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Study Hints Ambient Radio Waves May Affect Plant Growth

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.

Earth 298

dwguenther writes "A Lyons (Colorado) area woman with no academic pedigree has published a scientific paper in the International Journal of Forestry Research about the adverse effects of radio waves on aspen seedlings. Katie Haggerty, who lives north of Steamboat Mountain, found in a preliminary experiment done near her house that aspens shielded from electromagnetic radiation were healthier than those that were not. 'I found that the shielded seedlings produced more growth, longer shoots, bigger leaves, and more total leaf area. The shielded group produced 60 percent more leaf area and 74 percent more shoot length than a mock-shielded group,' she said." This was not a definitive study, as its author readily admits — it's hard to see how a double-blind study could even be designed in this area — but it was refereed.

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298 comments

Not mine. (2, Funny)

seanonymous (964897) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819148)

Mine prefer Drum and Bass

Re:Not mine. (5, Funny)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819220)

I modulated a 1 kilowatt microwave HERF gun with a microwave stirring device rotated using motor controlled by a PWM signal to vary the speed using an audio source playing White Metal at some plants and the all died. RADIO WAVES ARE EVIL!

Re:Not mine. (0, Redundant)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819420)

1 kW? And a gun? i.e. directional? You probably burned the shit out of them. A 1 kW infrared gun would be just as (if not more) deadly. More energy absorption in fact. Anything in excess is evil. Sit near a large speaker, go deaf and then shout (naturally) that audio waves are evil too. Did you know that you can die from too much oxygen? Too much water?

Re:Not mine. (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819658)

Did you know that you can die from too much oxygen? Too much water?

Wait you can die from too much O2???? I mean I know you can die from too much water... It's called drowning.... But your telling me that people on those O2 tanks at old folks homes are going to die?

How does this work? Well other then exploding.

I just have a hard time believing an oxygen bar is worse for you then a hookah bar.

Re:Not mine. (3, Insightful)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819762)

Drinking too much water can be deadly, it unbalance your blood PH if I remember correctly.

Re:Not mine. (2, Interesting)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820036)

Everything is balance. We ride the fragile zone of a magnetically and gravitationally protective mass where energy is flowing in and near it in prodigious quantities from an incandescent fusion inferno. It is a dangerous place where a steady state is disallowed and change is everything. To unbalance this is to court oblivion but to think it will last forever is folly. It is a seed pod and it will be burst from within or without. Nothing lasts forever ... even change.

Re:Not mine. (3, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820306)

Everything is balance. We ride the fragile zone of a magnetically and gravitationally protective mass where energy is flowing in and near it in prodigious quantities from an incandescent fusion inferno. It is a dangerous place where a steady state is disallowed and change is everything. To unbalance this is to court oblivion but to think it will last forever is folly. It is a seed pod and it will be burst from within or without. Nothing lasts forever ... even change.

Nonsense. Either change lasts forever, or the universe will enter a steady state in which everything lasts forever.

Re:Not mine. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819810)

It's called "oxygen toxicity", and it generally only occurs when the oxygen is inhaled at a higher-than-normal pressure It's the reason SCUBA divers use gas mixtures at depth instead of pure oxygen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_toxicity

Somehow I always knew... (5, Funny)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819178)

... that one day AM radio would be the death of us all.

Re:Somehow I always knew... (2, Insightful)

Torodung (31985) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819548)

Good point, maybe if they took Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck off the air, the plants would get better. She should try shielding them from just their programs.

--
Toro

i don't know about radio, but i find (3, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819184)

some plants grow really well when exposed to blue/red light combination from LEDs in a closed room. also, way cheaper and more unobtrusive than using incandescent lamps. (disclaimer for the well-informed slashdotters, i grow hot peppers for my pizzas).

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (5, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819236)

Sure you do, we all grow our "peppers" in a closet lined with tinfoil.

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819590)

Gotta get your munchies somehow ;)

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819684)

double-lined. i need to protect them electronics from the alien EMP.

