1598: Salvage

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My hobby: Taking advantage of the rice myth by posting articles on "how to save your wet phone" which are actually just elaborate recipes for rice pilaf.
Title text: My hobby: Taking advantage of the rice myth by posting articles on "how to save your wet phone" which are actually just elaborate recipes for rice pilaf.


The RMS Titanic was a large ocean liner which, when it was completed in 1912, was the largest ship afloat. The ship famously hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank, killing two-thirds of its complement (approximately 1,500 people out of the estimated 2,224 people aboard) in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters ever.

As it sank, the Titanic broke into two pieces. The ship was lost for decades until the wreck site was discovered in 1985. A number of proposals have been made to salvage the wreck of the Titanic both before and since the wreck's discovery, famously fictionalized in the thriller novel and film Raise the Titanic! There could be a joke on this title as in Rice the Titanic, even though it would not be possible to mistake the two words when spoken in the majority of dialects of English.

The general consensus at this time is that the wreck is too fragile to be salvaged intact. Numerous expeditions have been made to the wreck site since its discovery, with several parties (without any outside authorization) taking various artifacts from the site. A popular view is that the wreck is effectively a mass grave and that plundering the site for profitable artifacts is akin to grave-robbing. Most believe the wreck should be left where it is, intact. That said, explorers have already done notable damage to the wreck.

This comic shows a fictional attempt to salvage the two main pieces of the Titanic wreck, which, as it likely would in real life, garners media coverage as a 'historic salvage'. The salvage seems to consist of several ships raising the hull via cables attached to some sort of buoyant sled placed under the hull (as might actually happen, except that the relative sizes of the ships and the hull are wrong; this method would require the salvage ships be much larger in proportion to what is being salvaged). This is followed by helicopters carrying the hull in unison, again via cables to the cradle (a much less practical operation). The hull halves are then dropped into a giant tub of rice. The entire salvage attempt is increasingly cartoonish and unrealistic, but the tub of rice takes this to another level. Also, the two parts of the Titanic collapsed when hitting the sea floor, and thus could not be moved as shown in the comic. See this video of How Titanic Sank.

The punchline to the comic references the "rice myth," (as Randall calls it) a popularly disseminated method of salvaging consumer electronics (usually cell phones) which have been submerged in water. (See Research Shows Rice is the Answer for a Wet Mobile). The method entails burying the wet device in a bowl of rice. This process is commonly claimed to dry the device, but investigation reveals that the process is only mildly effective (though not entirely a myth either, see below). This comic likely plays on the dual meaning of the word "salvage" in respect of electronics and maritime wrecks.

The comic suggests that the wreck of the Titanic would benefit from being dried as quickly as possible, in a humorous contrast to actual reality. Surviving non-metallic material on board the ship may not benefit at all from drying. Far more ancient shipwrecks are best preserved by keeping the recovered timbers wet (but progressively desalinated, where applicable), cool and anoxic, at least while conserving chemicals such as Polyethylene glycol are infused into the wood to allow safe and gradual drying without causing further damage. Leather, cloth and other organic remains may have variations on this regime. Thus the rice might benefit an electronic device briefly exposed to water, but is not likely to benefit a ship that has been immersed for over a century, where the interest is in more than merely stabilizing the remaining metal hull and infrastructure.

There are numerous on-line discussions of the technique with mixed levels of success. Critically, where rice is tested against other methods, rice appears to perform worse than other methods. Controlled experiments on this topic tend to show that silica gel (aka the "Do Not Eat" packets often found in boxes with electronics or pharmaceuticals) is the most effective drying agent, with mixed results for rice. (see Myth Debunked: Uncooked Rice Isn't the Best Way to Save Your Water-Damaged Phone, where it turns out that leaving the phone to air-dry may actually be the best solution).

The title text tells of another hobby of Randall's. He likes to take advantage of the "rice myth" to post fake articles on how to save your wet cell phone. But the instructions turn out to be elaborate recipes for rice pilaf. It is unclear whether Randall's instructions would explain how to prepare the rice prior to inserting a phone (thus resulting a usable dish), or if the instructions would require the phone to be inserted into the dish before it became clear that the dish was a recipe for food and not a phone-saving measure, thus worsening the condition of the phone. This may also be a "punishment" by Randall to anyone who would follow instructions blindly before reading them through, as a recipe for rice Pilaf would likely be distinguishable from phone-saving instructions by someone who read the instructions through before attempting them. Or it may just be that Randall considers those who would follow instructions for saving a phone with rice that they find on the internet gullible enough to believe the seasonings and other ingredients would have a curative effect on electronics.

