greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

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how to prove that plants have consciousness?

I think plants have emotions and thoughts, rudimentary but there. How to prove it?

I tried putting my ear against some trees to see if I heard anything.

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    Jul 21 2013: There's no proof needed only a definition of consciousness that excludes the image of "I", me or self because any organism is conscious if it can sense and respond, communicate and interact with living - and non living nature.
    Under natural circumstances plants can react and change behavior according to information they send each other above as well as below ground. They operate intelligent with existing plant, fungus or animal species.
    In fact everything is conscious for being is conscious but to have consciousness is to hold to the self created image of self.
    • Jul 22 2013: " ...definition of consciousness that excludes the image of "I", me or self ..."

      You provide me with a missing link in not existing definition of consciousness :)
      Consciousness is a kind of resonant relationship of everything to everything else, that excludes the image of "I", me or self ..."

      ".... everything is conscious for being is conscious ...."

      Thanks, Frans !!!
      You've made my day ! :)
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      Jul 21 2013: and can you say more about what these rudimentary thoughts and emotions are like, what goes through a plant's "head" when someone touches it? Does a plant have anything like a brain, a center where it has its "thoughts"? It does seem like plants have some pretty significant similarities to us, for example aren't there male and female plants?
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          Jul 21 2013: here is a question that has been arising, John. All my life I have heard that humans have some sort of breathing relationship with plants. I think it's something like plants respire, or breath, and exhale oxygen that we can breathe, my point being that plants do respire, so why can't we see them expanding and contracting the way our chest expands and contracts as we breathe?
          What is your basis for knowledge of plants, your comments are very useful.
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          Jul 22 2013: how exactly do we know that plants have electrical and chemical activity, John?
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          Jul 22 2013: well, then, how do we know cells operate through electrical and chemical signals? Do we watch it through a microscope, or...? Do we have to penetrate into the creature to watch it, or can we see electrical and chemical cell activity on the surface?

          In the meantime, I had read about the respiration, they seem to respire without overtly sucking in and exhaling?
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          Jul 22 2013: then my question is could we simply touch the plant with our fingers and sense the electrical activity, what is special about a meter?
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    Jul 20 2013: Plants have no organs with which to process conscious thought. They are able to sustain their lives without it. Lack of conscious thought is one of the primary differences between plants and animals.
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      Jul 20 2013: Yeah, I wonder, Lawren, could we open up the definition of what constitutes a "thought," so that it could cover the physiological capacities of plants. I sure think they're having something like thoughts.
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        Jul 21 2013: I believe you've misread my reply. Of course plants have organs, but they don't have brains.
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          Jul 21 2013: can we open up the definition of what constitutes a "brain," perhaps something in them slightly or significantly substitutes for a brain?
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    Jul 19 2013: "I tried putting my ear against some trees to see if I heard anything."

    I try.... I really really try to keep an open mind on TED and remain non-critical of other ideas, but it's hard sometimes. There have been a fair number of conversations lately that go well beyond silliness.
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      Jul 20 2013: Well, Lawren, I'm just trying to think of low-tech ways to get a deeper experience of plants, I have heard of researchers hooking up machines to them but I don't want to go that far. But who knows, even though trees appear silent, if you put your ear to them, you got as close as possible, they might make an audible sound? I think I have learned about other things by putting my ear right up to them, I was trying to understand how my electric fan worked, and I got more understanding by putting my ear right up to the back motor casing than when I was just listening to it from a couple of feet away.

      I agree it sounds a little silly, but then again these days we are told to think out of the box, from another perspective it's creative.
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    Jul 24 2013: "I tried putting my ear against some trees to see if I heard anything?" Greg, why don't you try kissing them until you get slapped with a branch to the face?

    I had an apple today. And while I was eating it I thought about how we have 23,000 genes and an apple has 57,000. Rice has 35,000. My point is that plants are incredibly more complicated than we give them credit for, possibly in ways that we simply aren't prepared to consider. I think if somebody tries to imagine a plant having thoughts and feelings they will tend to reject the idea whether or not it should be rejected. I would recommend trying to work the mind open, stretch it out a bit, so that it is flexible and spacious enough to consider the possibility.

