Episode 4: Penny Drop, Deadly Microwaves, Radio Tooth Fillings

Air Date: October 17, 2003

A penny dropped from a skyscraper lands with enough force to either kill a pedestrian on the sidewalk below or embed itself into the sidewalk.

busted

A penny’s total mass is not sufficient to perforate human skin – let alone penetrate concrete or asphalt – even when fired from a rifle.

It is possible to pick up radio signals through a tooth filling.

busted

The tooth filling did not act as an antenna.

It is possible to cook one’s insides by using a tanning booth too often.

busted

Tanning booths work on UV radiation, which penetrates the body from the outside in, meaning that all one would get is a sunburn.

It is possible to blow up a microwave oven by microwaving metal.

busted

Neither a spoon nor a fork had any effect. Tinfoil scrunched into balls caused a light-show with electric charges, but the microwave did not explode. Microwaving metal can ruin a microwave by arcing against the inner wall, sending electricity back to the magnetron and destroying it.

If a glass of water is microwaved, and then removed, it will explode due to superheating.

confirmed

If the water had no impurities in it at the time of superheating – if one used distilled water – then any sort of additive placed within will make the water explode.

(The term "explode" is used loosely. The water violently boils over the edge of the container, which can be very dangerous.)

If you put a poodle in the microwave, it will dry its fur.

not tested

Adam and Jamie thought this myth was too cruel to test on a live animal, and did not carry it out.

86 Comments

  1. Nathan says:

    If you put a poodle in the microwave, it will dry its fur.

    It depends how long you leave the poodle in it. If you leave it in for a short while, barely any change will occur, however if too long it will explode.

    *when an elementary school was vandalized, a pet snake from the 1st grade room was heated in a microwave and the snake blew up*

  2. Bryan H says:

    Mythbusters tests things with simulating persons all the time. I don’t see why they couldn’t use a simulated poodle.

    And the myth is stated backwards here. The myth is that some idiot tried to dry her poodle and it exploded.

    I don’t see anything about a poodle or a snake that would make it explode just because it gets hot inside.

    But it seems pretty obvious that the poodle’s cells would cease functioning due to cooking before all the water in the fur evaporates.

    • Joshua says:

      You obviously have no idea how a microwave works.

  3. Steve Jenks says:

    My neighbor has a poodle. Where can I send it?????

  4. shiznannigan says:

    I don’t think you can dry anything in a microwave, because they don’t use heat. So water does not evaporate from the surface of the microwaved object.

    This is why microwaving a frozen pizza results in an awful, awful pizza.

  5. Atheleas says:

    Actually, a microwave is pretty good at drying herbs in a hurry, if for some reason you need them dry in a matter of hours rather than days.

    I’ve tried this myself once when I needed some sweet woodruff to make May wine for a festival the next day. (For some reason, the fresh herb just will NOT work, and ya need the dried herb.)

    Uh, only do batches for a few seconds at a time, or else the herbs burn.

    • T9sus4 says:

      I have been making May wine (Maibowle) with fresh woodruff many times. It works just fine.

  6. Wriiight says:

    My father has tried drying clothes in a hotel room microwave before, and did not have very good success. The dog test would surely not turn out well.

    • ChefPoodle says:

      I can pretty much guarantee the dog will turn out well, or maybe medium well but I would hope it’s a rare occurrence!

      • MSpears says:

        ROFL!

  7. Paul says:

    Dear shizannigan – Microwaves are not infrared so they are not heat per se, however they vibrate molecules which in turn cause friction and then heat. Cook something, like slice of pizza or a meat pie (we eat those here in Australia) for long enough and they will dry out, and burn even and be pretty awful. Hot cross buns very quickly dry out from the heat this way if not eaten quickly enough after a “refresh” in the microwave

  8. JL says:

    I have actually seen the fork in the microwave work. My electronics teacher in high school, put one in a microwave and had a blast frame put around it, after about 20 minutes the fork exploded and left a hole in the side of the microwave. The mythbusters should have left it in longer, try 20 minutes or so. Trust me it works I almost pissed myself when the explosion happened.

