Bad Water Experiment

2006-04-22 14:07 - General

For a little background on this experiment, read my earlier article about what it is and why I'm doing it. In short, trying to determine if different types or treatments of water effect it drastically enough to harm / fail to nourish a plant.

Experiment setup

To make sure I don't lose track of which is which, I first set up some labels to mark which compartments get which kind of water. Each label covers the compartment it is in, plus the three compartments "in front of" it, as the picture is laid out. Next task up was to start gardening.

Following the included instructions, I set up the planting kit with its soil pellets. They needed to be rehydrated, and it rapidly became clear that the water would quickly be mixed with that from all the other compartments, as the pellets slowly soaked it up. I decided to use distilled water everywhere, as a result, to hydrate the soil. The distilled water is my best control. From here on out, future waterings will be with the correct types for that location only.

I plan to let the whole thing "rest" for a day, and begin planting.


The hypothesis of this experiment is that water heated with a microwave is altered in some critical way. The microwaved water will fail to nourish a seed properly, causing no or poor growth.

Note that it is this experimenters expectation that this hypothesis will be disproved, but actual conclusions are reserved until the results are available for analysis.

The Experiment

There are three types of water, and three treatments:



This creates nine test groups. Each group contains three members. The three untreated groups are the controls. Should the experimenter fail completely at gardening, and the control groups fail to grow, the experiment will be discarded. Should the control groups grow successfully, the differences between the control groups and the two treated groups, as well as the differences between types of water with the same treatment will be analyzed.

Progress and Results

Available once the experiment is under way. Note that germination estimates are provided at 10-21 days, so visible results are likely to not be available for two weeks.

Day 1: April 23rd
It's raining hard today, it's very overcast. While my heated water is cooling, I start by placing the seeds. Two seeds per compartment, in the shallowest of holes, covered lightly.

Day 3: April 25th
My terribly limited gardening skills are already stretched to their limits. Wingin' it, the soil seems moist still, so I'm leaving it be. Makes sense, being covered up, that it wouldn't dry out but slowly.

Day 5: April 27th
Fresh water today. Not much else to report.

Day 9: April 30th
I'm not a complete failure as a gardener; we have sprouts! I took some pictures, but the tiny seedlings barely even showed up, so we'll wait for something slightly more substantial, to get a shot. Now the more detailed instructions on the back of the kit say, "When first seedlings appear, prop dome open to improve air circulation. When all seeds have sprouted, remove dome..." But since we've got 4 of 27 out, I'll give it at least a day or two before I follow.

I hesitate to even say it but, what we've got are two sprouts in the untreated water, two in the boiled, and none in the microwaved. For untreated, one each in distilled and tap. For boiled, one in tap and one in filtered. Too early to make any conclusions, but is the lack of a sprout in the nuked water batch an omen?

Day 12: May 3rd
We've finally gotten a couple more sprouts, and they've all gotten a bit taller. The untreated batch has three, two in one compartment. The boiled batch has two, and the microwaved batch got one of its own. The pictures don't show up so hot. Oh well.

It was also time, so today we got some more water. The dome will be vented a bit as well now.

Day 14: May 5th
A new sprout today, in the nuked section. This brings the count to untreated 3, boiled 2, microwaved 2. Starting to look as even as I was expecting.

Day 26: May 17th
I have clearly lapsed in my reporting. Unfortunately, in the past few days, everything that sprouted in both the boiled and microwaved area has withered away. Two sprouts are still fine in the untreated tap water section.


No strong conclusion can be made. Though the number of plants were about equal, 3/2/2 for untreated/boiled/microwaved, that was a 1/3rd sprout rate, at best. This weakly suggests that there is no appreciable difference. The fact that only the sprouts in the untreated section have survived this long suggests just the opposite.

This experiment has been a failure.


2006-04-22 20:56 - kathaclysm

So, are the bottoms of all them "individual" containers exposed to common water, or did you take them out of their original holder so the water at their roots wouldn't mix?

2006-04-22 21:45 - arantius

Yes, technically, there is a slight chance of contamination between chambers. Of course, the kit as it was built is designed with that tray at that bottom, so that excess water can get away from the soil, not into. It was only the starting case where the soil was in dehydrated pellets that so much water was down there that it might soak back up. The bottom tray has been cleaned and dried, and I expect no cross contamination.

But, even in the worst possible case, there's no real problem. Let's say that both my expectations are wrong (microwaved water is indeed plant poison), and contamination is so severe that it effects all the plants. Well, in this worst case, I have still gained the knowledge that something in that little plastic greenhouse killed those plants. Nothing has been lost except the trial.

On the other hand, if I'm right, all the plants will be alive and equally vibrant. In that case, even if all the excess microwave water seeped into the neighbor plants, we still know that it isn't the world's cheapest weed killer.

I was right ...
2006-11-14 20:06 - arantius

Severely delayed, this. But, Snopes picked up on this as well, and debunked it for real.

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