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Plants Can Hear Animals Using Their Flowers (theatlantic.com)
34 points by jelliclesfarm 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

Is intriguing, but can be also just a mechanical efect of the vibration.

Is that not what hearing is?

The concept of plants (or fungi) "sensing" or "thinking" is contaminated by new-age quacks. When someone says "plants can hear", what they mean (other than that they're not interested in sticking to common meanings of words) is that plants exhibit some kind of intelligence or thought based on sounds. That's where the analogy breaks down. A higher animal with a central nervous system can learn in interesting ways, depending on the complexity and structure of their brains. A CNS in a primitive animal is probably not much more than a biological-analogue of a DNN stuck in between nerve inputs and outputs, the sorts of thing you could (and people are) training DNNs running on graphics cards to do.

Anything without a CNS, like plants, are a clear step down in capabilities. That doesn't mean they have no capabilities. It doesn't mean that they don't have capabilities that we aren't aware of yet. It only means that their processing of environmental signals is going to be less capable than a lot of insects', and certainly reptiles' and birds'. If someone has set their expectations artificially low, however, then the news that plants can do anything other than sit in place and grow could be amazing and newsworthy.

It shouldn't be surprising though. Even single-celled organisms are amazingly complex biological machines, that we only understand isolated parts of. I mean, it took us until this decade to identify and really start to understand CRISPR. If single-celled organisms have mysteries like that (and many more no doubt left to discover), why is anyone surprised if plants have interesting things about them that we haven't discovered yet? That doesn't make them intelligent, and doesn't mean they can sense in colloquial way that animals can (and react quickly to, and learn from, what they sense).

Transcription factors (genes whose products modulate the activity of other genes) in the nucleus of each cell form regulation networks that are isomorphic to neural nets (with targeted activation/inhibition).

Some unicellular life form even have an eye-like organelle, with substructures analogous to our lenses, corneas, irises, and retinas.


There's also evidence for a distributed decision process to open and close the stomata on the surface of plant leafs in an optimal way.


So an absence of nervous system doesn't necessarily entails a lack of complex information processing.

Whether that information processing underlies some kind of conscious experience, and assuming it does, whether such experience is anything like ours is an open question.

Once you reject solipsism, it is hard to put a logical limit to what can or can't be conscious.

It sounds like plants hear as much as infants:

They receive a vibrational stimulus and respond to it.

I think it’s you who is projecting too much into then topic, saying that we must accept your entire conception of intelligence hierarchies or else we’re abusing the word “hear”.


My Echo hears me. Plants hear flower usage. Etc.

If you define "hear" as "reacts to sound waves", then the Earth hears. Certain sound waves could cause tectonic shifts. How is that an interesting way to define the word?

Can you explain how the Earth reacts to sound waves?

In the sense that babies, plants, and my Echo do, by engaging in a prolonged process in response, after the wave itself has dissipated.

We’re not talking about pollen being blown off, we’re talking about a biological process that’s activated in response.


For example, the trees are alive in the wind.

I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that the Earth hears and responds to sound vibrations. Definitionally, this seems a very appropriate way to describe life.

Not, there is a much simpler explanation that is not biological and they are missing it.

If you apply a vibration to a thin object, you could make it vibrate in sync, and eventually break. Because sound is a form of energy and energy can break a glass (Not because the object is thinking "I will give this piece of me to that guy"). Nectaries lie often at the base of the petals. Damaging, folding or breaking the petal peduncle would be enough to release the content of the cells. Cell walls broken means more sugars inside that now are outside. Is simple.

Hearing requires those mechanical vibrations. I'd argue that hearing requires subjectivity because we never attribute to non-sentient entities the ability to hear. So the difference between the mechanical vibration phenomena and the experience of act of hearing is subjective experience.

This is very interesting! I had no idea plants could communicate through vibrations and send airborne, chemical signals to warn relatives of danger.

This stinks of anthropomorphic wishing


That is literally the first sentence on the page.

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