    But, hey, humans, plants, rocks, conscious or not, they all have Buddha nature!
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    Jul 22 2013: I think Greg and everyone can benefit by reading this interview.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-plants-think-daniel-chamovitz
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      Jul 24 2013: I read that book. Very anti-climatic. I'm not ashamed to admit I was hoping for another 'The Secret Life of Plants' kind of mind-blower, but Chamovitz took them to task at the beginning of the book. Still, interesting read.
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    Jul 22 2013: Plants exhibit a level of environmental awareness that is similar to about half of the animals classified. They don't have emotions or thoughts, but then again neither do most animals. Much of the "thought" we see in animals is just us anthropomorphising a simple reaction to stimulus. Keeping in mind that most animals are protists and worms. Normally when this discussion occurs sveryone talks about dogs and cats but if you really look at the "intelligence" of an average animal a worm is closer to the mark.
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      Jul 22 2013: I don't know, peter. Check out John S. below, scientists still haven't determined what thoughts and emotions are except to define them as electrical and chemical reactions to a stimuli so in a rudimentary way all living organisms have chemical and electrical activity that could be defined as thoughts and emotions.

      I sometimes think we never originate a thought, that all our thoughts are reactions to stimuli, what do you think?
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        Jul 22 2013: You can carry out a test. Place a creeper plant (one that needs a support to lift itself up) in front a wall with many holes. Next, strike a nail on the other side of the wall beside any hole, chosen randomly. 9 out of 10 times the plant will move towards the hole that has the nail on the wall or at least a hole that has the nail close by. The plant cannot see, hear, smell or has any intelligence but it does it every time.
        Don't believe me. Try the experiment.
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          Jul 22 2013: Pabitra, good point!
          I notice this all the time in the gardens! The pole beans for example, will grow toward the trellis/support, even though it might be in the opposite direction of the sun. This is interesting, because plants usually tend to grow TOWARD the sun. Did you know that sun flowers move to face the sun as it moves through the day?
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          Jul 22 2013: As we speak I have a choko vine growing on an old Hill's hoist in my back yard. There is some sort of vine growing on the fence behind it which I thougt would need to be trimmed to keep it out of the choko vine. Every time a shoot from the fence vine starts to encroach on the choko vine there is a flush of growth and the tendrils of the choko vine wrap around the invader until it withers. I would love to see it filmmed with a stop motion camera to speed up the action. I'm sure if you speed up the action the choko would look quite violent in the way it protects its territory.
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        Jul 22 2013: I fully agree, there is no convenient line between a simple response to stimuli and a reasoned thought. It is paralleled in computers. They only make the simplest of choices based on a set of programed parameters but if you get them to make millions of choices very quickly they seem to "know" what they're doing. Lots of very simple decisions look like one complex decision.
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      Jul 23 2013: Peter, Greg, Pabitra,
      In talking about reaction to stimulus, chemical and electrical activity, response to stimuli, etc., it feels like we are discussing instinct, rather than, or in addition to consciousness?

      Peter, you write..."Lots of very simple decisions look like one complex decision". I agree!

      In my perception, lots of very simple explanations in these discussions sometimes seem to become very complex as well. I perceive nature as flowing synchronisticaly ....instinctively.....intuitively. As humans, we are thought to have more sophisticated body/mind systems, that can think and feel on a higher level. Perhaps because we are more complex, we tend to complicate things.....just because we can?
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        Jul 23 2013: yes, I used the word consciousness because I thought if plants do have thoughts and emotions they might look and feel a lot different than our thoughts and emotions, so the word consciousness seemed to cover different forms and shapes of thought and emotion. I like the idea that two things could be thoughts but really have a different form and shape to the two different creatures thinking. For example, if intelligent creatures ever appear here from other planets, perhaps their thoughts will come in quite a different form than ours.

        yes, that reaction to stimuli thing is complex for me, too, I would think a living physical body could respond to stimuli without any thought or emotion, just a pure sensual response. And yet it's hard to think there's any life form that wouldn't have some thought and emotion about, for instance, pain. Hard to believe you could start chopping down a tree...well, does a tree feel pain if you start to chop it down? Another good question, I think.
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          Jul 30 2013: Greg,
          I also believe in the idea that two or more things could be thoughts and have a different form. In my perception, there is energy moving through everything, and that energy is a carrier for consciousness, thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc.

