The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
Microwaved Water Kills Plants
Status: Undetermined
microwave experiment I've posted before about theories that microwaved food is bad for you, but this is slightly different. Some guy has posted pictures of his granddaughter's science fair project in which she tested the effect microwaved water would have on a plant. The result: the plant died. (Yes, the water had been cooled before she watered the plant with it.) But the plant given water that had been boiled on a stove did just fine. So what does this prove? That microwaved water is toxic? Not necessarily. The guy notes:

We have seen a number of comments on this, such as what was the water in the microwave boiled in. The thinking is that maybe some leaching took place if it was in plastic. It was boiled in a plastic cup, so this could be a possibility. Also it was not a double blind experiment, so she knew which was which when watering them. On top of that she was wanting the microwaved ones to do poorly, and although most scientists would dismiss the idea, it is possible that her thoughts toward each plant had an effect as well. Bottom line is, the results are interesting, and duplicate the results that others have reported (try Googling '"microwaved water" plants') more experiments need to be done with better controls and as a double blind study. But this was a simple 6th grade science fair project, and was never intended to be anything more than that. The plants were genetically identical, they were produced from graphs from the same parent plant, so that variable can be eliminated.

Intriguingly, the Straight Dope (a source I usually trust) has written an article about the controversy over microwave cooking, and he notes that scientists actually do not fully understand the chemical changes that take place when food is microwaved, and so there may indeed be some kind of "microwave effect." He notes a 1992 Stanford study that found microwaving breast milk mysteriously reduces its infection-fighting properties, as well as studies that have found that microwaves can accelerate certain chemical reactions. He writes: "'One suggestion,' a bunch of chemists wrote recently, 'is that this is some form of 'ponderomotive' driving force that arises when high frequency electric fields modulate ionic currents near interfaces with abrupt differences in ion mobility.'" He doesn't attempt to explain this theory.

I would repeat the girl's experiment myself, but everything I try to grow mysteriously dies, so there wouldn't be much point. (via The Greener Side)
Categories: FoodScience
Posted by The Curator on Fri Apr 21, 2006
One variable you may want to limit is pruning the microwave plant until it dies.
Posted by matthew144  on  Sat Apr 29, 2006  at  04:17 PM
Okay, I've set up a test of my own here.

9 plastic yoghurt cups (for pots), 3 labeled A, 3 labeled B, and 3 labeled C
3 small Pyrex bowls (for pots), labeled A, B, or C
3 small glass bowls (for pots), labeled A, B, or C
48 dried kidney beans
Potting soil
1 pint Pyrex measuring cup
3 glasses, labeled red, yellow, or blue

All of the pots were thoroughly washed and dried. The potting soil was thoroughly mixed, and equal amounts of it were put into each pot in random order. The beans were all put in a bowl and drawn out in random order to be placed in each pot. There are to be three beans in each pot, except for in the Pyrex bowls (which are slightly larger than the others, and will each have four).

The pots are grouped into threes: one in each group for water that has been unheated, one for water that has been microwaved to a strong boil, and one for water that has been heated to a strong boil in the oven.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sat Apr 29, 2006  at  04:48 PM
The Experiment:
The groups of three pots are to be located in various positions around the house. The three glass bowls, the three Pyrex bowls, and three of the plastic cups will be grouped together, with the alphabetical placement of each cup in each set varying. Each of the other two groups of three plastic cups will be located in a different place in the house. This will hopefully give some indication if any germination or failure to germinate is potentially due to environmental factors other than the water (e.g. lighting, temperature, alien death rays, et cetera).

In each case, the water is to be collected, heated (if it is to be heated), and poured into one of the three glasses using the 1 pint Pyrex cup. The preparation of the water and the pouring it into the three glasses is to be done by one person, the pouring of the water from the glasses onto the beans by a second. This way, the person watering the plants has no knowledge of which water was treated in which way.

Each pot labeled "A" is to be given water only from the glass labeled with a certain specific colour throughout the experiment. Pots labeled "B" and "C" are to be treated likewise. Which colour glass is to be used with which letter of pot is to be known only to the individual watering the plants. In this way, the person preparing the water will not know which plants are receiving which type of water.

All of the pots in each test group are to be watered as simultaneously as possible, with the same amounts of water. Nothing else is to be given to the beans at any time. If anything is given to any pot, then it is to be added to the other two pots in the group in the same amount. If any pot is moved for any reason, then the others in the group will likewise be moved. All treatment for all three pots in each group is to be the same.

Testing for germination will conclude after two weeks if no germination occurs, or if a week passes with no new germinations. The beans will be monitored for germination, as well as the apparent health and growth rate of any shoots. If there is sufficient germination among the different experimental groups to warrant it, then the experiment may be carried on for additional weeks to monitor the growth of the bean plants as they mature.

