A new handful of YouTube videos supposedly show cell phones popping popcorn. The method: Surround kernels with a few cell phones and call the phones. When they ring, the kernels pop. The videos have gotten a couple million combined views, and they've seemingly convinced many commenters to fear phones, despite the several obvious signs that they're fake.
1. It's scientifically impossible. Snopes already covered a similar hoax about cooking eggs with phones. As Snopes explains, the energy emitted by mobile phones isn't nearly powerful enough to sufficiently raise the food's temperature. A British TV show debunked the myth when it failed to even warm an egg under a pile of a hundred phones. And a YouTube commenter explains further: "A 1 kilowatt microwave takes around one minute to pop its first kernel, and that's in a closed environment. A cell phone transmitter operates from 0.1 to 1 watt, but this video shows these kernels popping almost immediately."
A poor grasp of science leads people to fear the technology around them. Everyone's vaguely aware that phones use radio waves, so they misapply the concept. The phones in the video are merely ringing, which only means they're receiving the radio waves that are always around us. If those waves popped popcorn, there wouldn't be an unpopped kernel left in the U.S.
2. It's got the same hallmarks of fakery as other viral videos.
Remember the viral Levi's ad and Ray-Ban ad? The actors in these videos have the same fake camaraderie. I always doubt a video's veracity when I hear someone say "Tell me you got that!" Strangely, no one ever seems to say that in real stunt videos: They know the cameraman got it, that's his damn job.
Okay, so who's making these?
These videos don't take much effort — just four phones and some time in Adobe Aftereffects. So anyone could have made them. But who would bother? Googling some of the video makers reveals they've been spamming blogs promoting their video. It's just one of the many annoying tactics born of YouTube, but at least it reveals that our creators are gunning hard to get a lot of attention for very little work.
That might be the behavior of a bad viral marketer. And I mean really bad — would any phone company actually contract videos like these? Can you sell phones by convincing stupid people that they'll fry their brains? Seems a bit counterproductive, but I'll admit it would be satisfying to see this uncovered as history's worst viral campaign.