Apparently, it's not all downsides to the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor; the intergalactic future of plant life may already exist on Earth, thanks to the effects of radioactive fallout from the 1986 disaster.
New Scientist reports that scientists from the Slovak Academy of Sciences investigating the vegetation around the nuclear plant have noticed interesting mutations:
Compared to the plants grown in normal soil, the Chernobyl soya produced significantly different amounts of several dozen proteins, the team found. Among those are proteins that contribute to the production of seeds, as well as proteins involved in defending cells from heavy metal and radiation damage. "One protein is known to actually protect human blood from radiation," [team member Martin] Hajduch says.
The mutated plants are now being studied to see the effects of radiation and potentially attempt to create radiation-proof plants necessary for space travel, according to Hajduch, but even he seems disappointing with the lack of Simpson-esque irradiated mutants; the article quotes him lamenting that "[t]here are no dogs with two heads."
Chernobyl fallout could drive evolution of 'space plants' [New Scientist]