# Popping Power

Can cell phones pop popcorn? Just watch

Let's set the record straight. This first video is a clever hoax. It is not possible to pop popcorn using cell phones. See how it's done in the second video.

The second video explains how you could duplicate the hoax by placing the magnetron from a microwave oven underneath the table where the magic cell phone sleight of hand is taking place. I would not try this at home by the way, because exposure to a 1000-watt microwave emitter might not be healthy.

Herein is the crux of the matter. Yes, it is true that both microwave ovens and cell phones emit radiation in the microwave frequency range. Yes, it is true that microwaves can heat up materials that contain water molecules. (The oscillating electromagnetic fields in the microwaves interact with the dipolar water molecules, causing them to rotate. The rotations result in frictional heating as the molecules jostle each other.) And obviously it is true that you can use a microwave oven to heat up and pop your corn.

However, logic and simple principles of physics dictate that you can't do this with a couple of cell phones. Why? Because the signals don't contain sufficient energy! Cell phones operate at a power of around one watt, while microwave ovens are around a thousand times as powerful. How long does it take to cook even a few kernels of popcorn in the microwave? Well, I took three kernels, placed them in a microwave oven, and set the oven to maximum. It took over a minute to pop them. Now making a rough estimate, assuming you could channel most of the energy emitted from a cell phone into a kernel of popcorn (much will be radiated away), and assuming the heat isn't dissipated faster than the energy is absorbed, how long would it take to pop? We estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of at least ten hours!

Achtung! The second video demonstrates one way of duplicating the hoax by placing the magnetron from a microwave oven underneath the table where the magic cell phone sleight of hand is taking place. HOWEVER THIS IS QUITE DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Exposure to a 1000 W microwave emitter is hazardous and you can electrocute yourself by fiddling with the wiring in the microwave.

Adam Weiner is the author of Don't Try This at Home! The Physics of Hollywood Movies.

## 5 Comments

THIS IS THE MOST IRRESPONSIBLE ARTICLE I HAVE EVER SEEN. IT SHOULD BE TAKEN DOWN. PLEASE, DON'T SHOW PEOPLE HOW TO DO THIS. THEY WILL GET CATARACTS IF THEY TRY IT.

THE POPPING VIDEOS ARE GENERALLY DONE BY SOMEONE DROPPING THE POPPED CORN FROM ABOVE.

BY THE WAY, THE MAGNETRON WILL BURN OUT RIGHT AWAY IF THERE IS NO WAVEGUIDE.

WARNING!!! WARNING!!! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!! Do NOT open up your microwave and start disconnecting wires.
Even unplugged, the large storage capacitor the magnetron
uses to operate contains a couple of THOUSAND volts at an
amp level that is LETHAL. Touch the wrong thing and you
DIE!!!!

Hold on with the warnings. If you are uneducated about electricity and the way microwaves function; heed the warnings, educated yourself and then continue. However, if you know how electricity flows and how microwave radiation works then you can act safely and experiment with the microwave and magnetron.

Microwaves are non-ionizing radiation, which means that they do not destroy molecules (the heat does). While you can still get burned, your body's natural instinct/reaction to run from what is causing it harm will most likely save you. That is why the microwave defense weapon woks so well.

Do take caution. You can block microwaves by using a metal screen with holes the size of the screen on the microwave door. You can find metal screens and screen material at most Home Depots. Working behind the screens can and will shield you from most of the waves. Like most high watt radiation, UHF radio operators will vouch, your greatest potential risk is going blind.

I encourage you to experiment safely, but the "THIS IS THE MOST IRRESPONSIBLE" comments are going overboard. Irresponsibility is not showing how how things are done. Irresponsibility IS not providing the education to your children to properly perform experiments.

lol thank you dontbother! Jeez people! *rolls eyes*

### July 2013: The Future Of Flight

The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.

Online Content Director: Suzanne LaBarre | Email
Senior Editor: Paul Adams | Email
Associate Editor: Dan Nosowitz | Email
Assistant Editor: Colin Lecher | Email
Assistant Editor: Rose Pastore | Email

Contributing Writers:

Kelsey D. Atherton | Email
Francie Diep | Email
Shaunacy Ferro | Email

bmxmag-ps