Simply Scientifico: Plants do respond to touch, and this is how

In the experiments, the researchers found signals of the reaction of plants to pressure touch and its sudden withdrawal when a fine glass rod was made to come in contact with a plant.

Published: 09th June 2023 09:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2023 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

Express News Service

Sensory perception

Plants do respond to touch, and this is how...
If tree-felling and uprooting plants is a matter of concern environmentally, new research reveals that plants not just respond to physical touch through pressure but also react to that pressure being withdrawn. This is an indicator that if plants — and trees — are sensitive to touch, they may well be even more sensitive to pain that they may suffer when their branches and stems are slashed or chopped. This was revealed through an experiment led by Washington State University. In the experiments, the researchers found signals of the reaction of plants to pressure touch and its sudden withdrawal when a fine glass rod was made to come in contact with a plant.

They found that individual plant cells responded to the touch by emitting calcium signals to other plant cells. Moreover, when the glass rod was withdrawn from contact with the plant, the pace of the signals only shot up. This revealed that plant cells directly responded by communicating to others of their own kind by sending signals of varying speeds when touched and when that contract ended — a surefire sign that plants can feel physical contact, be it a loving caress or a violent hack.

The WSU research team conducted 84 experiments on 12 plants including thale cress and tobacco plants. These plants were specially bred to include calcium sensors. These plants were observed under a microscope when touched by a glass rod the breadth of a human hair. The touches were intentionally made using varying force and duration, which clearly revealed varying responses by the plant cells directly linked to the force and duration that the plants were subjected to. The experiment also revealed that while animals and humans sense touch through sensory cells, in plants it appears to be through the increase or decrease of the internal cell pressure exerted by varying force of the touch.

Artificial intelligence
A Robotuc chef which cooks as well as a human 

Chefs, better watch out! Robotic chefs are making an entry as researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed one by feeding a programme that enabled the robot to watch cooking videos and recreate the dishes, much like humans do these days. The researchers programmed their robotic chef with a cookbook of eight salad recipes, after which the robot was able to watch each cooking demonstration and identify the recipe under preparation and then prepare it itself.

Not just that, watching the videos helped the robotic chef innovate a ninth recipe on its own — the latter act potentially threatening the very careers of human chefs. This came about after the researchers' initial intentions of finding out whether robots could be trained to learn the same way as humans to identify ingredients and learn the combinations of those ingredients in dishes. The research team programmed the robot’s neural network to identify different fruits and vegetables that were used in different combinations in the eight salad recipes.

The robot was then programmed to analyse each frame in the videos, which included identifying objects apart from fruits and vegetables that are needed in preparing a salad dish — the knife, the various ingredients, and the human demonstrators’ arms, hands and faces. The recipes and the videos were then converted into symbolic representations on which the robot performed mathematical operations to determine the similarities and differences and then analyse the way ahead in the identification of a particular recipe and the process required to prepare the dish based on it. The robotic chef was able to correctly identify not just the ingredients but also the actions of the human chef to determine which recipe was being prepared and then prepare it on its own. The robotic chef’s precision in identifying recipes was 93%.

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