  9. It Happens says:

    My toddler sister put the cat in the microwave back when microwaves were brand new (70s) and merely had turning timer knobs (thank goodness for the newer safety features). I saw her do it, ran across the room fast and opened the door and released the cat… none too soon, the cat survived (slightly demented) to an old age, but the one litter of kittens it had was quite deformed (I believe that the vet sent them too some Colorado University).

  10. derek says:

    Hi I would like you guys to bust a myth regarding subliminal messages in the form of audio tapes,mp3 that you listen to it would alter or change a subject’s behaviour.

  11. jowolf359 says:

    If you put a live animal in a microwave you will kill it if the exposure is more than 60 seconds. Under that time and you will have cells begin to mutate and then die.

  12. Bob Marley says:

    @Atheleas:
    Quite true, my herb leaves dry very nicely and smoke just fine.

  13. disgusted says:

    To It Happens
    Why didn’t you tell your sister “NO!” if you were close enough to see what she was doing? Either you’re lying and are an attention-seeking bozo, or both you and your abusive moron of a sis lack common sense. STFU.

    • smart one says:

      sometimes you dont see what kids are doing if your back is turned bozo!

  14. confused says:

    why can you not do the penny one using a small scale model?

    • mick says:

      because you cant scale gravity

  15. George says:

    JL: Maybe the magnetron failed in a spectacular way. But a fork? Why in the world would a piece of metal explode?

  16. disgusted agreed says:

    To IT HAPPENS

    I beleive you are a lying “bozo” and also just looking for some gay attention. (thank goodness for safety features my ass…f n ass)

    • Dinosaur Microwave says:

      I disagree. We inherited our dinosaur of a microwave from my grandmother. It was one of those giant ones from the 70′s. You could easily have fit a cat in that prehistoric monster. Also, maybe they did say ‘No’ and just didn’t think to include it in the story. I’m not saying that “It Happens” is telling the truth, I’m just saying don’t dismiss it without looking at all the possibilities. Don’t call someone a “Lying Bozo” or say they’re seeking “gay attention” without knowing the whole story.

  17. hey dude says:

    to hating bastards

    thats mean!

  18. Poodles says:

    Poodles have hair, not fur.

  19. Radio Waves says:

    I personally witnessed Radio waves being picked up in about 1974 accidentally at a school concert. If memory serves me correctly it was at the VA hospital, wichita, Ks, under the direction of instructer F. Johnson USD357. A girl playing electronic keyboards during setup accidently touched the amplifier plug to her mouth or braces, It picked up a local radiostation on the amplifier. Her last name started with a C. All the students were astonished and she attempted to replicate it which she finally did by again tounching different places in her mouth onto the amplifier plug. I believe an additional student attempted to intercept radio waves on the same amplifier and completely failed.

  20. Human Radio says:

    About 1 1/2 weeks ago I woke up shortly after 4am, experiencing a great pain in one of my molars. Felt like it was burning from the inside out, similar to how a dentist drill would feel without painkillers. I thought that I could hear a music playing faintly so I checked my alarm clock. It was off. When I adjusted my mouth in agony trying to understand where the pain was coming from, it openned and the sound got louder. It was distinctly musical and although I could make out only a few words the singing voice clearly was that of a woman.
    The whole thing only lasted 3-4 minutes, and was very painful. It has not happened since, thankfully.
    I have been looking into it and came across this site. I was disspointed that you guys “busted” this myth, because you’re usually dead on.
    From what I’ve read usually it is a non-grounded signal that gets picked up by human body (like a reciever) and with the right combination of saliva and metal a LOOSE filling will vibrate with the frequency of the signal. The sound of the vibration is then amplified by shape of the mouth.
    Now I’m no expert on radio signals, but I do know that if your loose filling is vibrating enough to play music, let alone vibrating enough to make any sound, it’s going to hurt like heck! And it did…

  21. Human Radio says:

    To clarify, I should say that my filling didn’t act like an antena, more like a speaker. I would be interested if anyone else has experienced something like this.