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (2, Informative)

shaitand (626655) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819736)

fscking amateurs. foil absorbs light and causes hotspots on your "pepper" plants. You are better off with flat white paint or reflective mylar.

Of course if you weren't really growing peppers but something like medical marijuana then you'd want to know that experimentation shows that grow is no better under targeted spectrum LED than it is under select HID lighting. In fact, it takes just as many watts of LED to get the same effect so you don't save electricity there.

The only real benefit to LED is less heat (and need to dispose of that heat somehow) but this is generally outweighed by the insane costs of 600w LED grow lights.

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820200)

If it uses the same wattage how is there less heat? All light eventually becomes heat.

Re:i don't know about radio, but i find (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819712)

Incandescent lamps... Lawls

a 250 HPS goes a long way and it's cheaper then thousands of LEDs.

If it's not a definitive study... (-1, Flamebait)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819186)

...what is this shit doing here? It belongs in Idle.

Re:If it's not a definitive study... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819280)

Nothing is totally definitive.

Re:If it's not a definitive study... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819564)

You're right. I published a study that writing free software turns you gay (based on the cases of Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman). Can my results make the front page of Slashdot too?

Re:If it's not a definitive study... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819638)

I dunno if your results will, but your lynching might.

A word on simple experiments... (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819428)

Remember, Louis Pasteur only finally disproved the theory of spontaneous generation with a simple experiment involving meat broth and a long necked decanter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_generation [wikipedia.org]

There's no reason to doubt that the certain frequencies we consider harmless are in fact slowly destroying delicate parts of our biosphere. We're the same scientists who didn't think lead paint or asbestos were a problem, and discovered germ theory only a short time ago. The article itself is not sensational, and even the DIY scientist is modest in her conclusions.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819496)

There's no reason to doubt that the certain frequencies we consider harmless are in fact slowly destroying delicate parts of our biosphere

Sure there is. 1. nothing noticed so far 2. the sun dumps all kinds of EM on everything.

Lead paint is not an issue if you do not eat it. Asbestos is a great insulator and fine to use as such if it is properly sealed.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819694)

2. the sun dumps all kinds of EM on everything.

This is where critical thinking comes in handy. I don't think any serious scientist will suggest that plants are not well adjusted to EM radiation from the sun.

As far as "nothing noticed so far," I imagine that was the same phrase they used when they were handling raw mercury without protection in science labs not too long ago. Ignorance is no substitute for reality.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819930)

> I imagine that was the same phrase they used when they were handling raw
> mercury without protection in science labs not too long ago.

For the very good reason that doing so is not particularly dangerous as long as you don't heat it.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820058)

Elemental mercury is pretty safe assuming STP. Ignorance seems to be your specialty.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (3, Informative)

shaitand (626655) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819866)

"1. nothing noticed so far"

Sure there is. There is a steady increase in C02 Levels in the atmosphere. This should result in a corresponding increase in plant growth since plants are largely bottlenecked by the relatively low C02 levels in the modern vs the 1500ppm that existed when they evolved. Plants should be able to balance any increase in C02 emissions and yet they aren't.

"2. the sun dumps all kinds of EM on everything."

The sun also dumps UV radiation which is known to be harmful to both plants and animals on everything.

Just because it is a natural process doesn't make it good or balanced. The whole natural good, artificial bad myth is just some nonsense spouted by hippies. Nature is just as good at screwing it up as we are (even if you don't consider us a byproduct of nature) it just tends to do it on a larger and more difficult to counteract scale.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820090)

UV is EM. I never said anything about nature being safe, in fact I meant that to indicate that the plants were being exposed to something quite unsafe already.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820242)

"Sure there is. There is a steady increase in C02 Levels in the atmosphere. This should result in a corresponding increase in plant growth since plants are largely bottlenecked by the relatively low C02 levels in the modern vs the 1500ppm that existed when they evolved. Plants should be able to balance any increase in C02 emissions and yet they aren't."

probably because we are chopping down forest like there's no tomorrow, you silly knob.

this whole thing is stupid and her experiment is poorly controlled. she's done hardly anything to establish if the results are because of the EM.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819922)

Lead paint is not an issue if you do not eat it. Asbestos is a great insulator and fine to use as such if it is properly sealed.

That's an absurd statement.

Releasing lead that had previously been entombed underground into the surface environment means that eventually it will end up in all sorts of living things whether you, personally, intentionally, ate it or not. It's an issue.

And there's no such thing as properly sealed. PCBs in transformers were supposed to be properly sealed too, but of course they were eventually found to be leaking. You have to assume that anything dangerous is going to get out of its container somehow. If you can't totally eliminate its uses, you at least reduce them to the point where the tradeoff between the importance of the application and the odds of leakage are considered acceptable.

Re:A word on simple experiments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32820044)

Uhh, if the sun really did dump "all kinds" of EM on everything, in amounts anywhere similar to those from sources on or near Earth, then we wouldn't be able to use any form of wireless communications on this planet. And apparently she did notice something so that point is wrong too. Sure it needs more study to find out more, but she did not "notice nothing".

Re:A word on simple experiments... (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820126)

There's no reason to doubt that the certain frequencies we consider harmless are in fact slowly destroying delicate parts of our biosphere. We're the same scientists who didn't think lead paint or asbestos were a problem, and discovered germ theory only a short time ago. The article itself is not sensational, and even the DIY scientist is modest in her conclusions.

There is always reason to doubt. Seriously, learn to science.

Re:If it's not a definitive study... (4, Interesting)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819462)

It's a nice enough preliminary study. I'm usually quite skeptical about "OMG teh ebul microwaves are killing us" studies but this one seems sensible enough and it doesn't go overboard in its claims like so many do. Good for the lady for doing things systematically enough to get published in a peer-reviewed journal (that's also serious).

Re:If it's not a definitive study... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819522)

For someone outside of academia to get reviewed and published is news enough.

...not all EM radiation (2, Insightful)

blargfellow (948805) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819198)

Otherwise the plants would be dead!

Re:...not all EM radiation (5, Funny)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819252)

and us too! Great study, but it comes too late I'm afraid. I've already spotted at least 8 wild trees in urban areas that have sprouted what appear to be cell phone tower transmitters in them! We're boned!

Double blind should not be hard (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819206)

Have the plants taken care of by one person and judged/reviewed by another who only sees them when they are moved to the review area. Since this is just seedlings using large plant pots should be fine.

Re:Double blind should not be hard (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819316)

Have the plants taken care of by one person and judged/reviewed by another who only sees them when they are moved to the review area. Since this is just seedlings using large plant pots should be fine.

Now probably isn't the best time to tell them the Sun is a giant radio, amongst other things.

Re:Double blind should not be hard (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819370)

Indeed. I just wanted to point out that the "researcher" kept an unnecessary bias in the experiment that basically makes this entire study worthless. Confirmation bias is real.

Re:Double blind should not be hard (5, Funny)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819508)

No no. You see, the sun is natural. Which means that it only emits magic sprinkles and unicorn dust. Only the teh ebul radio towers are out to get us.

Re:Double blind should not be hard (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819906)

What difference does it make? I doubt her shielding discriminated against sun radio.

not all radiation is equal, there are different types and they have different effects. The sun emits light, many wavelengths of which are good for plants many are not. UV for example is notably bad for plants.

Won't matter to the anti-radio/radiation nuts (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819518)

This shit has been going on forever. They keep changing their target, but it is always the same tune: Radiation is bad, X is radiation, so X is bad.

When I was a kid the target was high voltage distribution lines. They said those were bad for kids, caused cancer. They had a data point, kinda, in terms of one community. Of course upon further study there was actual radioactive shit there (Radon IIRC). At any rate because of the serious nature of this, it was looked in to. Long term studies were done, looking at kids who grew up near these lines. I am probably a data point in one of those studies as our house was under some large lines when I was young (that's why I know about this shit, Mom was worried).

