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Tag archives: food and science

Microwave pockets, space station strife and dreaming of Mars

Russia has the toilets on the ISS (Courtesy: NASA)

Russia has the toilets on the ISS. (Courtesy: NASA)

By Hamish Johnston

The physics of how the contents of a microwaved pastry can become “hotter than the Sun” is the subject of an entertaining and informative blog entry by Ethan Siegel. He looks at the physics of heating “microwave pockets”, those roof-of-your-mouth-scalding savoury treats that appeared on shelves in the 1980s. He explains why the outer portion of a pocket can be extremely hot, while the interior remains frozen – and why pockets often explode when heated through.

Siegel’s been a bit cheeky and republished this entry from 2009, but I suppose it’s timeless and I’m sure you can still buy microwave pockets somewhere! His blog is called Starts With a Bang and the entry is entitled “Throwback Thursday: The physics of hot pockets”.

As the crisis in the Ukraine drags on, scientists are beginning to worry about the effect it could have on scientific collaborations involving Russia and the West. Several websites are reporting that Russia is threatening to ban US astronauts from the shuttles that travel to the International Space Station (ISS). Indeed, the Independent quotes Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying that it would be possible for Russia to independently operate its portion of the ISS, while the US would not be able to do so. Indeed both toilets on the ISS are Russian, so it could get very messy up there!

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Cakes that are out of this world, what’s on Andre Geim’s iPod and who’s the April fool?

The joke’s on me: click on the image for a larger version where you can see the instruction for users

The joke’s on me: click on the image for a larger version where you can see the instruction for users

By Hamish Johnston

On Tuesday I was feeling particularly pleased with myself over the April Fool’s piece that I penned. It was about a fictitious microwave-oven ban organized by radio astronomers at the UK’s Jodrell Bank Observatory. But now it looks like I might have a bit of microwaved egg on my face because two of my colleagues visited Jodrell Bank this week and guess what? Astronomers there have built a Faraday cage around the microwave in their tearoom to stop it from interfering with their equipment. Louise Mayor took the above photos: click on the image to read the reminder to microwave users.

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Cress on the Moon, more physics books, a radioactive ‘foot’ and more

A small green sprout of cinnamon basil, grown on board the International Space Station in 2007

A small green sprout of cinnamon basil, growing on board the International Space Station in 2007. (Courtesy: NASA)

By Tushna Commissariat

Early this week, a story in the Telegraph caught our eye – NASA is planning on sending turnip, cress and basil seeds to the Moon to germinate them! This is most definitely not the first time that plants have been grown beyond the realms of Earth. Indeed, potatoes were grown on board during a 1995 Space Shuttle mission and many experiments involving germinating seeds were done on the International Space Station. The goal of these studies was to understand the effects of microgravity on plant growth. But now, NASA plans to take this one step further in 2015 with their Moon Express mission, which will include the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber that will carry seeds and enough air and nutrients to allow the seeds to sprout and grow. Will fresh salad be on an astronaut’s menu soon?

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The great physics bake-off

By Matin Durrani

Cakes from the Great Physics Bake Off

Cakes from the Great Physics Bake Off, with the overall winner second bottom on the left. (Courtesy: Chris Hodges)

And so to the physics department at Bristol University last night, which played host to “The Great Physics Bake Off” organized by PhD students Janina Möreke and Sara Carreira. The aims were simple: to showcase the cake-baking talent of the department, have some fun, and at the same time raise money for IOP for Africa – the scheme run by the Institute of Physics, which publishes Physics World, to boost physics education in some of the poorest countries in the world.

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Infinite BBQs

By Michael Banks in Boston

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold.
(Courtesy: Ryan Matthew Smith)

Here is a good quiz question. What contains more water: a cucumber or a glass of milk?

If you happened to guess the humble cucumber then you would be correct.

At least that is, according to Nathan Myhrvold, who says the water content of a glass of milk is around 85%, while for a cucumber it is more like 95%.  This is because milk is made up of other things such as proteins and fat.

Myhrvold, who has a PhD in physics, was speaking at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston where he gave a plenary lecture to a packed audience on the science of cooking.

Myhrvold is the brains behind the recently published six-volume, 2400-page tome  Modernist Cuisine that took him and his staff of eight researchers around five years to put together.

Apart from talking about the novel cooking techniques he has developed such as making crispy chips in an ultrasonic bath and spinning peas in a centrifuge to bring out more flavour, Myhrvold had some tidbits of information we could all put to use.

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