  22. dave k. says:

    Though it probably doesn’t make a difference, the pre 1982 penny weighs 3.1 g (vs. the 2.5 g of a post 1982 penny). i wonder which one they tested?

    • Joseph Mercer says:

      @ dave k. You’re right it wouldn’t make any difference as Galileo’s experiment with two different sized weights proved. The ten pound weight hit the ground at the same time as the one pound weight. The only noticeable difference would have been the amount of energy distributed at the point of impact. .6 g difference in weight would not distribute much more energy upon impact.

      • Yes says:

        Hmm, all good, all well… but you lack basic understanding of physics.

        Objects fall at the same rate “in a vacuum” but the terminal velocity of said object differs based on the mass of said object. (Re, make a paper airplane and “fly it”; then tape a few pennies on and see how far it can fly).

  23. Bobcat says:

    Tooth fillings should be plausible. It’s not a good antenna, but you don’t need good antenna nearby powerful AM station. It’s the contact between two different metals (with different electron energy levels) what makes things act like radios. It acts like very poor diode, but still a diode and able to detect strong AM signals. I witnesed a toaster, and aluminum spoon left in stainless steel pot playing, nearby (~1.5 km) very powerful (500 kW) AM station.

  24. Jonathan says:

    I am very glad you guys didn’t test the “Poodle in the Microwave” thing, because i heard one lady did that to her cat and it exploded. Then she sued the company.

  25. Jonathan says:

    Dear Poodles: Hair is the same thing as fur. DUHHHH

  26. Jonathan says:

    Its just longer. DUHHHH

  27. Emily says:

    Jonathan: Hair and fur are COMPLETLEY different. Hair dosen’t shed. Fur does. You see you pets shedding, but do you shed? NO! DUHHHHH you idiot. And BTW, its good they didn’t test it, my friend tested it on her hamster and it exploded… poor hamster

  28. David says:

    I feel that you have not taken velocity into account and that a penny would penetrate the skull and definitely kill if shot from a rifle.. Velocity is how fast something falls. I learned all this in a college class a few years ago.

  29. April says:

    Wow David I think you need to retake a physics class. Look up terminal velocity and see what you find out. As for the rifle experiment I don’t know and don’t really care, since people aren’t going around with penny-loaded rifles. Although I suppose that would depend on the distance the penny is fired from, its angle of impact, and deceleration rate.

  30. Natas M. says:

    i agree with Brian, why would it explode?
    that doesnt make any sense at all. it would just cook tteh poodle alive.

    • Joseph Mercer says:

      Animals (including humans) are basically bags of water. If water is heated enough it becomes steam. Steam in a sealed container exerts pressure and will explode if there isn’t a means to release the pressure (i.e. the piston in a steam engine). Case closed! I wouldn’t be stupid enough or cruel enough to place an animal in a microwave anyway.

  31. Jim says:

    When I was a kid in the late 40s, a woman picked up radio signals in one of her teeth. She lived in Modesto, Ca., and everyone in my neighborhood knew her. It bothered her so much that she had the tooth pulled. “They” (the people who know everything about everything) told her it was because her tooth filling picked up a signal from a home made crystal set in the area. I know this is the truth, because I was there and saw it for myself.

  32. Ben Woolgar says:

    thanks for not testing poodles

  33. JimC says:

    yes I used to get reception in my fillings. If the guys ‘busted’ this they they are themselves ‘busted’. A group of fellow Marines was very skeptical about this once when I said a certain song was playing, we turned on the radiona d found it right away, playing right along in the part I was singing to. They were ‘whoooaaa dude’.

  34. Micah says:

    Emily:

    First, hair and fur are EXACTLY the same thing! Culturally, we have developed two words so that we can distinguish people “hair” from animal “fur”. Not all cultures do this!

    Second, of course people shed! Haven’t you ever seen hair in your hairbrush? It falls out all the time, and grows back…it just tends to grow longer on human heads (vs. dogs) before it falls out. Poodles shed just like other dogs, but their hair gets matted and the fallen-out hairs stay on the dog (like a person with dreads).

  35. antonio says:

    a piece of metal you slobber on will not play music if it did i’d be plugging earphones in a filling instead o an ipod

  36. June says:

    I have a guitar amp at home that I use with my electric guitar and well, one day I held a plug (the plug that connects the guitar to the amp) to my mouth because I was trying to get the plastic around it off and I noticed how there was noise coming from the amp. It was significantly clearer when close to my braces, too. So, I experimented this and pushed the plug right against my braces and through the amplifyer you could hear an AM radio station loud and clear. It was ah-mazing.

  37. Casey says:

    In reference to the Microwaving untensils
    this happened to myself, and what they should have tested it while there was flamable food and/or a napkin in the microwave
    just a thought

  38. Susan says:

    The hair in you hairbrush was pulled out, it didn’t shed. **fur is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the short, soft hair of certain animals” whereas hair is defined as “any of the fine thread-like strands growing from the skin of mammals and other animals, or from the epidermis of a plant.Poodle “hair” is “hair” in that it keeps growing like hair on our heads, whereas “body hair” is technically “fur”….it only gets so long then stops, and naturally sheds periodically.

  39. Shiyong says:

    Can the penny dropping from a tall building injure a person if it hits on his head?

  40. JS says:

    About the radio waves, a tooth filling is probably too small, but just about anything else of signifigant size will probably work. I have used wires, aluminum foil, and even my own arm and hand to adjust the tuning of my radio. It’s a piece of crap.

  41. JS says:

    P.S. A tooth filling does not have a speaker of any kind, so unless your brain can read radio waves, hen it is impossible to discern anything at all from a signal, even if the filling does pick it up.

  42. Chad says:

    JS, you should probably google bone conduction…..

  43. John says:

    When the test was ran, they used unmodulated RF. In other words, their radio station was “transmitting” dead air. Looks like Jamie and Adam need a modulated transmitter using music or voice, and retest. After all the carrier carries the signal to your radio, but it’s the modulation you want to hear!

  44. dbr says:

    Years ago, 1950′s, I received radio in my teeth. I had braces and fillings, I had to stand on THAT street corner, and only picked up one station. I surmised it was similar to the effect of an old crystal set radio. I also picked up that station on the crystal set. The signal was never clear like a modern radio, but was definitely there.

  45. Austin Anzalone says:

    Ok, Here it is, We want myth busters to blow up a House, this is a big request and we think that ya’ll can do it. Who Dat!!

    Austin

  46. chris mmm says:

    Any animal placed in a microwave WILL explode. The reason is because the body contains air pockets and when heated the air expands with no place to go….kaboom! Kind of like microwaving a whole egg in the shell. Try it and see! The egg, that is, not an animal.

  47. Jim Dixon says:

    In an office where I used to work, someone tried to microwave some takeaway Chinese food in a traditional paper container with a wire handle. The wire caused an arc which blackened and melted the plastic lining of the microwave. I didn’t see it happen, but I saw the microwave afterwards. I don’t know what other damage was done because no one tried to use it after that; it was thrown out.

  48. Thibs says:

    i think allot of people should do more research before posting comments. there is no physical difference between hair and fur. the only reason some animals fur tends to grow to a certain length and than shed as opposed to growing without end with little shedding depends on the species. all hair has specific growth cycles some (like the hair on our heads) have a growth cycles of a few years with a rest cycles of about 100 days other animals will have a shorter growth cycle with a longer rest cycles, after rest cycles hair can sometimes fall out and a new growth cycle can begin for a new hair resulting in shedding. poodles like most “non-allergenic” dogs seem to have hair because they have a longer growth cycle with a shorter rest cycle. they also lack and undercoat of hair that most animals have that results in less hair loss and less transfer of dander (dead skin and hair molecules that cause most allergies). the myth could be tested by simply wetting hair itself and microwaving it to see if it would dry but it would be pointless because the poodle would in fact “blow up”. mammals have a high percentage of water in our bodies that when heated could reach a boiling point and explode, although the animal would most likely already be dead before reaching this point.

