Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: June 4, 2009 Archive

Does Talking Help?

Posted at 5:26 AM on June 4, 2009 by Dale Connelly (18 Comments)

Never mind today's news about high-profile political speeches that are intended to start meaningful discussions between billions of people in various foreign capitols.

What's the effect of things we say to plants?

Kate sent word earlier in the week of a project connected with the Royal Horticultural Society in Britain, looking at the effect of different human voices on the growth of plants.

It appears the British are "quite serious" about figuring out how to speak effectively to the vegetables. Auditions were held in April to select "The Voice of Wisley", the person with the most inspirational sound to promote human-plant communication. Selections included poems, stories, nursery rhymes, Shakespeare and cuttings from The Day of the Triffids, a science fiction novel by John Wyndham about stinging plants that can uproot themselves and walk around.

A London Times article described how the voice would be recorded, then played back through headphones attached to the pots of tomatoes. A professor of acoustics from the Universtiy of Salford, Trevor Cox, was quoted in The Times article.

"It appears that low-frequency sound might vibrate the plant and so affect its growth. So my recommendation would be to impersonate Barry White, or some Buddhist chanting at a low frequency, to maximise the chances of success."
All of this "Voice of Wisley" stuff happened in April, and yet there's no word of results yet from the gardens. Perhaps the plants have responded with vigor beyond our expectations, and are already on the march?

Who talks to their plants, and what do you say?
And if we were going to pipe music into the tomato-root headphones, what would it be?

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