Cell Phone Popcorn, 1930’s Style


By now, you’ve undoubtedly seen the (fake) viral YouTube video of people popping corn by placing the kernels next to a cell phone. In the unlikely event that you haven’t seen the video, there’s a link, along with a thorough debunking, at Snopes.

It’s not surprising that the modern version is impossible. It’s a simple matter of physics. There’s not anywhere near enough energy present to raise the temperature of the corn enough to pop it. (A typical cell phone will radiate about 0.6 watts, whereas a microwave oven will radiate about 1000 watts.)

1930's era diathermy machine (Wikipedia photo).

1930’s era diathermy machine (Wikipedia photo).

The general idea, however, is not new. Here, in the February 1936 issue of Short Wave Craft magazine, we see one Miss Alice Watherell successfully popping corn with the use of RF. In this case, the RF energy came from a diathermy machine, which is being fed into two containers of salt water. The radio energy, probably on 27 MHz, is absorbed by the corn, converted into heat, and pops the corn.

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