Will a cactus absorb radiation from your computer?

July 23, 2009 By: erik Category: Fighting Stupidity, Science, Skepticism 30,842 views

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Radioactive CactusYesterday I was watching La Ruleta de la Suerte, Spain’s version of Wheel of Fortune. Sometimes they have puzzles in a category called “Did you know that…?” where the answer is some interesting factoid. Unfortunately, their research into these factoids is pretty lax. In this category yesterday the clue was “Anti-radiation” and the answer was “Place a cactus next to your computer”. The host later went on to explain that scientists have shown that placing a cactus next to your computer will absorb, and protect you from, the harmful radiation that your computer gives off. Intuitively this sounded to me to be what the ever-eloquent British call “a load of bollocks.”

The Computer Radiation Myth

The idea that a consumer electronic device is producing enough harmful radiation to damage your health is ridiculous. These products are tested. Thanks to Chernobyl, the Cold War, and the microwave oven, the general public is terrified of “radiation”, but almost no one differentiates between regular old radiation, the emission and absorption of electromagnetic waves/photons, and ionizing radiation, where the photons have enough energy to damage atoms. The kind of radiation your computer is giving off is not ionizing radiation:

Multiple studies have been completed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Radiological Health and Devices, Bell Laboratories, and The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The data from their work indicates that computer VDTs “emit little or no harmful ionizing (e.g., x-rays) or non-ionizing (e.g., infrared) radiation under normal operating conditions.”

As long as you’re not working for twelve hours a day with your head sandwiched inches between the backs of two CRT monitors, you’re gonna be just fine.

The Cactus Myth

I’ve done a little internet searching, and the only evidence I can find is the same plagiarized paragraph on hundreds of “living green” websites, which I will paste here onto yet another web page:

In the mid-1980s, researchers at the Institute of Geobiology in Chardonne, Switzerland, announced that tests showed employees who used to suffer from headaches and tiredness felt better after working for two years with a cactus next to their monitors. A hypothesis has been suggested that cacti evolved to counter the effects of harsh solar radiation. The science is unproven, but why not play it safe and enjoy a little nature while you work?

That’s it. Everywhere that mentions this “phenomenon” specifically says that the science is unproven. Not only that, but the study involved no measurement of radiation whatsoever, only tiredness. But that’s how myths form, isn’t it? It sounds clever and reasonable, assuming you don’t understand anything about radiation.

To The Next Level

Let’s take this myth to the next level and assume the worst case scenario: your computer monitor is built of Cobalt-60, a gram of which would kill you after a one month exposure, and the cactus on your desk has the radiation absorption properties of a block of lead. Unless you placed the cactus completely between you and the computer you would get no benefit whatsoever! There’s no way to “attract” the radiation towards the cactus. Radiation goes out in all directions until it is absorbed or reflected by something. You can’t even bend light with a strong magnetic field. Your best bet is to bend space-time. So here’s a health tip for you that really works!

Place a black hole on your desk next to your computer to absorb radiation. Why not play it safe and enjoy a little nature while you work?

  • Hahahahahahahahaha!

  • NJ

    I saw this in a Korean drama where the guy put a lot of cacti around his PC to protect him from the radiation. Since then, I have been trying to surf the internet to find answers whether it’s true or not. Thanks for this information.

  • why cactus is the anti radiation?do the cactus cannot die if they absorb the radiation?

    • The cactus is not anti-radiation.

  • tim

    now how can I protect my cactus from my computer radiations?

  • burhan

    the scientist applied this project , aren’t they ?
    that is did scientists study this subject ??
    Is there one certain result
    I will study this subject and I hope , you will help me!!
    thanks a lot
    As soon as possible please.

  • You have set our efforts to expose the spacetime-bending machinations of our devious cactus overlords back many years. I would wish you an eternity of suffering in a prickly gravity well, but it looks like you’ve seen to that for all of us. Thanks a bundle.

    If you would like to join those of us who are part of the solution, I’d invite you to consider the mighty saguaro cactus of the American Southwest (which we believe to be praetors among the cactus horde). Even the careful cactus will make a mistake from time to time, exposing the effects of its multi-dimensional activities, however briefly, to detection by the tools of scientific inquiry. Review carefully the available literature on the species acceleratii incredibus and carnivorous vulgaris and their struggles to survive among the saguaro. You will find it riddled with references to unusual spatial and gravitational effects.

