2008-10-09

Don't get cooked by your phone

Beware! You can get cooked by your phone! Of course it's true--haven't you seen the videos of people popping corn or cooking eggs using a few cell phones? If a mobile phone can pop corn or boil an egg, imagine what it's doing to your brain!

But can you really pop corn or boil an egg with mobile phones?

Here's a little thought experiment. My microwave oven at home is a Frigidaire PLMV168KC3. According to the label inside the cooking chamber, it emits 1.58 KW. When I put a single corn kernel on the cooking tray and run the oven at high power for 5 minutes, nothing happens to the kernel. When I put 4 kernels in a tea cup covered with a plate and run the oven at high power, one kernel pops in about 3 minutes.

Mobile phones and microwave ovens both operate in the microwave frequency spectrum. Phones transmit omnidirectionally because the cell tower could be in any direction; the magnetron in an oven only transmits toward the floor of the cooking chamber. Contemporary mobile phones transmit at a maximum of 2 W; my oven transmits at 1,580 W. If you could get 790 phones transmitting at 2 W simultaneously, place some corn kernels in an enclosed container in the center of them, and surround the system with a microwave reflector, you might be able to pop some corn in a few minutes. As long as the phones didn't absorb the microwave energy themselves. Which they would. So it's just not practical to cook with mobile phones.

(Please correct if I am abusing power units, misunderstanding transmission and absorption, or misunderstanding anything else.)

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