So I’ve been listening to a lot of radiolab and the one I just heard was about scientists studying the question of whether or not plants have intelligence. Right off the bat they confirm what most already know: plants have no brains. But they do have these parts that could conceivably perform some of the tasks that our brains do. It’s not good to compare their smart parts to our brains because they are designed in such a different manner that there needs to be an entirely new paradigm to explain them.
So the scientists decide to do a test to see if plants can learn and/or have memory. Their test plant is mimosa (I’m not going to make any brunch jokes) pudica (its got many cool nicknames tho: sensitive plant, sleepy plant, action plant, Dormilones, touch-me-not, shameplant, or shy plant.). This plant has been the favorite of botanists over the years, largely due to its peculiar defense mechanism. If the plant senses a nearby predator, like a deer, it folds up all its leaves so that no longer resembles deer food and is harder to consume regardless.
So the researches poke the plant and it closes up. They keep doing over and over until eventually the plant stops closing up. The hypothesis is that the plant has determined that the stimuli is not dangerous so it’s chill now.
Then they start dropping the plant from like 6 feet up (with a little parachute or something) and the plant once again closes up. But, once again, after a certain number of drops, the plant realizes, or learns, or uses memory to learn, that the drop isn’t dangerous. It stops closing.
So someone piped up and said: well, what if it just opened so much that it ran out of energy. Well the experimenters then immediately after it stopped closing due to falls, blew on it. This new stimuli caused the plant to close up.
Monica Gagliano, an expert in the field, conducted a more thorough experiment with a similar hypothesis and stratagem but she discovered that once the plant realized a certain stimuli was not dangerous, it remembered that lesson. She continued testing the plant’s “memory” and 28 days passed and the plant still remembered. And further, she stated that she only stopped recording memory tests because other obligations forced her to stop the experiment which could conceivably mean they can remember for even longer durations.
This blows my fucking mind. There’s still a lot more experiments to be run before this phenomenon is understood but the implications are staggering. Does the ability to learn and remember make a plant sentient? Well that just makes it a computer. But if we’ve only just now discovered at least one plant may be able to learn, what other secrets could these stoic, quiet voyeurs have? Are they planning an attack? They certainly have grounds for grievance.
I would think pine trees would be especially pissed, having been slaughtered for Christian cult celebration.
Does this mean my cactus knows how big a pervert I am? It has a direct view to my computer monitor. It must be scarred.
But seriously, it’s amazing and it actually makes a lot of sense that the hubris of humanity never allowed us to consider the possibility of completely different types of intelligence.
The more we learn about the universe, even our infinitesimal portion, the more it feels like there’s not only the bulk of a giant iceberg under our sea of knowledge, there must be a world of ice bergs.
Get your wet suits.
One extra fun note: Monica Gagliano’s dog is named Picasso and he adorably interrupted the radiolab.org interview.
I tweeted the following at her but I imagine she gets lots of tweets from other fat nerds who heard the interview and/or whatever.
@Monica_Gagliano I’ve just enjoyed your radiolab chat on mimosa pudica. Fascinating! I see you like @michaelpollan! I saw him speak on his psychedelics book in DC recently. Q’s: what is your least favorite and MOST favorite plant? And does Picasso eat your plants? #plant #brain
And now the moment NO ONE has been waiting for…
Introducing mini plant reviews! In the same vein as mini reviews for movies, tv shows, music, and animals! I just love to review things and I’m weird.
The format: must fit within Twitter’s tweet character limit. SW score will be a sum of 5 key plant features (each rated between 1 and 10, 10 Venus fly trap 1 being grass). Also included is more traditional 5 out of 5 octopuses rating.
The features are:
Looks: Do I like its style?
Weird: Anything about it peculiar?
Rare: less left, higher score
Boon: has it helped the undeserving human race?
House: can I keep one in my apartment?
And, drum roll please, introducing the first ever mini plant review!
Mimosa Pudica: looks 7 boon 10 weird 10 rare 1 house 10 SW score: 38. Note: looks like a pink snow ball treat, may have MEMORY & INTELLIGENCE, fools deers, amazing nicknames i.e. shameplant! 5 out of 5 🐙 #Review #plants @Monica_Gagliano do you think it’s brilliant plant, too?
#plants #flora #vegetation #whatoverforks #green #memory #learning #mimosapudica #mimosa #Iwantamimosa #brain #intelligence #humanitysucks #nature #review #science #botany #neuroscience #obsessed #plantbrains #dormilones #sleepyplant #sensitiveplant #ilovescience #sciencerocks #scienceisawesome