Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Microwaved Water Kills Plants - Study Finds

Hey everyone,

Some time ago I saw this post on Facebook and it irritated a part of my brain that some would say is oversensitive to these kinds of things. But ill let you decide.

Before I get started let me say that one of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of the words “theory” and “research”. A theory is not just a guess that you base on hearsay or feelings. It is a conclusion based on careful examination of facts and evidence (don’t get me started on the misuse of those two words). Likewise research isn’t what you do when you see a post on Facebook and follow it up with a 5-minute Google search. Research is a systematic investigation to find out the facts and evidence. *1

Please see the pictures at the bottom of this post to read what was originally posted to Facebook. I will sum it up. The claim is that microwaved water will kill plants and therefore will kill you. Since this blog post will have to have several follow up blog posts I will hold off on my point-by-point criticism of the Facebook post. But I am fired up for a rant so stay tuned.

My integrity dictates that I must have an open mind. So maybe its true that microwaved water kills plants. We shall find out. Please review my procedures and correct any mistakes or make suggestions how I can do this better. I haven’t done a scientific experiment since college.

If I am wrong and microwaved water does kill plants I will be excited! But I will still be skeptical. This experiment should be done several times and repeated by others.

How can I make this experiment better?
What variables aren’t being controlled for that could affect the results?
Am I missing anything? Please criticize me.

Science! Lets Do it!

Question: Does microwaved water kill plants?

Hypothesis: I doubt that microwaved water kills plants. However heated water could kill plants.


I wish to duplicate the results of the Facebook post so I will try a few things I believe will do it.

Step 1) Six bean plants will grown to the multiple leaf stage over a few weeks. They will be watered with filtered water before the experiment begins. There will be identical soil and lighting conditions for all of the plants.

Step 2) Water plants every 2 days after the experiment begins in the following manner.

Plant A – Microwave 1 oz. of filtered tap water for 2 minutes & pour immediately around plant.
Plant B – Boil 1 oz. of filtered tap water on the stove and pour immediately around plant.
Plant C – Microwave 1 oz. of filtered tap water for 2 min and let cool for 30 min then pour around plant.
Plant D – Boil 1 oz. of filtered tap water on the stove and let cool for 30 min then pour around plant.
Plant E – Water plant with filtered tap water as it comes out of the tap half way between hot and cold.
Plant F – Water plant with 1 oz. of Red Bull fresh from the fridge. Use a new can for every watering.

Step 3) Observe which if any plants die and how quickly. Observe if the leaves or stem appear damaged, discolored or adversely affected. Observe if any of the plants grow wings.

Plant A – Will die in short order. The plant will limp over and wilt like the way cooked asparagus does. The heat will cook the plant. However 1 oz. of water may be cooled sufficiently by the soil and not harm the plant afterall. 2*
              - The heat may cause chemicals in the plastic containers to break down and that could kill the plants.
Plant B – Same as plant A.
Plant C – No adverse effects. Plant will grow as normal.
Plant D – Same as plant C.
Plant E – Same as plant C and D.
Plant F – Will grow wings. Just kidding. I have no idea what will happen. Maybe the acidic CO2 in the water will damage the plant. Maybe the sugar will cause microorganisms to grow in the soil and stifle the plants growth. Maybe the caffeine will damage the plant in unforeseen ways. Maybe the soil will filter anything bad from the Red Bull and the plant will absorb only the water.

*Please note that I am not speaking to the claim that microwaving proteins denatures them or that microwaves can break down other nutrients. Nor am I attempting to counter the claim that it would somehow be unhealthy if it were in fact true that microwaves damage nutrients in food. The Facebook post was all over the place and full of hype and fear rhetoric. There is too much to handle in one post.

* I am not going to speak to the issue that chemicals like fluoride and chlorine present in the tap water may be bad for plants. The same water is used for all 6 plants so the chemicals present in the water is a controlled variable.

*1 I acknowledge that qualifications and credentials count in science. Since I don’t have any feel free to discount this entire endeavor. Perhaps it is best to ask a real scientist at a university or a lab to plan and carry out an experiment to answer this question.

*2 Since different sized containers are being used this is a problem with the experiment.  Larger volumes of soil may cool the water better and may filter out so called “radiolytic compounds”. Furthermore; it is my understanding that when water is broken down by radiation it forms O2, O3 and H2 gasses which then reform back into water or dissolve into the atmosphere. Either way those gasses shouldn’t cause harm to the plants. But to control this as best I can I will use the same sized containers for Plant A & B and the same but different sized container for Plants C & D. Plants E and F will not be the same sized containers.