Well, now there's many decades of results compiled and guess what? There's no difference at all. They don't do shit.

Now any scientist could have told you that, the radiation is non-ionizing, hell the waves are millions of meters long from 60Hz power. The nuts weren't doing science, they were just being nuts.

So this is more of the same shit, same as the "cellphones kill honeybees" and so on. They do not consider it logically, they are just reactionary.

Re:Won't matter to the anti-radio/radiation nuts (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820094)

<nutcase>Hey man, like the Sun is bad. There's like people everywhere getting skin cancer, and those doctor dudes will tell you it's the Sun's fault. So like, this all goes back to the radiation can kill ya, man.</nutcase>

Re:Double blind should not be hard (2, Insightful)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820144)

The vast majority of the Sun's EM radiation is in the visible and ultraviolet range. The worst of the UV is intercepted by the ozone layer and life on Earth is well adapted to the visible light range. It would be interesting to compare the relative strength at ground level of the Sun's radio frequency emissions to those from terrestrial sources.

Re:Double blind should not be hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32820154)

I grew my plans in a Faraday cage, made out of solid copper, to make sure no radiation could get in. Contrary to my expectations, all my plants died. Any ideas?

Re:Double blind should not be hard (1)

LarrySDonald (1172757) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820214)

Well, perhaps the sun is part of the problem and plants would be better off getting just the light and not a bunch of the other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. If true, that's good to know too.

Double blind study (5, Informative)

bunyip (17018) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819210)

it's hard to see how a double-blind study could even be designed in this area

In the medical field, it means that both the patient and the doctor evaluating the symptoms don't know who received a placebo.

For this experiment - setup two antennae in front of some seedlings, have a different dude turn one of them on. The person measuring the seedling growth doesn't know which were exposed to radio waves. That's all you need to make sure the study doesn't have some bias in it.

Re:Double blind study (4, Interesting)

martinX (672498) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819312)

I don't see why you'd need a double-blinded study in this? The double-blinded study is to account for patient reporting bias ("I feel a little better today - I think those new Addrexo pills are really working") and patient-selection bias by the doctors.

In this case the plants aren't reporting anything, it is a simple measurement, or series of measurements. And is anybody really calling into question the biases of biology RAs? Once again, take the measurements, report the results, draw conclusions, suggest reasons, conclude: "more research needed".

Re:Double blind study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819384)

Mod parent up. Anyone advocating blinded studies in this case is actually suggesting plants are affected by their subjective interpretation of the situation.

The plants biomass can simply be weighed and does not have to be interpreted.

Re:Double blind study (1, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819934)

"Anyone advocating blinded studies in this case is actually suggesting plants are affected by their subjective interpretation of the situation."

You say that as if we shouldn't consider the possibility. Go watch avatar n00b

Re:Double blind study (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819406)

The study surely needs to be blind from the researchers point of view, this sort of this is just begging for confirmation bias.

Re:Double blind study (3, Funny)

moonbender (547943) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819488)

If any of the researchers are used to talk to their plants while gardening, they shouldn't mention the experiment to the seedlings, though. You know, just to be sure.

Re:Double blind study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819492)

A double-blind study isn't just for patient reporting bias, its also required to prevent the observer from influencing the measurement even on a subconcious level. Further, things like coclour do

Re:Double blind study (4, Informative)

flowwolf (1824892) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819524)

When it's a medical study, it's accounting for a patient's bias.
Scientists can have bias as well, this is why researchers use the double blind method to eliminate their personal bias from the results.

Personally, I think the shielding worked more as a cozy for the plant and gave it a more stable immediate environment upon which to grow. Perhaps even the faraday cage was diminishing the light around the geraniums, so they spent more energy growing their leaves bigger to compensate. Given my personal bias, I wouldn't of published yet since I know there couldn't be a correlation. There are any number of reasons why a bias of opinion might be involved and there is any number of reasons why plants in a cage could grow better than plants not. I doubt she had the soil, in which the roots were, wrapped with a faraday cage either.

