Fun with pseudo-science

Today someone recommended I see the 1979 film The Secret Life of Plants (loosely based on a 1973 book which I have not read). I had never seen the film, so I watched it on-line.

Afterward I emailed my recommender and told her that I had found it to be very trippy and visually lovely. The time-lapse visuals of plants growing were absolutely stunning.

Yet it was also filled with extremely provocative claims. It must have been very different watching this in 1979, when you couldn’t simply pause the movie and do your own research on-line. But now you can.

For example, I checked up on the movie’s claim that Cleve Backster’s polygraph experiments had shown that plants can read human minds. It turns out that many have attemped to replicate his work down through the decades, yet nobody has ever succeeded.

I also checked up on the movie’s claim that the rituals of the Dogon tribe in Central West Africa celebrate the small companion star of Sirius, even though they possess no telescopes with which to observe it.

It turns out that there have been numerous encounters between the Dogon people and Europeans since the late 1800s. During any of those encounters the Dogon could have learned about this star. But of course it’s more fun not to think about that.

If you had watched this film in 1979, you wouldn’t have had any convenient way of checking up on any of its claims, so you could easily have been caught up in its compelling tale of mystical pseudo-science. Especially if you really wanted to believe that it was all true.

Since the film had gotten me into a mystical mood, I found myself pondering the amazing difference in time-scale between human movement and plant movement. For example, I learned on-line today that good time-lapse photography of plant growth requires capturing a frame about once every 100 seconds. Which means that plants are moving about 2500 times slower than we are.

Conceivably there could be creatures on the Earth that we cannot perceive because they are moving super-fast all around us, just as to a plant we might appear to move super-fast.

Maybe you could run a camera at 60000 frames per second to look for evidence that these beings exist. If you pointed your camera in just the right direction, perhaps you might just catch something moving…

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