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03/04/2004 Archived Entry: ""

Okay...we ran the test and it is an urban myth in the making. Okay, okay...for you sticklers, here's the backstory. A rumor has been zinging about the Internet: the new US $20 bills explode in the microwave due to an implanted RFID chip. For example, the Prison Planet site announces, "Note: This article has been linked all over the Internet. We want to make it clear that $20 bills will only 'pop' or 'explode' in certain microwaves. We've had E mails saying they do, they don't, 'you're all kooks' etc etc. What is confirmed is the public policy to embed US and European money with high tech tracking devices as part of the hulking surveillance society." Our lab analyst, Scott M. reports on his scientifically-conducted research...

Scott writes, "I microwaved a new US $20 bill on a paper plate in high for 60 seconds with no damage. A spot on the plate directly below the center of the bill had begun to pyrolize, so I put the bill in a Pyrex measuring cup for another 5 minutes on high. No apparent change to the bill, though I was surprised at the temperature of the cup when I went to remove it (burny, burny) For a last test, I folder the bill so that the center was elevated about 1.5 inches and placed it on a flat Corelle dessert plate. Another 5 minute exposure produced nada. I am actually amazed that there has been no apparent change to the bill at all. I would have expected at least some singing at the edges, or blistering of the bits that are printed in ink that appears to be metallicized, but there is nothing at all. Caveats: Perhaps there is more than a single configuration of "new" twenties, but this one looks like all the others I've seen (an ugly, tacky, third-world appearance, IMO); my microwave oven is not the most powerful unit ever made, boasting about 700W - but 11 minutes total exposure of a flimsy thing weighing a small fraction of a gram is a long time. I did a control test with a piece of ink-jet paper the same length and width as the bill and folding in the final bill configuration - 5 minutes did nothing. Repeated that test with a metal scrap clipped from an ordinary paper clip (tiny, but doubtless many times larger than an rfid chip) - no results here, either. Conclusion: myth as presented on that web page."

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