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  #1  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:14 PM
Shabbyskunk Shabbyskunk is offline
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Is it dangerous to microwave your underpants?

During the winter it's sometimes nice to microwave your undergarments for extra warmth but I was told that radiation can still be lurking within the underwear when putting them on, which can lead to health problems as bad as becoming infertile. Is this true?
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  #2  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:15 PM
beowulff beowulff is online now
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No.
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  #3  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:20 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Although I suppose if they're wet you could burn yourself, and if they're not you could set them on fire.
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  #4  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:20 PM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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Is it dangerous to microwave your underpants?

Only if your butt is still in them.
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  #5  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:27 PM
davidm davidm is offline
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When you microwave your food, are you concerned when you eat it that there may still be radiation lurking in it?

If not, then why would it lurk in your underwear?
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  #6  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:27 PM
panamajack panamajack is offline
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In a certain highly convoluted sense, what you said is nearly true. It's simply the case that heat will be radiating from the underpants into your crotch, and higher crotch temperatures may be associated with a reduced sperm count. But that's certainly not what you were apparently concerned about.

There's often confusion about the issue, but microwave radiation is not dangerous in the same way that X-rays or nuclear radiation is. Really it's not a lot more dangerous than an incandescent lightbulb, which is also radiation, but most of the time people call it just "light" and "infrared".

That said, don't microwave your underpants while you're still wearing them.
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  #7  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:31 PM
davidm davidm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by panamajack View Post
...don't microwave your underpants while you're still wearing them.
Or while someone else is wearing them; in case that wasn't clear.
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  #8  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:31 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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The defining characteristic of radiation is that it radiates. Radiation, of any sort, cannot "lurk" in anything. Radioactive material, which is one possible source of radiation, can in principle lurk in things, but microwave ovens in no way involve radioactive material, the radiation they produce is completely different than the radiation produced by radioactive material, and can no more render material radioactive than you can knock someone over across the room by blowing at them. In fact, ordinary visible light like you get from a light bulb, a fire, or the Sun is much closer to the sort of radiation produced by radioactive material than the radiation produced by a microwave oven is.
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  #9  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:33 PM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Welcome to the Dope, Shabbyskunk. I like your OP. I'd be more worried about you setting fire to your underpants in the microwave.
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  #10  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:42 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Microwaves don't use "radiation" in the sense that most people use the word. The word "radiation" to most folks means ionizing radiation, which is stuff like X-rays and gamma rays. Despite the fact that we often say you "nuke" food in a microwave, the microwave oven doesn't use anything that we would call "nuclear" at all.

Electromagnetic radiation is a whole bunch of stuff. At low frequencies, you've got long waves, which are useful for transmitting data at very slow speeds through polar ice, and not much else. As you go up in frequency, you have radio waves, microwaves (which are just higher frequency radio waves), infra-red light, visible light, ultra-violet light, X-rays, gamma rays, and cosmic rays. Part way through the ultra-violet part of the spectrum, electromagnetic radiation becomes "ionizing" which means that it can strip the electrons off of atoms and create ions. Ionizing radiation is bad stuff. It causes cancer. It's the stuff in sunlight that causes your dashboard to fade. Non-ionizing radiation is much less dangerous. Microwaves are even safer than visible light, since it is lower in frequency. Is your underwear dangerous after you shine a flashlight on it? It's even less dangerous after it comes out of the microwave. X-rays, gamma rays, and cosmic rays are all bad. Radio waves, microwaves, and visible light are all non-ionizing, and won't do bad things to you like ionizing radiation will.

Microwaves cook food because you've got an awful lot of them shoved into a tiny box. Visible light can cook food, too. You wouldn't want to be inside of a microwave oven (assuming that you could fit) and you wouldn't want to stand directly in front of a Hollywood style spotlight either. Both will cook you.

Think of a microwave as just a radio transmitter inside a box, because that's all it is. There's no "radiation" left over when you turn it off any more than there would be "radiation" left over if you turned off a walkie-talkie.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 01-31-2011 at 04:44 PM.. Reason: Clarified what types of radiation are dangerous
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  #11  
Old 01-31-2011, 04:59 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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I used to microwave underpants and socks all the time before we had a tumble dryer. As long as you only put them in for a very short amount of time, they won't burn. Test different times with a pair you don't really care about and keep an eye on them. They don't retain warmth for very long, IME, let alone radiation.

