How sentient is your pot plant?

Your house plant salutes the sun, but other than that it's a matter of photosynthesise, make food and live ... isn't it? Well, they do show other signs of intelligent life — under poor soil conditions, the pea seems to be able to assess risk and the Venus flytrap appears to count when insects trigger its trap and a new study in the Annals of Botany suggests that sedation causes plants to lose consciousness and freeze.

The scientists closed pea plants in a glass chamber with ether, and soaked the roots of sensitive garden cress in lidocaine. The electrical activity of a Venus flytrap's cells was also recorded.

An hour after the sedatives were administered, all the plants became unresponsive. When the drugs wore off, the plants appeared to "come alive" again — akin to regaining consciousness.

As with animals and humans, anaesthetics used at appropriate concentrations block action potentials and immobilise organs, but there is no scientific consensus about how they do this. (Source: New York Times)


Royal cover-up

Elevators in Denmark have a button labelled "I fart", which translates as "in motion". When Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1960, strips of tape were used to cover these buttons in any lifts she used ... Probably so that Prince Philip would make a gag about it.

Schoolboy tries to hook up teacher

"While I was teaching intermediate I had one awkward student who took a liking to me," writes a teacher on Reddit. "He was always asking how he could help out after class, like cleaning the whiteboard, putting chairs up, that sort of thing. We would usually chat while he did this. One day he surprised me by saying, 'I bet you'd be a really good dad'. I kind of laughed it off, because at this age they say a lot of 'front of mind' things without thinking.

A couple of weeks go by. He's staying after school to hang out with me when he says, 'You know you have a parent-teacher conference with my mum tomorrow. She's really cute. Maybe you guys can go out on a date!' Needless to say, THAT was an awkward conference."

Dying wish fulfilled

As he lay in a hospital in late January Eric Carver decided he wanted a choir to sing Abide With Me at his impending funeral service. Eric had a lifelong passion for the hymn and church music and he once attended a service at the church of its origin in Brixham, in Devon, England.

So Eric asked his son Mark to write to Sideswipe to see if anyone could help. Around 40 musical groups, religious and non-religious, offered to sing and Eric was very touched by the response from strangers. On February 5 the choir of St Mark's Anglican church, Remuera, sung at Eric's funeral. "The choir performed Abide With Me a cappella and was incredibly moving," says Mark.