Miracle Space Heaters, Dangerous Cooking

I have spent many an amusing lunch explaining over and over why the “four cellphones and a kernel of popcorn” video is bogus. It’s hard to understand how anyone could think seriously about that video without suddenly slapping his forehead and bursting into laughter. There isn’t even any need for science.

I’ve had even more fun discussing the mysterious super-expensive “infra-red” or “ceramic” space heaters that miraculously transform electricity into heat so much more efficiently than, um, well, uh, er, um, resistors. Folks have a hard time grasping that the only difference in output between one of these heaters and a kilowatt of ordinary light bulbs is that the light bulbs are microscopically less efficient as heaters—they sacrifice what? 1%? of their heat output in the form of visible light. But for $379 you can get this new money-saving “ceramic” heater… The rational mind reels…

I won’t even go into the endless discussions of heating food by electromagnetically shaking the bipolar water molecules near the surface. Is this really “worse” for the food than contact transference of extreme kinetic energy coupled with intense short-range infra-red electromagnetic radiation, which more radically damages cellular structures in the outer layers of food than any other cooking technology?

And don’t forget that immortal myth that microwave ovens heat “from within.”

I’ve also spent a good deal of time trying to explain that people are already immersed in an astonishing crossfire of various kinds of radiation, many of which flowed through us long before the industrial revolution. Often such discussions end up mired in questions like “what is the frequency of the Sun?” at which point the contents of my brainpan simply liquefies.

There obviously is no end in sight to the barrage of ooga-booga pseudo-theory, and now that the very idea of science is routinely poo-pooed by Believers, no matter who does the work or how thoroughly, it seems likely we’re in for an age of spectacular consternation as more and more people struggle to understand how anything could possibly work. It’s a wonder we’re not killed by malevolent photons a hundred times over throughout the day.

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