Can you call a cell phone in the microwave? | Summary and Q&A

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March 22, 2016
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Physics Girl
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Can you call a cell phone in the microwave?

TL;DR

Microwaves do not necessarily act as Faraday cages, as they can leak cellular and Wi-Fi signals. However, microwave radiation does not pose a significant health risk.

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Key Insights

  • 📶 Microwaves may not always act as Faraday cages, as they can leak cellular and Wi-Fi signals.
  • 🥵 Microwave radiation is not considered highly dangerous, as it is non-ionizing and mainly poses a risk of tissue heating at concentrated levels.
  • 🧑‍🏭 The degree of leakage varies between microwaves, and external factors can also influence the amount of radiation emitted.
  • 📶 Wi-Fi signals operate in a similar frequency range as microwave ovens, which can lead to interference between the two.

Transcript

DIANNA COWERN (VOICEOVER): This episode of "Physics Girl" is supported by Squarespace. Share your passion with the world. Putting my phone in the microwave. Do not turn it on. Dianna Cowern. All right. It's in there. [GASPS] It's ringing. Oh, definitely ringing. Oh, look at that. This was surprising to me. The microwave let through a cellular signa... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does a cell phone still receive cellular signals when placed in a microwave?

Microwaves do not necessarily act as Faraday cages, and some models may have gaps in the metal mesh that allows signals to penetrate. This is why the phone can still receive signals.

Q: Is it safe to use a microwave if it leaks some radiation?

The FDA regulates microwaves and allows minimal leakage, as microwave radiation is not ionizing and does not directly damage DNA. The main risk is tissue heating with high levels of concentrated microwave radiation.

Q: Why do some microwaves leak more than others?

Factors such as the age of the microwave, its location in the house, and proximity to cellular towers can influence the amount of leakage. Additionally, older microwaves may have had fewer regulations controlling their emissions.

Q: What is the relationship between microwave oven radiation and Wi-Fi signals?

Wi-Fi signals typically operate at 2.4 gigahertz, which is close to the frequency used by microwave ovens (around 2.45 gigahertz). This proximity can result in interference, causing Wi-Fi to temporarily drop when using an older microwave.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The host, Dianna Cowern, experiments with putting her cell phone in a microwave and finds that it still receives cellular signals.

  • While expecting a microwave to act like a Faraday cage, further testing with multiple microwaves reveals varying degrees of signal leakage.

  • Through the use of a spectrum analyzer, it is observed that microwave ovens leak radiation in the same frequency range as Wi-Fi signals, but the risk of harm is low.

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