Chapter 12

In 1964 an article in Time magazine spurred Ott to research the effect of TV radiation on plants and humans. The story suggested that symptoms of nervousness, continous fatigue, headaches, loss of sleep, and vomiting in thirty children under study by two U.S. Air Force physicians were somehow related to the fact that all of these children were watching TV from three to six hours on weekdays and from twelve to twenty hours on weekends. Though the doctors had concluded that the children were afflicted by prolonged idleness in front of the set, Ott wondered if some sort of radiation migh not be at issue, particularly that of X-rays, which lie beyond ultraviolet in the energy spectrum.

To test this idea, Ott covered half of the picture tube of a color TV set with a sixteenth of an inch of lead shielding, normally used to block out X-rays. The other half he covered with heavy black photographic paper capable of stopping visible and ultraviolet light, but allowing other electromagnetic fields to penetrate.

Ott placed six pots of bean sprouts in front of each half of the TV tube, a pair at three different levels from top to bottom. As a control, six more pots, each with its three bean sprouts, were placed outdoors, fifty feet from the greenhouse where the TV set was located.

At the end of three weeks, both the lead-shielded beans and those growing outdoors had risen to a height of six inches and appeared healthy and normal. The beans shielded from the TV only by the photographic paper had been distorted by toxic radiations int oa vine-type growth. In some cases the roots appeared to have grown incongruously upward out of the soil. If TV radiation could make monsters of bean plants what might it do to children?

Similar experiments showed that white rats exposed to the same radiation which caused the wild growth in the beans became increasingly hyperactive and aggressive, then progressively lethargic, to a point where it was necessary to push them to make them move in their cages.

Ott noticed further that after he set up his TV in the greenhouse, rats in an animal-breeding room fifteen feet away produced litters of only one or two babies, as against a norm of eight to twelve, even though two building partitions intervened between the TV set and the pregnant mothers. When the TV set was removed, it took six months for the breeding to return to normal.

Ott knew that since the radiation from a TV tube is contained in an extremely narrow band on the electromagnetic spectrum, biological systems sensitive to this narrow spike of energy could be as overstimulated by it as they would be by light focused through a magnifying glass. The only difference is that, whereas the magnifier concentrates the light in one direction, the specific energy emitted from the TV can travel in any direction where it meets no obstruction.