  • Angie

    Guys it’s very true that radiation from computers ARE harmful to us humans – unfortunately the guy who wrote this article has not done his research properly as he would of read about it. And with regards to the cactus – unfortunately alone it will not help much at all besides look pretty, the main thing you need to do is limit your exposure as much as possible, and if you like you can even purchase an anti-radiation apron – this does work I have proof from personal experience!

    • Angie, I cited a study from the Food and Drug Administration. Do you have any studies you’d like to cite?

      • ShereKhan

        Who trusts the Food and Drug Administration? Mr Erik R. you seem to be a passionate anti-cactus activitist, any subconscious issues with cactuses, the mother, and warthog penises?

        • Everyone who eats anything in the United States? I suspect the FDA even indirectly, through FAO and EFSA, effects policies about the food you eat in Malta.

          I’m actually very pro-cactus, I love my mother, and I’m fairly neutral about warthog genitalia, as I’ve yet to come across any.

          • ShereKhan

            Thanks, but it would surprise me a lot if FDA influences much of anything we eat in Malta.

          • Can I ask why you trust your own government food safety (just look at their professional website!) more than the FDA?

  • Tiger

    Where does the radiation come from? Since the computer is made of different devices, it’ unlike that every device would provide same amount of radiation. If we know which one is the major source, it’s possible to prevent from it without covering the whole computer.

    Another question: how does the radiation damage our health? For human beings, absorb too much sun light could also be harmful. While cactus could stand longer under sunshine. In this sense, it may contain some elements to interact with radiation before the harmful interaction happen.

    • Could be compounds, too. Has anybody tried putting a cactus in a microwave?

  • dewy

    I think that people focus on the cactus often enough that their brain rests enough to feel refreshed, therefore canceling the possibility that you get a headache or blurriness. There are eye-resting exercises, such as rolling your eyes in a complete circle 5x and focusing on one thing for 30 seconds for three sets for every 30 minutes that you are using a computer that are supposed to reduce stress in your eyes.

  • kristin

    so what’s very unreliable with that study in switzerland? its a study dude. as far as i know, before a study is approved, it has to be analyzed. i dont think those people are stupid enough to approve a study and put it in the internet if the study is unreliable. maybe that is the only result you saw in the internet because it is the only fact about cactus anti radiation posted here in the internet.anyway, you got a nice page here 🙂
    haha..and by the way, wheel of fortune, in our country, is translated as “gulong ng palad”..God bless ou and your blog.

    • The study that was done is not about cacti protecting against radiation. It’s a study showing that people generally feel better when there’s a cactus on their desk, and then some anonymous person (not necessarily involved with the original study or any university whatsoever) added the word “anti-radiation” to a blurb talking about the study.

      The original study was not stupid. It was just unrelated to the conclusions people have drawn from it. It’s called a non sequitur.

  • ShereKhan

    I personally believe that there is no risk at putting a cactus on or near your computer. You can try and see what happens. Also read about the way indoor plants can depollute your house!

    • I personally believe that there is no risk at putting a stuffed warthog penis on or near your computer. You can try and see what happens.

      ShereKhan, no risk ≠ good idea.

      • Hilltop

        Since reading your post about stuffed warthog penises, I haven’t been attacked by bears.

        • Q.E.D.

          • ShereKhan

            No risk is a very good idea. It refers to the principle of precaution according to which you do not do something if you suspect there may be a danger or inconvenient; conversely, you may want to do something if it does not present any potential inconvenient. It has been researched and established that some plants have depolluting power, including those of the cactus type (aloe vera); in addition, people report they feel better with a cactus near their computers. What I am saying is: let’s be pragmatic, let’s do it and see what happens.

          • Nowhere in the above post will you find that I’m saying that placing a cactus on your desk is a bad idea. It’s a swell idea, actually. You can use an organic moss mousepad for all I care.

            Your “somebody said it might help, and it certainly won’t hurt” attitude is what drives normally reasonable people to use fake medicine like homeopathy and the like. Even though it seems harmless, spreading this kind of attitude does get people killed.

            Myths like this that, A) spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), and B) give a fake cure that wouldn’t work even if there was a risk (which there isn’t) deserve to be debunked. I’m just doing my part.

  • Luke

    My black hole keeps swallowing my mouse. I’ve lost 15 this year thus far. I’m beginning to think i’m better off taking my chances with the radiation!

    • If it makes you feel any better, none of them have actually reached the singularity yet, not that they’re retrievable.