  49. Frank says:

    If you shoot at a rattle snake, will it/can it strike the bullet an get it’s head blown off? I heard this is true but have not had any confirm or refute it. Thanks

  50. zebraz says:

    Picking up a radio signal from a tooth filling is a well documented phenomenon. Do a little research before deciding that a subject needs to be investigated as it might be a myth.

  51. Dr. Barry Ornitz says:

    The cornea of the eye has the least blood flow and the least ability to dissipate heat. Therefore the cornea of the eye is more sensitive than any other portion of the body to microwave radiation. The poodle will hardly be dry when it is blinded. Sticking your hand in an operating microwave oven for a few seconds is not dangerous. Just watch out to protect the eyes.

  52. Nik says:

    Human Radio.
    When I was in the 8th grade, i has braces. The school which was built in the early 1960′s had had large multi-paned windows. Nest to the school propery was the radio tower of an AM radio station, and one classroom, the window faced the tower. In that room, especially if I was close to the window, the braces would pick up the radio broadcast. The same thing happened with a classmate who also had braces.

    A few things of note.
    It was no very loud, more like the sould of an earbud from tow or three feet away.
    It was painful. The sound was acompanied by a burning sensation in cheeks and gums.
    It was annoying because the station never played rock.

    To whoever commented that a filling is not a speaker, good point, except that the metal, combined with the tartar buildup to act as a diode receiver, sending a modulated electrical current through the jaw muscles, which were acting as speakers. As for an antenna, being a a distnces of les than 1000 feet from a 40,000 wat transmitting source, did not require much of an antenna.

    It did not take long for me and the other guy with braces, to find a spot in the room where the signal and therefore the pain was at a minimum.

  53. Robert E. Menteer II says:

    I was just watching this episode and it in Jamie built a device with 4 magnetrons. I’d like you to revisit this experiment. There are a couple things that Jamie may not have taken into account:
    1) Microwaves use wave guides [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waveguide_(electromagnetism) ]. This means the dimensions must be based on the length of the microwaves produced.
    2) The cooking chamber is a Faraday cage [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage ] that prevents the microwaves from escaping.
    3) If the magnetrons are not positioned correctly they will produce an interference pattern. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference_(wave_propagation) ] This will also occur if they emit different frequencies. This property is called coherence [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coherence_(physics) ].

  54. katherine linden says:

    you are wrong about the radio station being picked up by a filling. It happens to me almost every morning when my head is on my pillow. As soon as I pick up my head off the pillow I lose the sound in my head. I know for a fact that it’s truly happening because I’ve tested it.

  55. peg says:

    yes it does happen. my sister has been up for 2 nights with the radio station 98.7 the peak, broadcasting out of arizona…in her ears…she is having a hard time sleeping. when she was visiting in chicago it also happened. so you can pick up radio frequencys from your fillings. old fillings. so there.

  56. Jon says:

    Radio frequency through tooth filling is possible.
    When I was in my teens I developed a cavity and went to the dentist to have it filled. This was in the 80s and I still have the same filling in my head today. Me and my older brother had been out and returned to his trailer which was a late50s early 60s model and about 60′ long mostly covered in aluminum. My brother had a lot of stereo equipment with wires strung all over. As I said we had just returned to his home so everything in the place was turned off. I walked in and went toward the back of his trailer and heard “like a virgin” by Madonna. I asked if he heard it and he said no and that the radio was off. He thought I was joking so he went and turned on the stereo and started tuning channels. Sure enough The same song was just ending when he found the right station and I heard both the stereo and my filling playing in “super Stereo”. It lasted about 5 minutes and has never occurred again.

