MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: effect of electromagnetic fields on eremosphaera algae cells

Date: Mon Dec 15 15:36:14 2003
Posted By: John Moulder, Faculty, Radiation Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 1071437357.Cb

electromagnetic field

Kim, you ask:

How would I set up an experiment to test the effect of electromagnetic fields on eremosphaera algae cells?

The first thing you have to decide is what kind of an electromagnetic field you want to work with. The phrase "electromagnetic field" could be used to describe a wide variety of different kinds of energy that have very different properties and very different biological effects.

X-rays, ultraviolet (UV) light, visible light, infrared light (IR), microwaves (MW), radio-frequency (RF) radiation, magnetic fields from electric power systems, and the static magnetic field of the Earth are all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. The parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are characterized by their frequency or wavelength. The frequency and wavelength are related, and as the frequency rises the wavelength gets shorter. The frequency is the rate at which the electromagnetic field goes through one complete oscillation (cycle) and is usually given in Hertz (Hz), where one Hz is one cycle per second.

For a diagram of the electromagnetic spectrum, see:
Electromagnetic Fields and Human Health

Next you will have to decide what type of an effect you want to look for. Different types of effects can require rather different experimental designs.

Warning: For most types of electromagnetic radiation and fields it will be very difficult for a student to find a source that will be powerful enough to produce any biological effects in algae. You could use microwaves from a microwave oven (but set at very short times to avoid simple heat killing). You could also use visible light (or sunlight). Ultraviolet light or infrared light are probably unsuitable because they can be dangerous to handle. For static or powerline fields, it is unlikely that a source powerful enough to cause effects would be available.

John Moulder
Radiation Biologist
Medical College of Wisconsin
Electromagnetic Fields and Human Health

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