Saturday, September 07, 2013

Mr. Science... because I know more than you....

If you are old as me you will remember that Don Herbert had a television show called, "Ask Mr. Wizard". It was my favorite show growing up. Don Herbert was a teacher come scientist who was able to create an electric motor out of a couple of forks and a spoon, or a fire extinguisher out of things you find in the kitchen.  He inspired me to become a home laboratory scientist when I was young.  However, not endowed with the same expertise nor materials as Mr. Wizard my experiments were not so successful. 
I remember  my mother was baffled by the half cooked egg she attempted to crack for my Father's breakfast one morning.  My sister  confessed that it was my attempt to hatch a chick from the egg by heating it in a frying pan. After 10 minutes in the frying pan and no chick hatching I placed the egg back in the carton.  Ten minutes seemed to be a reasonable time to make a chicken to my grade school consciousness.  
Okay, so I was not destined to become a scientist like my hero Mr. Wizard. However, I am still fascinated by the wonders of science. This brings me to this latest wonder.
Our covert hosts live at an altitude of over 8000 feet.  Our hostess was explaining the procedure to make single cups of coffee in the capsule machine.  It required a step that is not needed at sea level. 
Before inserting the capsule into the machine a hole must be punched in the top with a straightened paper clip.  
At this altitude the internal pressure of the sealed capsule causes it to "puff". If the pressure is not released before the machine pokes a hole in the top for the water, the pressure will send coffee grounds into the line and clog it up.  No where in the operating instructions does it mention that altitude might be an issue. My friend Linda said she discovered it by trial and error after exchanging three machines that didn't work.
There is another experiment you can try the next time you are on an airplane. Drink the water from one of those plastic bottles while you are in the air and seal it back up tight.  Don't let the flight attendant take it away before the plane lands.  You will have fun watching the plastic bottle implode from the pressure as the plane gets lower to the ground, it usually happens at the same time your ears pop.  
Thank you Mr. Wizard.
As you were,

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