  57. MF says:

    I used to work at a zoo and they had a freezer full of frozen rats and mice to feed to the animals who like that sort of thing – generally we’d simply let them thaw out. However, some of the snakes were rather picky and would refuse to eat room temperature food, so we had microwaves available for the sole purpose of heating them up to something more like body temperature. Now, I’m not sure what qualifies as an ‘explosion’ – they didn’t burst into pieces – but the rodents would sometimes make a little popping noise that I think qualifies.

  58. Brett says:

    the metal in the microwave in wrong too. one year at christmas i acidentally put a bowl with a brass rim in the microwave and it started sparking like crazy

    • Joe says:

      What is brass though? Copper and Zinc alloy… both are metals… sounds like metal to me.

  59. Alfred Alyeshmerni says:

    Dear Mythbusters,

    I watched the radio signal in Lucile Ball’s tooth feeling today.

    I was able to get radio signal, if you contact a carton metal strap (thin long metal strap) and base of radio tower with live artichoke plant. The thin metal strap resonated and played radio signal transmitted by radio tower. Simulate that to duplicate radio signal in her mouth!

  60. Arnold Swchqzgwernegger says:

    Sausages won’t explode if you put them in a microwave; they simply “crack open” when the skin peels of and water turns into hot steam.

    Animals don’t explode either if you put them in a microwave.

  61. sean says:

    In the town,they put tapes in microwave with bleach,do it ruin video tapes.

  62. einar says:

    A penny dropped from a skyscraper Myth is not a Myth it was an alteration of something that happened in i believe the 1950s I believe it was a quarter dropped from the empire states building that killed someone.
    the quarter hit them on the ear and in pain they jumped to the side where they fell and landed on their head.

  63. Chaz says:

    They need to have the filling one redone and actually understand the tooth isnt the antenna. They just rushed over it without even trying to figure it out. I mean from what I have found it looks very promising.

  64. Dinosaur Microwave says:

    I would use the term exploded loosely. Since the microwave works by heating up water molecules, it would kill any animals placed inside but I doubt they’d actually explode.

  65. Angel Cake says:

    When my sister was in the tenth grade (back in the 70′s), she heard the radio constantly even though no radio was playing nearby. She was picking up the local radio station in her braces. This was proven because when my parents would turn the actual radio on, she could tell them ahead of time what song was playing. Once she had her braces adjusted the next time, the noise in her head stopped.

  66. Liz McCarthy says:

    We love your show! I wondered if you can give us a genuine answer; so many replies are only opinions. My son tried to microwave an electronic toy teapot, creating terrific smoke and ruining the toy. Is it likely that the microwave itself is also damaged? It doesn’t prepare popcorn properly anymore, but we think that might just be due to inferior popcorn and the poor results are merely coincidence. We appreciate your time and courtesy. – Liz

  67. Noname Joe says:

    Can we all just agree to only put things that belong in the microwave in the microwave?!?!?!?

  68. Andre says:

    Yes I recall picking up a radio station on a filling when I was a kid. Only in a certain place only in a certain direction of the head. Would come and go. Could tell the song that was playing so clear it was. Felt more like a vibration, but could concentrate on it. Back in the 80′s.

  69. Bob E says:

    Sorry The Microwave think is partialy true. I saw my brother put a tv dinner in the microwave with the fork in it and it started a fire. This was an old style turn the dial microwave but it was still a microwave.

  70. Matt says:

    Why didn’t you microwave Twinkies or Peeps?? I mean everyone knows it works, I just can’t believe you didn’t try the best ones.

    I would have microwaved a bullet. You could have used pig skin with fake internal parts. I just think you know that microwave on living things kills it, its not a myth.

  71. so pity says:

    why you worrying a not endangered animal used for test?
    uh sorry, you guys allow human-killing movies and forbid dog-killing movie…
    lol

  72. brittany says:

    the radio tooth one i was shocked to see labled as busted, when i was little i was at my grandmas showing her my new electric guitar. it was not smart but i was young lol anyway i had the amplifier plugged into the outlet and a cord plugged into the amplifier, i was just talking and ended up putting it in my mouth on my back tooth that had a filling and i could hear the radio. grandma was shocked and so was i haha i thought it was cool but never tried it again.

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