Category Archives: Projects

It’s Not the Microwaves That Are Deadly

Abortion of the experiment

I am sorry to say it, but the experiment “Are Microwaves Really Deadly?” will be put to an end. It’s truly tragical, but almost all of the 84 little plants have died.

The cause of death is unknown, but I assume it was an attack of little fruit flies (Drosophila) that laid their eggs into the soil. The larvae hatched and roamed the earth to feast on anything in their way — and the only edible thing in their nursery were probably the weak and unprepared roots of my basil.

Sometimes I saw little insects coming up from the soil when I watered the pots — where there were many of those grazing creatures a few days later the plants fell down. They had lost their roots and were left to rot.

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Are Microwaves Really Deadly?

Alternative title: One Basil Plant Is Not a Sample

A few weeks ago the Austrian newspaper “Die Krone” tried to do some serious science and decided to publish its findings in the sunday paper on 2014-1-12 — they called the article “Das unheimliche Mikrowellen-Experiment” (“The Scary Microwaves Experiment”).
It turned out that the headline was just a phrase to get the readers’ attention — the only scary thing about it was that the author believed a phenomenon can be proven by an experiment with only two plants.

The setup was simple: there were two basil plants. While one was being watered with tap water, the other one got water that was heated with a microwave oven. After some days one of the pot plants didn’t look healthy anymore and lost, after a few more days, its leaves — it was the one that was irrigated with microwaved water.
The author didn’t draw a real final conclusion but guessed the microwaves had something to do with it and let the reader ponder over what killed the basil.

Randomness and Other Factors

Especially with a sample of only two it is very likely that the outcome is a result of one of many other factors: maybe one was already sick or injured, got less light, didn’t adept well enough etc.
Another possibility is that the material of the water container and its heating had something to do with the tragic death of basil #2 — the article’s photos suggest it was some kind of plastic.
The most obvious parameter is probably the heating and boiling of the water in contrast to not doing so for the control plant.

Solution: Do It Yourself

Because of the large number of uncertainties in the experiment done by the “Krone” author, two friends and I decided to do it better and with a bigger sample of plants.

Basil setup

My setup is bigger and the experiment takes much more time and care, but I am certain that it will yield more acurate results — as well as a huge pile of basil for mozzarella and pesto.

  1. The experiment begins with seeds, not adult plants.
  2. There are 7 seeds in a pot, 4 pots in each research group.
  3. The 3 research groups are: boiled water (on an electric stove in enamel), microwaved water (in a drinking glass) and unboiled water.
  4. All plants grow under identical conditions (same soil, light, temperature etc.)
  5. and are treated equally (amount of water, time of irrigation etc.).
  6. All the water is from the same tap and prepared at the same time, then left to cool to room temperature before watering.

Three pupils and their teachers of a school in Bad St. Leonhard are doing a similar project themselves and, even at this young age, incorporate scientific thinking in their study — I wish them good luck!

 The Real Question

Why do people want something as useful as a microwave oven to be bad, even deadly — when it’s been so great at making popcorn for decades? The same anxiety applies to mobile phone emissions or any other kind of radiation.

The unknowing of a process or the lack of interest should not justify the belief in charlatanry or half-baked “theories”.

Yes, radiation is a difficult topic, but people often misuse the language of physics and science for their own good or to arouse attention and emotions.
Phenomena like the death of the basil or a possible effect of microwaves on other living beings are being studied in a serious way, but mostly outside of newspaper offices.

Radiation and energy is all around you — just not in the way your esoteric or journalist wants you to believe.

T-Shirts Made for Fun and for You

Take a look at baobab-design.spreadshirt.de!

Years ago I designed my first T-shirt – since then I have made one whenever I felt like it, with no regular schedule but great motivation.

baobab-design T-Shirt Shop

Cartoons and Trigonometry

The collection so far consists of cartoony or geometric designs – because those are the most fun to design. The focus is clearly on vector-based graphics to ensure sharp contours, good washability and a nice textile experience.

However, my plan for the future is to overcome my love for vector graphics and make a larger number of picture designs utilizing pixels and more colors.

The name “baobab” comes from an African tree which sounds and looks interesting, funny and extraordinary and was taken as a label for exactly those reasons.
The list of ideas and concepts is growing rapidly while the lack of time to actually make them is increasing as well.

Orders don’t make me rich but they definitely make me happy – they can be taken directly via the shop. Printing and shipment are done by spreadshirt.de.
Also, share it if you like it and follow baobab here!

Planning a Hydro Power Plant, Architecturally Pleasing

Conrete Student Trophy 2013

Earlier this year I was planning a hydro power station in Scheibbs (Lower Austria) for the local energy provider EVN as part of an interdisciplinary contest: the anual Conrete Student Trophy which is backed by many companies, including major players in the construction and cement industry.

CST_Wasserkraftwerk-Brandstatt

While as a civil/environmental engineer it was my responsibility  to oversee and plan the hydraulic functionality, my teammates – two architects from the Technical University of Vienna – shaped the building and found a design that worked well with the hydraulics and the formative material concrete.

Recognition award

We were very satisfied with our final design – and so was the jury which had to review 21 submissions and decided to award our team with one of four recognition prizes.

The official statement including photos as well as the announcement of all the winners can be found at zement.at.