I didn’t post last week as I was in Finland for a series of lectures and meetings. It was a joyous time filled with science communication, advocacy and talks with some of the most wonderful people on the planet. I also had the chance to enjoy one of my most favorite foods…

(Salmon…)

Unlike what I can find in Canada, Finland offered a smorgasbord of different delights. All but one of my meals had some form of salmon. I relished every moment.

It’s one of the reasons I love travelling the world. I am given a chance to experience another society and appreciate the differences in tastes. Granted, most of the time this comes in the form of gastronomical choices.

But there is also another type of preference that changes every time I step in another country…

(Music…)

This is the band, Lordi. They are a heavy metal group known for winning the Eurovision contest a decade ago. Granted, not every Finnish person likes their style but if you happen to be going for Karaoke in Helsinki, you might want to learn their most favorite song, Hard Rock Hallelujah.

Musical choice is of course a personal one. If you ask any individual person about his or her preference in music, you may end up with a different answer each time. We tend to believe it is one of the unique aspects of being human…

(Think again…)

A fondness for music isn’t entirely a human trait. Believe it or not, music has an effect on many earthly creatures. As one saying suggests, it has the ability to calm even the most…

(Savage Beast…)

But for years we thought there was a limit. We held on to the notion music could not influence creatures who lack ears or any type of auditory nervous system.

But that changed back in 2010, thanks to a German company. They theorized bacteria could be influenced by music. The harmonic waves produced by the sound could convince these tiny creatures to work harder and accomplish more than expected.

The results were incredible. The bacteria thoroughly enjoyed the music and increased their activity. The door opened to a new type of human-microbial interaction through this form of artistic composition.

As to which artist the microbes liked best, as you might expect considering the location of the study, the answer was…

(Amadeus Amadeus!)

Now I’m sure you must be thinking there is something fishy going on here. Bacteria surely cannot distinguish musical notes, tones, or metres. There is no way they could prefer Mozart over say, Beethoven, Brahms, or…

(Beyonce…)

You would be correct. It took some time but last year, someone finally decided to put the musical preference theory to the test. The study, if you wish to read it, can be found here:
Effect of Audible Sound on Microbial Activity.

Instead of using music, the authors decided to test whether bacteria would grow in the presence of the most universal sound on the planet…

(Om…)

They tested the bacteria in the presence of this sound, as well as passages from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. If the authors were correct, there would be little to no difference between the two musical forms.

When the results came back, the team was happy to find out the answer was…

(Ya gotta respect the Master…)

There was little to no difference between the two sounds. If anything, the sound of ‘Om’ led to a slightly better performance from the bacteria. But the take home message was that bacteria liked music but had no real preferences.

The use of music as a means to improve microbial activity will continue no doubt. Researchers will continue to find the right combination of sound waves to bring out the best in bacteria. Eventually, the right combination will be found and I’m sure make for a great article and media story.

My only hope is that whomever conducts these tests in the future includes the music of one specific band…

(You had to see that coming…)

 

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