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9th Grade Science Experiment: Garden Cress Won't Germinate Near Routers 327

New submitter SessionExpired writes "Five 9th graders from Denmark have shown that garden cress won't germinate when placed near a router (Google Translation of Danish original). Article text is in Danish, but the pictures illustrate their results. The exact mechanism is still unknown (Danish original), but experts have shown interest in reproducing the experiment."
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9th Grade Science Experiment: Garden Cress Won't Germinate Near Routers

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  • Re:No reproduction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ankhank ( 756164 ) * on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:20PM (#43756795) Journal

    Outgassing from the plastic and electronics, I'll bet.
    Nice new routers, I'll bet. Loaded with stuff that's volatile.

    Did they try a Faraday Cage to rule out the radio waves?

  • Re:Need a control. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Megane ( 129182 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:25PM (#43756867) Homepage

    The router itself generates heat, and the point of the root post was that it was the radiated heat that cause the result, not some puny low-power microwaves. I've had quite a few DSL modems "fail to germinate" because they overheated themselves. Right now at home I'm running one with the cover removed and a small heat sink (the only one I have small enough to fit between the capacitors, etc.) on the main chip.

    If they can get warm enough to burn themselves up, they can also get warm enough to prevent a seed from growing, if through no other means than making the seed think that it's the wrong time of the year.

  • well done kids! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thephydes ( 727739 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:26PM (#43756891)
    This is exactly what we should be encouraging kids to do. Regardless of lack of control or other "missing" experimental methods, this is a significant scientific result for a bunch of 9th graders. Good on them and good on their teacher for encouraging them to do the experiment and having the balls to publish it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:28PM (#43756923)

    It said two different *rooms*. The room with the router could be a very different environment for a lot of other reasons.

    Re-run the experiment in the same room so there are fewer variables to control. Place the sprouting trays in a line leading from the router, and see if sprouting and/or growth is always suppressed closer. Alternatively, same room but with a Faraday cage around some of the sprouting trays.

  • Re:No reproduction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:37PM (#43757023)

    There are so many combinations:

    Does the router need to be switched on?
    What if there is just a transformer and cable, but not a router?
    Does the router need wi-fi enabled? In the 2.5GHz band? In the 5Ghz band?
    Does the router need to be in line-of-sight, or can it be hermetically sealed in a container?

  • Re:Neither will... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:38PM (#43757029)

    I never worked around any of that and it only took me a few hours to get your wife knocked up.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:40PM (#43757055) Journal

    I'll happily go fuck myself when this result is repeated by experienced scientists with all proper controls. If this result is unreproducible, you can go fuck yourself instead.

  • by dacut ( 243842 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:45PM (#43757129)

    ... but not due to the results; this is an example of good, solid science coming out of a secondary school with limited resources. Given what I could read of the translation, I don't think this is irresponsible journalism at all -- think of it more as journalism on the state of education, not science.

    It is, of course, an extraordinary result, and will require extraordinary proof. I suspect the claims will not be reproduced; at the same time, I hope these kid-researchers keep their interest level in this experiment up regardless of outcome. From this, they'll learn about experimental errors, uncontrolled factors, and -- most importantly -- to divorce their ego from their results. That last bit is perhaps the hardest for most scientists to achieve.

  • Re:Need a control. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lpevey ( 115393 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:54PM (#43757251)

    This comment is not really insightful. A lot of people even use electric heating pads underneath seed trays specifically to generate heat. I agree the experiment would have been even more impressive with controls wrt certain variables (including heat--why not), but it is extremely, extremely unlikely that, as the poster put it, "they can also get warm enough to prevent a seed grom growing."

  • Re:well done kids! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thephydes ( 727739 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:55PM (#43757271)
    You are obviously not a teacher although you may well be a scientist. Teachers either tell the kids what to do or encourage them to explore and THEN discuss results/flaws/improvements. After 33 years as an educator I can assure you that the latter is the most effective method and is a better preparation for pre-tertiary science. In addition I'll bet that the first "scientists" did not think about controls, they just collected evidence. This experiment is just that, a collection of evidence.
  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:15PM (#43757561) Journal

    So, you see, there is actually no cress for them to measure. It never germinated.

