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Normal burns are usually localized to the surface of your skin. RF burns conduct all the way through your tissue, heating from the inside. It's a much deeper, more painful burn that takes an abnormally long time to heal.

(Or so I'm told. So far I've been able to avoid experiencing one myself.)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to avoid the experience, I hit the screw on a silver trimmer in an end stage while looking at another one. Nasty little burn with dead tissue in the center and living tissue all around it. 35 years later it is still there, I don't expect that it will ever properly heal, it's a dead bit in the middle of a living finger.

Yep, I have a RF burns on 2 of my finger tips that I sustained between 5 and 10 years ago... They are dead little bits of flesh. Discolored a deep yellow, there is no feeling left and they feel, I guess I'd describe it as, quasi-numb when touched.

I was an embedded engineer at an RF company and it sort of comes with the territory. We had technicians who had lasted 4+ decades in RF (same company, actually) with scars to show for it. Same story, mostly on their fingers from accidentally hitting hot spots.

What was the power level? We do a lot of RF stuff here and it would be good to know that we're safe.

It really depends on a lot of different factors. Single-digit Watt levels can burn you under the right conditions, though obviously it wouldn't be as severe as at higher power levels.

I was burned by ~300W in the specific cases I mentioned. I think it probably classifies as second-degree burns and (because I was young and dumb) I never did anything to help prevent scarring or heal the tissue besides basic first-aid. Safety first, everything else is secondary.

I got mine at about 100W from a Tronser trimmer.

You mean they conduct from the entry-point to ground, similar to a lightning strike or electrical burn? Or is this more like a radiation burn?

Actually, now that I think about it, it'd actually be most similar to how a microwave heats meat, wouldn't it? Microwaves being within the RF part of the EM spectrum and all. (Though not quite the same, given the lack of dipole interaction with water molecules outside of the particular part of the spectrum microwaves sit on.)

That reminds me of an urban legend regarding microwaves, which doesn't seem entirely infeasible. It involves a man working at a small fast food stand, who worked next to his microwave. Now his microwave was used often, and it had a small hole in the metal screen allowing microwave radiation to leak out. The man slowly starts to feel abdominal pains after a while, goes to his doctor, who diagnoses it as liver problems and recommends drinking less. A couple of months later, the man has died, and the autopsy reveals that parts of his liver were cooked.

I was told this story by my grandmother to prevent me from watching food cook in the microwave. That and cataracts, which can also be caused by heating up things that shouldn't be heated.

There is also the story of Anatoli Bugorski. He was debugging the worlds most powerful particle accelerator when he managed to look into the beam: http://www.strangerdimensions.com/2014/01/13/anatoli-bugorsk...

And he’s become part of popular culture due to the annual satirical year in review panel at the C3 congress giving out the fictional "Anatoli Bugorski Award for applied nuclear safety".

That doesn't sound very feasible. Microwaves work by standing waves, the magnetron doesn't just cook things when outside the oven.

I thought they worked by dielectric heating? Making polar molecules get all frantic and stuff. There is a safety mechanism to shut off the magnetron when the door is opened, and a screen to make the viewing window opaque to microwave radiation, but those can malfunction.

[0][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave#Effects_on_health] [1][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_burn]

Here is a video explaining: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FhwTelc5Tg

The turntable in my microwave failed when I heated up a frozen pizza, and the result was part of it was burned, and part of it was still frozen.

As far as I know, that's the mechanism by which microwave radiation heats molecules, but the specific design of the oven is to produce standing waves so microwaves can become concentrated. I may be wrong, though.

Not wrong -- the safety screen is part of the cavity resonator. But if there's a hole in it, or if you defeat the door interlock, you can still cook yourself with microwaves. In general I'm not too concerned that I'm going to cook my eyeballs by looking at my spaghetti to make sure that it's not exploding all over the inside of the microwave.

Going back to the "discovery" of microwaves for cooking food, the story I heard was a radar tech noticed a chocolate bar melted in his shirt pocket.

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