Re:Double blind study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32820194)

When it's a medical study, it's accounting for a patient's bias.
Scientists can have bias as well, this is why researchers use the double blind method to eliminate their personal bias from the results.

Wow. This is asounding to me.

On a site that is supposed to be populated with those familiar with the scientific method, how many people don't understand the difference between blind and double-blind - and then proceed to lecture those who do understand the difference.

You're the third person to demonstrate complete ignorance of this difference, and yet you got modded up to 4.

Re:Double blind study (4, Interesting)

n3umh (876572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820224)

Personally, I think the shielding worked more as a cozy for the plant and gave it a more stable immediate environment upon which to grow.

Read the paper. Haggerty had two cages, one of which was RF-transparent fiberglass which was close to the same air and light blockage as the aluminum faraday cage.

I still think it will come out that something else was the cause.

But as far as personal bias, a good scientist is aware of their own biases and tries to do things that are somewhat antagonistic to their own point of view. This isn't perfect, but that's why you use objective measures and report all your methods. Someone else can try to reproduce the experiment, improve upon it, control for more things, etc.

It is possible that subconcious/unconcious biases in plant care play a role here, but anyone can repeat the experiment, and it's very likely that those repeating it next will be VERY skeptical to the idea that RF is at fault and will be very careful not to baby the RF caged plants.. and if biased they'll be biased the other way. That's a good outcome of such a publication.

Many repeated experiments by people who are skeptical of each other average over personal biases.

Re:Double blind study (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820232)

Radio waves don't penetrate the soil much. Unless the Faraday cage was tapered down to barely big enough to go around the trunk as it comes out of the ground I imagine it would shield the root area reasonably well anyway.

Re:Double blind study (1)

LarrySDonald (1172757) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820182)

Or, rather then checking yourself, remove all shielding and have someone without knowledge evaluate them returning their eval in writing naming only which aspen and what condition. If you want to do another round, replace shielding and wait. If you think it matters to the aspen who knows, I can't help. This would still be kind of weak, but at least eliminate one huge bias and can be done with only one wise-to-aspen accomplice.

No double-blind? (3, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819214)

Why not create two sets of identical-looking Faraday cages [wikipedia.org], one metal and the other non-conducting plastic. Randomly hand them out to experimenters and let them figure out which is which after the results are in.

Or, better yet (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819404)

Build a large Faraday cage in a greenhouse. So you've got a nice area for plants with no stray radio waves. Then, put in antennas that will transmit the radio waves you want at the frequencies and power you want. Build several such greenhouses and fill them with the plants you'd like to test. Have them so that they are all controlled in terms of humidity and so on to be the same, but have the radio settings assigned by a computer randomly. At the end of the experiment, go around, have a look at the plants, make subjective observations and objective measurements. Then, have a look at which cages got what radio waves.

Really would not be that hard to set up, and probably not all that expensive. However I have a feeling it won't be done because the radio wave paranoia is just more of the general purpose "radiation" paranoia that has been around for a long time. They aren't really interested in having their views tested.

Re:No double-blind? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819470)

Make one ferrous metallic (steel), one non-ferrous metallic (aluminium), one non-metallic (plastic) and one gaseous (just to see the confused look on your face).

Re:No double-blind? (1)

fake_name (245088) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819954)

Make two real Faraday cages.

Put a real radio broadcast antenna in each.

Only turn on one of the antenna.

This also eliminates other possible causes for variation, like "plants grow better in a metal cage" or "A faraday cage gives a plant better shade"

Re:No double-blind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32820316)

Quickly make lots of Faraday cages.

Sell to /. crazed amateur biologists.

Profit.
 

Right (0, Redundant)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819270)

Or, you could probably also say, that plants given lots of sunlight and with a protective barrier against insects and other vermin grow better than those placed in a dark alley filled with rats of unusual size.

Like most of these studies that the news media have orgasms over, I suspect that they would be able to find whatever they wanted to prove. Science without mathematics, indeed.

