2002/10/25
 
16:51

Predict-o-tron

If you put a gnat in a microwave oven and turn it on, what do you suppose happens?

Answer: nothing. At least, not to the gnat – you're not supposed to operate a microwave with nothing but a gnat inside it. (The manual isn't that specific, but that's the gist of what they say.)

The reason the gnat continues to frolic gnattily is that it is smaller than one wavelength of the frequency used by microwave ovens. Heck, it could be made of metal (which is a big no-no inside a microwave) and it wouldn't matter. Which brings us to ...

Aren't you annoyed by the fact that it's hard to see into a microwave? That screen they have on the door is to protect you from being nuked yourself. The holes are (you guessed it) less than one wavelength in diameter. But darn it, it makes it hard to see what's going on in there! I like to heat up water for tea, but because of the screen I can't tell when the water's boiling. (And no, this is not an example of the dictum "A watched pot never boils.")

I can't be the only person annoyed by this. Which brings us to ...

You know digital cameras? They have teeny-weeny little thingies inside called CCD's. Charged Coupled Devices can pick up light, and when you're designing a digital camera that kind of thing is rather important. I mean, you could manufacture a digital camera that only takes pictures of blackness, but it wouldn't sell well.

Anyway, I predict that before too long somebody is going to put a small CCD inside a microwave oven, and put a flat-screen TV on the door. That way, you'll be able to see precisely what's going on inside.

(Note to self: search the patent database.)

Of course, it'll only be a two-dimensional picture, but nothing I've ever prepared in the microwave really required a 3D view. Still, one day some egghead is sure to come up with a two-CCD version with some kind of holographic display and there you go.

The next step after that? Some kind of robotic device that gets the food for you, figures out the right proportions, mixes it all up, and starts cooking.

Oh darn, somebody's already thought of this. It's a Star Trek food replicator.

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