Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nature on the Stove

This might look like a strange post for a nature blog, but here's my rationale.  It's two-fold, really.  First, on a cold, gray winter day, while boiling some water for Ramen soup, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about nature.  I had just taken a few photos of the weed I rescued in November and planned the previous post, "A Mini-Saga."  So, as I was watching the pot of water - thinking about disproving Ben Franklin's statement, "A watched pot never boils," I found myself staring at the first bubbles forming at the bottom.  I remembered as a child being asked by my dad, "how do you suppose all that air got in there.  It just keeps coming, and coming, a much greater volume than the volume of the pan."  Some years went by before I figured out what was going on,  but I've never gotten over my fascination with the process. Now I tend to look for aesthetic qualities, not just the scientific. 
I watched the bubbles get progressively bigger and rise to the surface more quickly.  At a certain point the boiling become so vigorous that there was some splashing.  I also started to notice the volume of water decreasing and the air in the immediate vicinity becoming more humid.  Some of the water vapor re-condensed when it came into contact with the nearest cold windows.
Then I reminisced on one of my old physical science classes in which I gave each team of students a container of water, a Bunsen burner, and a few other odds 'n ends found in any kitchen, and asked them to make the biggest list they could of "properties of water that they could actually observe and prove."  Based on some previously memorized knowledge, they came up with boiling point and freezing point, and needed more equipment - freezer, thermometer - to prove what they already "knew."  Then we had a great discussion about how the markings were established on the thermometer in the first place.  This was followed by my handing to each group a small, unmarked thermometer and challenged them to properly mark their thermometers.  Only when finished could they compare to their factory-issue thermometer.  We then discussed "which one can we trust?"
After all this reminiscing, I realized I didn't have enough water remaining to cook my noodles.  So, I started over.  Note, the water in the above photos is tainted by a little Soy Sauce.  I started over with an aluminum frying pan (below) in which the water stayed clear and colorless.  Quite a different pattern in the bubbles below, which led to a whole new set of questions....
I started by mentioning that my motive for this post was two-fold.  Here's the other fold.  I noticed that I have only posted 20 items so far during December and fallen slightly behind my annual goal of averaging one post per day.  As of this typing, I have averaged 0.97534 posts per day for 2013.  With two and one half days remaining in December, I need to make 9 more posts to reach my goal.  My next one will be "A Winter Drive, Part 2."  Note, part 1 was posted last Tuesday based on a drive I took on Monday.  At the time of posting Part 1, I mentioned that I had more photos.  First, a short break to gather more fire wood onto the front deck.
By the way, the kids in that science class eventually identified and proved or demonstrated over 50 properties of water.  It's a good substance to know about since we are made up of around 2/3 water!

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