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No, microwaves from cell phones can’t pop popcorn

A decade-old viral video showing the power of microwaves emitted by cell phones has resurfaced on Facebook.

In the video, a group of people put phones in a circle around popcorn kernels. They call the phones and, after a few seconds of ringing, the kernels suddenly start to pop – to the loud cheers of the disbelieving group.

This may seem like a handy hack for movie evenings, but the video has been debunked as a hoax many times.

Louis Bloomfield, a physics professor at the University of Virginia, told technology news site Wired “it’s not physically possible”.

A microwave oven heats the moisture inside a kernel, causing it to pop. Bloomfield said if mobile phones emitted that much energy, the water inside people’s fingers would heat up. It’s clearly false.

Where does the popcorn video come from?

Bluetooth communications company Cardo Systems was the mastermind behind the popcorn video, produced in 2008.

Dr Abraham Glezerman, the company’s CEO, said in an interview that the video was part of a viral marketing campaign to create brand awareness and engage users in a “fun” way. It reached more than 18 million people on YouTube in less than five weeks.

In the interview he reassures people that it can’t really happen: you would need “11 million units to accomplish that”.

But how did they do it? Snopes reveals that popped popcorn was dropped onto the table from above the camera, and the kernels removed with digital editing.

Could your phone fry your brain?

Snopes debunked the video and a similar hoax claiming that phones could boil eggs.

Both the egg and the popcorn hoax play on a common misbelief that microwave radiation burns your brain.

The scary question is, if a cell phone could modify the proteins in an egg, what could it do to the proteins in our brains?

Charlie Ivermee, founder of the site that created the egg hoax, told Snopes: “There was a lot of concern about people’s brains getting fried and being from a radio/electronics background I found it all rather silly. So I thought I’d add to the silliness.”

While the video is fun to watch, it remains just that: silliness. A cell phone can’t pop popcorn or boil an egg – and it can’t fry your brain.

Cell phones have now successfully replaced older technologies like the telegram, the camera, the scanner and the voice recorder. The one technology they are yet to replace is the microwave oven. – Africa Check (21/02/19)


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