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No. 69: May-Jun 1990

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Don't pet your house plants!

House plant
Researchers at Stanford's Medical Center were spraying Arabidopsis plants (in the mustard family) with hormones to see if they could trigger any of the plants genes. They could, and the treated plants grew up stunted. But, it was serendipitously discovered, the same genes could also be triggered by spraying with water, by gusts of wind, and even by the human touch. Evident-ly, some of the genes in these plants can be turned on by various environmental stimuli, and thus affect future plant development. This mechanism per-haps explains why trees along the seacoast and timberline are stunted.

(Crawford, Mark H., ed.; "Nolo Me Tangere," Science, 247:1036, 1990.)

Comment. One is tempted to ask how widespread this phenomenon is in biology. Are humans, for example, born with a console of gene-buttons that the environment can push - as in cancer? Or, even in evolution itself?

From Science Frontiers #69, MAY-JUN 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987