Re:Right (3, Informative)

jaroslav (467876) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819398)

While that may be true quite often in the media, nothing in the story suggests that's the case here. She had three sets of plants, one shielded with a Faraday cage, one shielded in fiberglass, and one completely unshielded. Her results aren't simply a lack of insect damage.

Re:Right (0, Flamebait)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819682)

And, how did these shields affect the abaility of rain (water) to reach the plants? Were the ones in the farady cage given more water/care than the others? Were they all given the same exact soil mix to grow in? Just how unbiased was this person? If they were hoping for a specific result, there are a lot of things they could do in an "experiment" like this, even without thinking that they are doing such things. That is why the caretaker of an experiment should not know which sample is the one they are hoping will do the best.

Heck, she could have allowed her dog to pee on the unshielded ones, which would account for the color differences. Unless you protect a study like this from bias, you might as well not bother doing it in the first place. It's only good as just another media fear blitz, and not much else.

Re:Right (3, Insightful)

n3umh (876572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820250)

Just how unbiased was this person? If they were hoping for a specific result, there are a lot of things they could do in an "experiment" like this, even without thinking that they are doing such things.

Do the experiment yourself and find out. You're skeptical so if anything, you'll have the opposite bias. That's how this works.

No human being is 100% free of subconcious bias. A good scientist will do everything they can to perform objectively identical actions on all members of their various experimental organisms. IN that way, they will minimize the effect of their own biases. And others can reproduce the same objectively identical actions to gather more data.

Haggerty's paper suggests that she attempted to be careful in this regard. She explicitly presents her method. That's one way we know that she was trying to avoid her personal biases.

Re:Right (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819410)

Yeah, you know, what's the likelihood that someone designing the experiment would have thought of the same problems you thought of in 30 seconds since reading the summary? If you read the article, there were three groups:

In spring 2007, she planted the aspen seedlings -- one group in a shielded Faraday cage, another group in a cage wrapped in fiberglass that did not block radio waves and a third set was unprotected altogether. By the end of July, there were measureable differences in growth, and at the beginning of October, she noticed differences in coloration.

It's one thing to criticize a study, but at least try to READ it first.......

Hints? Might? (1, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819396)

Come back and talk to me when you have a more definitive study. Something statistically significant that doesn't focus on one species in one location. Oh, and let's see the methodology used to make sure it is actually a sound experiment because an American amateur scientist is did this one and I really don't trust most of my fellow Americans to do amateur science correctly.

Re:Hints? Might? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819546)

Nobody is talking to you, except me.

Re:Hints? Might? (5, Insightful)

n3umh (876572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819832)

I have a deep concern about over-stating the dangers of RF radiation... honestly, though, I don't see anything wrong with the PAPER and would say that Haggerty
approached the experiment in an appropriate scientific manner.

Come back and talk to me when you have a more definitive study.

This is not a perfect experiment... no experiment is. But the methodology is laid out. The experiment is reproducible, and that's what matters. I think it may spark interest in study... very likely from people who are VERY skeptical that RF could be the cause, and that's perfect.

I think that it's probably the case that something else is the cause, not RF. There are things that aren't controlled for. But you or anyone else can do a better experiment. You're right to be skeptical of a single one, but that doesn't mean Haggerty's work wasn't valuable.

Double-blind (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819552)

it's hard to see how a double-blind study could even be designed in this area

Well, half of the double-blind part is trivial: the seedlings aren't going to know whether they are in the experimental group or the control group.

The other half isn't entirely impractical. Plant seeds in a number of sites with similar background RF levels, and mount visually-identical "transmitter devices" at each site. The people collecting growth data at the sites will not be informed which transmitter devices are actually transmitters adding significantly to the RF background, and which are not.

(Alternatively, you could pick sites with different RF backgrounds, and use active transmitters of different power levels at all sites so that, in combination with the background, you have groups of "baseline" and "high" background sites for the same effect.)
 

Experimental Bias? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819584)

When my geraniums appeared stunted, I bought some fertilizer and it worked wonders. The thought of putting them under a Faraday shield never occured to me. Did she live beneath a high voltage transmission line? You don't suppose that she had a preconceived notion that RF radiation is bad?

