Refrigerators and cocktail shakers

Audio 11:20
David Franklin/Getty Images/A Terrade

Are you one of this week’s lucky winners? Are you ready to try your luck on today’s quiz question? Click on that little “Listen” arrow above, and join in!


Hello everyone!

Welcome to The Sound Kitchen. You can catch the programme on-the-air every Saturday, at 4:52, 6:22, and 7:52 universal time. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you have grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and tune in every Saturday.

Did you know there is such a thing as official RFI Clubs? Up until now, they have always been French clubs, but now we want to open them up to all our listeners … and open up we have! There are already seven brand new official RFI Clubs: in Kisii, Kenya, started by Mogire Machuki; in Dhaka, Bangladesh, started by Wali Ahad, and in Holguin, Cuba, started by Ivan Carralero. There are four new RFI clubs in India: in Murshidabad, with Mr Najimuddin as president; in Medinipur, with Dr SS Bhattacharya at the helm; in Hyderabad / Miryalguda, headed up by Mrs P Sreelatha Reddy, and Sandeep Jawale has created an RFI Club in Maharashtra. Welcome one and all!

What about you? You can either transform your existing radio club into an RFI Club, or create a brand new one. Then, anytime you plan special events – be they humanitarian, cultural, or sports-oriented; if you want to host an environmental program, or a day dedicated to health issues - RFI will help you with ideas and free promotional items for your members. If you are interested in either changing your radio club into an RFI club, or if you would like to create a brand-new RFI club, the first step is to read the RFI Club Charter:

If you are willing to abide by the Charter, write to my colleagues in the Listener Relations Department and let them know. They’ll help you with the rest of the process.

Sébastien Bonijol
Chrystelle Nammour
RFI – Relations Auditeurs
80, rue Camille Desmoulins
92130, Issy-les-Moulineaux

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Which leads me to another item of interest: the RFI Listeners Club. Our Listener Relations department has decided that everyone can belong to the RFI Listeners Club, but you will only be issued a membership number, not an identity card. Only members of an official RFI Club will have identity cards. As an RFI Listeners Club member, you will still win a premium prize if you win a Sound Kitchen quiz. So no reason not to join – although having an official RFI Club is really far cooler.

If you only want to be a member of the general RFI Listeners Club – that’s great, too! Just send me (or Sébastien and Chrystelle) your full name, your postal mailing address, and if you have one, your e-mail address. You’ll receive an RFI Listeners Club number; include that number every time you enter a quiz, and if you are a winner, you’ll get a premium prize!

Nota bene: The RFI Listeners Club used to be called “Club 9516”. So if you are a member of the “Club 9516”, you are already a member of the RFI Listeners Club. Your “Club 9516” membership number still works – no need to reapply. Just include your membership number on your quiz entries.

Look at that beautiful link to the Sound Kitchen Listeners Cookbook! I’m very happy about it, and I hope you enjoy looking at it – and trying out some recipes. Please feel free to send in any comments you have, and we would love it if you’d send in photos – both of you, and of your completed dish. Don’t hesitate to use the “zoom” tool on countries where there are a lot of forks; that will separate them so you can read the titles easier. Click on the title, and the recipe will appear.

Today’s question was read on 13 July. The Edward Snowden case was still on the front pages … Snowden, you recall, is the U-S whistle blower, the former National Security contractor, who leaked details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. 

You can imagine that the U-S government didn’t appreciate that one bit: Snowden left the U-S for Hong Kong in May. While he was there, he met with some lawyers – Snowden is accused of espionage by the United States, which is pretty serious .… at any rate, during these meetings, the young man asked everyone to put their cell phones in the refrigerator, to block eavesdropping. I asked you why … why a refrigerator? I gave you a hint: a cocktail shaker will work, too. How can a refrigerator and a cocktail shaker block eavesdropping through a cell phone?

The answer is: they both make a perfect Faraday cage! Heather Murphey, writing for the New York Times, explains : “A Faraday cage is a metal shield that protects anything inside from electrical charges ... it creates a space where radio waves cannot pass and therefore data cannot be transmitted. Thick metal walls can create a sort of electromagnetic barrier, and the materials that make up refrigerator walls – and cocktail shakers – can potentially turn these household items into anti-eavesdropping devices.”

Why not just ask people to turn off their phones – and remove the batteries? Ah-ha! According to Seth Schoen from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “A lot of modern devices (not just phones) do have states that are somewhere in between fully on and fully off, where some circuits are powered up and others are powered down. These modes often allow the device to wake up autonomously if certain conditions are met.”

Even removing the batteries may not work. Even if you can figure out how to remove the battery, there may be additional power sources in the device that you don’t know about!

The winners are: From India: Mrs. Jyotsna Banu of the Youth Radio Club in Murshidabad, and Mrs. Saraswathi Madugula of the Young Stars Radio Club in Andhra Pradesh; Miriam Samanya, from Iganga, Uganda; Danny Clay from Monroe, Louisiana in the U-S, and Maurice T. Luchen, from Mazabuka, Zambia.

Congratulations, winners!

This week’s question is for you stargazers out there … I love to look at the night sky; it’s one reason I love to get out of Paris, because there are so many lights here you can’t see the stars very well … but hey, who’s complaining? I get to look at the Eiffel Tower, after all. Anyway … the night sky, and all those billions and billions of stars … how many stars are there, do you suppose? We can’t know for sure, but scientists have a formula to make an educated guess … and that is the question for this week. How do astronomers and astrophysicists estimate how many stars are in the universe? And - what number have they come up with? How many stars do scientists believe exist, and how did they come up with that number?

Send in your answer by 7 October, and be sure and tune in on 12 October to see if you are one of the lucky winners! As always, be sure you send your postal address in with your answer … and, if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:


To our new mailing address:

Susan Owensby
RFI – The Sound Kitchen
80, rue Camille Desmoulins
92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux


By SMS … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen cell phone !!!!

Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then 33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text - and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Remember, it’s not just the quiz which wins you a prize. If your essay goes on the air, you’ll find a package in the mail from the Sound Kitchen. Write in about your community heroes – the people in your community who are quietly working to make the world a better place, in whatever way they can. As listener Pramod Maheshwari said: “Just as small drops of water can fill a pitcher, small drops of kindness can change the world.”

I am still looking for your “This I Believe” essays, too. Tell us about the principles that guide your life … what you have found to be true from your very own personal experience. Or write in with your most memorable moment, and/or your proudest achievement. If your essay is chosen to go on-the-air – read by you – you’ll win an RFI radio!

Send your mini book reviews, your musical requests, your secret “guilty” pleasure (mine’s chocolate!), your tricks for remembering things, your favourite quotations and proverbs, descriptions of the local festivals you participate in, your weirdest dream, or just your general all-around thoughts to:

Include a phone number, so I can call you.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

All the best,


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