distance apart.

Even Jupiter distance apart is "not entirely awful". That would make life on Mars very exciting, for example.

But yeah if Venus and Mars were both Sol sized stars we'd be pretty much screwed, yeah.

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (1)

stumblingblock (409645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873762)

Yes, as explained by Stephen Hawking in "The Grand Design". Great book, if anyone hasn't read it yet, do so.

Agreed (and RIP Sarah Jane Smith) (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873868)

It would be extremely difficult to find a stable orbit for a planet in such a system. It would require not only that but that the goldilocks zone always overlap the entire planet at all times within the system's cycle. The evidence from our own solar system also suggests that the necessary criteria for life rarely arise from what could be called "simple" planet formation. Venus and Mars formed by simple accretion, both are in the goldilocks zone but neither has the necessary composition to sustain life. Earth is an amalgam of two planetoids, such that the density of the planet is abnormally high and the composition abnormally mixed. A lot of lighter elements got blasted off, some congealing into the moon.

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873974)

What's your point?
Do you think that the planet freezing solid for 10 years then coming to a point where there's a year long summer would mean life were impossible? I'd argue that it would simply lead to a very interesting sort of life. If it has a large moon to keep the core molten life could stay bellow the permafrost until the spring. It's be a very interesting planet indeed.

Re:Planets around two suns probably would be lifel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35874282)

Planets around two suns probably would be lifeless in terms of life as we know it.

I personally lack the arrogance to assume that life in every planet will be the same as life on our planet.

teamâ½ Â s (1, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873536)

Wah?

Re: teamâ½ Â s (1)

rehabdoll (221029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873562)

yeah..

Re: teamâ½ Â s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873698)

Re: teamâ½ Â s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35874122)

I thought that was part of a gate address

Green by any other name... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873560)

Of course any advanced organisms that develop on the planet would have their "optical" spectrum shifted toward the infrared, centered about the peak of the emission spectrum of the "black" leaves, making them appear ... green.

About those of us that aren't plants... (2)

dingo_kinznerhook (1544443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873566)

There's no mention of how this would affect animal life. Skin tones and fur/feather coloring would be lighter to reflect more of the light, right?

far-fetched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873574)

the idea that planets that could host such life may sound far-fetched

If life is at all common then most of it will be in binary systems, because binaries are the most common system type.

Most life will probably be found on moons as well, because there are a lot more moons than planets.

Black pants (0)

torgis (840592) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873624)

Did anyone else read the headline as "Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Pants"?

Dressy, sure. But sporty? A truly alien world that would be...

The Universe (1)

wonderboss (952111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873626)

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine,
it is stranger than we can imagine - Arthur C. Clarke

Why does anyone assume that life on another world
would include something we would categorize as a plant?

Re:The Universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873732)

Convergent evolution?

Plants (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873862)

If we define a "plant" as a staionary living organism that captures energy through some form of photosynthesis then it is safe to assume that plants are common.

Or another question, why don't we photosynthesize in our skin? The answer is simple, light does not have enough energy to support movement.

Think about it, it takes a carrot 3-6 months to grow. You eat it and burn through it in 2 hours over walking.

"safe to assume" (1)

wonderboss (952111) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874216)

Famous Last Words

Assuming the energy per square meter falling on the planet is nearly the same as earth.
Maybe it is so high that creatures have to move at peak times to avoid getting fried.
Or perhaps no light reaches the surface.

Assuming photosynthesis developed and had nearly the same efficiency as terrestrial plants.
The currently accepted theory is that photosynthesis developed some time after the origin
of life on earth. If you accept that, then there was a period when life existed here with
no plants.

Assuming some other form of energy does not dominate the environment. Perhaps deep
water sulfur vents are the dominant source of energy.

My guess is that when we first encounter life on another world, we won't even recognize
it as such. My guess is that there is life on Mars, we've just missed it because we
concentrated our searches for something that looks like a common terrestrial form.
And there is evidence to support that guess.

Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873642)

On a planet far out in the galaxy there reads a headline... "Worlds With One Sun May Sport Black Plants". Because, those plants can pretty much occur anywhere. This is like saying that a planet with two suns might have extra big clouds. Sure, the sun(s) have an impact, but its not the sole reason. Especially in such complex things as life (or weather patterns).

yup, they might (1)

kamakazi (74641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873648)

They might also be blue, or orange, or maybe frictionless black on black. Who actually thinks we have enough data to populate a computer model to make this wild conjecture? For Pete's sake, we can't even model Earth well enough to predict vague global temperature trends, how in the world can we have a valid model of an theoretical ecosystem that might or might not exist somewhere in the universe, which might or might not have life systems that use the energy from starlight to feed chemical reactions to store and use energy???? Can we please start using dewey decimal to categorize these stories so we know which ones are fiction without bothering to read TFA?

