"Sometimes it happens that a person can name the exact moment when his or her life changed irrevocably. For Cleve Backster, it was early in the morning of February 2, 1966, at thirteen minutes, fifty-five seconds into a polygraph test he was administering. Backster, a leading polygraph expert whose Backster Zone Comparison Test is the worldwide standard for lie detection, had at that moment threatened his test subject's well-being. The subject had responded electrochemically to his threat.
The subject was a plant.
Since then, Backster has conducted hundreds of experiments demonstrating not only that plants respond to our emotions and intents, but so do severed leaves, eggs (fertilized or not), yogurt, and human cell samples. He's found, for example, that white cells taken from a person's mouth and placed in a test tube still respond electrochemically to the donor's emotional states, even when the donor is out of the room, out of the building, or out of the state.
I first read about Backster's work when I was a kid. His observations verified an understanding I had then, an understanding not even a degree in physics could later eradicate: that the world is alive and sentient.
I spoke with Backster in San Diego, thirty-one years and twenty-two days after his original observation, and a full continent away from the office on Times Square in New York City where he had once worked and lived. Before we began, he placed some yogurt into a sterilized test tube, inserted two gold electrodes, and turned on the recording chart. I was excited, yet dubious. We began to talk, and the pen wriggled up and down. Then, just as I took in my breath prior to disagreeing with something he'd said, the pen seemed to lurch. But did it really jump, or was I only seeing what I wanted to see?
At one point, while Backster was out of the room, I tried to muster up some anger by thinking of clear-cut forests and the politicians who sanction them, of abused children and their abusers. But the line depicting the electrochemical response of the yogurt remained perfectly flat. Perhaps the yogurt wasn't interested in me. Losing interest myself, I began to wander around the lab. My eyes fell on a calendar, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be an advertisement for a shipping company. I felt a sudden surge of anger at the ubiquity of advertising. Then I realized a spontaneous emotion! I dashed over to the chart, and saw on it a sudden spike apparently corresponding to the moment I'd seen the ad.
When Backster returned, I continued the interview, still excited, and perhaps a little less skeptical."