490. If microwaves "bounce" or reflect inside the cooking chamber, is it important for all of the surfaces (walls) of the oven to be flat? What would happen if the cooking chamber were cylindrical or circular? Would the microwaves bounce off the walls and then cancel each other out?
A microwave oven with a cylindrical or spherical cooking chamber would have a problem with non-uniform cooking. But before I look at why, I should note that even a microwave oven with a box-like cooking chamber exhibits non-uniform cooking. That's because the microwaves that are bouncing around inside the cooking chamber are all coherent—they are parts of a single, giant wave—and they can interfere strongly with one another. That means that several reflected microwaves can cancel or enhance one another as they cross, leading to regions inside the cooking chamber that cook quickly and other regions that cook slowly. That's why it's important to move the food around the cooking chamber during cooking—so that the food cooks evenly.
If the oven's cooking chamber weren't box-like, there would be a new problem to contend with: a tendency for the microwaves to be concentrated or focused in a particular region. Just as a cylindrical or spherical mirror bends the light rays it reflects, so the curved walls of a non-boxlike cooking chamber would bend the microwaves it reflects. It would tend to focus those microwaves in particular regions (such as the center of the cylinder or sphere) so that there would certain regions inside the chamber where the microwaves would be particularly intense and cooking would proceed very quickly.