Everyone’s thought about it at least once: What is being microwaved like? What happens to your body if you're microwaved? The answer, unsurprisingly, is gruesome, but it’s also complicated. Being microwaved like a Hot Pocket? Yeah, that’s pretty awful. You would be cooked alive (but not from the inside out). But low-level microwave radiation? That could actually someday keep you warm in the winter, believe it or not, if society could ever get behind the idea.
The awful, ugly truth is that we know what being microwaved would be like because people have put infants in microwaves. It actually happens. But science also allows us to guess at what would happen, theoretically, if walk-in microwave ovens ever became a thing for murderers to murder people with (spoiler: it’s unpleasant). Read on to learn what, exactly, would happen if you were microwaved (even just a little bit!).
A one-month-old girl named Tracy Raynes was allegedly placed in a microwave oven in Caledonia, MI, in 1982. The mother was accused of the crime but denied it. This infant lived, but the third-degree radiation burns “necessitated partial amputation of the left hand and right foot and removal of part of the abdomen,” according to The Straight Dope.
The mother, because there was no evidence she actually put the baby in the microwave, was charged with negligence for failing to provide "necessary food, clothing or shelter, to wit: protection from microwave radiation." WTF. The mother claims she was warming milk in the microwave, left for a sec, and came back to find her baby burned. Experts, however, found nothing wrong with the oven and said the burns were definitely from radiation.
Imagine: your body is a Hot Pocket and your eyes are gooey pockets of cheese. Now imagine stepping into a walk-in microwave oven and getting nuked for, like, 90 seconds. What would happen to your cheesy little eyes? Science has the answer! The liquid water molecules in your relatively watery eyes (like the relatively watery cheese in a Hot Pocket) would vibrate and heat would quickly spread.
This is where the metaphor admittedly falls apart a bit: unlike a Hot Pocket’s cheesy center, our eyes are exposed to the elements. Your skin would protect your watery guts if you were nuked, for the most part, but your exposed eyes would definitely suffer and might explode, eventually, from the pressure. There’s no guarantee: the few instances of infants being placed in microwaves did not lead to exploded eyes. Maybe it just takes a while?
Fortunately, there haven’t been that many confirmed instances humans getting cooked in microwave ovens. Tragically, the true stories that are out there mainly involve infants, which makes a sort of sick sense, considering the size of most microwaves. The death of one-month-old Paris Talley in 2005 is one such case. Paris died from hyperthermia (i.e., high body temperature) after allegedly being placed in a microwave by her mother for an unknown amount of time. The mom denies it, but the coroner’s office in Montgomery County, OH, says there’s “reason to believe and scientific evidence to support that a microwave oven might have been involved.”
Strangely enough, as io9 reports, something called the “skin effect” would actually keep your internal organs relatively well-protected if you were being microwaved. Ever wonder why microwaved food is sometimes still cold in the center? That’s the skin effect. Now replace “food” with “guts” and you’ll begin to understand why getting microwaved isn’t being cooked “from the inside out.” Techly elaborates on this idea, noting that microwaves “will be around three times more concentrated at skin level than internally,” so it would take a long time for your innards to get cooked.