OK, the theme for this week is distractions. Twitter and social media can be a great way of keeping up with breaking research, policy initiatives and science news. This week has been more than full with all of that standard fare- Nobel Laureate announcements, government shutdown consequences for science, and even photosynthesis research in a glam journal.* However, there have been plenty of distractions this week too. These range from interesting facts to bring up at parties like, “Jaguars prefer Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men.” To the inspirational- a new way of teaching and connecting with students (there’s even a joke about photosynthesis within the first minute of the video). To the physically improbable- a seal balances on a shark’s nose and manages to escape the attack.
Then I saw this tweet from the Danforth Center in St. Louis…
Wait, what? Yes, it’s the latest in interactive science. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science has set up a unique experiment that we can all participate in. It just started as part of their larger Mythbusters Exhibit. The experiment is to track the growth of two different plants; one solitary plant and the other exposed to the sounds of the human voice. The test will determine whether talking to plants will result in greater growth.
So, does the museum have someone on staff to talk to the plant or can you visit it in person and offer some audible affection? No, this is 2013. Technology has been specifically developed to turn your tweets into speech that is broadcast to the plant. If you use the hashtag phrase #talktoaplant in Twitter, the program will pick up on the tweet, whatever the actual content may be, and read it aloud to the plant. Here are some examples:
If you aren’t on Twitter, don’t worry. You can still talk to the plant. Go to their website www.talktoaplant.com and click on the call-out window to type your own message to the plant. I’m not really calling this citizen science, but it is a great chance to participate in an experiment. I couldn’t find details as to how long the talking vs. silent plant experiment will continue, but the website will offer more details about the experiment as it continues. Newly-developed tweet-talking technology aside, it is a rather simple experiment. I wish they would have used more than just one plant in each condition. Also, I wonder if just any sound waves will do? Is there something specific about the (mostly encouraging) human voice? What if it were listening to CSPAN? Maybe it would prefer other ambient nature sounds like a babbling brook or the rainforest? Would the plant prefer classical music or classic rock perhaps? If we played ‘Call Me Maybe’ on a continuous loop, how long would it take the plant to die or acquire the ability to leave the room? See, there could be so many spin off follow-up experiments.
So take the time to talk to a plant today. It could be the plant in the Denver museum or one that you have a more personal relationship with. Interact- with science and with plants.
*More on that next.