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Radiowaves and Heat

  1. Jun 5, 2006 #1
    1. Does heat refer to the process of accelerated electrons?

    2. I've looked at the electromagnetic spectrum illustration and I thought: Microwaves and infrared-waves heat things because they have a longer wavelength and thus the probability that they hit particles is higher, resulting in acceleration (of electrons?[see 1.]) and heat. But radiowaves have a even lower wavelength! Since they are almost everywhere on Earth why don't they grill us: Because they have a low signal strength/magnitude?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2006 #2


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    Heat is related to the speed of molecules, not just the electrons. The molecules bounce into each other so the direction is relatively random.

    Here's a simple link to how microwaves work:


    Microwave effect was discovered back in 1946, and the first "Radar Range" was made back in 1947, but since it cost as much as a car, it wasn't very popular. It wasn't until the 1960's that microwaves started getting popular.
  4. Jun 8, 2006 #3
    So can the speed of electrons vary? Is the motion of electrons continuous (orbital) or descrete (appearing and disappearing at certain places with a certain degree of probability)? Thanks!
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  5. Jun 8, 2006 #4


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    I'd call it indiscrete rather than discrete. An electron isn't really a little ball of something flying around the nucleus of an atom. You have electron 'orbitals', which are a shortcut to dealing with the fact that since the particles don't really exist, their orbits don't either. The orbital is the cloud of probability functions that determine the odds of there being an electron there at any particular time.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  6. Jun 8, 2006 #5
    How can it be indescrete if there isn't an orbit? Non-discrete space would indicate continuity; there is only continuity and discrete space. How is continuity possible without orbital motion?
  7. Jun 8, 2006 #6


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    I think that we're using different definitions for 'discrete'. To me, it means something specific and confined, which is the opposite of an electron. For instance, it applies to which orbital an electron will occupy dependent upon its energy level; it does not apply to where within that orbital the electron might be at any instant. Sorry for the confusion there.

    edit: I just looked it up in the dictionary. Now the problem is clear. I was unaware of the mathematical use of the word.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  8. Jun 8, 2006 #7


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    Heat doesn't refer to the process of accelerating electrons. It relates to randomness of the motion and, specifically, to the randomness in the speed of electrons, atoms, ions or molecules.
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