Sunday, October 02, 2005

Supercharge Your Spider Plant

We all know that spending too long at the computer can cause Repetitive Strain Injury, especially in teenage boys.
But, according to an article in yesterday's Guardian Weekend, "computers (like all electrical equipment) emit electromagnetic fields, which have been linked with insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety and general ill health."
Jesus, it's a miracle I'm not in intensive care.

If I view these assertions with some scepticism it's because they come from a woman who is the author of an Holistic Therapy book. 'Holistic' takes its name from the fact that there's a large hole where things like 'evidence' and 'proof' should be.
This woman also asserts that it's not enough to turn your computer off. If it's plugged in it will still emit electromagnetic fields. Surely such fields are 'created' rather than 'emitted'? But that's a minor point. I'm more intrigued with how they can be created, if they are, when no power is circulating in the system.

Apparently, placing a pot plant near your computer can help because they "soak up" electromagnetic fields. Presumably, they can do this without suffering anxiety and general ill health. One of those recommended for this purpose is a spider plant. It's only "certain plants" that can do this, possibly those most often found in offices and living rooms which, in a mere 20 years, have adapted to electromagnetic fields from computers.

As a bonus, these plants can 'negate' pollutants like Formaldehyde. That's handy to know because I usually pickle my ex-boyfriends' testicles as a souvenir and keep them in specimen jars on my mantlepiece. Let's hope Damien Hirst has lots of spider plants in his studio.

Now all of this may be completely true - the electromagnetic fields, not the pickled scrotums. But as I'm not a scientist I shall seek the advice of The Guardian's Ben Goldacre who writes the excellent Bad Science column.
Of course, his own paper may be off-limits for him.

But there's an important point here. Say, for the sake of argument, that this is all unsubstantiated holistic hokum. Should a paper like The Guardian be publishing it? A paper that now has the best science coverage in the national press and that employs someone to expose pseudo-scientific nonsense. And would they knowingly publish nonsense on their news pages? Some papers do, but not The Guardian. Why should a lifestyle feature in the magazine be any different?

I'm just off to water my spider plants but to be safe I'm going to wear rubber gloves and rubber boots. With all the electrical equipment in my house, they must have soaked up acres of electromagnetic fields by now. If I plugged the washing machine into my large double spider plant it could probably supply enough power to do the weekly wash for a year.
But maybe the emissions from my computer have caused mental confusion. And anyway, I didn't even get Physics 'O' Level.

I have now been told by a highly authoritative source in the scientific community that the stuff I quoted above was indeed nonsense.
Phew, that's a relief.
Not that I was worried about death by electromagnetic field. I just didn't fancy publishing an abject apology to the alternative bollocks merchants.
Anyone want a secondhand spider plant, one careful owner? I was fed up with watering the fucking thing anyway.


At 9:41 PM, Blogger cello said...

Yes, they even have a Horoscope, and excuse it by saying "it's just a bit of fun".

Spider plants scare me even more than holisic bollocks. Always distrust something organic which resists all attempts to kill it. Despite my greenish fingers, they only work out of doors. I cannot do house-plants at all, with the exception of a peace lily that shares the spider plant's indestructibility. I am deeply suspicious of it and I think it is simply there to check on how many Benedick's bittermints I pinch from the fridge.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

Spider plants are the Anne Widdicombe of plants - unpleasant to look at and indestructible.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello: you'll be pleased to know that the Holistic Woman said that Peace Lilies are another plant that thrives on electromagnetic fields.

wyndham: I think that's a bit harsh on spider plants. Their foliage is a redeeming feature. I'm not aware that Anne Widdecombe has any.

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous asta said...

This is an excellent example of bad science glomming onto and twisting good research. Some time ago, NASA conducted experiments to see if household plants in the course of photosynthesis converted any other gases ( besides carbon dioxide) into oxygen.
Turns out more than a dozen plants, including the spider plant, are super at removing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

I've known this for years. I still don't have any of those houseplants because, well, I think they're ugly.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

My sister has been dating someone I consider to be about as guyish as you can get, the son of the police chief of Belfast (oh the stories they tell). He's had his nose broken in bar fights six times (it is nearly detatchable), he drinks Guiness for breakfast, and his uniform is his "Bank of Ireland" shirt (the red hand one that is some team he likes).

In any case, with all this hypermasculinity going on, I was unspeakably dismayed to hear him one morning at breakfast asking for some honey to put into his coffee, on his toast, in his cereal and on his eggs. My husband asked if honey was to the Brits like ketchup is to Americans...HE ACTUALLY SAID: "No, but my mum's really turned me on to the benefits and healing powers of bees."

It was years ago, and I still haven't been able to wipe that morning off my brain.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

asta: I wonder if they're planning to take spider plants on a manned mission to Mars?

pn: nice story.
As a smoker, I keep quiet about my own inconsistent healthy eating fads.


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