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Gardening pseudo-science

5 Jun 2024

I have long preached that "healthy skepticism" should be a subject taught at all levels throughout the educational system.

Far too many people lose their hard-earned cash to stupid scams each and every day, simply because they're gullible, naive and trusting.

I've lost track of the number of scams and fraudulent pseudo-science claims and devices I've debunked in this column over the decades but I always have room for one more.

Today, it's the humble hobby of gardening and an ultra-silly fraud that is obviously tricking people into wasting their money on ineffective technology that is about as real in its effects as homeopathy.

I'm talking about "Electroculture".

My first encounter with electroculture was whilst searching AliExpress for something completely different.

This turned up in my search results.

What the?

The fact that this little piece of plastic which is designed to facilitate the winding of copper Fibonaccis coils has 12 reviews and a 4.7 star rating indicates that there are more than a handful of idiots within the ranks of gardeners.

More research was needed, obviously.

Using ny google-fu powers, I found this NZ page where $10.49 will get you one of these fantastic coils of copper wire that, by acting as an antenna for special spooky forces from the ether, will:

  • Maximize plant growth and vitality
  • Improve crop yields
  • Reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides
  • Create a healthier and more sustainable garden

I'm surprised it doesn't clean windows and do dishes as well.

It will come as little surprise to learn that the surge in interest surrounding this snake oil is being driven largely by TikTok posts. Ah yes, that oracle of all things scientific and proven!

Now, it seems, every man and his dog are jumping on the bandwagon and taking the chance to fleece the gullible of their money. Books on electroculture are popping up everywhere and there are several articles that have clearly been widely syndicated to dozens of gardening websites and publications. Mostly these articles are praising the possible effects but they draw on no relevant scientific studies to deliver proof.

The reality is that there are studies which prove the effects (both favourable and non-favourable) of electrical currents on plant growth but all the scammers are simply saying "see, electricity makes plants grow better" and then claiming that a spiral of copper wire can "harness atmospheric electricity" and thus stimulate faster growth.

The reality is that there's not a whole lot of electricity in the atmosphere at plant level so these coils are unlikely to do anything -- hence the lack of any actual studies proving their efficacy.

As usual, the scammers latch onto some credible sounding studies and present them as evidence that "electricity = growth" then conjur up these miracle coils (because we all know that coils = electricity) then claim "coils = growth".

If you'd like more information and detailed instructions on how to tripple the yield of your vege garden this winter by using a few bits of copper wire then don't waste your time downloading an ebook and reading through its virtual pages -- just send me $20 and I'll send you nothing. The net result will be the same (ie: you'll gain nothing) but at least you won't have wasted your time with a download.

Once again I call for our schools to introduce "healthy skepticism" as a core-subject and to perhaps place a little more emphasis on science as a method for avoiding these snake-oil scams.

Carpe Diem folks!

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