My mother grows her geraniums in a wooden pyramid, and they are spectacular!

Double blind not needed (1)

Mt._Honkey (514673) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819656)

Double blind studies exist to control for the placebo effect. Unless trees are aware that they are being experimented on, this is not an issue (they're already "blind"). This is more like a physics experiment than a medical one: you need to control all the variables and only change one at a time, and use objective measures to determine the effect. Leaf area and shoot length sound like excellent measures in this regard. If there is an opportunity for experimenter bias to creep into any measurement (for example if they are recording something a bit more subjective like bark quality or growth symmetry), then having the person measuring the result be "blind" may be appropriate.

Re:Double blind not needed (1)

n3umh (876572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819924)

If there is an opportunity for experimenter bias to creep into any measurement (for example if they are recording something a bit more subjective like bark quality or growth symmetry), then having the person measuring the result be "blind" may be appropriate.

There are a lot of people today that believe that experimenters must PROVE that they are un-biased in a way other than presenting their methods and results.

I think some people in this thread would prefer blind physics experiments :-)

Maybe it was a response. (0, Redundant)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819758)

The plants that had bigger leaves may have been a response to the experiment.

I hear plants grow bigger leaves when they grow in shaded area's so maybe that was the difference.

Something about needing sunlight and competing with other tree's to get at the sunlight all that jazz.

Re:Maybe it was a response. (2, Insightful)

n3umh (876572) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819902)

Light was controlled for within 5% of that received by the un-shielded plants. There were three groups, and it was simple... fiberglass screen shaded the "mock shielded" group from the sun the same way the aluminum screen did.

I personally think further experiments will discover some other cause besides RF, but Haggerty controlled for and measured a lot of other things... light, air circulation, etc. That doesn't mean her results will turn out to be correct, but she did present everything anyone would need to do to repeat her experiments to verify or refute them.

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819822)

Slashdot wrote: "aspens shielded from electromagnetic radiation were healthier than those that were not"

Light (the energy source for photosynthesis) is a form of electromagnetic radiation. Show me a group of aspens shielded completely from it for a long time, and I'll show you a group of dead aspens!

On another note, how do we know that her Faraday cage didn't keep out insects and other leaf-munchers, along with radio waves? She might be attributing the supposedly better health of the aspens in the Faraday cage to the wrong cause.

hFrist stop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819834)

From a technical It. Its m1Ssion is current core were

Meh, metal cage is likely retaining heat/etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819894)

Without logs of temp/humidity/etc inside and outside of the control cage and test cage (and without EMF readings inside and outside), the most likely reason for the enhanced growth is a that the metal cage creates a more favorable growing environment.
Kinda' like espalier with a stone/masonry fence.

double-blind method (2, Insightful)

ridgecritter (934252) | more than 3 years ago | (#32819896)

You might be able to double-blind the Faraday cage if the screen material consisted of (for the active cage) wire overcoated with plastic and (for the inactive cage) fiberglass threads overcoated with the same type of plastic, the intent being to provide two cage materials that look and feel alike (bump into them and they both have the same stiffness) but only one of which provides the RF shielding function.

plants grew better in a greenhouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32819982)

It sounds like she put some grounded wire around one set, and built a nice warm fibreglass greenhouse around another set. Surprise! Plants grew better in greenhouse, therefore radiation is bad. I think specious is the term.

Double blind (1)

drmofe (523606) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820116)

Presumably, the double blind experiment is to avoid some sort of Hawthorn Effect?

Re:Double blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32820202)

The Hawthorn Effect is not what you think it to be.

Inescapable proof that the iPhone 4 causes cancer! (1)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32820138)

Not from the emitted RF, that doesn't have enough energy to break chemical bonds or really have much of any effect on a cell, but standing in line for seven hours unprotected in the sun waiting to pick one up on the day or release will almost certainly increase your risk of skin cancer.

G.

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