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Shaffer/My Turn: A study's message

As I dabble in health writing, my published articles are backed by research from the “experts” where millions of dollars were spent. But, low and behold, an experiment by five high school biology students from Denmark is getting international attention from renowned scientists from England, Holland and Sweden. The students (all girls) are Sisse Coltau, Rikke Holm, Lea Nielsen, Mathilde Nielsen, and Signe Nielsen.

Their creative idea came from realizing that they had difficulty concentrating during the school day and that perhaps sleeping with the cell phones near their heads was the cause. Here is their test procedure:

1. Plant 400 cress seeds (a green leafy vegetable) in 12 separate trays.

2. Place 6 trays in two separate rooms; one room is equipped with two WiFi routers, the same type of radiation emitted from cell phones; the other room is without the WiFi router.

3. Give the seeds the same amount of water and sun for 12 days.

4. Observe, measure, weigh and take pictures.

Result: The trays in the router-free room showed healthy growth of the cress plants. The room with radiation from the WiFi router showed some mutated plants and others did not germinate at all.

This experiment has gotten the attention of renowned scientist Olle Johansson, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He will repeat the experiment with a Belgian research colleague, Prof. Marie-Claire Cammaert at the Universate libre de Bruxelles. Prof. Johannson says, “The girls stayed within the scope of their knowledge, skillfully implemented and developed a very elegant experiment. The wealth of detail and accuracy is exemplary, choosing cress was very intelligent, and I could go on. I sincerely hope that they spend their future professional life in research, because I definitely think they have a natural aptitude for it. Personally, I would love to see these people on my team!”

The five girls have not yet decided their future careers. They are still very surprised by all the sudden attention. As Lea Nielsen said, “It has been such a roller coaster ride. I still cannot believe it.” And Mathilde Nielsen, “It’s totally overwhelming and exciting. It’s just not something you experience every day.”

As a result of the cress trial, the girls sleep with the mobile phone put away or in another room. Also, the computer is off.

To me, this is yet another example of the creativity of a generation much younger than I am. And, also they have opened their mind to, perhaps, their technology of choice — the cell phone — and confronted its potential downside.

Mary Shaffer lives in Hawley.

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