Pictures will be taken of each pot at the start of the experiment. At the first sign of germination in any pot, then pictures of every pot shall be taken on a daily basis. A daily log will also be kept for each pot.

At the end of the experiment, the results will be studied to compare the germination rates of experiment groups A, B, and C. It will then be determined whether any group displayed an overall better or worse germination rate than the other groups. After this, then it shall be made known which groups were given which type of water.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sat Apr 29, 2006  at  04:48 PM
First, thank you Accipiter for doing what I'm pretty much too lazy to do. I do enough research to make an argument, but I lose interest before I can follow up on anyone else's arguments... And while I considered my own plant experiment, I'd end up not keeping enough details for it to be worth anything.

Of course, any results of your experiment are strictly anecdotal...
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Sun Apr 30, 2006  at  09:33 PM
But please keep me posted, because I really would like to know what happens.
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Sun Apr 30, 2006  at  09:33 PM
Where are your results???
Posted by Bob  on  Thu May 11, 2006  at  11:21 AM
Well, after two and a half weeks, the results are: none of the seeds have germinated! Obviously, this means that water itself is toxic and kills plants. . .

I might try this test again with a different batch of seeds that I get from a different store, if I feel motivated enough.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed May 17, 2006  at  01:59 AM
Yeah, right, blame the water, or the seeds... You are a plant murderer!!!

Although, I suppose since they never germinated at all, it would be seed murderer.

You will notice I didn't offer to try this. That's because it takes all the green-ness I own to keep the 3 plants I already have alive.
Posted by hcmomof4  in  So. Cal.  on  Wed May 17, 2006  at  05:21 PM
Perhaps I shouldn't have tried growing the plants on a bed of 30000
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed May 17, 2006  at  07:53 PM
I tried this same experiment at home for several weeks and both plants remained completely healthy.

There are so many different possibilities for why her plant died - I highly doubt it was due to the water being microwaved.
Posted by Michelle  in  Calgary, Canada  on  Fri Jun 02, 2006  at  04:48 PM
I travel to Russia very frequently; microwave ovens are legal and used to heat & reheat foodstuffs. When I queried some Russian business associates regarding any 'ban' of microwave ovens in Russia, I was scoffed at.
Posted by bayonet  in  Atlanta, GA  on  Sat Jul 29, 2006  at  04:38 PM
Regards microwaved water and plant health.

1. L Ron Hubbard proved conclusively in the 1950s that plants respond to thought.

2. Unless a microwave mysteriously changes the chemical makeup of water, H20 goes in, boils, and H2O comes out. If something else comes out, maybe somebody should try microwaving lead -- perhaps they will get gold! grin
Posted by Ken McLeod  in  Sheridan, OR  on  Mon Jul 31, 2006  at  11:14 PM
1. L Ron Hubbard proved conclusively that he was a loon, nothing more.

2. Microwaves do have the ability to alter the chemical composition of water with contaminants, which all water contains. The question is if this actually happens in real life and does it create something that inhibits plant growth.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Tue Aug 01, 2006  at  10:58 AM
I was shocked when I saw this "water experiment." So I decided to do my own experiment. I had also read somewhere that pouring microwaved water on seeds would prevent them from germinating. Well, I'm into the 2nd week of this experiment and unfortunately, all seeds have germinated are growing very nicely. I'm actually kind of unhappy about this result because I was hoping I could blame microwave ovens on the incredible increase in cancer deaths over the last two decades.
Posted by Pat  in  Sacramento  on  Thu Aug 24, 2006  at  12:47 AM
I have actually conducted this experiment for my biology class. I used 15 cups for tap water and 15 cups for microwaved water, for a total of 30 cups. I used generic potting soil and pinto beans. At first it seemed like the microwaved water beans were growing at a much faster rate. Four of my microwaved water beans were at 2 inches within the 4th day while most of the contorl were under 1 inch. On the 7th day is when things changed. Many of my microwaved water plants seemed to stop growing, one wilted. This could have been human error, or a special exception that would deem it negligible. I'm still growing them till this day, which is the 10th day. Only 5 of 15 microwaved water beans are still alive while 9 of 15 control beans are alive. Today, it seems like the ones that are still alive have roughly experienced similiar growth.

I probably will conclude on my paper that there is no difference.

I do have a question though. Can plants grow from pure water like distilled water? If so, the mutation or change in the solution of tap water would be negligible because plants will only use h2o. Correct me if im wrong, please.
Posted by Joey  in  Los Angeles, Ca  on  Sat Oct 14, 2006  at  05:13 AM
My class replicated this experiment and showed it to be false.

