June 17, 2009

My _Guardian_ column on debunking "USB-powered microwave"

"Far too often, new media serves up popularity without accuracy"

"Check your serving of online news for factual accuracy before you give it a taste"

I sadly suspect I'm going to get grief for that title, it was done by an editor. It'll likely set off people's bloggers-versus-journalists reflex. In my column, I specifically wrote "This isn't about bloggers v journalists". But ironically, knee-jerking about that is what's going to bring in the page-views.

What I was trying to illuminate in this column was how the idea of "self-correcting bogosphere" was utter bunk. And, critically, the hucksters who peddle it should have no credibility by now. I'm hardly the first to say that, but there's some value here in a simple case study (that's also not a political firestorm).

It doesn't mean professional journalists were always right (I can see the Attack Of The Strawmen coming on). We knew that already. It means these issues are serious matters that shouldn't be waved away with technomarketingbabble.

On the bright side, I finally got to use a joke I've been wanting to tell for a while.

Blog bonus, here's part of my email to the inventor, talking about the energy issues. He indicates he couldn't discuss the technology in detail, due to various

I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for the energy involved:

1 calorie = raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius
1 calorie = 4.184 joules
Snap Pots = 200g of water, as an approximation

200g water * raise 50 C = 10000 calories = 10^4 calories = 4.184 x 10^4 joules
1 watt-hour = 3.6 x 10^3 joules
So 4.184 x 10^4 joules =~ 11.6 watt-hours

Laptop batteries are around 60 watt-hours or so. So while this doesn't break the laws of physics, discharging 11.6 watt-hours from a laptop-type battery in 60 seconds seems problematic. I'd *joke* the microwave part may not work, rather it's in fact the heat from shorting the battery, making this a battery-powered electric oven.

Assuming the battery is in the base, there does seem to be an energy capacity problem.

[For all columns, see the page Seth Finkelstein | guardian.co.uk.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo , press | on June 17, 2009 08:32 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage


You probably need to heat something which contains less water and more fat. 8-)

Posted by: Florian Weimer at June 22, 2009 01:56 AM