LIVE

A story about how "scientists have taught spinach to send email" has gone viral for the exact reason you suspect.

By Mike Pomranz
February 02, 2021
Advertisement
Spinach Growers Tally Losses As E. Coli Investigation Continues
Credit: David Paul Morris / Stringer/Getty Images

The best topical jokes have short setups. No one wants to hear Jimmy Fallon ramble on with background: You want an attention-grabbing headline that begs for a punchline. So thank you, Euronews. Yesterday, the France-based network teed up a joke for the entire internet, running a story about how "Scientists have taught spinach to send emails." And needless to say, Twitter comedians were lining up to have a crack.

Though written as a totally serious piece about how this technology "could warn us about climate change," the story went viral on Euronews Living's Twitter account as the famously dogpile-prone social media network's users simply focused on the absurdity of a vegetable sending emails. Even Euronews eventually acquiesced to the silliness, retweeting jokey responses from comedian Dave Barry and writer Margaret Atwood and even changing their profile bio to read, "Come for the spinach stay for the climate coverage."

Okay, but let's take a step back: Like, seriously, can spinach send emails now? Well, yes and no. In a technical sense, scientists have figured out a way to use nanotechnology to turn spinach leaves into sensors that, when receiving input about a specific type of compound in the ground, are able to emit a signal which is read by an infrared camera that then triggers the sending of an email to relay this info to humans. In this sense, spinach is acting as a glorified finger pressing a hypothetical "send" button. And so, no, they are not composing emails in any legitimate sense.

That said, the findings are still mind-blowing: Spinach is able to detect a compound and then transmit this information to humans. But the actual "email" part is kind of just a technicality: the way to get that info from point A (spinach) to point B (an inbox). "This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier," Michael Strano – who led the research, which was actually published back in 2016 – told Euronews.

However, as the saying goes, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and if you're looking for some fun tweets and memes, here are a handful to get you started: