Put Strange Stuff in the Microwave
By Gever Tulley with Julie Spiegler
Experiment with electromagnetic radiation in the kitchen.
The Grape Antenna
All radio wavelengths can be measured as the
distance between peaks in the waveform. As it turns
out, a common grape is about one-quarter of the
wavelength of the energy produced in a microwave
oven — a magical relationship for highly efficient
1. Cut a grape almost in half, leaving the skin as a
hinge between the two halves.
2. Place the grape, open faces up, on a microwave-safe plate.
3. Run at full power for 10 seconds.
Besides being sweet, marshmallows have a few
properties that make them perfectly suited for
microwave experiments: they are fluffy, stretchy,
and moist. The water content helps them absorb
Grapes (or grape tomatoes)
Duration: 10 seconds
microwaves, the trapped air makes them heat
quickly, and the taffy-like consistency means that
they can expand stupendously.
1. Place a marshmallow on a microwave-safe plate
in the oven.
2. Run at full power for 10 seconds.
A microwave oven is really a high-energy physics
laboratory that we use every day.
What will you try next?
Before we start putting things in the microwave, there
are a few rules we must follow in order to minimize the
danger to ourselves and the microwave.
» Expect It to Be Hot — Small objects that absorb
microwave energy have a tendency to heat up,
sometimes spectacularly. Use an oven mitt or
tongs when removing experiments from the
» 10-Second Limit — Never power any experiment for
more than 10 seconds at a time.
Excerpted from Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tulley with Julie Spiegler (fiftydangerousthings.
com). Gever is the founder of Tinkering School (
tinkeringschool.com), a camp where kids get to use power tools and be trusted.
Illustrations by Gever Tulley
» Cancel and Contain — If the experiment should
happen to catch fire, immediately hit the Cancel
or Stop button, and keep the door closed until
the fire goes out.
Microwave ovens occasionally have dead spots. If
any of your experiments fail to produce interesting
results, try repeating them in different locations
within the oven.
166 Make: Volume