Tuesday, 23 April 2013


I grew up in a house without a microwave - mostly because nobody in my home felt like this would be necessary, but partly also because my gran, many years ago, had head surgery with an inset metal plate and was not allowed near working microwaves.

So my first contact with microwaves, apart from a few times of seeing them in use at a friend's house, was when I studied; and the most I used it was for warming up the milk for my coffee (I'm fond of coffee with lots of milk, and it's much nicer when said milk is warm).

Our kitchen later was more or less too small to conveniently fit a microwave in, so we never got one. I was thinking about getting one approximately, oh, once or twice a year or so, whenever it would have gotten in really handy... but now, I don't think I will ever want one.

Why? A young lady, several years ago, conducted an experiment with plants for her school science fair. Two plants were watered with pre-boiled (and then cooled-down) water, one boiled in a pot on the oven, one boiled in the microwave. This seems to have made a small tour of the Internets back in 2011, but I only stumbled across it these days.

There is also a lot of weird pseudo-scientific information tossed around regarding microwaves, with a goodly-sized bit of scaremongering. Things like microwaving your food will make you more receptive to thought-control. Reading the comments on some of these articles... they are quite hilarious quite often.

Anyway, there is an easy way to test whether the plant-death thing is true (provided you have a microwave): just do it for yourself. It's an experiment, it is meant to be reproduced for sake of outcome verification. Take two healthy plants, keep them in a similar place, water them both with normal water for a bit until they have acclimatised and you can be sure they are both well, and then start the test. (And if you do, please let me know what the outcome was!) Myself? I will add "is possibly not good for you" to my list of things that speak against getting a microwave. That, by the way, has other things on it like "no proper space for it", "will take up lots of space while only getting used rarely" and "means production of another appliance which is not very green". And then I'll go on like before, with my trusty oven and my set of pots and pans.


Anonymous said...

There are a few problems with that experiment, lack of "blinding" and too small a sample size, to name two. If you don't want a microwave, there are plenty of other good reasons not to get one. They take up too much space, and everything you cook in there (even water) ends up tasting like lasagna.
I love your blog!

Panth said...

As Anonymous before me has said, this one is another of those internet memes with far less truth in it than one might initially think.

Having said that, we don't have a microwave - because of the space issue rather than any fears about food.

a stitch in time said...

Thanks, you two! Yes, I did realise that there were a few problems with the article, but I was not going to get a microwave to do my own test ;) and I did not think of checking snopes, who actually did (I enjoyed reading that). But you are right, there are enough other reasons not to get a microwave oven.

Richard Trewin said...

Hi Kati, It should also be pointed out, for the sake of general information, that microwaves generate electromagnetic radiation similar to the type that conveys radio and television signals through the air; microwaves, however, have a different wavelength. Microwaves are not high-energy ionizing radiation, which are notorious for causing damage to organic tissue (gamma rays, etc.). The concept that microwaves damage food simply by passing through it is fundamentally false.

a stitch in time said...

Thanks Richard!
All this thinking about microwaves makes me wonder why my Gran was told by the doctors that she should not be near a working microwave? Granted, that was about 20 years ago, but there's probably no reason for actual concern, right?

inge said...

Doctors are, unfortunately, not all-knowing.

Without a microwave, I'd have to use the oven for the heat pack I use on my stressed mouse-pusher-muscles, and heat leftovers or milk for coffee in pots on the stove (and wash the pots) -- I'd hate to see the energy bill for that. :-(

Richard Trewin said...

Hi Kati, As far as your gran and the metal plate: This is a dim memory, but I remember reading that microwave oven shielding (in terms of preventing leakage) has improved over the decades that they've been in household use. People with pacemakers used to be advised to avoid the area around a microwave oven because earlier pacemakers were apparently susceptible to interference. I don't have a source for these claims at hand. Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation of a higher frequency than TV and radio waves, but not so high as visible light.