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re: safety bulletin!!!!!!!!
28 jan 2000
contrary peasant "often wrong but never in doubt" sojourner writes: 

>...i have been using a microwave to heat water on a daily basis for going
>on 20 years, have witnessed other people using a microwave for the same
>purpose for that entire period of time, and never, not even one time,
>have i ever had any such thing happen, nor have i ever witnessed such an
>occurence, nor have i previously ever even heard a rumor of such an
>occurence.  so even if it is possible for it to happen (which i strongly
>doubt) i guarantee you it is nothing like "fairly common".

people with the merest smattering of physics know this as "superheating,"
a statistical phenom that occurs when a liquid is raised above its boiling
point and it has no convenient nucleation centers that will allow bubbles
to form easily. drop in a speck of something and it boils ferociously.
the less-exciting freezing process is called supercooling.

>...when i was working full time i was heating water... on the average of
>8 to 10 cups per day... 5 days a week, for 17 years...
>that's 52x5x17 (8 to 10) = 35,360 to 44,200.
>
>...from that sample i have had exactly zero "explosions".

so it can't happen...

>i have heated water until it is just barely boiling, i have heated it to
>just short of boiling, i have heated it not enough and put it back in
>the microwave; i have heated it for too long and boiled half the
>contents away.  no combination of events has ever resulted in an
>"explosion".

to increase your explosion frequency, you might try using a carefully-
measured amount of very pure (eg distilled) water and a very clean cup.
first measure the average number of seconds until the water boils, and
the standard deviation. then try to exceed by, say, one or two standard
deviations. then gently open the microwave door and suddenly drop in a
heated tablespoon of very finely powdered sugarless turkish coffee. 
 
have fun. do let us know the results.

nick




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