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The elements of the week are tungsten and thorium, which are alloyed to make the filament in the special type of vacuum tube—called a magnetron—that produces radiation in your microwave oven. Bill and the Engineer Guy team first explain the anatomy of a basic microwave oven, then come through with a great, memorable visualization that intuitively links the wave’s oscillating electric and magnetic fields to the rotational vibrations of water molecules, in the food, that actually heat it up. Other highlights include mapping the standing wave in the cooking cavity by heating a platter of grated cheese, and a cross-section of a real magnetron with overlays and a handy analogy explaining how it works. [Thanks, Bill!]

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


5 Responses to Engineer Guy vs. The Microwave Oven

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  1. miroslava von schlochbaum on said:

    That was delightfully informative! as usual for Mr Hammack. never before did i get the rotating loops of electrons in place of a simpler dipole antenna, (for example).

    The cheese demonstration of the nodes was equally amazing. Is there no way to slew the phase angle? Probably more costly than it’s worth relative to the mechanical food carousel..?

    Thankee Bill!

  2. Another neat thing. If you remove the magnets, the magnetron turns into a rectifier. A magnetron is a self oscillating diode.

  3. Pingback: How Microwave Ovens Work [Video] |Dark Angels Network

  4. Pingback: Como funcionam os microondas | Unders Tech

  5. Great comparison between engineer and Microwave oven. Thanks for sharing.

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