The victim would hopefully realize they are reading a pilaf recipe somewhere between "rinse the rice" and "add the rice to hot fat or oil." They may initially wonder how fried onions help their phone dry out. Presumably, they would not put their phone into boiling water alongside the rice.

The rice myth is revisited in one of the tips in 1820: Security Advice.


[Megan is shown standing at the rail of a ship with a microphone reporting the event shown in the background. A small helicopter and a larger two rotor model, lowering a rope with hook, are hovering over a crane ship with its hook down line going down in the water. It is depicted like a news screen as seen on TV. Below Megan are two headings. The first in a white insert with double frame, and the other written in white over the gray ocean water.]
Historic Salvage
[Four crane ships are shown lifting the bow part of the RMS Titanic. There are pontoons beneath the ship to help it float up. The name of the ship can be seen.]
RMS Titanic
[Both parts of the Titanic are now flown by helicopters, four for the stern and five for the bow. One helicopter for each part is a two rotor model. Ropes go from the helicopters down on each side of the ship parts to pontoons below them. Below in the ocean there are two crane ships.]
[The two parts of the ship is now lowered in to a huge bowl of rice (labeled) standing at the coast just out of the ocean, which can be seen to the left. One of the five helicopters for the bow is missing. For scale there are drawn two trees to the left, and something is parked to the right, maybe a truck.]

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as randall points out, the whole rice thing is a myth. either there isn't water inside your phone, in which case it's going to work anyway, or there is and the rice will only get the moisture off the outside and it won't. -- 13:40, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Ahah! I just inserted something along those lines. (Also, the Wiki's server clock looks to be fast.) While I didn't go into it myself, the biggest problem is water pooling in the casing and being held by surface-tension between two planes (e.g. circuit board and plastic frame). It's possible that absorbing rice (or other substance) in concact with the vents could draw water (or other liquids!) through the vents, like a wick, even from further inside, but I'd normally dismantle a device as much as I'd dare (certainly not beyond the point that I'd obviously break it more) and leach off the liquid directly with appropriate material.
A careful dab/wipe wash in distilled water (or suitable non-water cleaning liquids) is sometims also necessary for long-standing residues (e.g. of coffee that went into laptop keyboards), but the absolute main thing is to turn off a device as soon as possible after a soaking, including removing batteries, so that you've not already pre-ruined anything delicate by a spurious back-voltage.
But don't take my word as definitive, because it depends on the device, the degree of soaking and what it's soaked with and the rice might work sufficiently or nothing might... Go seek a professional, if you're not just feeling lucky. (Luckier than when you got it wet, anyway. ;) 14:07, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
And if it was salt water it got soaked in... well, good luck there. -boB (talk) 16:06, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I used to have a digital clock that stopped when it got wet, and didn't start again until it dried out, 11.5 hours later.
The weird thing was that it was always 11.5 hours - I checked (to within a few dozen minutes) at least four separate times. To this day I have no idea why. -- 13:44, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

More mysterious than the precise timing of your digital clock's resurrection is what you were doing to get it wet so often. :) 14:00, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
Also saying always 11.5 hours when you also says that it is to within 1 hour is not so precise. The one hour comes from the fact that a few means 2-5, and 5 x 12 minutes = 1 hour ;-) --Kynde (talk) 14:10, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
It was the sort of clock that is worn on hands (I think that type of clock is also called "watch"), so washing hands the wrong way could do it.
And yes, I know of the weird precision - the whole thing happened about 15 years ago, and while I distinctly remember the weirdly precise figure, I cannot remember any measurement of it more precise than "a few dozen minutes" :-) -- 15:10, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Could here be an additional joke from the old movie Raise the Titanic (film)?I'm not sure how this will be pronounced in different part of the English world, but could it be pronounced just like Rice the Titanic? That would be a joke where you do not need he title text to get it... (Which is usually the case - the title text often just adds and extra layer to the joke). --Kynde (talk) 14:14, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

That's impossible. Rice is /raɪs/ and raise is /reɪz/. Too many differences. An English speaker who hears rice when raise was pronounced is like another who hears chip when sheep was pronounced. 14:32, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
There are so many weird English dialects. There's probably one in England (or more) where they say raise like Americans say rice. 15:52, 2 November 2015 (UTC)
Not 'English', and not that way round, but I can think of an Ulster (Northern Ireland) pronunciation where "rice" rather like Americans "raise". (But then "raise", itself, also suffers from vowel-shifts/etc.) 18:35, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

