User Input

User Input: Fun With A Magnetron

It's an animated GIF. I know. I deserve your hatred.

A while back I mentioned a video of a recycling project which included heinous experiments with a microwave. What you are seeing above is what happens when you microwave CD-R discs. As you can see, there’s not much difference in behavior between the blank and the used disc. The result was the same – sweet! During that same experiment, we tried grapes, aluminum foil, incandescent light bulbs, and lit matches. For the curious, and those who want to try this at home (obligatory side note – don’t try this at home, especially if you’re stupid):

  • Grapes will spark if you bisect them first. I was largely underwhelmed.
  • Aluminum foil works best if you take two sheets, pleat them into an accordion fold, then stand them up about a half inch apart. Lightning!
  • Light bulbs glow an unnatural purple color. Then they explode.
  • Matches work only if they’re wood, so no book matches. Use tea light candles to stand them upright and they’ll throw plasma balls off the top of the flame.

We don’t all have access to an old microwave to mess with, but I’m sure we’ve found plenty of fodder on the web. What’s the most fun you’ve seen or had with a microwave that didn’t involve preparing food?

[“User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • OA5599

    A friend tried some combination of popsicle stick, Mylar bag, and paper french fry tray that resulted in flames inside a university microwave, but I don't remember whether it was the stick or the fry holster that caught fire.

  • I've done the CD thing. In my wife's microwave in the kitchen. She was not impressed.

    The university I went to was primarily focused on aviation and aerospace. As a result there was a very large AFROTC detachment, and little wannabe Air Force weenies running around in their spiffy blue uniforms and perfectly shined shoes.

    Those shoes were a problem. They had to be shined before their classes and inspections. The proper way to shine a shoe is to remove the old wax first, which is a lot easier when the wax has been heated and is soft. A shortcut was found to put the shoes in a microwave for a few seconds just to soften the wax. Someone neglected to tell one kid in the dorms how long, and he must have figured a minute was good. A minute was not good, unless burning the wax, melting the rubber soles, and setting off the fire alarm was his intent.

    I never did find out how going to inspection shoeless worked out for him.

  • I did this with nachos as a lad. My parents microwave caught fire, and I burned my hand taking the "nachos" out. I just tossed some tortilla chips in a bowl, and covered with American cheese slices. I have no idea what could have gone wrong. I set the timer to 4 minutes. I came back, and smoke was pouring out, and the top of the microwave was on fire. Luckily, my parents were at work.

    • Deartháir

      Forgot to take the plastic off the cheese slices, didn't you?

      • There is plastic on American cheese?!?

        That may be why I have stunted growth.

        Also, plastic on cheese is so unpatriotic.

    • Lotte

      I saw someone do nachos and cheese on a paper plate once. Thing started burning, and of course we blamed the paper plate (there was a whole lot of "you idiot!!" and "what were you thinking!!" in that kitchen…) Now I'm having second thoughts. What happens with microwaving nachos anyway? I mean, crackers work fine, and they're delicious!

      • Nachos are highly volatile, I think. You just cant be tossing that much deliciousness into the microwave without taking some serious steps to ensure safety (read: Fires!).

  • TechieInHell

    It's worth noting that none of my microwave experiments have yet to actually damage the microwave in any significant way.

    • Deartháir

      that you know of.

      Maybe the microwave is responsible for all that brain damage you suffered!

  • chrystlubitshi

    i actually have a picture of a couple of kittens (i think.. maybe just one… can't remember) sitting in a bowl in a microwave…

    (the microwave was never turned on, they were only put there for the purpose of the picture… my friends and i aren't *that* evil…)

    i'm pretty sure i scanned it a few years back… have to upload it when i get it home and share….

  • tonyola

    Don't forget cooking gremlins. You'll have a nasty mess to clean up afterwards, though.

  • zsm

    <img src="; width="500">
    That's a an exploded mostly hard boiled egg in a microwave right there. I've already cleaned-up most of the water and the cracked glass at this point in the picture. This was not an experiment though, this was the product of sleepiness due to having a newborn and one year old in the house. It was morning, I was tired, I was hungry, and I decided to eat an egg, but just one. Surely I can put some water into a glass cup, put an egg in there, and then put it into the microwave for say 5 minutes. I bet the water will boil and I'll have a tasty egg, hopefully before some kid starts crying again.

    So around a minute in, bang! I saw what looked at first to be a big bubble bursting in in the cup. Hey I was tired and looking into the microwave was great entertainment for me right then, I bet I could not even comprehend The People's Court in my state of mind at that point of new parenthood. But in fact it was the egg exploding inside the cup. That took-out the glass and the blast of water directed up and then down at the door flung the door open, and then about haf the water and egg poured-out.