<a >Does cooled microwaved water kill plants?</a>
Posted by Jared Graham  in  Oregon  on  Fri Nov 24, 2006  at  03:32 AM
I don't know why the URL in my last post loops back to this page. I guess I only though I knew what I was doing.

If you what to see the experiment results you can go to - there is a link "Does cooled microwaved water kill plants?"
Posted by Jared Graham  in  Oregon  on  Fri Nov 24, 2006  at  03:36 AM
I'm doing the same project for Science Horizons. My Results are telling me that microwave water is making my plant grow faster. I'm doing the project twice to see if both results are the same and so far they both are.
Posted by Jaci Jowdy  in  Connecticut  on  Sat Dec 30, 2006  at  08:43 PM
For Jaci Jowdy-
What is you test subject size. There is quite a bit of variation in plant growth as you probably know, and the more subjects you have the better. We only did the experiment for 10 days because the school year was ending, but now we are starting a new experiment with aquariums (testing both plants and fish). I have not boiled the control water, although it is bottled water, so it has been treated. For more info on our new experiment drop by our site - comments are appreciated.

I'm interested to know how your experiment turns out.
Posted by Jared Graham  in  Oregon  on  Sun Dec 31, 2006  at  05:18 AM
what if i do this proj. what would be my main problem for this and would i change the title/name of the proj.?
Posted by flo  in  australia  on  Sun Jan 14, 2007  at  03:24 AM
Sorry I acedentaly pressed enter. But my results are: Bolied water-25in.with 3 flowers, microwave water-26in. with 4 flowers, tap water-20in.with 1 flower, and bottled water-17in. with no flowers. I would love to know what type of plant ur granddaughter used for my project.
Posted by Jaci Jowdy  in  Danbury,CT  on  Sat Jan 27, 2007  at  09:58 AM
Posted by bulldog101  in  FL  on  Tue Feb 06, 2007  at  06:20 PM
I am going 2 try this for my science project right now. THis is where I am gettin my information. Very Intresting!!
Posted by Bulldog102  in  FL  on  Tue Feb 06, 2007  at  06:22 PM
I did my own experiment with flower seeds with plain tap water, boiled water, and microwaved water. All seeds germinated (although I was hoping the microwaved ones wouldn't). Water is water is water. It has been down through eons of time and will continue to be water. This little girl's experiment was absolutely bogus. We've got enought hoaxes going on today. We don't need someone to pull this kind of stunt.
Posted by Pat  in  Sacramento  on  Tue Feb 06, 2007  at  08:08 PM
im doing mt own project.
Posted by aaron  in  ca lakewood  on  Sat Feb 10, 2007  at  11:04 PM
My son's science fair project was rooting 1 slip of a ficus plant in room temperature microwaved water and 1 slip of ficus plant in tap water from our well. After 30 days of observation, the plant in tap water from our well has sprouted roots. The plant slip in microwaved water has not formed roots at all. Both plants were placed in the same window each in identical glass containers. The microwaved water was boiled in a glass container and then cooled to room temperature.
Posted by Hal Hoov  in  Dallas, PA  on  Mon Mar 26, 2007  at  10:21 PM
Although I appalled your son
Posted by Jared Graham  in  Oregon  on  Tue Mar 27, 2007  at  01:06 AM
When I started UNI, I had limited space so I cooked all my food in a microwave. 6 months later I was diagnosed with an autoimmunity. I didn't take any drugs ro meds and during that time I didn't stress. I have reason to believe that the increase in autoimmune diseases (maybe cancer as well) we see is due to the fact that more and more food companies switch to easy microwaveable food.
Posted by Philip Oosthuizen  in  South-Africa (Pretoria)  on  Tue Apr 24, 2007  at  11:38 AM
Our brains tend to want to connect all the dots, so to speak, and sometimes see correlations where there are no real correlations. Our cavalier attitude toward polluting our environment has lead to an increase in health problems globally. The only way to be sure if your microwave oven caused the problem is have someone conduct a study, and even this is difficult because of the vast amount of variables involved. The bottom line is: How do we know which variable (or combination of variables) caused the problem? The cause of most autoimmune diseases is unknown - but they have plagued us long before microwaved ovens came on the scene.
Posted by Jared Graham  in  Oregon  on  Sat May 05, 2007  at  04:31 PM
why does this happen to the plant being watered by microwaved water?
Posted by denni  in  australia  on  Tue May 15, 2007  at  12:03 AM
Comments: Page 2 of 4 pages  < 1 2 3 4 > 
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.