If you Google "rice cell phone" there is quite a bit of information, such as https://www.gazelle.com/thehorn/2014/05/06/gazelles-guide-water-damage-truth-rice-galaxy-everything/. Not sure what belongs in this article. Matchups (talk) 14:24, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Is this the first strip to use "my hobby" in the title-text rather than the actual comic? 14:29, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Nope, there's also 1480: Super Bowl. -- 15:05, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

Yeah, the way to fix a wet phone, is just to remove the battery and let it dry out, once the battery is out you can even rince it in case what you got all over it wasn't just water.. Oh you can't remove the battery, you say? Well, then you are truly fucked. 15:56, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I always thought that the rice myth came from people who misunderstood, mis-told or heard but forgot the joke affirmation that "If you put your broken phone in rice overnight, chinese workers will be attracted and repair it". The joke could be from the myth, but I wouldn't be so sure. 16:04, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

In case anyone needs anything more about it, the first reference to drying-with-rice that I thought of was the pilot episode of CBS's Sherlock Holmes show 'Elementary. I forget if this version of Sherlock thinks it's a valid idea (but he at least knows that the phone's owner thought it so...) 16:43, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I am sorry, but the second link posted in the article to show that this is supposed to be a myth (https://smartphones.gadgethacks.com/how-to/myth-debunked-uncooked-rice-isnt-best-way-save-your-water-damaged-phone-0154799/) is a very unscientific and weird experimental setup - it doesn't have anything to do with the real situation. It should be removed or replaced by a real study. Also, many people miss the point that while there are a better methods (silica gel, or very pure alcohol, which is my preferred method when I can access the boards), rice is something many people have at home. Also, there are regions on the earth where relative humidity is very high - leaving it to dry with an airflow might not help as much as a drying agent there. 08:28, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

Although everyone is referencing the [more famous] Raise the Titanic, there is another great novel about raising the wreck; Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C Clarke. It was published late in his career, in 1990, and is nowhere near as well known as his more popular, older, series. IMO a great read (though does have some bad reviews online) that is all about the technology and science involved in raising the two halves (by two different, competing, companies). Plus, he introduces the idea of Lake Mandlebrot, which I love! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

RMS Titanic name

While RMS Titanic was a Royal Mail Ship, and as such had RMS as part of its title, I don't think RMS Titanic had the inscription RMS. It was just Titanic. See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic#/media/File:RMS_Titanic_3.jpg 14:31, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

If rice actually worked well as a drying agent it would be used in "Do Not Eat" packets (presumably they'd be labelled differently because rice is edible) instead of silica gel, because rice is cheaper and more readily available than silica gel. The fact that they've gone to the trouble and expense of using silica gel is all the proof I need that silica gel works better than rice. 22:24, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

There's an old home custom - putting some rice grains into your salt shaker, presumably to prevent the salt for accumulating moisture and agglomerating. However, I am not sure which substance is more hygroscopic - if the rice would extract moisture from the salt or the other way round. 10:18, 3 November 2015 (UTC)
I think that's as much about the rice grains physically disrupting any nascent agglomerations, than being more hygroscopic. Anyway most mass-produced (read cheap) salt has "anti-caking agents" added. (How sad am I? :) ) 08:41, 4 November 2015 (UTC)

What are the "dual meanings of salvage"? Isn't it just one meaning, to rescue? 01:03, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

It's not literally dual "meaning", but difference in when the thing is considered rescued. For ship wreck, getting it out of water is generally considered enough. For phones, getting it out of water is trivial, for successful rescue you need the phone to start working. -- Hkmaly (talk) 13:13, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

Rise of the titanic? 14:27, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

RMS could be a reference to Research in Motion's Blackberry and the once grand cellphone company has sunk. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Or, it's just the full name of a well-known shipwreck. Davidy²²[talk] 06:35, 9 December 2015 (UTC)
Research in Motion is RIM, not RMS 05:27, 29 January 2016 (UTC)Tom Duhamel

https://www.reddit.com/r/talesfromtechsupport/comments/4dhohz/put_your_phone_in_rice/ is a claim that someone actually fell for Randall's Hobby and cooked rice with a phone. Do we need a trivia section now? 07:40, 11 July 2020 (UTC)