Do Plants Have Feelings?

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Deadly Straw."
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: In the 1960s, Cleve Backster, founder of the FBI's polygraph unit, took a detour from crime fighting to develop his pet theory of primary perception. Using polygraph (lie detector) tests, Backster concluded that everything — and we mean everything in the universe is interconnected and capable of producing emotional responses.

For instance, according to Backster's far-out research, a polygraph machine hooked up to a plant leaf can detect the vegetation's inner energy.

MythBusters Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci replicated a series of Backster's polygraph experiments with dracaena plants (the same kind Backster tested), yogurt, saliva and eggs to find out whether the inanimate objects really can empathize with the stuff around them. After a series of tests — and after all possible human and environmental stimuli were removed that could sway the trial outcomes — the myth's prognosis came down to whether a plant would react to "seeing" eggs being catapulted into boiling water.

Because all living organisms emit a slight electric pulse, the MythBusters connected the plant to a pulse-reading EEG machine, which is more sensitive than Backster's vintage polygraph. Then Grant set the timer on a machine in the plant's sight line that would catapult the eggs into boiling water at random intervals and left the room.

Although the eggs faced a fate worse than Humpty Dumpty's, the plant showed no regard whatsoever. The EEG results revealed no spikes in dracaena electrical activity, leaving the myth — and a whole lot of eggs — totally cracked.

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