boiling water, freezing air, & thundersnow

If you take boiling water and toss it into the air when it’s -22 degrees outside, it evaporates into steam before it hits the ground.  Here’s a video of it.  Looks neat. At first it looks like it’s instantly turning into snow, but it’s in fact steam.

I remember hearing that hot water can actually freeze faster than cold water.  Turns out that’s only sometimes true — according to science, water at 100 degrees C will freeze before water warmer than 60 degrees C but not before water cooler than 60 degrees C.  Although if you put hot water and cold water in the freezer at the same time, the hot water can freeze faster because the bottom part of the hot water can start freezing while the top is still warm (and no convection is occurring).  Further explanation is beyond the scope of this article, but you can read more here if you’re feeling particularly nerdy today.  (It’s actually called the Mpemba effect.)

Also on the page right now is a video of Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel getting surprised by “thundersnow“.  It’s basically just thunder and lightning, but it’s more rare in a snowstorm.  His reaction is interesting, which is why this video has been making the rounds on TV.

bacon adds to life

I was watching a science program on TV the other night, and they were discussing how life might have begun on Earth.  (It’s funny to me that I know, yet so many scientists still don’t know.)  There are numerous theories / hypotheses, and one of the main ones is that life started by accident.  Supposedly amino acids in primordial soup collided with each other many times, until the right combination was formed to produce life.  (And I have to wonder — who was first, male or female?)  Amino acids are part of the building blocks of life.

The second widely-held theory / hypothesis is that an asteroid with frozen organisms deep inside crashed into Earth.  This would mean that we’re all aliens, and that life as we know it came from another planet.  But even if life came from another planet, it still had to start somewhere, somehow, since the Universe was formed by the Big Bang.

So let’s go back to the first theory.  Life had to start somewhere, obviously.  If colliding amino acids can create life, then you could create life by slapping pieces of bacon together enough times.  (You may think I’m being silly, but hold on.)  Bacon contains amino acids.  Actually, science explains that part of the reason we are attracted to the smell of bacon cooking is because of the chemical reaction of amino acids and reducing sugars.   (It’s called a Maillard reaction, if you wish to do further study.  That reaction also contributes to the taste of seared meat and roasted coffee.)  Of course, another reason we’re attracted to the smell of bacon cooking is because it smells awesome.

So since bacon contains amino acids that are essential to life, and life can supposedly start from the random collision of amino acids, then a simple formulaic proof could be constructed proving that slapping strips of bacon together can create life.  (Perhaps that Abstract Algebra class in college could be useful after all…)

Wow… the power of bacon!

Obviously a corollary to this new theory would be that eating bacon adds to your life.

how the Grand Canyon formed

I saw a TV show on the History Channel that explained how the Grand Canyon was formed.  They said that many billions of years ago, that area was a massive mountain range, with peaks higher than the Himalaya Mountains.  I can believe that, at least the mountain part.  But then the story went in an unexpected direction.

These mountains were covered by the ocean at least 8 times.  I can easily believe they were at least once, but what do I know?  But then the mountain range flattened out, into flatlands.  There were no mountains, no valleys, and no canyons.   Then the land rose up, kinda like how mountains are formed from plate tectonics, but it didn’t create mountains — all the land rose up in that area.  (Can you picture that?   And can you believe that?)

To get the canyon-forming process under way, there was a giant lake, and it overflowed.   That’s what formed the Colorado River.   The lake is long gone, but the river still flows (obviously).  And over the past 5.5 million years, the water carved out the Grand Canyon.

Now you know.  Or well, you know what some scientists think happened.  The question is, are they right?  Parts of the story are believable, although I’m having trouble with the whole area of land rising evenly.  But either way, it’s interesting to think about.

I like watching these types of shows, because it challenges how I think.  It also gives me ideas on how to create my own Grand Canyon, so I can have a great view like that and make millions of dollars from tourism.  I’ll need to speed up the process, plus extend my life for a few years.   But I already plan to live forever — so far so good!  🙂

Anyway, back to reality, let me make a serious point (if the editor-at-large will allow that).   If the Grand Canyon was covered by ocean at least 8 times, who is to say it shouldn’t ever happen again?  And those things don’t just happen randomly.  There had to be some sort of… um… climate change… to cause such a massive event.   And probably not one or two degrees.  I’m just saying…

how to prevent hurricanes

If you know much about weather, you know that mankind does not possess the ability to stop a hurricane.  Hurricanes are kinda like a migraine headache in that regard — unstoppable once it gets going.  In fact, a migraine feels kinda like a hurricane in your head.  Or a tornado.  But I digress.

Anyway, we cannot stop a hurricane once it gets started.  I’ve heard that Hurricane Katrina contained the energy equivalent of 150,000 atomic bombs, and released enough of that energy to power the United States for a year.  Amazing!   If only we could capture a fraction of that power.  But that’s another discussion.  (I almost digressed again…)

satellite photo of Hurricane Jeanne from 2004So obviously the key to stopping a hurricane is to prevent it from forming.  That may sound impossible, and it almost is, but I learned from The Discovery Channel where hurricanes (affecting the U.S.) come from.  The whole process starts from hot, dry air from the Sahara Desert.  Pockets of that hot, dry air get released over the ocean about every three days, and then convection and evaporation and condensation and stuff take place, and hurricanes are formed.  So one possible solution would be to destroy the Sahara Desert.   I know, that sounds crazy, but think about it — the climate of the Sahara is such that its inhabitants have to live elsewhere.  So who would it inconvenience?  It would save a lot of money when we don’t have destructive hurricanes!

I can see some people opposing that plan.  Fortunately there’s another potential way to stop hurricanes.  During the convection process, clouds form and begin to rotate because of the rotation of the Earth.  So obviously if we stopped the Earth’s rotation, that would prevent hurricanes from forming.  However, this plan would have some major side-effects, like perhaps altering gravity, and we might lose the Moon.  I’m sure some other bad things would happen too, so I can see this idea being vetoed.

Perhaps instead of destroying the Sahara Desert, we should just cover it with solar panels to capture the heat.  And since the Sahara Desert is one of the hottest places in the world, this could also reduce global warming, and it would be a clean, green, unlimited, renewable energy solution.  Sounds perfect, right?  That could be quite expensive, which is probably why it hasn’t been done.  But it would produce untold amounts of clean energy, which everyone wants these days.  Since a large up-front investment is needed, you can start sending in donations, and I’ll do this whenever I get enough money, and it’ll be a win-win for everyone.  You can give using various denominations of cash, check, credit card, and bacon.