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Microwave Ovens

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Microwave Ovens

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Basic tutorial on how microwave ovens work, aimed at those with little experience in physics.
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Material Type: Tutorial
Technical Format: Website, Java Applet
CAUTION: Java Applets may not run on all browsers
Date Added to MERLOT: May 16, 2000
Date Modified in MERLOT: June 05, 2017
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Submitter: John Walkup


  • Reviewed by members of Editorial board for inclusion in MERLOT.
    Editor Review (not reviewed)
  • User review 4.4 average rating
  • Discussion (5 Comments)
  • Learning Exercises (none)
  • Bookmark Collections (2)
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Primary Audience: Middle School
Mobile Platforms: Not specified at this time
Language: English
Cost Involved: no
Source Code Available: no
Accessibility Information Available: no
Creative Commons: unsure


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Discussion for Microwave Ovens

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Avatar for Chris Wolowiec
17 years ago

Chris Wolowiec (Student)

Although I'm a relatively inexperienced computer user, I found this tutorial on microwave ovens not only easy to use but fun to use as well. The tutorial begins with a "kitchen laboratory" setting where the user can demonstrate perhaps the most well known but misunderstood phenomenon of the microwave oven: "hot" and "cold' spots (or the unevenly cooked burrito).

From here, the user can proceed through a series of sub-tutorials (Note: the user may feel his way through each of these sub-tutorials and determine what he does and does not understand so that he can efficiently reach a final understanding of how the microwave operates and the physics behind microwave heating.

Some of the material covered in the sub-tutorials includes: electromagnetic waves; electrical forces; oscillating charges; wave characteristics such as interference, superposition, and reflection; and finally how electromagnetic waves effect water molecules and how these effects translate into microwave heating.

I found each sub-tutorial to be clear and a logical extension of the previous sub-tutorial with an ultimate goal in mind: to understand the phenomenon of hot and cold spots and how it is that material substance heats up in a microwave oven.

Technical Remarks:

I found this tutorial extremely easy to use. The user can move freely throughout the tutorial without being locked into any sub-tutorial that he might find either too easy or too difficult.

The graphics and interactive capabilites are excellent as well as enlighteneing. I give this tutorial on Microwave Ovens by Physics 2000 the highest rating of five stars.

Avatar for Ian Clark
17 years ago

Ian Clark (Student)

This was probably the most well crafted web-sight I have visited to date. The
only technical difficulty I encountered was one disconnected URL (out of the
dozen or so I tried).
At first I felt a little cheated by the exclusively qualitative descriptions but
the link pages satisfied most of my desire for more rigorous descriptions and
in the end I had to conclude that the lack of math did in fact add to the
clarity and the broad appeal of the sight.

Avatar for Sheila Dodson
17 years ago

Sheila Dodson (Student)

This website is written for someone without a background in physics. They give
the reader an understanding of the operation of the microwaves by making
analogies to other physical phenomenon that the reader might already be familiar
with. It covers several questions within the dialogue that a reader might ask
him/her self as they read along. In doing so, the article addresses several
topics that are interesting and comprehensible to physics enthusiasts and
novices alike!

Technical Remarks:

This website is well designed and easy to use (as long as your computer will
load the Java applets) The interactive nature is not only fun, but it gives a
virtual "hands on" demonstration of the physics they are describing.

Avatar for matthew kumpunen
17 years ago

matthew kumpunen (Student)

Aimed at those without a technical Physics background, this demonstration serves
its purpose quite well.

Technical Remarks:

The demonstrations are easily graspable, with very realistic, everyday
analogies. The ideas are put forth in a relaxed, conversational manner.
This format allows one to easily understand very basic scientific principles,
not just how a microwave oven operates.

Avatar for John Walkup
17 years ago

John Walkup (Staff)

Like other applets by the same authors, this one is professionaly done with nice
graphics, very clear explanations, and applets that work well.