One of the world’s oldest scientific experiments has been revitalized secretly in the United States

One of the world’s oldest scientific experiments has been revitalized secretly in the United States
Every 20 years, a botanist William James Bell bottles are discovered in an experiment that began more than 100 years ago. Photo: Derek L Turner / Michigan State University

One of the world’s longest-lived science experiments was recently revitalized in the American city of East Lansing after a delay caused by the epidemic.

Experience her 20-year control cycle, includingIt began in 1879 when botanist William James Bell filled 20 bottles with a mixture of sand and seeds from certain types of plants and buried them upside down in a secret location on the campus of what is now Michigan State University.

The aim of the experiment was to prevent water from entering the plants and to determine whether they could germinate after remaining in that state for long periods of time.

When the experiment began, over 100 years ago, reviews were done every five years, and seeds were sown to see if something grew, but today this procedure is done every 20 years.

Bill, the scientist who founded this seed bank a century ago, He sought a better understanding of how long a plant could survive in the soil and the factors that led to its growth. With this, he wanted to help local farmers combat the continuous removal of weeds from their farms, as one of the conclusions of the experiment was to determine how long the weeds could continue to grow due to the seeds already in the ground.

One of the recalled bottles.  Photo: Derek L Turner / Michigan State University
One of the recalled bottles. Photo: Derek L Turner / Michigan State University

In 1910, the botanist entrusted his experiment to a colleague, and from there began a tradition of passing it on to younger botanists. The task of monitoring the seed bank at increasing intervals of time, first every 5 years, then every 10 years and finally every 20. To prevent the tests from losing traceability over the years, a type of seed keeper was established in Michigan, where The responsibility to ensure that the experience is passed on from one generation to the next.

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The task isn’t simple, because the history of Bell Seeds attracts vandals and curious people who want to find the remaining bottles, so their location is a closely guarded secret. CWhen the condition of the plants must be checked, it is done at night with picks and torches.

Professor Frank Telewski is the current lead supervisor for the experiment.  Derek L.  Turner / Michigan State University
Professor Frank Telewski is the current lead supervisor for the experiment. Derek L. Turner / Michigan State University

Of the original bottles Bell buried, only 5 were left and one had to be recovered from Earth in 2020, but due to campus closures during the harsher months of the pandemic in the US, the trial had to be postponed.

But last April 15 blew up the Seed Rangers team, Led by Professor Frank Telewski, he is finally able to rescue the container from its secret location. The recovered seeds were placed in a vase mixture and transported to the laboratory for examination.

William James Bell began the experiment in 1879. Photo: Michigan State University
William James Bell began the experiment in 1879. Photo: Michigan State University

Professor Telewski is now 60 years old, and after decades as a specialist, he has chosen three younger faculty to help him with the excavation work and continue the legacy by keeping a secret where the seeds lie.

Keep this The “direct connection with history” faces many other challenges, such as ensuring that no construction or adaptation of the campus takes place that harms the place where the seeds are buried. Stopping these fossils is not easy, especially given that the exact location of the experiment must be kept a secret.

After 20-year cycles, The bottles Bell buried will finally run out in the year 2100, achieving a long life of 221 years, the longest experiment ever conducted. But it’s not the most ambitious because seven years ago a long-term bacterial feasibility study, perhaps inspired by Bell’s experiment, was proposed to double that time and complete 500 years of studies.

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