Microwaves are pretty convenient in heating or cooking food, erasing notebooks, and some other odd uses but there are things you shouldn’t put inside the device. Metal immediately comes to mind but, oddly enough, grapes are taboo as well. For years, there have been discussions on the hidden perils of putting the fruit in the microwave but now physicists may have finally come up with an answer to that mystery and, like any good scientific puzzle, could even be used for future technologies.
Microwaving a single grape might not have much effect on your kitchen tool, but who microwaves a single tiny piece of fruit anyway? The magical catastrophe happens when you microwave more than one grape, even just two, and put them side by side. Turn the microwave on and you’ll see sparks start to fly. Not the romantic kind but the ones that could damage your appliance.
The common explanation required that even a small strip of skin on both grapes to be left touching each other. As the grape’s diameter is the roughly the same size as the energy wavelengths generated by the microwave, they trap the energy inside them and charge up the electrolytes in the fruit. The energy the flows rapidly between the grapes using the strip of skin as a conduit until the air around them becomes supercharged and produces plasma, the light-emitting fourth state of matter also responsible for the sun’s rays.
That old hypothesis, however, only got a few parts right because physicists found that the same buildup occurred even without that piece of skin. In fact, if completely naked grapes were just 3 mm apart, they’d still spark and flare up. The more scientific explanation, researchers say, is that the waves they do indeed store (because of their size) bounce back and forth in the space between the grapes to produce an increasingly powerful electromagnetic field. This happens until the supercharged electrolytes shoot out in a short burst of plasma.
More than just trying to solve one of the Internet’s biggest mysteries, the researchers claim that these findings could be used to trap visible light for use in nano-scale microscopy. Hopefully, that will put all questions to rest and no more microwaves will be sacrificed for the sake of science or, worse, YouTube hits.