          I believe we, as humans, react to stimuli, and that may come from our subconscious, instinct, intuition, etc. I observe plants responding to stimuli all the time. During the month of June, when we had a LOT of rain and very little sun, the vegitable plants looked horrible....sad.....yellowing and not growing at all. As soon as we got even one day of sun, they perked up and seemed ready to grow. Now that we have had several good days of sun, they are starting to produce. Because of the weather conditions, the plants are responding and reacting in a certain way.

          Even people in this area were reacting/responding to lack of sun, whether they were conscious of it or not. Some people believe that plants DO feel pain, and I have seen directions for how to divide a plant (chop it in half) with less pain....I'll see if I can find any information about that.
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      Jul 21 2013: yes, thanks, Pabitra, I just watched "the Secret Life of Plants" for the first time this morning, I enjoyed it. What thoughts did it bring up in you?

      Hey, have you heard that plants breathe, they take in air and put out oxygen we can breathe? But if they breathe, shouldn't we see them expanding and contracting like our chests do when we breathe?
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        Jul 22 2013: That plants are a biologically higher life form compared to animals. They were on earth much prior to us and if we do not succeed in accomplishing complete destruction of our planet, possibly they will be here after us as well.

        I don't think you can hear or see the plants breathing by expanding their chests simply because the absorption of oxygen in plants do not involve a pumping process. Their process is called diffusion that works in the molecular level.
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          Jul 22 2013: what does that mean, "biologically higher"?
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        Jul 22 2013: More suited for the environment.
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        Jul 22 2013: More suited for the proliferation of carbon based life. Plants fundamentally changed the terrestrial environment, partly created its atmosphere and set in motion gaseous cycles. Plants play a vital part in sustaining the water cycles too. Terrestrial temperature is also controlled by plants. They are more suited biologically sustaining the habitability of earth for host of other species.
        What sets them far ahead of any other species on earth is their metabolism which uses elements as inputs. And mostly, plants are benign - in a sense that they are keepers of ecology not exploiters.
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          Jul 27 2013: you're saying plants have a greater ability to survive, like the cockroach is supposed to have a great ability to survive?
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        Jul 28 2013: Yes Greg. May be even more.
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    Jul 20 2013: I don't know if this helps .... while in government service I had some "appointed" bosses (big contributors) that could have qualified as plant life. I saw little sign of consciousness ... They were uninformed boss bullies and all who worked there were beneath them. I am sure they were into gardening as they fed us manure and kept us in the dark.

    Plants may or may not have a consciousness ... but I assure you they thrive in government.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jul 21 2013: Thanks, Bob. Well, I tend to think that people who reach boss status are more sophisticated. Maybe they knew how to do a lot without much visible effort, which may be a point in favor of being plant-like.

      But it could be a good point, maybe we humans think we're terribly different from plants, we're all moving around and stuff, but underneath all that movement we're calm and meditative like plants?
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      Jul 20 2013: Yes, I'll have to think about that, we do feel happy when we water a tree, but I would say it's more selfish, we know that we will then go on getting oxygen and shade and beauty from the tree. But maybe we do empathize with the tree, we think that the tree is happy as it gets nourishment.

      I would say Deepak that understanding internal and external nature aren't completely separate, as we get more understanding of one we get more of the other.
  • Jul 20 2013: Do you have a logical reason for believing that plants have emotions and thoughts? What are your views on pruning? If you are correct vegans and vegetarians will have to resort to eating only minerals.
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      Jul 20 2013: Good question. Probably by the sheer fact of being alive one gets some thoughts and emotions in my mind, even the one-celled creatures, but I can't really think how to prove this either, does it work for you, can you justify it or argue against it? If you put your finger near a one-celled creature (with locomotion), would it retreat from your finger, that shows some thought and the emotion of fear, doesn't it. If a one-celled creature has those thoughts and emotions, shouldn't a many-celled creature like a plant?

