Home > Science > Sparks in the microwave — without metal! (Don’t try this at home)

Sparks in the microwave — without metal! (Don’t try this at home)

I was using my microwave to thaw some frozen chopped green peppers in a small Pyrex dish (not much, just enough to top a couple of Italian sausages on buns along with tomato and onion), and to my surprise, there was an electric arc within the dish, even though there was no metal within.  I wondered how this might happen, so I did some Googling, and I came upon this page that explains the physics:

http://madsci.org/posts/archives/dec97/882909591.Ph.r.html

That’s about grapes sparking in the microwave, but the principles seem about the same — small objects close in size to the microwaves’ wavelength, with small gaps between them filled with steam as the water inside evaporates.  The pepper pieces were rectangular instead of round, but then, grapes aren’t perfect spheres anyway, so the model presented there is just an approximation.

And I’ll repeat what the link says — this is not something you want to try at home, since you could damage your microwave.  Luckily I caught it and hit the stop button within a second.  But in the future, I should consider finding another way to thaw my green peppers — or maybe just start buying them fresh (although I don’t know if I use them often enough for that — how well do they keep?).

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Categories: Science Tags: , ,
  1. January 18, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Off topic but I’ve just done a review of the Green Hornet movie on my blog and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • January 18, 2011 at 11:15 am

      That’s not a movie I’m inclined to see.

      • January 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        You haven’t missed much. It was that bad.

        I’d recommend The Big Bang starring Antonio Banderas if you enjoy surreal thrillers in a science setting. It’s difficult to describe but I found it to be one of the most intelligent and slick movies I’ve seen in a long while.

  2. February 6, 2011 at 5:51 am

    I’ve never thawed peppers on their own in the microwave so haven’t experienced this. I either lob them in with something else or, if I just want to defrost a few, put them in bowl and pour boiling water on them. Quick enough for me
    Thanks for the warning though

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