Cell Phone Popcorn Trick Revealed

Cell Phone Popcorn
A viral YouTube video purports to show popcorn being popped using only the signals emitted from mobile phones. YouTube.com

Can you pop popcorn with a cell phone?

The answer is no, but a YouTube video posted in 2008 and still frequently shared via social media appears to show a group of people doing just that.

In the video, three phones are aimed at kernels of popcorn arranged in the middle of a table (see screen capture above); the cell phone numbers are dialed; the phones ring; and the corn pops. It all seems quite genuine.

There is no detectable trickery.

Trickery there must be, however, because, as a simple matter of logic, if your cell phone emits enough electromagnetic energy to pop popcorn, it should also make your head explode when you make a call. When was the last time that happened to you?

The Museum of Hoaxes' Alex Boese figured there must have been a heating element hidden under the table. A physics professor consulted by Wired.com concurred, suggesting there was some sneaky editing involved as well.

Some folks proposed that the video — which, as it turned out, was one of several similar ones posted around the same time in different languages — was part of a viral marketing campaign for some as yet unknown company.

They were right.

Hoax Revealed

In a CNN news segment broadcast on July 9, 2008, CEO Abraham Glezerman of Cardo Systems, a manufacturer of Bluetooth headsets, admitted that the whole thing had indeed been a marketing ploy.

"We sat down and said how can we create something that's funny, hilarious and causes people to try and emulate it and eventually, of course, touching on our business," Glezerman tells CNN correspondent Jason Carroll in the segment.

"And it worked," Carroll notes, as video footage rolls of ordinary people trying to replicate the effect in their own homes.

"Some posted their own video versions trying to solve the mystery of how they got those kernels to pop. One disassembled a microwave. Finally, for the first time the real answer."

"The real thing is a mixture between a kitchen stove and digital editing," Glezerman says.

"You fried the popcorn separately somewhere else and then just dropped it in there, then digitally removed the kernels?"

"Absolutely. You got it."

Many people had shared the viral video claiming that it demonstrates that cell phone use is hazardous to human health, an allegation not yet scientifically proven. CNN anchor John Roberts addresses the point.

"And what about the idea that videos try to scare people who hold cell phones close to their heads?" he asks.

"We really never meant to insinuate any of that," Glezerman says. "The truth is that it was funny."

"So this wasn't about scaring people?" Carroll asks.

"It wasn't. If it was, the reactions would have been totally different. People laughed."

View the full CNN segment on YouTube: Phone Popcorn Secrets Revealed (or read the show transcript).