Why The Viral Penny Microwaving Trend Is Dangerous

While it may seem obvious to most of us that metal does not belong in the microwave, a recent viral trend has convinced some people that microwaving pennies can cause them to shrink. While these posts may seem convincing, Reuters states that any claim that pennies shrink after being put in the microwave is "false and dangerous." But what exactly is the harm in this trend?

Pennies are made of zinc coated in copper. Copper can conduct heat and electricity, which means placing it in a microwave is dangerous (more on that in a moment). Additionally, there is no evidence that microwaving a penny will cause it to shrink. According to Snopes, the pennies seen in the viral posts are most likely miniature, used as a prop for some magic tricks. Trying out this trend will not result in adorable tiny pennies, but it could result in a house fire or a trip to the ER.

Metal cannot absorb microwaves, causing things to heat up fast

So why is microwaving metal objects like pennies so dangerous anyway? According to The Takeout, microwave ovens work by sending microwaves into a dish, causing the water molecules in your food to vibrate. This sudden increase in movement causes your food to heat up rather quickly because the food we eat is mostly made of water. This allows microwaves to be very efficient and fast when it comes to reheating leftovers, but the process can result in some dangerous outcomes with materials like metal.

Metal objects do not have water molecules in them, so they don't absorb microwaves in the same way that food does. Instead, metal objects inside a microwave will deflect the waves away from them, according to MIT. This can cause the microwaves to start bouncing around unpredictably. As the waves bounce around, sparks may begin to fly, ionizing air molecules into plasma (via Wired). If allowed to continue for too long, this can potentially cause fires or even explosions.

Viral posts that spread misinformation can be deadly

Unfortunately, the viral microwaved penny is not the only dangerous trend to circulate in the past few years. In fact, its not even the only dangerous trend involving electricity that has spread around social media recently. In 2020, the #pennychallege spread on TikTok and involved encouraging users to drop a penny between a wall outlet and a loosely plugged in phone charger. Users who attempted it shared videos of them doing it online, often resulting in large sparks coming from the outlet as a result (via Global News).

In more recent news, a wood-burning technique has resulted in the death of several individuals who attempted it after watching viral videos online. This technique, known as fractal wood burning, involves using electricity to create lightning bolt-like burn patterns into wood slabs. According to the American Association of Woodturners, this practice has resulted in the death of at least 33 people. This technique has recently gone viral again, causing several more deaths in the past few months.

If you see a viral trend on social media that involves messing with electricity or just seems off, don't do it. These trends are designed to get views for the creators or are created as a joke without much thought about the damage they may cause. Use common sense when browsing social media and consider the risks behind any trend before you try it for yourself.