Sunday, October 7, 2012

How an apple changed my world...

I’m a little uneasy writing this post.  It takes me so far outside my professional comfort zone that actually committing my thoughts to screen is challenging.  But, if there is even a grain of truth in what follows, the implications are significant...

I was intrigued when shown some isolated images from Masuro Emoto’s book “The Hidden Messages in Water”.    In essence the claims are simple - that our thoughts and words can impact upon water. When water exposed to various influences is frozen and photographed under certain conditions crystals are often visible - and there can be significant differences in the shape of these crystals. Emoto claims that positive thoughts, words and music result in well formed, balanced “snow flake” like crystals whereas negative thoughts and words produce malformed murky crystals that are not pleasing to the eye.  

The clip below provides a clever introduction to Emoto’s work.

Those who would like to see more might enjoy this slideshow via Youtube.

My reaction was one of scepticism; I dismissed it as new-age pseudo-science.  Even a layman such as myself could see flaws in Emoto’s work.  The information about how the images were captured is superficial - meaning it would be hard to replicate the work.  Only one image of each stimulus is provided.  Were all samples identical - or even similar? Were there “failures”? If so what did they look like?  How many “successful” images followed each stimulus?    These and a host of other questions flowed readily. Reading Emoto’s book did not answer these questions.  The fact that the answers to such obvious questions were not provided was, to my mind,  daming.  However, it haunted me.  What if there was some truth to it?

I soon discovered this clip which suggests that Emoto’s work may not be as obscure and off-beat as I had first thought. 

This would suggest that something odd is actually going on - unless this is an elaborate hoax, there is support for the notion that water is influenced by the people who come in contact with it.

While researching further I came across a balanced critique of Emoto’s work which asks many of the same questions that I had and is well worth reading. As worthy as the article is, the comments following  are also worth exploring. Hidden amongst the range of sceptical responses and uncritical acceptance was a link to a personal blog which showed both initiative and religious belief - in equal parts.  In a variation on a process mentioned in Emoto’s book an apple was substituted for water. Given that living things are mostly water, the theory goes, if you subject any living thing to the stimuli mentioned by Emoto then you might be able to produce an observable effect.  Quanita Rizy’s blog contains photos where the apple does in fact show such effects.  Rizy had replaced the generic positive messages with quotations from the Quran but the photos seemed to indicate that something odd was certainly occurring.  Two sides of the apple were clearly aging differently. Moreover, they provided an easily replicated procedure to test the hypothesis.
So I did just that.  I cut an apple in half and placed each half in a sealed “sandwich” bag. Then I spoke to each half - using the terminology used by Emoto himself. The positive message was “Love and gratitude” whilst the negative message was “You fool”.  (The irony of the situation did not escape me - here was me calling half an apple a fool yet I was the one talking to a piece of fruit.) The apple halves were then placed side by side in a disused room with conditions which, to all intents and purposes, were identical.Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, I spoke the words to the fruit. After six days I asked an interested observer (you might not be surprised to see how much interest is generated when you start talking to fruit!) was asked to identify which half was in the better condition - the “Love and gratitude” half was correctly identified easily.  

This experiment now leaves me with a challenge. My small scale experiment tends to support Emoto.  I find this fascinating … and the implications are significant.  If a piece of fruit really does respond to language then how much more so is a human being affected by harsh words?  

We do not need to adopt “new age” philosophies to know that feedback that we give to students is significant. (If you need a refresher on why this is so click here.)

Regardless of the “truth” or otherwise of the water crystal belief perhaps it is timely to remind ourselves that the youngsters in our classes are more than students - they are people. Each person on the planet deserves to be valued and respected - not because it improves student outcomes, but simply because people are so much more significant than apples - or even a pretty water crystal.


Challenge:  I will continue to “test” the hypothesis using the methods outlined above. I will also be trying a variation involving cooked rice mentioned in Emoto's book. There are examples of this on Youtube as well. I'd if I’d be REALLY interested in hearing from anyone else of a similar mind who also conducted their own investigations. “Failures” would be just as interesting as “success stories”.

All embedded links go to original sources.
Cover to Emoto’s book “The hidden messages of water” via Google images.

"Subway" clip via Youtube: Slide show of images from Emoto's book via youtube: 
Is emoto for real - critique:

Quanita Rizy’s blog:
"Water has memory" clip via Youtube:

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