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Arrhenius? Eureka! Mycorrhiza...

This passage from Dragonflight said to be written about Ted Tubberman in Dragonsdawn, has long confused many a Pern reader.  Various speculations in the newsgroup have come close to the mark, but I don't think anyone knew who Arrhenius was (or that he was a who).  I discovered a fairly thorough explanation in the Atlas of Pern by Karen Wynn Fonstad, and thought I'd post a copy of it here for all to read. 

This passage is copyright © 1984 by Karen Wynn Fonstad. 
This excerpt is for viewing purposes only, may not be downloaded or used in any other manner without permission of the author.   It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted text without permission in writing from the author.

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 plants.

"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.

Of course, I don't think that Thread ovoids are of the size that Arrhenius was thinking (aren't they about a fire-lizard length in diameter?)...


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