Back in the heady (hazy?) days of the early 1970’s, a book was making the rounds on college campuses that suggested plants possessed a sort of sentience. Although this prof’s reaction was perhaps an extreme example, this story serves to illustrate the general attitude within the scientific community against any suggestion that plants possess a nervous system . The notion that plants could feel pain, for example, or move rapidly in response to stimuli was solely within the realm of science fiction. There are, however, some examples of relatively rapid movements in some plants in response to external stimuli, the most famous of which is the Venus fly trap. In this case, as well as in the Venus fly trap, it’s not so much that the plant is moving in response to mechanical stimulation, but that the touch is triggering a sort of spring-loaded mechanism. But how does mechanical stimulation trigger the rapid loss of cell turgor pressure in these plants? Plant cells, like animal cells, generate an electrical membrane potential across their cellular membranes. In plants, this is mainly generated by converting the chemical energy of ATP into electrochemical energy by proton pumps. Some of the energy in this membrane potential is used by cells to accumulate solutes such as sugars and mineral ions such as potassium.
This is how the pulvinus cells in the Venus fly trap and the touch-sensitive plants likely generate their turgor pressure to open the leaves. Published in 1973, The Secret Life of Plants was written by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.
Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy has announced that it will buying two Californian solar power plants for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. It's difficult to believe that Paramount once considered this G-rated, pseudo-science plant-documentary one of their prestige releases of the year, before saner heads prevailed and this lumbering mess was essentially shelved.
Think of an old-fashioned mouse trap – gently touch the triggering mechanism, and the trap snaps shut. That is, when some cells within a thickening at the base of the leaves called a pulvinus have a high turgor pressure, this causes the leaves to open.
It was the basis for the 1979 documentary of the same name, with a soundtrack especially recorded by Stevie Wonder.
Coyle, Author of Beyond Belief: The Ultimate Mindpower Instructional ManualIn 1966 a very strange event occurred. Based on a book by Peter Tompkins (who also liked to write about Egyptian obelisks) and Christopher Bird, this revels in New Agey beliefs (Plants feel pain! This sentience is observed primarily through changes in the plant’s conductivity, as through a polygraph, as pioneered by Cleve Backster.
Cleve Backster, America’s top polygraph (lie detector) expert was working late in his New York office. And the interesting fact is that thousands of people have been able to duplicate this experiment.

The idea was to find the reporters year of birth by naming each of the 7 years between 1925 and 1931. They experience emotions!) that had no connection to scientific facts, and nowadays, is best known for Stevie Wonder's double-disc soundtrack, which reached #4 on Billboard's Rock and R&B Charts. His secretary had installed a Dragon pot plant to brighten the office.Backster noticed that the plant needed water, and on impulse attached the leads of a lie detector to one of the leaves. The lie detector measures skin resistance and Backster knew that it would indicate when water reached the actual leaf. Backster discovered this while he was demonstrating his effect to a group of visiting scientists.
Each year was read out and the plant responded strongly (via the polygraph) when the reporter answered no to the correct date. The first few minutes play out like a precursor to KOYAANISQATSI, with dizzying cloud patterns, crashing waves and rivers of lava mixing with Stevie's experimental score. He poured water over the root system and waited to see how long before this moisture reached the leaves.Nothing happened. The plants simply would not respond on this occasion and it was discovered that one of the scientists in the group roasted plants in an oven to get their dry weight for experiments. The resultant article created so much impact that it eventually appeared in the Readers Digest. Unfortunately, once the droning narration intrudes on this brief but groovy trip, it's all downhill, as we're listlessly lectured about plants' importance, Calcutta's Bose Institute and George Washington Carver, amidst microscopic, time-lapse photography of plants sprouting and flowering.
In San Diego, we visit the makeshift lab of crackpot Cleve Backster and his long-refuted 'galvanic skin response of plants' experiments (or how plants are adversely affected by the death of some nearby Sea-Monkeys). The instructions on one of the slips told its bearer to totally destroy one of two plants placed in the laboratory. George Lawrence, who's spent too many years alone in the desert researching plant "bio-communication" and receiving messages from outer space.
During goofy international segments, a Japanese woman tries to teach her cactus the alphabet by converting a plant's electrical output into sound, Russian 'scientists' prove a cabbage can think after a monitor reacts to a "comrade" cabbage being chopped up, and experts in parapsychology boast of how groundbreaking their work will be someday. The conclusion was that the plant could remember and identify the person who destroyed a sister plant.Backster also noted that a bond appeared to develop between a plant and its owner. Seven years earlier, director Walon Green (who earlier co-scripted THE WILD BUNCH) won an Oscar for his insect-warning documentary THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLE, so why not quadruple the Bullshit Quotient and see if lightning strikes twice?
The final scene has Stevie wandering deserts, forests and fields of sunflowers in a flowing robe, crooning the theme song.
Even the signals from our deep space probes out beyond Mars can take hours to reach us and we haven’t really started serious space probes yet! Backster concluded that this primary perception was outside the usual electromagnetic spectrum.On one occasion Backster cut his finger and as he applied iodine to the wound the polygraph attached to his plant reacted. After months of tests it was concluded that the plants were sensitive to the destruction of living cells and the bacteria in the sink plug-hole.

This lead to lengthy experiments on single cells and simple cell structures including scrapings from a human mouth. When these scrapings were centrifuged and attached via fine gold electrodes to a polygraph it was found that they reacted to the emotions of their human donor – even when he was miles away! That is, human cells react in the same way that plants do!This was quite an astounding finding because it explained for the first time how a persons emotions and thoughts might affect the individual body cells – and hence the functions and health of that body! The Brine were dumped automatically at random intervals so there was no human interference with the process. He decided to attach a store-bought raw egg to his equipment and his chart recorder indicated that it was pulsing with the same rhythms as a chicken embryo, with a frequency between 160 and 170 beats per minute. However the egg was unfertilized and when it was broken open there was absolutely no sign of a circulatory system.
Rupert Sheldrake calls this a morphogenic field.There appears to be a common life-force here which has yet to be identified and explained. We were able to manipulate and use them in the 19th century but didn’t even come close to understanding them until well into the 20th century.
So it has taken around 200 years to get magnetism and electricity up and running properly.It is likely to take a lot less time than this to commercially utilize primary perception because of the scientific protocols and equipment available. It has been suggested that primary perception is a universal communication handshake in the same manner that gravity is a universal force field handshake.The main problem with this primary perception business is that it only appears to work if the intent is genuine. Scientists are having a hard time with it because results are not uniform and sometimes not even capable of being replicated.
All other forces known to science can be reliably measured in any laboratory anywhere, which has the right equipment. Science works on protocols – which can best be described as regulated pre-formatted procedures.
When you approach a plant with this procedural protocol firmly fixed in your mind the plant perceives no serious emotional intent or genuine threat so it does not respond. And if the same test is applied repeatedly to the same plant its response quickly drops off. At one point during Backsters experiments he was noticing that the polygraph would give irregular emotional responses which didn’t seem to tie in with any of the tests being done.
It was finally concluded that the disinfectant in the cistern was destroying cells in the body’s excretions.

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