Microwaving a living animal

One time, I asked this question on another Website and all I got was disdain and metaphorical dirty looks. So, before I continue, let me preface this question by saying that I have no intention of actually microwaving an animal, I would never encourage anyone to microwave an animal, I have multiple pets, I don’t have sociopathic tendencies, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, what would happen if one microwaved a living animal? Would it explode? Would it survive the trip but get cancer later on?

This question is semi-inspired by the urban legend of a lady microwaving her poodle.

Exactly the same thing as if you put an animal in a conventional oven. The animal will get burned. If those burns are severe enough to kill it, it will die.

It will not explode. there is just too much moisture in the skin and muscles of an animal for this to occur.

It will not get cancer. Ionising radiation causes cancer. Microwaves aren’t ionising radiation. Microwaves they are basically radio waves and, cell-phone paranoia to the contrary, the evidence for radiation in these frequencies causing cancer is pretty much non-existent.

The title reminds me of a game I played on NES: Maniac Mansion. You could microwave a hamster and give it back to the owner…

But would the burns be internal? That would be a bit different then a conventional oven. Could it cause an embolism or something?

Could it cause immediate cataracts by heating up the cornea and denaturing corneal proteins within seconds?

No, they may be slightly deeper than a conventional oven, though in both cases that will depend mostly on the intensity and the length of exposure. But they will never be internal. Microwaves are absorbed very strongly by liquid water, and even the skin is about 70% water, with the underlying connective tissue and muscle being slightly higher. So there is no way the microwaves are penetrating deeply enough on brief exposure to cause internal burns. After half an hour it might penetrate that deep, but by that stage the animal will be long since dead.

Anyone who has ever tried to cook a roast in a microwave will tell you how difficult it is to get heat to distribute evenly, and a roast is much, much drier than living tissue. Even cooking a roast requires at least 40 minutes of repeated cycles of high intensity bursts followed by period of no or little energy, and in my experience you still end up with a roast that is cooked dry on the outside and bloody in the middle. After half an hour of that any animal will be dead through a combination of the burns and the heat.

No more so than a normal oven.

Why would a microwave be more likely to do that than a standard flame?

If you are asking whether people can burn their eyeballs, the answer is, unfortunately, yes. It happens from time to time and it’s not pretty. But there is no reason I can see why a microwave would be more efficient at this than a standard oven.

I’m no biologist, but don’t the eyes have a higher water content even than skin? Per my layman’s understanding of anatomy, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the eyes would boil out faster than anything else would burn.

Please correct me if I’m wrong :slight_smile:

I think it’s a myth that it’s only water molecules in your food that absorb microwaves. Whenever I microwave anything, the plate gets as hot as the food.

The plate gets hot by conduction from the food. If I microwave my dinner I can grab a portion of the plate that isn’t close to the food without burning myself.

Experiment: try putting a plate in the microwave without any food on it.

There’s a certain size limit. Ants are animals, too, and I can verify that microwaving them doesn’t seem to do a damned thing. They continue to crawl around unfazed.

In addition to the conduction issue mentioned already, remember that there *is *water in your plate. There’s not a lot of water in it, but there’s some. If you were to crush it down to powder, place the powder into a crucible, weigh it and then heat it for a while and then weigh it again, it will weigh less the second time. The difference in weight is the amount of water you’ve evaporated out of it.

If you have an unglazed pottery plate, it’s got even more water in it than, say, a Corelle plate. Unglazed pottery absorbs water from the air quite readily, and will probably be marked “Not Microwave Safe” for exactly that reason.

Quoth Blake:

The moisture content is precisely what would make them (possibly) explode. Steam takes up more space than liquid water.

With all due respect, have you ever microwaved anything? They penetrate a centimeter or two into whatever you’re cooking, and most foods are as much water or more so as an animal.

yabob, the size limit is because all microwave ovens have cold spots where the waves cancel out (that’s why you have a turntable), and ants are small enough to fit into the cold spots. Heck, even mice are probably small enough, and might be intelligent enough to move into a cold spot before they got killed.

I’m wondering exactly what Blake’s definition of an ‘internal burn’ is. He appears to be using one that’s not the same as ‘deeper than the skin.’

For that matter, I’d be curious to know just how you interpret the term, too, Chronos.

I think Blake is responding to the notion that microwaves cook from the inside out. They don’t. It is true that microwaves can penetrate, but if you put a chunk of meat in a microwave the exterior will get hot and the center will still be cold.

I can imagine an “explosion” too. Microwaves are funny and sometimes a particular spot will heat up a lot more than another spot right next to it. I’ve had chicken “pop” and spew out hot juices before. That could be called an explosion. So if you cook a poodle in the microwave you could get pops and spurts as water in various spots turns to steam and ruptures the skin. You’re not going to see the whole animal turn inside-out from an explosion, because any buildup of pressure is going to be released by these small tearings and poppings. You’re not going to get a videogame-style ludicrous gib because you can’t build up enough pressure that can’t release.

Did some more reading, the microwave is primarily heating water. They also heat sugars and fats, but not as efficiently. So, something with a high water content will heat up more quickly, I was wrong about that.

No joke, no urban legend, my niece actually did microwave her cat (when she was 3 years old). It is my understanding that the cat did not explode, but did die, although I believe it survived long enough for a trip to the vet. Edit to say, I believe they had one of those microwaves where you press 1 and it immediately starts cooking for 10 seconds, 2 for 20 seconds, etc so she didn’t need to really figure anything out except put the cat in and randomly press a button.

Poor cat. Ants can survive a microwaving as a microwave produces hot spots of microwave radiation and the ants sense and avoid them, although I’ve since read that it is because they are smaller than the wavelengths of the microwaves.

It would probably be much LESS efficient than a directly-applied flame, but I was wondering if the surface of the cornea(s) could absorb enough energy from a microwave to denature the proteins and opaque the tissue within a few seconds. A few seconds of a flame would certainly burn the hell out of your eye, I assume.