Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yummy fried chicken

     And I'm back.  Ever just have crazy week where you have to tie up some lose ends?  Writing is a relaxant; it creates peace by giving my mind something else to think about.
     So I've been thinking recently that I'll never become famous in the blog world if I keep writing about thermodynamics.  Being the follower, or "second-hander", that I am, I need to do what the "in" crowd is doing.  Today, I'm going to write about food.  Since my camera is in the shop though, you'll need to use my words to imagine a succulent and moist meal.
     Let us discuss the science of frying on todays blog.  Frying is an delicious way to cook anything; it has been said that anything can made exponentially better by how much it is fried.  I myself was raised on fried chicken, mushrooms and pork, and I feel I am a better man for it.
      Do you know the difference between a chemical and physical change in chemistry?  To put us on the same page, I will define it.  A physical change is a change you can go back on, simply put.  Salt water, for instance, is a basic example of a physical change.  You can mix salt and water, but if you increase the temperature of the fluid to its boiling point  you can separate its components.  Specifically, the water becomes vapor and the salt stays behind.  Chemical changes are more permanent; the energy we introduce into the system fuel bonds between molecules.  This is something I wish I could explain to you in simple, easy terms.  Instead, I am going to just send you to this other website.
     But that was the old Aristotle.  The new blog doesn't want to talk about boring science shit.  We want sleek, elegant family friendly pizazz.  I want to know how to fry a turkey as big as my head.
     The first thing you need is a vat.  The next step is to fill the vat with delicious oil.  If you're like me, you're using oil that is more or less at "room temperature".  If you're like my dad, there is a very good chance that this oil is full of impurities.  These two factors are playing against you, amigo.  Even though you might have come across this shiny looking blog in a drunken stupor at three a.m. looking for fried food recipes, you're about to find that you'll have to wait a little longer for the oil to get up to temperature.  The first reason is due due to some mathematical mumbo-jumbo about surface area and heat.   I'm assuming you are using a Bayou Classic fryer, because you buy the first thing that pops up on Google.  In this case, the only part of your oil that is getting direct heat is about 104 square inches.  Compared to the 1350 cubic inches of oil you are trying to heat.  Your two dimensional attempt to heat a three dimensional area makes me laugh.
     After drinking more beer while intensely watching the thermometer, the oil will finally reach a temperature between 180 and 200 degrees Celsius. (Quick!  What is the absolute temperature of your oil?)  At this point, you need to place your whole chicken into the fryer.  If you drop it, there is an excellent chance that 392 degree Fahrenheit oil will splash on your clothes.  That is bad.  You should probably memorize the number for 911 before you start.
     Now for the cooking part.  The combination of energy and time is causing a chemical and physical change in the oil and chicken.  You are now an alchemist, but instead of creating something lame like a philosophers stone, you are creating fried chicken.  Let me say this again:  Fried is way better than regular.  This is mostly due to the process that is going on.
     As energy is applied in the form of heat to the chicken, changes are going on in the molecular level.  In chemistry we learn that this heat will cause the degradation of some molecular structures.  In physics we learn that a increase in temperature causes an increase in movement of molecules.  In the case of protein structures, this increase in entropy is causing the atoms that make up the molecule to shake itself free from its chemical bonds.  As the chemical bonds break down, the energetic atom is now free.
     On a macro level, this break down of bonds is causing fat to leak from the chicken into the oil.  This break down starts at 38 degrees c.  At the temperature we are working at, there is a much higher breakdown of the bonds, causing a much higher fat loss.  This release of the fat into the oil is causing the oil to go through its own changes, the most significant of which is causing the boiling point to increase due to the increase of carbons. This increase in the boiling point means you can raise the oil to even higher temperatures, causing a faster cooking time and crispier skin.
     This higher temp also supplies more thermal energy to break stronger bonds.  Since it has the energy to break stronger bonds, the atoms and molecules release have the energy to create stronger bonds.  At this point, people will begin to argue that many of the chemicals created are unhealthy.  They are also savory, and can create visually appealing changes.  As your chicken begins to brown, you know it's ready.  Stick a thermometer in it.  If it's reached an internal temp of 71 degrees Celsius, then you have created enough heat to kill off any dangerous bacteria.
     Well, looks my foray into the cooking blog world didn't go so well.  I must say that the more I do this, the more my tolerance goes up for studying.  Hopefully I'm getting better at explaining this.  If anyone is out there, feel free to comment.       One last thing I want to mention.  As I was researching this, I came across an article on raw foods.  The first thing I will say is this: wash your foods.  As was stated above, the increase in temperature causes the break down of chemical bonds and the formations of new chemicals.  If there is any foreign substances present, logically speaking this introduces more elements and could cause the formation of very unhealthy chemicals.  I'm not sold on the idea of vegan-ism or the raw food movement, but it does bring up a good point about cooking pesticides.  I'm going to read the research it cites.  For now, au revoir to all of my imaginary friends in the void.