      Well, the vegetarians and vegans might still stick with the plants because they have a lower level of consciousness, they'd consider it more cruel to take food from an animal. Personally I prefer the taste of things like milk and meat, so I grant human beings the right to eat the best-tasting stuff.
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      Jul 20 2013: Right, Kate, I find it's nice to be interactive with live people as one can be on TED conversations. Do you know how they proved it? Or how the researchers do it?

      Now I'm thinking one could not only listen to the plant, but touch it, one might get impressions through one's sense of touch. Actually, one could touch one's tongue to it and see what one gets (gee, my dirty mind is thinking about having sex with a tree!) I'm looking for direct, primary ways to do this, not hooking it up to a machine.
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          Jul 20 2013: Well, it just feels nicer to think that living people sat down today and wrote to me, and they'll read what I write back tonight, if I read a piece of writing on the net it could have been written months or years ago, I'm sorry it just doesn't feel the same. Do we do TED conversations to learn, but also to feel connected to other people?

          Plus I do have something of an "anti-expert" mentality, I got this by participating in punk rock, I tend to think that non-experts know more about a field than they think they do, or can reason it out.

          Who was Eileen Caddy? How did she communicate with them? Do you think you can communicate with them using her techniques?

          Or, let's say you don't know her techniques. Can you think of any techniques you would use to communicate with them, can you invent them right here & now for me?
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          Jul 21 2013: Well, interspecies communication seems pretty interesting as it leads to new perspectives, I think. I seem to have this compulsion to look for the new, fresh thought, you?

          Inspired by you, I believe I may watch the film "The Secret Life of Plants," or you can too Kate. This is about this subject topic and features a Stevie Wonder soundtrack, always glad when I can learn with a little good pop music thrown in.

          By the way, when did she tell you I wasn't her type? Man, I can't get lucky for nothing!
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          Jul 21 2013: Well, I did watch "The Secret Life of Plants," about an hour and a half, I actually think you would enjoy it, Kate, it's a little different.

          One thing it's got me wondering is why we can't see plants breathing, we're told that they take some element from the air that we can't breathe, and then put out oxygen, which we can breathe. But shouldn't we see them expanding and contracting if that's true, do you have any knowledge on that?

          Yeah I would think every conversation on TED could be googled, really. Not to gang up on you, it's just an example that comes to mind, but didn't you start a conversation asking for tips on how to make a move easier? But basically you could have just googled that, "moving tips" or something, and gotten a thousand tips?

          It just seems to be thrilling to talk to another human being.
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          Jul 21 2013: How do plants breath:>)
          http://saburchill.com/chapters/chap0025.html
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          Jul 22 2013: Well, the film does point out that the land world is 75% covered with vegetation, that makes it rather important, what do you think?

          Well, technically you could google "people's moving experiences" and get a lot that way. It still seems there's something great about conversing with living people in the now.

          Yes, I would have loved to chat with you on the desert topic, Kate, but it seemed like your only comment there had already gone down to level three and there was no way to hit "reply," or am I wrong on this? But I really appreciated you even pointing out that Australia has deserts, there are famous deserts like the Sahara but I don't even think right off the bat of Australia as having desert. Are there deserts in America that are famous to you there in Oz?
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      Jul 20 2013: Kate and Greg,
      There certainly has been ongoing research on the topic. I think it has been proven that plants have energy running through them, and there is speculation that it is the same kind of energy that moves through humans. I also believe that plants respond to us and our energy....I feel that...or at least I think that:>) LOL!

      Having been a gardener for a very long time, I've noticed lots of things happening in the gardens. One thing that surprised me years ago, is the fact that weeds, will often grow next to perennial plants that look much the same as the weed. There have been times when I don't have a certain weed in any other part of the garden EXCEPT right next to a perennial it looks like. Before I noticed this, the weeds would get a HUGE start before I noticed them. How did they get there? Did the weeds "know" they were planting themselves next to an almost identical, protected perennial?

