A conversation while walking home from school with the elder Free-Ride offspring:
Elder offspring: (Veering off the sidewalk toward a bougainvillea) Hello! How are you today?
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, what are you doing?
Elder offspring: I'm just talking to the plants.
Dr. Free-Ride: Why are you doing that?
Elder offspring: Some people think talking to plants is good for the plants.
Dr. Free-Ride: Child, you'd be amazed at what some people think.
Elder offspring: I don't see what's wrong with talking to plants. They are living things, you know.
Dr. Free-Ride: I didn't say you couldn't talk to them. I'd just be surprised if they could hear you or understand what you were saying to them. It's not like they have brains.
Elder offspring: Or ears.
Dr. Free-Ride: So just being a living thing doesn't mean having someone talk to you is going to have much of an effect on you.
Elder offspring: Still, there grown-ups who think that talking to their plants helps them grow.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, there are.
Elder offspring: But maybe it's just that when they spend time talking to their plants they're also watering them and taking care of them.
Dr. Free-Ride: That could be.
Elder offspring: But maybe the talking could be doing something.
Dr. Free-Ride: Can you think of any way we could figure out who's right?
Elder offspring: We could try to find a book in the library that says.
Dr. Free-Ride: Sure, but what if the library doesn't have any books about talking to plants?
Elder offspring: We could try an experiment ...
Dr. Free-Ride: Go on.
Elder offspring: We'll get six seeds for the same kind of plant and plant them in three flower pots, two in each. We'll give each pot the same amount of water and light. Me and [Younger offspring] will talk to the plants in one pot, you and [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] will talk to the plants in another, and no one will talk to the plants in the third. If the ones that get talked to stay alive longer than the ones that we don't talk to, then we'll know the talking makes a difference.
Dr. Free-Ride: Interesting that you expect the plants to die ...
Elder offspring: One thing, though: we're not doing it with Venus flytraps, 'cause I don't want them to die.
Brilliant! I hope they actually do the experiment and publish the data on your blog. What a great way to start a scientific career, or a life of understanding the world even without a scientific career!
Didn't A Wind in the Door include a similar experiment, with totally implausible results? Once she's settled her ideas about plant-talking, she can go read some Madeleine L'Engle for the fantasy version.
or a life of understanding the world even without a scientific career
Is that possible? :)
Seriously, this reminds me of Cal's experiments in A Wrinkle in Time.
A little scientific rigour never goes amiss.
It's the damndest thing; I talk to my cats quite often, and sometimes you swear they know exactly what you just said...
This has "science fair project" written all over it.
Not that that's a bad thing. On the contrary, it'd be right up there with that "healing touch" experiment that middle school student did a few years back.
Better yet, you could throw in an "intercessory prayer" manipulation, and really go for it all.
Just remember: double blind placebo control
One of the best episodes ("I Talk to the Trees") of the best sitcom ever ("The Good Life" - "Good Neighbors" to Americans) has just such an experiment, as Richard Briers hurls abuse at one plant while Felicity Kendal coos erotically at another.
Besides the point of "caretaking" (ElderO is a pretty smart kid!), it may be relevant that you're hanging around wafting CO2 at them. I have no idea if the amounts or concentrations involved are actually significant.
Experiments with animals might be indicated, but my last couple of pets have been decidedly hostile to plants. My (since deceased) rabbit even ate a Euphorbia pseudocactus!
The Mythbusters determined that it was plausible, but they had set up a slightly different experiment than the one Elder Offspring described. The plants were put into five groups based on the kind of sound that would be received: no sound, pleasant voices, angry voices, classical music, and rock and roll.
My proposal would be to have the same voices talking to the plants, but to vary the amount of talking. The control would receive no talking, Plant A would get 10 minutes of talking, Plant B would get 20 minutes, and so on.