Light on details (1)

dev.null.matt (2020578) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873650)

Is it my imagination, or is the summary one sentence short of being the entire text of the article?

Re:Light on details (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873888)

Huh huh, you said "light"

Black alien plants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873680)

I want to see their birth certificates!

No way man: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873982)

Vetoed!

They would have all colors of plants. (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873686)

If the plants have a broad spectrum of light to draw from, they can draw from any portion of the spectrum and survive.

But plants on Earth aren't green because of the spectrum they have to draw from, which anyone with a prism can show is the full spectrum of colors we can see.

They are green because that's what color leaves full of chlorophyll are, and chlorophyll is photosynthetic, and not much else is.

If chlorophyll was magenta, guess what.

Green and Purple (2)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873700)

Earth's primary photosynthesizers used to be purple; which would make sense since the suns output peak is in the yellow range, so that would be the frequency you'd want to absorb. One theory claims that green plants evolved to take advantage of the light these organisms weren't.

In other words: it's not that simple.

Green vs Purple: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873962)

So, there was a photosynthetic war over green and purple?

Maybe that explains a lot about the Drazi onboard Babylon 5.

Re:Green and Purple (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874304)

Another explanation is, as in the Daisyworld model, the balance between green and purple is just right to maximize the benefit for both. Cooperative evolution.

Oh great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873702)

Give Lucas yet another reason to alter the original trilogy. Stoppit already!

Moisture farmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873770)

Those plants are kept alive by the moisture farming industry.

Earth Plants Don't Maximize Photosynthesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35873780)

As a simple reminder, evolution is what powers change, not divine creation. Just because it would be beneficial, doesn't mean it happens, just like plants on Earth don't maximize their photosynthesis potential, either. Theoretically, any colour we can see could be absorbed, making plants under our sun black to our eyes under ordinary sunlight.

It hasn't happened.

Ok here's a question then: (2)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873802)

A new study finds that, to maximize energy absorption for photosynthesis, the flora on worlds that orbit two suns may have evolved to use one or more types of light-absorbing pigments that absorb across a broad range of wavelengths, which would tend to make the plant appear black or gray.

If that is true, why don't we have black plants here? If you had multiple types of light absorbing pigments in a plant here, that plant would capture more energy from the sun and be able to out compete other types of plants. It would stay well fed in all seasons and would be able to use that extra captured energy to make seeds and reproduce year round, not just once or twice a year like other plants.

Re:Ok here's a question then: (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873896)

> If that is true, why don't we have black plants here?

Probably because light is not the limiting resource.

Re:Ok here's a question then: (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874332)

Because totally black plants would increase the temperature of their local environment, thus inhibiting them by more than they would otherwise gain. You've got to look at the whole system, not an isolated fragment.

It doesn't make sense! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873900)

Why would a plant, a leafy plant, want to turn black and live on Tatooine, with a bunch of 3-foot-tall Jawas? That does not make sense!

But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this post?

Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this post! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a commenter on a computer geek chat board, and I'm talkin' about black plants! Does that make sense?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense!

If plants aren't green on Tatooine, you must acquit!

The defense rests.

Did he even watch the movie? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#35873954)

Editor is missing the point that Tatooine didn't have any plants or trees at all.

Re:Did he even watch the movie? (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874214)

Editor is missing the point that Tatooine didn't have any plants or trees at all.

Sure they did. Plants were visible in frame 18720 of the 2003 DVD release of Episode IV. In fact, they were clearly visible for a full 27 frames, but I think you will find they are in the best focus in frame 18720. Frame 18728 is actually better in the most recent release, but I don't think anyone really uses those as a benchmark.

Just kidding... or am I?

I call BS (4, Interesting)

labradore (26729) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874030)

Evolution causes mother nature to be very efficient in her selection of characteristics. It might just be that green is useful to plants because it is the right wavelength for efficient photosynthesis with the sun's light. It might be green because it's much easier for plants to make green chloroplasts than other colors or because green imparts enough energy without overheating the leaf structure or its easier for plants to repair green proteins than other colors. If you read up on it a bit, you find out that green does not really maximize energy production, but it's apparently optimal for most plants. However, there's plenty of earth plants that aren't green! Surprisingly there's few black plants. We think too often about optimizing a single parameter. Usually that parameter is short term cash flow. The natural world is a more-or-less true form of capitalism and it's brutal but it shows us that short-term gain isn't the only thing worth maximizing and in nature there's no way to externalize costs for the long-term. Those that do, don't survive.

Woah... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874262)

Those plants would be seriously goth.

errrrmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35874338)

Tatooine, is a desert planet. Lots of sand no trees or plants. At least that's what I've seen of it.

Our Eyes (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 3 years ago | (#35874442)

But then if there were two suns, it would also affect our eyes, hence re-defining the color black and green.

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