A Danish high school science experiment is gaining recognition again after going viral earlier this month. Though first reported in May, the experiment has garnered worldwide popularity as a warning against our tech-filled lives. According to the experiment, WiFi could be killing plants. In case you missed it — fruits and vegetables are plants.
A group of 9th-graders from the Hjallerup Skole in Denmark noticed after sleeping with their cell phones near their heads they had trouble concentrating the next day. Though they didn’t have the resources to test their cell phone theory, they tried to do the next best thing.
Taking garden cress seeds and placing them on wet paper towels, the girls set one plate next to a WiFi router that emitted about the same microwave radiation as mobile phones, and the other in a separate room away from routers. They controlled all other variables — water, sunlight and room temperature — to the best of their abilities to keep the experiment consistent.
When the seeds were checked in 12 days, the seeds from the room without routers had thrived, while the seeds next to routers were brown and shriveled.
These results put the scientific community in a tizzy debating whether or not WiFi could actually be killing and mutating plant life. Debate went on, and many scientists likened the results of the high school experiment to the study about WiFi killing ash trees in the Netherlands. However, the results of that study were inconclusive and the rhetoric surrounding it has been significantly toned down. Instead of “WiFi Kills Trees” we have “WiFi Might Kill Trees but We Need to Do More Research.”
Ultimately, though, the experiment was cool and helped the group of young women who performed it place in the Danish national science fair, the results need to be further studied. Scientists in a more controlled lab environment will also likely repeat the experiment. Neuroscience professor Olle Johanssen of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Dr. Andrew Goldsworth at the Imperial College in London have both expressed interest in trying to duplicate and expand upon the results of the experiment.
The effects of radiation on plants, food and people is definitely a field that needs more research, especially as we all become more and more attached to the Internet and our phones. Jumping to conclusions like “WiFi is killing our plants,” however, may be premature. Remember, this was an experiment, albeit a fascinating one performed by a group of 9th-graders
In the meantime, to keep your houseplants healthy, you might want to make sure they aren’t near your router, and water them regularly.
Image by Kim Horsevad
December 19th, 2013