You know how it goes. You wake up in the morning, toddle to the kitchen, and fire up the coffeemaker. It’s time to feed the cat, crack a few eggs, and flash a pretty good morning smile to your appliances. Your microwave oven is watching, and you want to make a nice impression.
Or so Kellyanne Conway would have us believe.
Mike Kelly of the Bergen County Record recently interviewed the 1982 Blueberry Princess pageant winner at her home in Alpine, New Jersey. At one point in the conversation, Kelly posed an unambiguous question: “Do you know whether Trump Tower is wiretapped?” Easy enough question, and for a woman who appears to have perpetual access to the POTUS, she ought to be able to answer the question with a simple yes or no.
Or not. When one dwells in a world of “alternate facts,” an answer is not always simple. Here’s Ms. Conway’s reply to Mike Kelly’s direct query.
“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately. There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets –any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras eck cetera. (sic) So, we know that’s just a fact of modern life.”
— TrumpNet (@_TrumpNet) March 13, 2017
On Monday, Kellyanne tweeted that headlines claiming she believes microwave ovens watch people are “just wrong.” The same day, Conway made an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America. She explained that she has “no evidence” proving that microwave ovens or any other form of covert surveillance is being used in Trump Tower, and that’s why an investigation is necessary.
Did you smile and say cheese as you nuked your breakfast this morning? Let’s take a look at the facts.
A microwave oven has a fuse-protected power cord and a high-voltage transformer that’s connected to a magnetron. The oven contains a wave guide device and a stirrer blade that bathes foodstuffs in microwave energy. Modern microwave ovens have a redundant safety mechanism that shuts the oven down when the door is opened. Digital timers, temperature sensors, clocks, and rotating turntables are generally included in any microwave oven, but no camera.
As Fast Company magazine explains, even if there were a camera in your microwave oven, the chances of it being operated remotely are just about zilch due to the fact that microwaves interfere with WiFi signals. There are a few standard cooking ovens that feature a built-in camera, but they’re designed to monitor food. Unless you stick your head in the oven (are you listening, Kellyanne?) there’s virtually zero possibility that your microwave oven is watching you.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) comprises physicists, computer scientists, engineers, software developers and IT professionals. In October 2015, IEEE Spectrum magazine announced that scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology were working on a prototype of a “time of flight” camera that utilizes microwave energy to “see” 3-D images through fog, darkness, and walls. The MIT microwave camera has nothing to do with the appliance that heats your dinner, but everything to do with radar frequencies.
Similar to the sensor built into Microsoft’s latest Xbox Kinect, the MIT microwave camera emits bursts of microwave energy then measures the precise time it takes for that energy to bounce off the thing being observed and return to the camera. With a temporal resolution of 200 picoseconds, MIT’s microwave camera can resolve distances with an accuracy of around 6 cm. This is sufficient for usable 3-D imaging. Don’t worry, though. There is no way that this 21st century camera is watching what you do in your kitchen, no matter what a former New Jersey Blueberry Princess claims.
Ollie Nanyes, PhD is a professor at Bradley University in Illinois. The esteemed academic teaches applied mathematics and differential equations, and serves as Referee for Journal of Knot Theory and Missouri Journal of the Mathematical Sciences. This is what Professor Nanyes had to say about the possibility that your microwave oven is watching you:
— Ollie Nanyes (@OllieNanyes) March 13, 2017
Dear Media: Stop interviewing Kellyanne Conway. Just stop.
Columnist Brian Menegus summed up the feelings of many media professionals in the March 10 edition of Gizmodo.
“It is my sincere hope that members of the media stop talking to Conway. In the 51 days since Trump took office she’s repeatedly lied to the American people—claiming ‘alternative facts’ and actual ones have equal validity and later inventing a mass murder —not to mention breaking ethics rules by shilling for the president’s daughter’s clothing line on TV. These are not normal things. And even in a state of abnormality, they shouldn’t be happening with this much frequency.”
[Feature Image by Willowpix/iStock/Getty Images]