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No. 127: Jan-Feb 2000

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Ants Like Microwaves

Back in 1990, an item in SF was titled "Ants Like Amps." (SF#60/160) The subject then was the strange mesmerizing effect electrical equipment has on ants. They dote on airport runway lights, household electrical meters, and in particular electrical relays, where they congregate en masse.

Now, a decade later, we discover that they are also not adverse to exploring microwave ovens -- even when they are turned on!

We cannot explain the attraction of electrical relays, but we do know how ants survive in humming microwave ovens. It is because the microwaves inside the oven form standing waves. Energy is high in some areas -- ants would fry there -- and weak elsewhere. Ants seem to be able to find these lowenergy refuges and survive very nicely -- perhaps on the food you were planning to consume!

(Anonymous; "Them!" New Scientist, p. 109, July 31, 1999.

Comment. You can map you microwave's standing waves by filling a flat tray with marshmallows. A pattern of toasted and untoasted marshmallows will appear post-zapping.

From Science Frontiers #127, JAN-FEB 2000. 1997 William R. Corliss