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Researcher Argues That Plants Can See

Daniel Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University and author of the new book What a Plant Knows, says we discount plants' ability to appreciate light. Steve Mirsky reports

“A plant sees what we see. A plant sees light.”

Daniel Chamovitz, director of the Manna Center for Plant Biosciences at Tel Aviv University and author of the new book What a Plant Knows.

“So if you take someone who’s completely blind and by surgery in some way giving them a camera, allow them to see just shadows, would we see that that person now has rudimentary sight? He doesn’t see pictures, but for that person being able to differentiate shadows is definitely sight. If we would let them be able to differentiate between red and blue, then that would be even slightly more sight.

“That’s what plants do. They don’t see pictures. But they see colors, they see directions, they see intensities. But on a certain level, plants might think that we’re visually limited. Because plants see things that we can’t see. They see UV light and they see far red light, and we can’t see that at all. So I think we can say that plants see. It knows quite a bit, much more than we give them credit for.”

—Steve Mirsky 

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

[Hear the entire interview with Daniel Chamovitz on an upcoming episode of the Scientific American Science Talk podcast.]

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