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 Early researchThe notion that plants are capable of feeling emotions was first recorded in 1848, when Dr. Gustav Theodor Fechner, a German experimental psychologist, suggested that plants are capable of emotions and that one could promote healthy growth with talk, attention, and affection.
Indian scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose began to conduct experiments on plants in the year 1900. He found that every plant and every part of a plant appeared to have a sensitive nervous system and responded to shock by a spasm just as an animal muscle does. In addition Bose found that plants grew more quickly amidst pleasant music and more slowly amidst loud noise or harsh sounds. He also claimed that plants can "feel pain, understand affection etc.," from the analysis of the nature of variation of the cell membrane potential of plants under different circumstances. According to him, a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture.
One visitor to his laboratory, the vegetarian playwright George Bernard Shaw, was intensely disturbed upon witnessing a demonstration in which a cabbage had "convulsions" as it boiled to death. Bose found that the effect of manures, drugs, and poisons could be determined within minutes, providing plant control with a new precision. He repeated his tests on metals, administering poisons to tin, zinc, and platinum, and obtained astonishing responses which, when plotted on a graph, appeared precisely like those of poisoned animals. In conclusion he said: "Do not these records tell us of some property of matter common and persistent? That there is no abrupt break, but a uniform and continuous march of law?"
 Cleve BacksterInfluenced by Bose's experiments in the 1960s, Cleve Backster, an Interrogation Specialist with the CIA, conducted research that led him to believe that plants can communicate with other lifeforms. Backster's interest in the subject began in February 1966 when he tried to measure the rate at which water rises from a philodendron's root into its leaves. Because a polygraph or 'lie detector' can measure electrical resistance, which would alter when the plant was watered, he attached a polygraph to one of the plant's leaves. Backster stated that, to his immense surprise, "the tracing began to show a pattern typical of the response you get when you subject a human to emotional stimulation of short duration".
In 1975 K.A. Horowitz, D.C. Lewis and E.L. Gasteiger published an article in Science giving their results when repeating one of Backster's effects - plant response to the killing of brine shrimp in boiling water. The researchers grounded the plants to reduce electrical interference and rinsed them to remove dust particles. As a control three of five pipettes contained brine shrimp while the remaining two only had water: the pipettes were delivered to the boiling water at random. This investigation used a total of 60 brine shrimp deliveries to boiling water while Backster's had used 13. Positive correlations did not occur at a rate great enough to be considered statistically significant. Backster criticized them for misunderstanding certain fundamentals of what he termed "primary perception", such as that the time spent rinsing the plants might have affected their relationship to the experimenters.
 Puthoff and FontesIn November 1975 a report called "Organic Biofield Sensor" reviewed research by Dr. Harold E. Puthoff and Randall Fontes at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California investigating possibility that plants may respond to human consciousness as contended by Cleve Backster.
 Recent researchRecent research has shown that plants can respond to electrical impulses, but their lack of a central nervous system and nociceptive A delta fibers implies that plants have no feeling of pain.[ISBN missing]
 MythbustersThe television show MythBusters performed an experiment to verify or disprove the concept. The tests were done by connecting plants to a polygraph galvanometer and employing actual and imagined harm upon the plants or upon others in the plant's vicinity. The galvanometer showed some kind of reaction about one third of the time. The experimenters, who were in the room with the plant, posited that the vibrations of their actions or the room itself could have affected the polygraph. After isolating the plant the polygraph showed a response slightly less than one third of the time. Later experiments with an EEG failed to detect anything. When the presenters dropped eggs randomly into boiling water the plant had no reaction whatsoever. The show concluded that the theory was not true.
 Cultural references
- Will Eisner wrote a graphic novel entitled Life on Another Planet that uses Backster's ideas as one of the main plot devices. A long description of Backster's life and thoughts appear in the comic as a letter read by one of the characters. The letter is included in the comic as a full page of text.
- English author Roald Dahl wrote a short story entitled The Sound Machine dealing with the theory, in which the protagonist develops a machine that enables him to hear the sound of plants, especially when they are under pain. With the machine he hears the scream of roses being cut, and the moan of a tree when he strikes it with an axe.
- Stevie Wonder sang of Bose's findings in the song "Same Old Story" on the Secret Life of Plants soundtrack album for the movie of the same name. The lyrics are as follows: "for most felt it was mad to conceive/that plants thought, felt, and moved quite like we/but with instruments Bose would devise/would take science itself by surprise." The song also includes references to George Washington Carver and his advocacy of crop rotation.
 See also
- "plant emotions". Bio.net. http://www.bio.net/bionet/mm/plantbio/1999-November/022303.html. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- "plant perception (a.k.a. the Backster effect) - The Skeptic's Dictionary". Skepdic.com. http://skepdic.com/plants.html. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- Michael Heidelberger Nature from within: Gustav Theodor Fechner and his psychophysical worldview 2004, p. 54
- Sir Patrick Geddes (1920), The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose, Longmans, Green, p. 146, http://books.google.com/books?id=EPtCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA146&q=%22bernard%20shaw%20being%20a%20vegetarian%22#v=twopage 
- Sir Patrick Geddes (1920), The life and work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose, Longmans, Green, p. 97, http://books.google.com/books?id=EPtCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA97&q=%22continuous%22#v=twopage 
- Cleve Backster Primary perception: biocommunication with plants, living foods, and human cells White Rose Millennium Press, 2003 ISBN 0966435435
- "Organic Biofield Sensor" by H. E. Puthoff and Randall Fontes
- Fein, Alan (2012). Nociceptors and the Perception of Pain. University of Connecticut: Health Center.
- "Episode 61: Deadly Straw, Primary Perception". Annotated Mythbusters. September 6, 2006. http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2006/09/episode_61_deadly_straw_primar.html.
- Life on Another Planet, http://willeisner.com/books/life_planet.html
- The Reader's Digest, Wonders of the Natural World, The Reader's Digest Association Ltd., 1975
- Stone, Robert The Secret Life of Your Cells, Whitford Press, 1994
- Jensen, D., The Plants Respond: An Interview with Cleve Backster, 2006, , Accessed 30 Nov 2006
- Horowitz, K.A., Lewis, D.C, and Gasteiger, E.L. Plant 'Primary Perception': Electrophysiological Unresponsiveness to Brine Shrimp Killing, Science, New Series, Vol. 189, No. 4201 (Aug 8, 1975), pp. 478–480
- Carey, S.S. A Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method - Third Edition, Thomson-Wadsworth, 2004
- Carroll, R.T. Plant Perception (a.k.a. The Backster Effect), 2005, , Accessed 30 Nov 2006
- Tortora, Gerard J. Principles of Human Anatomy - Tenth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.