Study Shows How Bacteria Could Generate Radio Waves

The "do bacteria generate radio waves?" debate rages on
Some say strange radio signals have been measured in e Coli colonies. Mattosaurus

It may not seem something to get bent out of shape over, but there’s a scientific controversy that’s been brewing over whether or not bacteria generate radio waves. Now a team at Northeastern University thinks they’ve figured out the mechanism that bacteria might use to manufacture radio signals.

The Northeastern study demonstrates how bacterial DNA could be the source of radio signals. The DNA in bacteria often forms a loop, a free electrons moving around that loop could take certain energy levels. The transition frequencies between those energy levels, when modeled, show signals broadcasting at 0.5, 1, and 1.5 kilohertz.

These frequencies correspond to the published frequencies measured in an E. coli colony back in 2009. However, that study has come under a lot of fire, with some researchers dismissing the work outright. So this new finding should throw fuel on a smoldering debate about bacteria and what goes on at the microbial level.

But, as Tech Review correctly points out, one of the main criticisms for that earlier paper on E. coli and radio waves was that there was no way bacteria could generate radio waves. Whether or not they do is still up in the air, but this new study from Northeastern shows a mechanism by which it could be done.

If you have a dog in this fight, you can get the whole paper over at arXiv.

Technology Review