A lesson in physics

I caught a cold this week, and am quite disgusted about it. In addition to making me snotty, colds make me stupid. A case in point was this morning, when I forgot a basic principle of physics: the superior heat conducting properties of most metals.

I was making oatmeal for breakfast. The oats were already in the pan, and I was adding a cup of boiling water to them while simultaneously transferring the pan from the counter to the stove. It’s the kind of pan that does not have a long handle, just two small loops, so to hold it one-handed means having one’s thumb around a loop while the fingers rest against the pan’s body.

Turns out that yes indeed, stainless steel is very efficient at conducting heat! The metal that my fingertips were resting against hit 100º Celsius almost instantly, causing me to drop the pan as if it were on fire (which it felt like it was). Water and wet oats went everywhere: all over the counter, onto the floor, and dripping down the front of the drawers and cabinets, even managing to get inside most of them. The cleanup took longer than making a batch of oatmeal.

Of course, these things only happen when you’re already stumbling and hungry and wanting nothing more than to sit down and eat something hot. It’s like Murphy’s Law of the kitchen.

At any rate, I can now attest that personal experimentation is indeed a great way to commit physical laws to memory. Heat conduction, yep, got that one.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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11 Responses to A lesson in physics

  1. Alma says:

    Haha, naaaw! Learn from your mistakes, that’s the most efficient if not the best way to learn! I had a similar experience the other day with a glass of hot chocolate, so I know how you feel. I usually make slightly-hotter-than-tepid chocolate in a glass, but I’d forgotten that my dad had been around and raised the setting on my microwave. I tried to hurriedly set the hot glass down on the counter but managed to upset it all over the kitchen. I blame low blood sugar, though, not a cold…

    • oregon expat says:

      You have something in common with my wife, then — she also likes not-hot chocolate. I maintain that it wouldn’t be called HOT chocolate if it were meant to be tepid.

      • Alma says:

        Ah yes, but the general term here is drickchoklad, drinking chocolate. It can be any temperature, from icy to near-boiling. Then there’s the sub-type varm choklad, warm chocolate, which is far less specific about the level of warmness! 😉

        • oregon expat says:

          Interesting. We have two drinking chocolates: chocolate milk, which should be ice cold, and hot chocolate, which should be steamy hot. We Americans generally avoid the tepid middle of the road. 😉

  2. Milemuncher says:

    Yes, lesson learned, but only ’till the next time! Hope you are recovering.

  3. Lisa Shaw says:

    There’s not a cold bug alive that could make YOU stupid. Momentarily careless and unmindful, perhaps, but never stupid. 🙂

  4. Lilaine says:

    It’s a good thing that you don’t add mustard to your oatmeal… 😉

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