But don't microwave anything metallic obviously, like a bra with underwiring, unless you want a modern-day take on burning your bra.
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  #12  
Old 01-31-2011, 05:26 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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As you go up in frequency, you have radio waves, microwaves (which are just higher frequency radio waves), infra-red light, visible light, ultra-violet light, X-rays, gamma rays, and cosmic rays.
As a nitpick, most cosmic rays are particles like protons, not light, and the cosmic rays that are light are just considered gamma rays, not their own category.
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  #13  
Old 01-31-2011, 05:42 PM
arseNal arseNal is offline
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As an aside, how does underwear even get warmed by the microwave? I thought it needed some substance that was excitable by microwaves like liquids or proteins. Neither of which sound very pleasant to have in underwear that you put into the same appliance that I used to heat up my leftover chimichangas.

Last edited by arseNal; 01-31-2011 at 05:46 PM..
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  #14  
Old 01-31-2011, 05:46 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
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Is it dangerous to microwave your underpants?

Just don't fart while wearing them.
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  #15  
Old 01-31-2011, 06:20 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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I would just toss them into the dryer instead. But only because underwear is not food-grade and I would be a little concerned about them being less than perfectly clean if they've been worn once and washed.
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  #16  
Old 01-31-2011, 07:02 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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As an aside, how does underwear even get warmed by the microwave? I thought it needed some substance that was excitable by microwaves like liquids or proteins. Neither of which sound very pleasant to have in underwear that you put into the same appliance that I used to heat up my leftover chimichangas.
Really, all you need is complicated molecules (where by "complicated", I mean more complicated than diatomic), and the cellulose in cotton, or whatever makes up the synthetic fibers, would probably work just fine.
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  #17  
Old 01-31-2011, 07:15 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Originally Posted by arseNal View Post
As an aside, how does underwear even get warmed by the microwave? I thought it needed some substance that was excitable by microwaves like liquids or proteins. Neither of which sound very pleasant to have in underwear that you put into the same appliance that I used to heat up my leftover chimichangas.
Any electrically asymmetric molecule reacts at least a little to microwaves. Water is very common and very asymmetric, so it reacts better than most things, but just try putting an empty ceramic or plastic mug in the microwave. It will still get hot.

Of course, there's water in virtually everything. A dry pair of clothes probably has some residual water from washing, and would be picking up humidity from the air in any event.
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  #18  
Old 01-31-2011, 07:15 PM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
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Don't FUBAR your MW

When there are no moisture molecules in the MW and you turn it on it puts stress on the system. The MW will overheat and the underwear, if dry, may catch fire. It's always best in the case of warming something dry to place a small amount of water in the MW as well, and don't boil it all over your shorts.
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  #19  
Old 01-31-2011, 07:24 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
As a nitpick, most cosmic rays are particles like protons, not light, and the cosmic rays that are light are just considered gamma rays, not their own category.
Since we're being nitpicky, the various categories are somewhat arbitrary and don't usually have a clear dividing line between them. If you look around, you'll find that some references have a separate category for cosmic rays, and some don't.

Here's one that doesn't list cosmic rays: http://www.kollewin.com/EX/09-15-03/...c-spectrum.jpg
Here's one that does: http://www.psych.ndsu.nodak.edu/mcco...20spectrum.JPG
Here's one that lists "cosmic and gamma" rays: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/fi...emspectrum.jpg

Similarly, you'll also find some references that list microwaves as a separate category, and others that combine them with radio waves.

Since it's all kinda arbitrary, I picked the way I learned it in school some 30 years ago. If you don't like it, use your own version. There's plenty to choose from.
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  #20  
Old 01-31-2011, 07:24 PM
xoferew xoferew is offline
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Maybe spritz it first with water or febreze or something? Unless febreze is flammable...
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  #21  
Old 01-31-2011, 10:03 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Or why on earth wouldn't you just take your underwear into the bathroom when you take a shower and then it gets all warm? I mean, I don't live in the polar north, but I can't imagine what kind of underwear chiller you'd be keeping your drawers in where this would be a problem.
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  #22  
Old 02-01-2011, 04:30 AM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Originally Posted by xoferew View Post
Maybe spritz it first with water or febreze or something? Unless febreze is flammable...
According to wikipedia, alcohol is the #2 ingredient in Febreze. That should burn.