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-plants-think-daniel-chamovitz
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          Jul 20 2013: Dear Kate and Greg,
          I have speakers in the gardens, and usually play classical, soft, instrumental music for me AND the plants AND the birds, bees, dragonflies, frogs, bats, AND all the other critters who wander through the gardens:>)
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        Jul 21 2013: Something like identity theft, eh?

        Colleen, do you know anything about the sexes of plants, there are males and females correct? Can you differentiate between them on a plant, how do you do it?
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          Jul 21 2013: Yes Greg, it is something like identity theft! LOL:>)

          I became aware of this phenomenon years ago in a bed of liatris....a lovely perennial, which looks like a type of grass early in the spring when it is just starting to grow for the season. It looked like the liatris had spread a LOT, and I was grateful. When it got a certain height, I realized that a lot of what I thought was the liatris, was really a look alike grass.

          By that time, the grass was taking over, and it was very hard to get it out of the ground. Eventually, it took over the whole bed, the liatris got choked out, and although I planted other things in that spot, it is still very difficult to get that grass out.


          The reproduction process for plants is very interesting, and I cannot explain it very well, so here is a reference:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_reproductive_morphology
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        Jul 21 2013: Well, it certainly seems to validate my feeling they have consciousness. Now you need a plant species policeman to come along and arrest the identity thief.

        Do you know any more palatable way to get that plant sexuality info, Colleen, just at this moment the wiki is seeming a little dry and dense.
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          Jul 21 2013: LOL! I am the "species policeman" in the space I occupy, and the "identity thief" usually goes into the compost, where it continues to grow!!!

          Sorry Greg, I do not know a more palatable way to get the plant sexuality info, except other on-line sites.

          I feel the interconnectedness of EVERYTHING, and I'm not trying to prove anything by introducing these links....simply offering some information that is available:>)

          Here's an interesting site I just discovered, about the energy connections of water and plants... interesting experiments and information:>)

          http://truththeory.com/2013/03/19/the-consciousness-of-water-and-plants/
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        Jul 21 2013: regarding LOL, well if you are the policewoman, and we know you are smarter than the weed and plant, can we take a lesson from this about the larger world, that the police have to be smarter than both the criminal and the plant?
        The water thing is very interesting. Water is beautiful but I can't quite see it as being alive, can you? But does it seem more alive than a rock, for instance, or do rocks and water seem equally alive?
        I'm going to see if I can find a video on whether there are male and female plants, sometimes watching a video is easier than reading about it.
        I've been asking others, Colleen, have you heard like me that plants breathe, that they take in air and somehow process it to produce oxygen that we can breathe? But if they are breathing, wouldn't you see them expanding and contracting, like our chests do when we breathe?
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          Jul 22 2013: Dear Greg,
          I never said I was smarter than plants.....sometimes I wonder! You make a good point regarding a lesson about the larger world. I believe we need to understand the plants and how they function, just like we make an effort to understand criminals and how they function.

          Yes, I can perceive water as being alive. As a scuba diver, I've felt the energy of the water and everything that lives in the water. I also had the opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea, and felt an energy there as well, although a different kind of energy.

          The breathing process for plants is a little different than human breathing. Did you check out the link I provided when you first asked this question before?

          http://saburchill.com/chapters/chap0025.html

          You've said you prefer to interact with people rather than looking at links, and I understand that, and am willing to share my own experiences and preferences. However, when it comes to explaining something scientific, I prefer to leave it to the experts:>)
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          Jul 22 2013: I'm glad you understand the work/play of a "Gardener cop" Kate:>)

          We are indeed interconnected, and I appreciate your contributions to the whole as well:>)
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        Jul 23 2013: Interesting about the water. Part of me thinks life is all or nothing, you're either alive or you're not, but then I have to ask how life first appeared, it seems something must have suddenly gone from being dead to being alive, thus we see the roots of life in the dead thing. It's a question I haven't solved in my own mind, but it sounds like you have, that's a joyful notion that water is alive, perhaps I'll come around to that point of view.

