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How to Cook a Steak by Dropping it From Space

January 16 2013 - 9:01 AM

While I am a fly-by-night foodie, my day job is that of PhD student in physics. As such, I (a) am quite a dork, and (b) tend to think a lot in numbers. Therefore, one of my favorite spots on the internet is the webcomic XKCD and its subsite, What if?.

What if? takes ridiculously silly questions from readers such as, “If you went outside and lay down on your back with your mouth open, how long would you have to wait until a bird pooped in it?”, and answers with a straight face and the full weight of science.

The most recent post on the site, though, may be of particular interest to Chicago Foodies. A reader asks, “From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” In a nutshell, an object falling from the sky compress the air in front of it which in turn causes it to heat up. (Think about reentering space shuttles or meteorites).

The punchline? This is a terrible way to cook a steak unless you like Pittsburgh rare… and you can only get that if you drop it from space.

So, while I don’t expect to see this popping up on Moto’s next menu, I do get giddy over seeing someone honestly try to assess the structural integrity of an 8 oz. sirloin as it travels twice the speed of sound, or the likelihood that it is partially frozen and shatters upon impact.

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