      Another problem is that computer mice, both optical and roll-ball, have trouble sensing just how much they have been moved (their primary job) when the space-time on your desk is warped. Even so, at least you’re not being irradiated!

  • ShereKhan

    I do not have a “somebody said it might help, and it certainly won\’t hurt” attitude, but an open attitude. And homeopathy works very well. Are you a Republican or a creeping fascist by any chance?

    • Homeopathy has failed every single scientific double blind study every applied to it. It’s the placebo effect from drinking water, pure and simple.

      Can you point to what I’ve said that would make you suspect I’m a Republican or “creeping fascist”? I’m curious.

    • YouKnowWho

      omg just shut the fuck up..
      I dont care what attitude you have, but it sure is annoying.

  • ShereKhan

    Well I use homeopathy for my animals and it works very well. I will ask them, maybe they were victims of the “placebo effect”. There has been recent attacks against homeopathy that were all remote controlled by the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry. You seem to believe blindly in all the bullshit spread by established institutions whatever their nature, including the “scientific” ones, and this first-degree positivism might easily let you pass for a conservative and a creeping fascist.

    • You do understand that the basic principle of homeopathy is that the more you dilute the active ingredient, the stronger it gets, right? That makes sense to you? Or has The Establishment concocted an elaborate ruse in inventing the mole, upon which all of modern chemistry is based? Anyone who knows anything about chemistry would gladly drink their own urine to prove how ridiculous the “dilution=strength” idea is.

      Your animals are not falling victim to the placebo effect, they are just getting better on their own, and you are falling victim to confirmation bias.

      I know very well that no amount of evidence or reason will convince a conspiracy theorist, so I’ll stop now. However, I will ask you, please, if your animals ever get really sick, take them to a vet for some real medicine.

  • ShereKhan

    You do not seem to know about vets, my vet prescribes homeopathic remedies, does not judge them as contrary to “real medicine”. Thanks to care about them anyway. I do not know if I am a conspiracy theorist, but I know that evidence can be mobilized in different directions depending on what one wants to prove. Massive recourse to unilateral evidence may well hide a real dogmaticism. Even though it could be demonstrated for example that homeopathy is fake, this would not lift the limits and failures of conventional medicine anyway, contrary to what its supporters may hope.

  • Omar

    After completing his special relativity theory, and then the general relativity theory (where he studied the impact of gravity field on light), Einstein was reported to have set out out to work on a Extended General Relativity theory that studies the impact of the thorny Cactus Gravitational Field on Light (CGFoL for short). The mentioned Swiss study is believed to be linked to Einstein’s CGFoL findings.

    There you go. I think sounds scientific enough?

    • Oooh!! The CGFoL! Of course. You’re a genius and a scholar, Omar!

      Perhaps cacti don’t grow in deserts because they are so hot…perhaps deserts are so hot because cacti grow there, thus attracting all the light??

  • Nothing like fears of a nuclear meltdown to spike traffic to a post about whether or not a cactus will absorb radiation! http://erikras.com/2009/

    • smattery

      @erikras The comments on your “cactus-as-antiradiation” post are priceless!

      • @smattery I’m the #1 search result when you google “warthog genitalia”. If that isn’t something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

  • oddant

    I think cactus reflects radiations rather than absorbing them

  • Dr. Klemens

    Erik R., someone needs to tell you that you are an idiot. My cactus is smarter than you.

  • Marios

    Well ive always been a sceptic about these things but in my new office I use twin monitors and my cleaner had placed three cacti behind my screens, (she claims they absorb stress) and although they are regularly watered two of them wilted and died. I don’t know what to think but my cleaner claims that because we’ve faced serious problems at work that all my stress was absorbed by the plants. After reading this i don’t know what to think… help for the help

  • Ana

    Maybe cactus grow in the dessert for the purpose of absorbing radiation from the sun. They can last for long in the dessert because they can store water in their system. God has a purpose in creating cactus and planting them right in the very hot dessert .I think it is not a myth.

  • HanJae Yoon

    I don’t think it is the radiation, it is electromagnetic wave from electronics.
    The information that I have is that the leaves on plants have conductivity. So those leaves can absorb waves such as high frequencies that your cellphone emits, or microwaves. Since plants like Cactus have a lot of water in its thick leaves, the conductivity/absorption is boosted. But still, I heard that it is still myth and not exactly proven.:)

  • Jas

    I believe that placing the cactus beside to your computer absorbs radiations. But according to feng shui, they give a bad luck when you place it. So what I have to do now?