The article itself is kind of interesting. The #1 ingredient is a huge donut molecule that is supposed to trap smelly molecules. I guess they just lie around on the floor afterwards, or are so big we don't detect them as odoriferous.
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  #23  
Old 02-01-2011, 04:51 AM
BleizDu BleizDu is offline
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Do some people really microwave their underwears or is it an hypothetical?
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  #24  
Old 02-01-2011, 06:05 AM
Manda JO Manda JO is offline
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I just love imagining how this came up:

Roommate 1 (r1) gets up, stumbles into the kitchen, fills a bowl with oatmeal and water, and opens the microwave, only to find a steaming pair of briefs. "What the hell?" he blearily asks as Roommate 2 wanders into the kitchen, wearing only a towel.

R2: "Oh, dude, sorry, those are mine." He drops his towel and starts to pull them on.
R1 "What the hell are you doing?"
R2: "It's awesome. Keeps my junk warm. You don't do this?"
R1: "No! That's dangerous!"
R2: "Dude! Keep your pants on. They're clean."
R1: "That's not what I mean. I mean the radiation in the microwave is now seeping into your meat and potatoes there. You're gonna get ball cancer, or fry all your little dudes".
R2: "Man, I didn't think of that. Do you really think so? Damn. But it feels so good."

This is my favorite general question ever.
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  #25  
Old 02-01-2011, 07:21 AM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
I just love imagining how this came up:

Roommate 1 (r1) gets up, stumbles into the kitchen, fills a bowl with oatmeal and water, and opens the microwave, only to find a steaming pair of briefs. "What the hell?" he blearily asks as Roommate 2 wanders into the kitchen, wearing only a towel.

R2: "Oh, dude, sorry, those are mine." He drops his towel and starts to pull them on.
R1 "What the hell are you doing?"
R2: "It's awesome. Keeps my junk warm. You don't do this?"
R1: "No! That's dangerous!"
R2: "Dude! Keep your pants on. They're clean."
R1: "That's not what I mean. I mean the radiation in the microwave is now seeping into your meat and potatoes there. You're gonna get ball cancer, or fry all your little dudes".
R2: "Man, I didn't think of that. Do you really think so? Damn. But it feels so good."

This is my favorite general question ever.
Good plot, interesting characters, but the studio thinks it needs a love interest. Can we get a rewrite, maybe with a female guest of Roomate One involved?
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  #26  
Old 02-01-2011, 08:24 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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How do people even think of this? I once read of someone who microwaved their sneakers. I don't even think of putting non-food items in the microwave.
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  #27  
Old 02-01-2011, 08:33 AM
iamnotbatman iamnotbatman is offline
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
Since it's all kinda arbitrary, I picked the way I learned it in school some 30 years ago. If you don't like it, use your own version. There's plenty to choose from.
But for the sake of correctness, Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles originating from outer space. They are not part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The graphs you linked to mistakenly conflate gamma rays with cosmic rays, probably because cosmic rays are a source of gamma rays (the cosmic rays hit particles in our atmosphere and create showers of particles that can include gamma rays).
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  #28  
Old 02-01-2011, 08:45 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Shouldn't be a problem to nuke your drawers. Just make sure you remove any silverware or kitchen utensils first. Then set it to "Popcorn."
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  #29  
Old 02-01-2011, 09:10 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Originally Posted by lieu View Post
Shouldn't be a problem to nuke your drawers. Just make sure you remove any silverware or kitchen utensils first. Then set it to "Popcorn."
That's only if your nuts are still in them.
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  #30  
Old 02-01-2011, 09:18 AM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Step 1: Microwave Underwear
Step 2:
Step 3: Profit
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  #31  
Old 02-01-2011, 09:28 AM
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Couldn't there be a danger of your underwear not getting heated evenly in a microwave? I know even with the turntable I still get "cold spots" in my food. And where there are cold spots, such as potentially on the elastic band, there are hot spots, such as potentially on the crotch of the underwear.

So I'm not totally sold on microwaved underwear as a safe way of warming one's nether regions. I mean I'm sure it's Foul Bachelor Frog approved (Dryer is broken...MICROWAVE UNDERWEAR), but still.
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  #32  
Old 02-01-2011, 09:28 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Note to self: Do not eat the popcorn when Shabbyskunk is hosting movie night.
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  #33  
Old 02-01-2011, 10:00 AM
Vita Beata Vita Beata is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Note to self: Do not eat the popcorn when Shabbyskunk is hosting movie night.
Avoid the Pop Tarts as well.
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  #34  
Old 02-01-2011, 10:05 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamnotbatman View Post
But for the sake of correctness, Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles originating from outer space. They are not part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The graphs you linked to mistakenly conflate gamma rays with cosmic rays, probably because cosmic rays are a source of gamma rays (the cosmic rays hit particles in our atmosphere and create showers of particles that can include gamma rays).
Correctness by whose definition? There are many references that define cosmic rays as particles, but there are many other references that define the highest part of the electromagnetic spectrum as "cosmic rays". Back when I went to school, I learned the latter. Admittedly, that was 30-40 years ago, and more references than not seem to call the upper end of the electromagnetic just "gamma rays" these days. I went poking around to see if it is just older texts that call the upper end of the electromagnetic spectrum cosmic rays, and one of my first hits on google books was "The encyclopaedia of medical imaging" by Holger Pettersson, Gustav Konrad von Schulthess, David J Allisonm which is from 1998 and contains the following:

