Making Popcorn With Cell Phones

Several YouTube videos apparently show corn being popped by the radiation from an array of cellphones.

Brief Analysis:
False- Videos are part of an advertising campaign for Bluetooth headsets

Subject: Fw: CELL PHONES MAKING POPCORNNow this may have you rethink having a cell phone – no wonder that guy years ago sued the cell phone company for causing cancer.The first one is French people, next is Orientals, next is Canadian.

These videos are all about 20 seconds each, check them out.
Here’s a few videos on how to make popcorn using your cell phone…

If dried corn reacts to ‘low-level’ microwaves like this, then what’s going on inside your brain cavity…!

Detailed Analysis:
Several YouTube videos that appear to show a “party trick” in which popcorn is made by placing pieces of dried corn between three or four active cell phones are currently attracting many viewers and a great deal of discussion.

Although the videos may look authentic, the apparent results are due to clever video editing or other trickery.

In fact, it has now been revealed that the videos are a form or “viral” advertising for Cardo Bluetooth headsets. Yet another YouTube video “owning up” to the prank is now available:

[Video has been removed from Youtube]

A disclaimer at the end of the video states:

The content of the initial video is merely a fictitious and humorous optical illusion designed for entertainment. Nothing in the video implies that mobile phones can make popcorn.

Thus, the “mystery” of the popping corn has now been solved although exactly how the stunt was pulled off is not yet clear. Many have suggested that a hotplate hidden under the table may well be the real reason why the corn popped.

And for the record, it is clearly not possible that even four cell phones in an array could generate enough radiation to create popcorn. In an article on, University of Virginia physics professor Louis Bloomfield debunks claims that the videos are genuine:

“[The videos] are cute,” said Bloomfield in a phone conversation Monday. “But that’s never gonna happen.”

In a microwave oven, energy excites the water inside popcorn kernels until it turns into highly pressurized gas, causing the kernels to pop. If mobile phones emitted that much energy, the water in the fingers of people holding them would heat up.

“It would hurt like crazy,” Bloomfield said. “Cellphones probably warm your tissues, but studies indicate that’s not injurious.”

The videos show the corn popping just seconds after the cell phones begin ringing. During experiments, even my 500 watt microwave oven took close to 60 seconds to pop corn. And, even after 60 seconds, only one of three corn pieces used actually popped at all. In an article about the safety of cellular telephones, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes:

All devices that transmit radio-frequency signals—such as radio broadcast towers and cellular telephones—emit radio-frequency radiation. At sufficient power levels, radio-frequency radiation can produce immediate biological damage, such as burns (thermal effects). The American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) 1982 standard for radiation exposure indicates that devices operating on 7 watts or less of power at frequencies below 1,000 megahertz will not produce immediate thermal effects. Portable cellular telephones operate on much less than 7 watts of power (up to a maximum of only 0.6 watts) at frequencies between 800 and 900 megahertz.

Thus, the claim that the phones could generate enough heat to pop corn in just a few seconds (or at all) is simply absurd. As Bloomfield indicates, if a phone could generate enough heat to pop corn, the user’s face and hand would very soon become uncomfortably hot..too hot, one could logically conclude, for any conversation to continue past a few seconds. As every mobile phone user knows, this is simply not the case.

Moreover, I conducted my own experiments in which I tried to pop corn using mobile phones. I was completely unsurprised to find that not one piece of corn popped during these experiments.

The videos are similar to another cell phone prank in which it was claimed that an egg could be cooked using two mobile phones. That story also raised a lot of debate on the Internet, but had no basis in fact.

Concerned users have long discussed potential dangers associated with mobile phone use and at least some of these concerns may have at least some validity. However, even if you do believe that prolonged exposure to mobile phone radiation may be harmful, you can rest assured that you cannot make popcorn (or cook an egg) using cell phones.

Last updated: 12th June 2008
First published: 12th June 2008
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

Cardo Bluetooth
Physicist Debunks Cellphone Popcorn Viral Videoss
Cooking an Egg with Mobile Phones
How Cell Phone Radiation Works

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