Comparative Effectiveness of Dehydrating Cell Phone Therapies

Aaron Carroll quibbles with my terminology but misses the real import of our collaborative study.

I do, however, quibble with the term “placebo effect”.  …  I think it’s more likely Austin meant that I am just over-estimating the usefulness of the rice.  He believes that my phone would likely have come back to life anyway, and the rice was incidental. …

How much did it help?  I don’t know.  …  Austin’s own experience was that drying out the phone with a heater accomplished the same goal.  I would put forth that the bag of rice is less potentially dangerous to the device than a heater.

When I weigh the potential benefits of the rice (miraculous iPhone resurrection) against the potential harms of the rice (negligible), I come to the conclusion that I’d do the same thing again in a second.

I actually meant that the placebo effect was experienced by Aaron, not his phone. He felt good about the rice, but I’m not convinced it did much more than good old-fashioned non-rice-based dehydration. In fact, what I suspect happened is that Aaron put his phone in a closed environment (zip lock bag). The water in the phone evaporated. Had it been allowed to escape the bag there would have been no need for the rice. But trapping the water in the bag made the rice necessary. It absorbed the vapor, reducing the humidity of the air in the bag so it could absorb yet more water from the phone.

My method was pure evaporation, accelerated with warm air from a very safe heating unit in my office. If you saw the heater you’d know in a second it could pose no harm to a phone or anything else. You can touch this thing. You can put your wet clothes on it to dry. You can keep your tea from cooling too quickly. You can accelerate cell phone dehydration. It’s a miracle device.

To summarize our findings, my heater fixed my phone faster than the bag-o-rice method fixed Aaron’s. That is, the heater was comparatively more effective.* Yet he still believes in rice. I believe in science.

P.S.  I have nothing but respect for Aaron, and he knows it.  But we’re talking the physics of evaporation here. Deadly serious.

* We did not control for case-mix differences, namely iPhone vs. LG enV®3, toilet soaking vs. rain drenching, and the geographic variation in blogger characteristics (Indiana vs. Boston).

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