Quote:
Electromagnetic waves are classified according to their FREQUENCY v or ENERGY (see below) into the electromagnetic spectrum (Fig. 1), and extend from the high-energy cosmic rays to the very low-energy radio waves.
The book then has a chart which breaks down the spectrum like this:

cosmic rays
X-rays, gamma rays
ultraviolet
visible light
infrared
microwaves
radio waves - ultrashort
- short
- middle
- long

I don't usually see X-rays and gamma rays lumped together, but there you go.

The very next book on the list, "The electronics handbook" by Jerry C. Whitaker uses your definition and explicitly says that cosmic rays are particles from space.

Here are some other books:

"Modern dictionary of electronics" by By Rudolf F. Graf (1999) puts cosmic rays at the top end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It also calls the microwave region "radar" and has an additional area in between "radar' and "infrared" that it calls "developmental" (I haven't seen that one before).

"Introduction to General, Organic and Biochemistry" by Frederick A. Bettelheim, William H. Brown, Mary K. Campbell states "The only radiation known to have an even higher frequency (and energy) than gamma rays are cosmic rays."

"Space and life: an introduction to space biology and medicine" by Hubert Planel calls them "galactic cosmic rays" and says they are particles.

"Fundamental astronomy" By Hannu Karttunen, H. Oja says they are particles.

"The universe in gamma rays" By V. Schönfelder says they are particles that behave in many aspects like gamma rays. I think you could argue that this book sits on the fence as to whether they are particles or waves since it refers to them as both "radiation" and "particles" simultaneously (sometimes even in the same sentence).

So anyway, the point of all of these cites is that many people, even today, call the top end of the electromagnetic spectrum "cosmic rays" even though many other people think the term "cosmic rays" should only be used for particles. Since both versions are still in relatively common use, I don't see how you can say one is any more "correct" than the other.

Like I said before, exactly where you put the dividing lines and what you call each category is somewhat arbitrary, and isn't consistent from one reference to the next. In some circles (such as if you are with a group of folks who study particle physics, for example) one set of definitions may be much more preferred than others, but for a general purpose message board it's kinda silly to argue over it. You're just arguing over whose arbitrary definition is better than the other arbitrary definition.
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  #35  
Old 02-01-2011, 12:42 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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"Cosmic ray" is a technical term, with a specific technical meaning. If I said that something had 12 volts flowing through it, I would be wrong, no matter how many other sources I could find that were also wrong. Likewise, if I said that cosmic rays were part of the electromagnetic spectrum, I would also be wrong. Everyone who actually works with cosmic rays in any capacity means the same thing by the term. Note that, of the cites you found that says they're electromagnetic radiation, none is an astronomical source.
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  #36  
Old 02-01-2011, 12:44 PM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
I just love imagining how this came up:

Roommate 1 (r1) gets up, stumbles into the kitchen, fills a bowl with oatmeal and water, and opens the microwave, only to find a steaming pair of briefs. "What the hell?" he blearily asks as Roommate 2 wanders into the kitchen, wearing only a towel.

R2: "Oh, dude, sorry, those are mine." He drops his towel and starts to pull them on.
R1 "What the hell are you doing?"
R2: "It's awesome. Keeps my junk warm. You don't do this?"
R1: "No! That's dangerous!"
R2: "Dude! Keep your pants on. They're clean."
R1: "That's not what I mean. I mean the radiation in the microwave is now seeping into your meat and potatoes there. You're gonna get ball cancer, or fry all your little dudes".
R2: "Man, I didn't think of that. Do you really think so? Damn. But it feels so good."

This is my favorite general question ever.
Now that I've read the dramatization of the OP, I'm more concerned about him eating the underwear than with him irradiating his boys.
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  #37  
Old 02-01-2011, 01:23 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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If this is your favorite GQ, you obviously missed "am I farting holes in my underwear?" and "can you fry semen?"

And I love how we just assume it's a guy, because we all hope women are smarter than this and don't put their drawers in the microwave.
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  #38  
Old 02-01-2011, 02:04 PM
Kinthalis Kinthalis is online now
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In order for something to be considered part of the EM spectrum, it needs to be composed of photon quanta, right?

How are alpha/beta particles EM radiation, then?

Last edited by Kinthalis; 02-01-2011 at 02:08 PM..
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  #39  
Old 02-01-2011, 02:13 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Originally Posted by Darth Panda View Post
Step 1: Microwave Underwear
Step 2:
Step 3: Profit
Can the gnomes open the microwave?
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  #40  
Old 02-01-2011, 02:32 PM
iamnotbatman iamnotbatman is offline
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
Correctness by whose definition?
In high energy particle physics (my field of expertise) it would be flatly incorrect to say that cosmic rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The misuse of the term by non-physicists is hardly surprising; the reason is largely historical: when cosmic rays were first discovered, they were believed to be photons (ie part of the electromagnetic spectrum). That's why they were first called cosmic rays (as in rays of light). They were of very high energy, so at the time these mysterious rays were largely synonymous with the high-energy part of the electromagnetic spectrum (gamma rays). But by the 1930's pretty much everyone was in agreement that cosmic ways were definitively NOT photons. Unfortunately, the name stuck.
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  #41  
Old 02-01-2011, 02:49 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
In order for something to be considered part of the EM spectrum, it needs to be composed of photon quanta, right?

How are alpha/beta particles EM radiation, then?
They aren't EM radiation. Not all radiation is electromagnetic.
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  #42  
Old 02-01-2011, 03:42 PM
Kinthalis Kinthalis is online now
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Right, that's my point. Cosmic rays are made up of neutrons alpha and beta particles (right?) so they can't be part of the EM spectrum.

Last edited by Kinthalis; 02-01-2011 at 03:42 PM..
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  #43  
Old 02-01-2011, 03:44 PM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Personally I wouldn't, it might cause a short circuit.
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  #44  
Old 02-01-2011, 05:28 PM
Shabbyskunk Shabbyskunk is offline
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post

And I love how we just assume it's a guy, because we all hope women are smarter than this and don't put their drawers in the microwave.
Just to clear the matter. I am a girl.. and i live with some very 'interesting' friends.
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  #45  
Old 02-01-2011, 05:37 PM
ENugent ENugent is offline
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I have put my bras in the microwave, when I was breastfeeding and suffering from thrush.
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  #46  
Old 02-01-2011, 05:45 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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"Remember how Mom used to microwave our underwear on cold days?"
-Bart Simpson
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  #47  
Old 02-01-2011, 06:21 PM
StarvingButStrong StarvingButStrong is offline
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I vaguely recall being told that you should microwave your undies when you have a yeast infection. The idea being that whatever yeast -- um, spores? -- beasties manage to stay clinging to the fabric through the laundry will get fried by the microwaves.

Have no idea if this is true, it might well be an UL.
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  #48  
Old 02-01-2011, 07:06 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Probably safer to boil them, in that case. The yeastie beasties are too small to be affected by the microwaves directly, and so would only be killed by the ambient heat, but uneven heating could easily leave cool spots sufficient for them to hide in.
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  #49  
Old 02-01-2011, 07:08 PM
Shmendrik Shmendrik is online now
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Originally Posted by panamajack View Post
In a certain highly convoluted sense, what you said is nearly true. It's simply the case that heat will be radiating from the underpants into your crotch, and higher crotch temperatures may be associated with a reduced sperm count. But that's certainly not what you were apparently concerned about.

There's often confusion about the issue, but microwave radiation is not dangerous in the same way that X-rays or nuclear radiation is. Really it's not a lot more dangerous than an incandescent lightbulb, which is also radiation, but most of the time people call it just "light" and "infrared".

That said, don't microwave your underpants while you're still wearing them.
However, the OP could just as well expose his underpants to X-rays and then wear them with no ill effects.
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Old 02-01-2011, 09:09 PM
Cartooniverse Cartooniverse is offline
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Betwixt My Ears
Posts: 11,119
Quote:
Originally Posted by Attack from the 3rd dimension View Post
Welcome to the Dope, Shabbyskunk. I like your OP. I'd be more worried about you setting fire to your underpants in the microwave.
Used a hotel microwave to dry my underpants once. Burned them. Smoke alarm tripped.

Man......that was a rough business trip.

Cartooniverse
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