The Red Star is the source of Pern's most deadly enemy --
Thread. Early in F'lar's search for records F'nor finds a
metal plate nailed to one of the chests in Fort Weyr. The
words are mysterious to F'lar and Lessa:
"Mother's father's father, who departed for all time
between, said this was the key to the mystery, and it
came to him while doodling: he said that he said: ARRHENIUS?
EUREKA! MYCORRHIZA... Flamethrowing fire-lizards to wipe out
the spores. Q.E.D."
"Arrhenius" is the name of a nineteenth-century Swedish
colonel who theorized that waves of light could push small
particles, notably spores, through space.
"Eureka," of course, is that famous cry of Archimedes
meaning: I have found it!
"Mycorrhiza" means literally "fungus root" -- a form of mold.
The superficial characteristics which separates soil fungi from
other soil species (such as bacteria and algae) is their
mycelial threads. "In there ability to decompose
organic residues, fungi are the most versatile and perhaps the
most persistent of any group"; but under normal circumstances
mycorrhiza forms a symbiotic relationship with the plants it
penetrates, making their growth superior to that of uninfected
"Spores" are the traveling form of fungi. they are
tremendously impervious to destruction, able to survive extremes
of both temperature and acidity. Once the spores reach
favorable conditions, they alter to their "thread" stage which
has less tolerance to extremes.
The mystery is then clear -- it is the sudden stroke of
genius of a man who realizes that an ancient theory is being
demonstrated by the presence of the mutated destructive mycelial
Threads; the recognition of the ability of the local
fire-lizards to destroy the Threads; and the decision to test
the hypothesis. Thus was taken the first of many steps
toward combating the menace which threatens Pern: the Red Star.