This article was inspired by this paper

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Busy week.  Ended one job, moved, and started another in the span of 24 hours.  I want to post something about the number e and some more about thermodynamics though.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thoughts before bed

     Here I lay, a geek that needs to wake up early.  I piss away the hours and feed my insomnia by drafting my blog post, reading the works of the scientific masters, and thinking about C.P. Snow.
     C.P. Snow was recently introduced to me as I scoured the Internet for works on entropy.  Tonight I am reading "The Two Cultures", which seems to be his most referenced work.  This post is not about the essay, mainly because I'm only two pages into it at the moment and really need to head to bed soon so I can wake up early tomorrow.  Writing fills some strange indescribable need, and it helps clarify thoughts.
     What I've read so far has got me thinking.  He's said that there is a widening gap between the scientific intellectuals and the literary intellectuals.  This seems to be everyones focus, so references to the book end here.  However, I want to talk about art and science.
     Sometimes, it seems that so many groups of thought can not get along.  Christians who believe in the big-bang start by saying "Now I know it sounds odd. . ."  Apparently, since I study science, I can't believe in ghosts and spirits.  I read abstracts and scientific papers, but they certainly are not "good literature."
     The funny thing is, artists and writers are why I got into science.  My favorite artist in high school was M.C. Escher because his art was based on math and logic.  If it wasn't for the work of Arthur C. Clarke, I may not have gotten back into science at all.  My first "teachers" after dropping out of college were webcomics like "Irregular Webcomics", SMBC, and XKCD.  Sometimes, when I want to look for inspiration, I watch Vihart on youtube.  If my one and only exposer to science was traditional schooling, I would be the most boring person in the world.
     The more I read, the more I find.  Today, while reading James Maxwell, I was introduced to Lucretius, a roman philosopher who wrote a large poem outlining the works of the Greek masters.
     For the most part, popular culture confuses scientific principles. For every Jules Verne, there are a hundred or so authors explaining how to improve your life by using the many-worlds interpretation to propel yourself to a world.  Trying to sift through them to get to the facts is a god-damn chore.  Don't forget about the people who do understand the theories, but present them to push their own agendas, political or religious.
     It is to easy to get cynical.  Too many people try to paint pictures of an "Us vs Them" view of life.  I see as many people working together as I see people fighting.  For now I'll ignore the motivations; I want to sleep tonight, not hate people.  Art helps progress.  The best can use it as a tool to communicate ideas to everyone.  These ideas can further understanding and help form new ideas.
    When stuff starts to look cliché, it is time to sleep.  Goodnight all of you beautiful shapes in the void.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fire on high!

The deeper I go into Thermodynamics, the more it begins to look like a wonderland.
In the past, I've mechanics explain to me the principles of physics using engines as an example. They could do this without using math or any advanced physics speak, but they still explained it perfectly. We can learn physics without math, especially if we spend 10,000 hours working with the laws in the physical world. The math is doorway to a different world, however; a Narnia or Wonderland where we can learn how to control what those laws can do. Math is the language we use to share the workings of the world, and we can use it create and discover new things.
Math can be a terrifying sight to the newcomer though. It's full of things like imaginary numbers, logarithms, and differential equations. Statistical Mechanics is no different really. I'm focusing today on Boltzmann's entropy equation, which is the product of a constant and the natural logarithm of probability. Feel free to scratch your head.
Ludwig Boltzmann was one the first people to give real weight to the idea of atoms. In works like Statistical Mechanics, he discusses how large complex mechanisms are made up of smaller individual processes. This lead to the idea that something like entropy was the result of the random movements of sub-atomic particles. He derived his equation entropy is equal to k(lnW) to explain the motion of this particles. K is what is now called Boltzmann's constant, W is the potential movement of the particles, and ln is a natural logarithm. Now everybody in the room say it with me: WTF? It's a logarithm of probability? Seriously? Shit.
This is that scary thing I talked about earlier. After staring at this for a couple of weeks now, I can say that logarithms are not hard if you understand exponents. Log 10 is equal to 1. Another way to say this is 10 to the first power is equal to 10. ln is a natural log, so instead of base 10, it's base of e.
Now that you have a very basic rundown on logarithms, it's kind of easy to see why we need it for entropy. If entropy increases due to energy, and some of the increase in energy is due to entropy, then the growth of entropy is exponential. This exponent is dependent on the potential movement of molecules. It is potential because we have no way of predicting their exact movements as the energy increases. It's that drunken walk in probability. What I'm trying to get at is this: the growth is exponential due to the crazy movements of some sub-atomic particles. We find this exponent by taking the log of their potential energy.
OK, deep breath. The total entropy comes when you multiply this exponent with Boltzmann's constant. The constant is the relationship of of absolute temperature and kinetic energy in a molecule of a perfect gas. But really, it's (1.3807 times 10 to the negitive 23 power) joules per kelvin. Isn't that simple? If you just combine all these factors, you can chart the growth of entropy of an isolated system.
Back up a moment, isolated system? Yeah that's right, isolated system. The reason why you should be cursing Boltzmann and physics right now is because a truly isolated system is theortical. Boltzmann even says that in his paper. There is always another system that heat transfer is going on with, usually it's air. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why physics frustrates me sometimes. The equations that meant to be used with real things are based on theoretical things. I'm gonna stop and lie down before my brain explodes.
I can't stay mad though. This hobby helps my understanding of the world. I wonder if this writings will help anyone else.