Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

The Science Oven

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorDecember 30, 2013 9:47 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

I recently saw the new movie American Hustle, which is loosely based on an infamous 1970s FBI sting operation that ensnared members of the U.S. Congress. There are more than a few very funny moments of highbrow farce in the film, such as when one of the characters (played by Christian Bale) receives a microwave oven as a gift from a politician and brings it home to his wife on Long Island. He calls it a "science oven" (the first countertop microwave ovens were introduced in the late 1960s). At the time, this was a relatively new consumer-oriented technology that inspired awe and trepidation. This is the scene in the movie where the wife accidentally blows up the microwave. She is unapologetic, telling her husband that she read in a magazine that microwave ovens take all the nutrition out of food. She then names the author of the article--Paul Brodeur, who was a crusading New Yorker writer from the 1960s until the early 1990s. The article she is probably referring to is this one, which would lead to a book by Brodeur called, The Zapping of America: Microwaves, Their Deadly Risk, and the Cover-Up. Brodeur would go on to be an instrumental player in the great power-line scare, a bogus issue also given currency in the New Yorker by him, which led to a similarly titled book.


The larger theme of these technological fears would then be expanded on in a later book by Brodeur published in 2000.


I wrote about Brodeur's role in the amplification of these unwarranted fears in this post. I find it interesting that the maker of American Hustle--a movie in part about noble intentions gone amok--explicitly refers to Brodeur in the "science oven" scene.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In