    I have also done a real experiment with the microwave. I was able to remove the wheeled doodad and put an upside down plate over the spiny thing at the center. I even got c right to one significant figure! And who doesn't like gooey warm marsh mellows on peanut butter sandwiches after some scientisting, it makes you hungry after all:

    Finding the Speed of Light with Marshmallows

  • A few years ago I lived in a house with a bunch of roommates that had acquired nearly a dozen microwaves over the years, stacked all over the kitchen like some kind of modern art.

    Around the same time we were also getting bombarded with advertising CDs from Netflix, AOL and such. Over a couple beers one evening we got a little goofy, one thing led to another and a CD ended up in one of the microwaves, and it gave off one hell of a lightning-show for about 5 seconds. This caused a huge collective light-bulb to go off, and set us on a month-long microwave-experimenting quest. Eggs, paperclips, CDs, Soda-cans (Kills microwave), Peeps, soap, damn near anything we could get our hand on. We blew out most of the microwaves in the process and learned some important lessons.

    1) Open the windows.

    2) Putting a cup of water in along with solid items makes the oven last longer.

    3) Stuff gets @#$% HOT.

    The most entertaining by far was "Grape racing". You take 2 green grapes and set them on a lightly oiled platter/plate and make your bets. The part where the grape detached becomes a tiny jet nozzle for the escaping steam and some of them puppies will speed around the plate, even bounce off the walls. Others pop open, spin and even blow up with fireballs (real fire!). Bizarre. Twist the grape off gently for the best results.

    • dwegmull

      I did not realize that AOL and Netflix CD carpet bombing campaigns overlapped…

      • It did out here at the lost west-coast outpost big time, along with a bunch of other stupid CD campaigns.

    • "…some of them puppies will speed around the plate, even bounce off the walls. Others pop open, spin and even blow up with fireballs (real fire!). Bizarre."

      At what point did you stop describing grapes and start describing LeMons?

  • P161911

    While attempting to clean my microwave by heating a bowl of lemon juice inside, I caught the lemon juice on fire. Who knew? No one mentioned a time frame when I heard this trick.

    In college I found out a microwave will not kill a cockroach.

  • I believe that in order for your experiment to be properly published the experiment must be replicated by a third party.

    Speed of light party at my house!

  • Deartháir

    A little story from my dear friend Starboogie who I am desperately trying to convince to come and write for AtomicToasters because she has seriously 1337 writing skills:

    For science!
    How to clean the microwave at work:

    1. Wake up late.
    2. Instead of skipping breakfast (unthinkable! an atrocity! a crime against nature!), bring a packet of oatmeal to work.
    3. Fill up your mug to heat some water in the microwave.
    4. Put two minutes on the timer. Ready… start!
    5. Attempt to sing Ievan Polkka while waiting for water to boil.
    6. Have your exquisite performance cut short by a muffled, yet highly suspicious THUMPH that came from the microwave.
    7. Hit "Stop/Clear" before the damn thing explodes in a blossom of radiation, riddling you with shards of glass and imitation wood-grain casing and blowing the roof clear off that half of the building to land on some hapless commuter in a minivan and giving the news people something to talk about other than the hurricane that is coming to eat us.
    8. Open the microwave carefully. Notice that your mug is only about a quarter full, and that there is water dripping from the top of the chamber and puddling in the bottom.
    9. Thank your lucky stars that your overzealously boiled water exploded inside the microwave, instead of in your face like the urban legend warned you about.
    10. Thoughtfully and responsibly mop up the mess, in the process removing months of congealed mac-and-cheese residue that, amazingly, slide right off after being doused with a geyser of incredibly hot water.
    11. Reflect on your glaring inability to even cook water in a microwave.
    12. Get it right the second time. Enjoy oatmeal, as much as such a thing is possible.

  • Go Mythbusters!

    [youtube 1_OXM4mr_i0 youtube]

  • A long while ago, when I worked in a supermarket as teenager we tried a pot of Muller Rice with a foil lid in the canteen microwave. We got quite a cool little light show, and then rice escape.

    And then fire alarm and supermarket evacuation. And then a stern talking to.

  • FЯeeMan

    During a high school, um, event. Someone decided we should try nuking moose. Yeah, the hair stuff. It was relatively new at the time (dating myself). It expands rather slowly and beautifully, then suddenly, you punch the stop button and walk away quickly, since the, um, event isn't at your house.

    • At first I thought you had bad grammar, then realized what you put in the microwave. Both made me laugh.

  • Microwaved a spider one time. It simply crawled around inside an overturned glass without being noticeably affected for somewhere around 3-5 minutes — enough time for me to realize that it was not going to explode.