A couple of weeks ago there were reports of an experiment by schoolchildren that appears to demonstrate that wifi router radiation adversely affects cress. There's been time now for the

leading researchers from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden [who] have shown great interest in the girls’ project

to have reproduced the experiment, but I cannot find any follow-up story amidst a Google-load of conspiracy-theory sites. Has this experiment been reproduced, or indeed debunked?

  • 1
    The article you cite is from 17th of May 2013 and presumably the experiment itself was done relatively recently. To reliably reproduce any experiment it takes more than a couple of weeks, not to mention peer review etc. – Rabbit Jun 1 '13 at 17:29
  • @Rabbit Doesn't mean it isn't a good question, though. – matt_black Jun 1 '13 at 19:16
  • 4
    "We all thought we experienced concentration problems in school if we slept with our mobile phones at the bedside, and sometimes we also found it difficult sleeping"... wow, talk about confirmation bias... Anyway, the experiments needed at least to be reproduced by switching rooms. – nico Jun 2 '13 at 14:40
  • 2
    I worked on a radio link between 2 locations ~15km apart, every spring we had loss of signal because a tree in the middle raised. The signal did not killed the leaves, the leaves interrupted the signal without any visible damage to them (except the fact we trimmed the tree). – Radu Maris Jan 7 '14 at 12:35
  • Cress grows rapidly and cress seed is pretty readily available from any remotely good garden supplies shop. There's nothing stopping you from repeating the experiment yourself, just grow some cress near a router and grow another batch further away as a control (though don't forget to remove all possible sources of error. Make sure the lighting conditions, soil type, container type, watering schedule etc are the same for both the sample and the control) – GordonM Apr 6 '17 at 16:20
up vote 34 down vote accepted

Norwegian science journalist Gunnar Tjomlid published an article [Norwegian language] in the online newspaper Nettavisen.

Blogger Pepijn van Erp summarised it in English.

In brief, the experiment was not properly controlled, not blinded, had publication bias, was misreported, had faulty statistical analysis, had bias in the methodology and relied on a cherry-picked hypothesis.

The WiFi and control group were not just different because of the presence of the routers. On the pictures in the report it can be seen that also the laptops in the WiFi group were placed quite near to the plates. It’s very likely that this had an effect on airflow and temperature around the plates and that could have an effect on germination, which has nothing to do with the presence of EM-fields.

[...]

A second experiment in which the laptops had been ‘pinging’ each other constantly did not show the dramatic difference in germination. Only the first experiment was used in the report

It has been a few years, and this study was recently brought to my attention. I found the same information mentioned by @MrOoijer, but there has now been time for attempted replication studies to be performed. The first I found was:

Effects of Wi-Fi Radiation on Germination and Growth of Broccoli, Pea, Red Clover and Garden Cress Seedlings: A Partial Replication Study --Magda Havas and M. Sheena Symington Current Chemical Biology, 2016, 10, 65-73 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/2212796810666160419161000

This paper appears to confirm the general results. I have yet to see a good analysis of this paper's methodology. It's an open access article, and it seems the publisher has been accused of skipping or rubber stamping peer review before on an open access journal [1] but obviously it's difficult to tell what level of scrutiny this paper received. They do attempt to track the parameters that were criticized in the high school study. The 1st author, Magda Havas, has been publishing for some time on this topic, specifically on 'dirty electricity' in addition to other toxicology studies.[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bentham_Science_Publishers#Controversies_and_criticism

[2] https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=Q56SGDQAAAAJ

  • 5
    Magda Havas? Why does that name ring a bell. Oh, right. She's made several "dirty electricity" claims. That is not proof that she is wrong, but a red flag for skepticism. – Oddthinking Apr 5 '17 at 13:10
  • Agreed. But don't have anything concrete to add on that front. – Nick J Apr 5 '17 at 16:40
  • @Oddthinking Magda Havas has been mentioned here before, usually in the context of doing incredibly badly designed experiments (and ones that promote commercial products she is associated with). The name is a red flag warning of both bias and utterly bad experimental design. – matt_black Apr 5 '17 at 16:57
  • Yes, haven't found a good critique of the 2016 paper. Something better than picking apart the source would be nice – Nick J Apr 6 '17 at 2:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .