Alton Brown - I love you, but I think you're wrong!

Interesting, your link goes to the same people as mine. It seems on first read that your cite is mostly concerned with gaseous water vapor, though I am not sure. How does this jive with the libration mode response referenced in my link? The cite I provided also gave footnotes mentioning why the same heating effect is seen in fats. Are both of these phenomenon going on simultaneously? If so, which is dominant?

Yeah, now that I’m looking at it more, it looks like my response was false – the frequencies of the molecular vibrations are nowhere near the frequency used for microwave ovens (wavelengths of about 12 cm for microwave ovens versus 12 microns for the vibrational modes.) I’m not sure if there is a resonance of water (liquid or gaseous) near the 12 cm band, so it may just be that the molecules are rapidly trying to align themselves with a rapidly changing field and bumping into each other in the process.

Flight and MikeS,
Thanks for the answers. That does make sense. Your responses also jogged a memory concerning a Dope column (Staff Report by Q.E.D.).

I’m somewhat conflicted here. Fight ignorance … yes indeed. But, to hold AB accountable for ‘bad’ physics in his show… I dunno. His primary purpose is to make “Good Eats”. However, unlike most other cooking shows, he does try to explain the physical -why- to do it his way, so it can be reproduced. So, he shouldn’t just be spouting off some weird ideas either. However, for him to properly explain the workings of a microwave (when there is disagreement even on this board), and explain it to some people that still may think that microwaves cook from the inside out [sigh I’ve heard many people claim that] well, just that would take longer than the allotted time for the show.

I’m ok with AB’s physics if he is anywhere in the ballpark… or maybe even hanging around the stadium parking lot. Any time I’ve even remotely followed his suggestions, I’ve ended up with Good Eats!

I followed his brownie recipe. Mmmm.
His physics are dead on just because of that. Screw reality. :wink:

Flight, I accept your explanation without pause. Thanks for being so explicit.
It was very clear to me.

I looked over all the Dope columns on microwaves (of which there are quite a few), but none of them get to the details discussed here. The deepest they go is to say that the microwaves are “absorbed”, but they never say how.

He gets things wrong every so often. He made two really glaring mistakes when he was talking about two plants:

  • California Bay, which he claimed wasn’t related to true Bay, even though yes, it’s been established by botanists that they are (Both are Lauraceae), and based his explanation on the fact that California Bay has a bit of a eucalyptus tone to it.

  • Tomatillos aren’t related to tomatoes but to gooseberries, when wrong, they are related (Solanaceae). Probably basing it on the common name of relatives (Same genus-- Physalis), “Cape gooseberry”. Even Bobby Flay made that mistake.
    Anyway, for someone who wants to give the science behind cooking, you’d think he, or whoever does research for him would look a bit deeper than what look to me like urban legends and folk etymology.

In his episode on homebrewing, I remember counting three errors. The one that immediately springs to mind was that he called the final infusion of hops at the end of the boiling wort stage “dry hopping.” Dry hopping does not occur during the boil, but during the fermentation, usually in the secondary fermenter.