Monday, June 19, 2006

What cooks faster, beef or men?

Answers to Strange Questions

Q: Turn on a huge oven, put in a slab of beefsteak and a human being, and which cooks faster?

A: In one of the bizarrer experiments ever, the above was actually tried, says Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny in "Freaks of the Storm: The World's Strangest True Weather Stories." It was 1775, and Scottish physician George Fordyce set out to determine how hot a temperature a man could survive. So he created a series of rooms, the hottest of them heated by flues in the floor and by pouring upon it boiling water. The heat eventually became so great that all the scientists' thermometers broke except one. As one of the researchers later recorded, "Men remained in Fordyce's heated rooms at 260 degrees F for 15 minutes, without any noteworthy rise in body temperature, while a beefsteak was nicely cooked in 13 minutes."

The secret was the men were touched only by the likely very dry hot air, which conducts heat poorly, whereas the meat was on hot metal, which transfers its heat readily. That explains why you can briefly reach your hand into an oven where you're baking a cake, but you better not touch the metal shelf. But heatstroke is a real risk so don't try any of this!

Richmond.com - Feature Story: 'Strange But True ' for

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