Mobile Phones: Myths, Legends and Truth

Cooking eggs, bringing down aeroplanes, opening car doors and yes – unlocking that secret battery buried deep within your phone (finally!). Yes, the mobile phone is the most significant and most groundbreaking technology in the history of the world.

gadgets Updated: Aug 12, 2011 11:36 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times

The mobile phone is driving the most dramatic behaviour transformation in history.

There are 6 billion mobile phones being used across the world.

That's more than all the PCs and TVs put together.

3,070 new mobile phones are sold every second.

Astounding statements and incredible numbers. Yes, the mobile phone is the most significant and most groundbreaking technology in the history of the world. And yet, it’s also the most berated, vilified and maligned of them all. The number of myths and legends around that small little piece of plastic in your hand is as astounding as the product itself.

It’s a Nuclear plant and then some

Videos exist all over the net that show – without a shadow of a doubt – that two mobile phones can cook an egg (hard boiled or sunny side up is your choice) and that about six of them in a circle can pop popcorn. That’s because of the radiation and heat that they emit which makes them the smallest and most portable microwave ovens ever. Absolute hoax. Those videos are as fake as the claim. The maximum power a phone can generate is about 0.25W. Compare that to the ma gnetron in a microwave which runs at about a 1,000 watts. All you can cook with a mobile phone is your own goose.

Fuel StationThe Serial Blaster

Using a mobile phone while getting your vehicle refuelled can cause a spark as the EMF Field, static electricity and the current passed by the battery is enough to blast the fuel station to bits. Super crap. Your phone doesn’t have the kind of energy to actually emit a blazing spark. All this comes from an email hoax from the ’90s. In fact, the things that can cause an accident are smoking, lighting a match and most importantly, your car itself. Loose wiring and a faulty fuel pipe can do some major damage. It’s still advisable that you get off your phone while at a petrol pump – to make sure you get the amount of fuel you’re paying for. Getting ripped off at petrol pumps is NOT a myth!

SuperShield to the rescue

Of course your mobile phone emits radiation and of course long term exposure can turn out to be harmful. Thus anything you can do to reduce that exposure is a good thing. Thus you now have some fantastic new inventions like shielded cases, bufferpads, antenna covers, absorber chips and radiation armour. Sound good, seem to make sense, are nice and expensive and useless as hell. All that this is going to do is heat up your phone more, increase its transmission power and reduce battery life. Anything that ‘shields’ your phone means that the phone will struggle to catch a signal and reduce its operational efficiency. You don’t want a phone encased in some silly metal jacket that is sweating its pants off. Leave your phone be and switch to a bluetooth headset, reduce the number and length of calls and try and use the phone in areas of good reception. It will save your life and and your phone’s too.

Mobile Phones hate men

How I wish this one wasn’t true. Unfortunately most studies have proven that keeping a cell phone in your front pocket (jeans are the worst) and even too much usage can hit sperm count big time. Yup, the swimmers will be slower and dead if you’re taking too long to chat her up on the phone.

The scary part is the incredible usage of mobile phone at an early age. I see most school children have mobile phones and the starting age now seems to be as early as 10 years old. By the time the boys in this category are ready to fire, their firing squad may have taken a major hit.

The Magic Key

The number of people who actually claim they’ve done this and that it works is quite amazing. In fact, in the last one week just on Twitter, I’ve heard about 20 people say they do it all the time. The claim is this: if you’ve locked yourself out and have an extra remote key for your car at home, call and ask someone to hit the open button while keeping the remote next to their mobile phone and voila, your mobile phone kept close to the car door will grant your entry. To all those who’ve done it and do it ‘all’ the time, I have only one thing to ask. What are you smoking and do you know that such strong hallucinatory drugs can be harmful? There is no way that can ever work as your remote works on radio frequency and not sound! You can hold your mobile phone next to your car for a million years and it’s still not going to open the door. Stop fooling around, take a taxi, go home and get the your extra RF remote.

AeroplaneBringing the beast down

It’s the first thing they ask you to switch off as soon as you are about to take off. Can a puny little mobile phone really interfere with all that amazing million dollar high-tech machinery inside an aircraft? It’s highly debatable and unproven till now. After all, how many people leave their active phones in their stowed away carry- on bag and how many put them in the front pocket of their seat and forget about it? No aeroplanes have come down yet due to these forgetful ninnies. And now that they have onboard WiFi and mobile phone calls on some airlines (at ugly prices), it all seems like a myth that got stuck in urban legend land. Still, switch it off anyway. Save some battery life and concentrate on those safety instructions.

The Critical Patient killer

This one is quite a mystery. All the hospitals have these big signs outside ICUs that forbid any mobile phone usage. And yet all the doctors seem to use their cellphones in and out of the ICU and all the nurses carry cordless phones which are more high powered. Are those special phones for special doctors and nurses? Not at all. The idea may well be that a hospital environment doesn’t need the clatter of a thousand people shouting down their mobile phones. A blanket ban on mobile phones may then be a better idea – rather than making us feel guilty that our one-minute call killed three patients.

The Secret battery

And now for the big daddy, and the most persistent myth for years. Even if your phone dies, has nada battery life, all you have to do is press a secret code and your phone will spring to life as it activates a secret battery hidden deep in the recesses of your phone. While it’s a great idea, it is unfortunately going to get filed once again in the category of pure crap. The idea originates from some old phones where pressing *3370# or some other code enhanced or decreased voice quality and thus battery life went up or down. It has nothing to do with a dead phone. Once it’s dead, you can pound away at the keyboard with as many codes, prayers and chants as you want – it’s not going to ‘rise from the ashes’.

I would think I’ve only scratched the surface as there are many more mobile phone myths. Maybe I’ll visit this space once again after a few months. By the way, your phone can be used as a nuclear missile launcher, as a portable x-ray machine and as a teleportation device. And no, I’m not starting a new myth ;).

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at

From HT Brunch, August 7

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First Published: Aug 06, 2011 18:38 IST