In 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown which irradiated thousands of square miles. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is the area around the reactor in a 30 kilometer (18 mile) radius also known as the Zone of Alienation, an area of mandatory resettlement. This disaster spread 200 times more radioactivity than the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
This was an enormous discovery, the radiation levels in the heart of the reactor were so great that scientists never expected to find any life inside of it, much less a group of organisms that were strengthened by it! Until now, melanin's biological role in fungi - if any - had been a mystery. This discovery has great potential and far-reaching implications. In space, ionizing ration is very prevalent, using this discovery, astronauts may be able to grow and rely on fungi like this as a self-replenishing food source for long missions bringing interplanetary travel that much closer.
The melanin in these fungi is chemically identical to that contained in our own skin cells begging the question, does the melanin in our skin harvest energy from background radiation as well? This and many other questions are still being analyzed and may someday change the world we live in.