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Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Researchers at MIT have devised a way to allow chemical signals from spinach plants to transmit an email.

Why it matters: The system could help provide an early warning system for explosives or pollution, but really, we just want to know what the spinach are thinking.

How it works: In a study published this week in Nature Materials, researchers engineered the roots of spinach plants to contain microscopic nanosensors that are capable of detecting nitroaromatics — chemicals that are often found in explosives and man-made industrial chemicals.

  • When the nanosensors detect those compounds, they can send a signal to an infrared camera, which can shoot out an email alert.

What they're saying: "This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier,” Michael Strano, a chemical engineer at MIT and a c0-author of the paper, told Euro News.

Our thought bubble: It's not so much that the plants are communicating with us, as that nanotechnology allows us to transform these plants into a kind of living computer.

  • Spinach cyborgs, if you will.
  • DARPA — the Defense Department's advanced research wing — has an entire program dedicated to exploring how plants could be engineered to detect threats like pathogens and chemicals in the environment.

The bottom line: Whatever happens next in our conversation with plants, I hope it has a better ending than Mark Wahlberg's attempt to talk to a tree in "The Happening."

Go deeper

In photos: Protests in U.S., across the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

A protest march in support of Palestinians near the Washington monument in Washington, D.C. on May 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

Updated 9 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

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