    Take a look at the photo:
    http://www.dr.dk/imagescaler/?file=%2FNR%2Frdonlyres%2FBE4CAC3A-4A0E-42CF-9ACB-69325246A40F%2F5130743%2Fdb6ac36f2c8248a1b782e25f61f5bfb2_Karse_udsat_for_t.jpeg&w=460&h=259&scaleAfter=crop [www.dr.dk]

    See those green bits on the edge of the plate?
    Yeah, I know... it's kinda small... But it's there. You can't deny it's there.

    Also, from the not-so-fine translation:

    And the result spoke his clear language: cress seeds next to the router was not grown, and some of them were even mutated or dead.

    Mutated? How does something mutate if it does not grow?

    Oh! I know! It's sensationalist BULLSHIT.
    SOME the fucking plants withered cause they were exposed to heat and placed on a different kind of surface (wood instead of plastic sheets - one of those two gathers and condenses loose moisture they where spilling all over).
    BOTH groups germinated just fine. One was kept hotter and with less moisture.

    http://www.dr.dk/NR/rdonlyres/075641A4-F4D4-4ECF-834F-C0DAF2B8E1E1/5134835/Finaleposter24apr2013.pdf [www.dr.dk]

    Those girls should be failed, made to return the money and both them and the so-called journalists making this a slashdot-hitting news should apologize to everyone on at least 5 international TV channels and over the internet FOR LYING!
    And the news agency should buy everyone a pony!

  • Re:No reproduction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:01PM (#43757997)

    Or just as likely, they just faked the data. These kids aren't stupid, they understand that the only way to get a good grade on such a lame experiment is to get unexpected results. If the router had no effect, they would received a B minus, they would not have won the science fair, and we certainly wouldn't be discussing their experiment on Slashdot.

    My experience with science fairs was it was all about PR and very little about science. I did much better my second try using that information. Our stupid teacher never mentioned it. I went on to a career in science and while it's not nearly as bad as a science fair, PR and "sexed up" stuff is far more valued than real honest scientific discovery.

  • Re:Need a control. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spiridios ( 2406474 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:41PM (#43758305) Journal

    They should have used a control, and put cress near a lamp bulb that gives off the same amount of heat.

    Or not. Nothing in the scientific method says your first experiment has to be perfect. They did one experiment, with a control for one variable (router/no router), it showed unexpected results. So now you look at things that could explain those results (heat? VOC? EM?) and revise your experiment to prove them or rule them out. Seems to me it's not a "should have" but a "let try this next".

  • Re:No reproduction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @07:48PM (#43758783)
    The only reason someone would accuse 9th grade students of scientific fraud is that they are themselves prone to committing fraud.

    You don't like the result because you are a computer geek. Any proof that computing gear has negative biological effects challenges your fundamental beliefs. Since this angers you, you respond with hostility and engage in a personal attack.

    The reason you bring up fraud is that it's what you would do if you wanted to force a result. People who don't consider that kind of cheat wouldn't jump to that conclusion.

    It is certain that these children have a better understanding of the scientific method then you do. They thought of an experiment, tried it and reported the results. Perhaps the outcome was a fluke, perhaps not. If other scientists try to refine their results then the effect will either be proven or refuted. It's called the scientific method.

    All you have shown is that you are a truly horrible human being. Your first impulse is to call someone a liar when they say something you don't like. Besides being better scientists, those children are certainly more decent then you are.

  • Re:No reproduction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday May 17, 2013 @08:24PM (#43759043)
    It's amazing to see how much venom people spew in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. "No, it can't be harmful because I like the stuff. Everyone that found it harmful must be a liar!".... *sigh*
  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @10:42AM (#43761937)

    If you stop to think a moment you'll realise this argument is completely fallacious. If the sun were broadcasting at anything like the power levels of our communication systems at the particular frequencies being used then we'd be completely unable to pick out our own signals from the background noise. And the specific frequency is likely at least as important as the power levels - any interference in cellular function would almost certainly be due to resonance effects, which can be *extremely* sensitive to exitation frequency and magnitude.

  • Re:No reproduction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zazzel ( 98233 ) on Saturday May 18, 2013 @11:00AM (#43762081)

    The reason you bring up fraud is that it's what you would do if you wanted to force a result. People who don't consider that kind of cheat wouldn't jump to that conclusion.

    Excuse me, but that is clearly bullsh*t. Having gone through University will make you suspect fraud, but just because you have seen it everywhere left and right during your studies. From students cheating in math exams and "forgetting" references in their papers, to 100% faked studies published by high-ranking journals.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall