Does the reality we inhabit consist solely of time, space, energy and matter, or is there more to it? Is the Universe merely a vast, meaningless machine following inexorable laws to an inevitable, purposeless end? These and similar questions have fascinated me since childhood, as they have others, and I am now beginning a process of testing my conclusions about them.
The formal consensus of the 2005 Solvay Conference of the world's leading physicists was "We have no idea what we are talking about." Modern Western Science has hit a dead end and is at a loss as to where to turn. All of the world's religions are stagnant, and most are thoroughly discredited, as much by their outdated doctrines as by the personal failings of their practitioners. In such times, each individual must decide for him or herself what beliefs to adopt, what ambitions to choose, and what course to follow in life. Having always been of an independent mind, I have long abided by these precepts, and would like to communicate with others of like mind who share my interests.
The most outstanding problem facing all of science is that of consciousness. Abrahamic Science holds that it is entirely an epiphenomenon of neurochemistry – that is, it is created by chemical action in the brain, and is ultimately a delusion of no practical consequence. Those capable of independent thought know that it is much more than this. Such questions are not beyond investigation by independent amateurs and hobbyists, as many believe, since the primary – perhaps the only certain – investigative tool is deep meditation. No matter how much care and discipline is exercized, this is easily compromised by ones personal preferences and prejudices, mandating two complimentary activities:
This website is intended to address the first requirement. As regards the second, I've decided to replicate some of the experiments described in The Secret Life of Plants using modern electronics and following a different path of development. As a former electronics hardware design engineer, this has been a return to an enjoyable activity, doubly so since it's for my own interest and satisfaction rather than for others.
The experiments will be fully documented on this website, including circuit schematics, photos of equipment assembly and operation, source code for PC and microcontroller software, and output data both raw and processed. I'll be delighted if others want to duplicate and/or improve some or all of it. Should it prove necessary, all will be formally released under the GNU Copyleft provisions and Creative Commons licenses. I'd appreciate attribution where applicable since it will assist collaboration.
I've summarized an outline of this project below for the technically literate. If you're more interested in the scientific and philosophical aspects, these are summarized in the Plant Sentience section.
Early ISA PCs (sc. IBM-compatible Personal Computers) all had RS-232 serial and parallel printer ports, making communication with and control of external equipment relatively simple. Most modern machines omit both, replacing them with USB, Ethernet and wireless interfaces that require considerable background knowledge to use. This will be a first for me, but since I'm no stranger to diving into unexplored electronics, I'll be using successful past techniques assisted by today's Internet, a marvellous information and learning tool.
The ready availability of powerful, inexpensive microcontrollers also changes the whole approach to computer-controlled peripherals. I've decided to use the PIC range from Microchip connected via USB to my PCs. The one I particularly fancy is the PIC18F4550 that has USB, a UART, thirteen-channel A/D and a host of additional features that I look forward to learning and using. I also have a Raspberry Pi that I plan to use later in the project for centralized, unattended operation of experiments that run 24/7.
I'm a long-term Linux User of Gentoo and other distros. I haven't used proprietary software since last century, so if you're still stuck with Windoze – the Operating System for Dummies – you're not only braver than I am, but the NSA will have a complete record of your data and browsing habits. Sorry, but the facts are now too obvious to ignore. If you'd like to graduate from Dummy to Newby, the 52midnight Linux Subsite is one place to start.
People have experimented with plant sentience throughout history, often using magic or something similar. George de la Warr published the results of playing music to plants in New Worlds Beyond the Atom (Vincent Stuart 1956). His subsequent measurements of unexplained field effects led to his radionic diagnostic equipment. Rupert Sheldrake has provided the outline of a new theoretical framework that has created considerable controversy in spite of the accumulation of a large amount of evidence.
It was Cleve Backster's experiments using lie detectors on plants that laid the groundwork for practical investigation of plant sentience or biocommunication. The early lie detectors or polygraphs were quite simple instruments that measured skin resistance using resistive bridges connected to a chart recorder. These had very limited capabilities by today's standards, and Backster made many assumptions that I personally question. However, his work and that of others form a valuable foundation and starting-point from which to proceed.
I've therefore decided to design a simple resistive bridge detector, build several, and connect them to the plants on my balcony. As simple as it sounds, this will require finding, collating, understanding and applying a considerable amount of very diverse information. If the first experiments are up and running in three months time – by January 2014 – I'll have met my present expectations.
I've started using this device as the basis for the equipment I'm designing. I'll be posting progress on sections of this website, including circuit schematics, photos of equipment assembly and operation, source code for PC and microcontroller software, and output data both raw and processed. So far I've redesigned the popular JDM PIC Programmer to use the Low Voltage mode of the 4550 and am about to burn my first code.
These aspects of the Project are documented in the Electronics Lab section.