        I apologize, Colleen, I hadn't checked it out the first time. In the meantime I had found some material on the subject, but just read your link, quite helpful. The material I read made the point that the plant doesn't need to suck in the air, it seems like the air just kind of oozes in and out of it, it made me think of swamis in India who can subsist on very small amounts of air.
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          Jul 25 2013: Hi Greg,
          Every time I watch and ponder the ocean or lake from above or while diving......when I watch a river flowing, etc., it feels VERY alive to me:>)

          It's ok Greg, that you didn't check out that link. There are LOTS of links posted on TED, and sometimes, we cannot get to all of them. It seems to me that air flows, in different ways. In the human body, it flows in and out of the mouth and lungs, and with plants, it flows in a different way.....what do you think about that image?
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        Jul 25 2013: well, when I wash my hands or take a shower, I cannot say the water feels alive to me, beautiful but not alive. But if I imagine it pictured from above, it does seem more alive, I wonder why?

        Well, air doesn't exactly flow into us, we deliberately suck it in, no?
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          Jul 30 2013: Could it be our individual perception Greg?

          I believe water and air flow naturally. Humans have learned to "direct" the flow of water in some respects, with various water system forms.

          The human body sucks air in.....yes. In my perception, air is flowing around us everywhere, and again, we direct the flow by sucking it into the body. When the body dies, it no longer needs air, but the air is still flowing everywhere around the body....is it not?
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        Aug 1 2013: well, air and water flow easily, Colleen, but for individual animals to get the amount of air they need, I believe they need to deliberately suck it in.

        Here is an interesting TED talk on plants, some minutes in he starts talking about how certain parts of the root show more activity than other parts of the plant. Have you ever sensed that working with plants, that some part of the plant had more energy than other parts? http://www.ted.com/talks/stefano_mancuso_the_roots_of_plant_intelligence.htmlI believe Mancuso has at least one more interesting talk on plants, I haven't watched it yet but the title didn't intrigue me quite as much as the one I'm sharing with you.

        Don't know much about plant roots, they're mysterious and rather beautiful-seeming since we don't see them often. Do you have any interesting perceptions of or experiences with roots?
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    Jul 20 2013: If they did would you eat them?
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      Jul 20 2013: Yes, in theory anyway, because one wants to go on living and has to eat something. Actually, for the last five years I've been living on skim milk, every day I drink between one and two gallons of skim milk, and hardly eat or drink anything else. I have some health problems and find I do better on this diet. But I have nothing against eating plants even if they have consciousness. What about you, what is your diet, do you believe plants have consciousness, do you eat them anyway?
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        Jul 21 2013: My diet consists of fruit mainly. I have my own smoothie recipe. I do eat other things about 4-5 times a week which does consist of other plants and animals. Always frozen smoothie though. Everything in moderation. How do you get other vitamins and minerals that is needed by only drinking skim milk?

        I do not believe plants have a consciousness. Do you believe your living skin cells have a consciousness just for something to relate to?
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          Jul 21 2013: Well, the all-skim milk diet does provide most of the vitamins and minerals you need, Vince. When I researched it, I found that out of twenty recommended nutrients, all skim was adequate on thirteen, fell a little short on 4, and totally lacked 3. But I have to do some more research, I'm learning now that the nutrition community considers some recommended nutrients not as essential as others.

          During the five years I've been living on milk, I decided for two weeks I would try a more typical diet of the sort recommended by the nutrition establishment. At that time the gold standard was the USDA food pyramid, where the tip of the pyramid was some class of food you should only get one serving a day of, the next level of the pyramid was a couple of classes of food you should get two or threes servings a day of, and so on. It was a typical diet that recommended fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meat. Vince, I felt lousy, my eyes hurt and I was taking a lot of naps. And there was no evidence that it was going to get better. Then I returned to all milk, and I felt good again. I theorize this is because milk is very easy for my body to process because it's already broken up for me. Also skim milk is great for weight loss because it fills you up with water at zero calories, yet tastes good because of the "milk solids."

          I would think my skin cells have a minimum consciousness, but I suppose I put consciousness mostly in the blood and brain. I would think plants have something like blood, some kind of life-fluid, could that be sap? Might they have a brain, some center of slightly increased activity, I don't know, have you heard anything about this? Technically I should do "hard research" on it, read stuff on the internet and perhaps ask plant experts, but it's just so fun to have these TED conversations and see what people know or think.