It’s a mystery

05Nov10

When I was a nipper, there seemed to be lots of maths/science programmes on the telly. Johnny Ball, Magnus Pike, David Bellamy, Patrick Moore – they were always staring at the sky, pointing at an easel with a snooker cue, squeezing fistfuls of mud or explaining to small people with pudding-bowl haircuts, tiny jumpers and VAST flares why kettles go quiet just before the water boils (I can’t remember – something about the way the bubbles burst).

Tomorrow’s World was just before (or just after, that memory’s hazy too) Top of the Pops, so we were regularly informed of new inventions. There were two that I particularly remember: one was a way to protect us from global warming/ozone depletion. It involved spraying lots of stuff into the atmosphere to create a fake atmosphere, some sort of cosmic sunhat. Although, in a moment of untypical hesitancy, the presenter suggested it might not be a total winner because it would turn the sky from blue to white… forever.

The other one was about this fantastic oven thing that looked a bit like a rotisserie (rotisseries, eh? What a wasteful, greasy palaver they turned out to be) but that cooked your food really quickly, without needing heat. Clearly there was witchcraft afoot. This thing worked by vibrating the molecules in the food using “Micro-Waves”. The motion of the molecules generated friction, friction made heat, and bob’s your uncle, your Bejam hotpot would be ready in a trice. Ooh, I recall thinking, whatever about spraying stuff into the air, that rotisserie thing looks brilliant.

Judith Hann, it was, I’m sure. What with her being a lady, she could do the cooking stuff (though in fairness, they weren’t too bad about the sexist ghettoes on TW. Not like Blue Peter).

Anyway, I was thinking about old Judith and her vibrating molecules last night as I was whipping up a light collation of beans on toast. Would you like the recipe? Toast some bread. Blop the baked beans into a (non-metallic) bowl and put them in the “Micro-Wave” rotisserie, twist the dial and wait. Peer through the window in the door at the humming, rotating bowl. Recall that you’re sure, absolutely POSITIVE, that Judith said unlike conventional convection ovens, “Micro-Waves” produce heat in the core, radiating out. Also that the looser the molecules, the faster they zip around and generate heat, meaning liquids heat faster than solids. So why in the buggering bloody hell does this oven seem to work by heating the receptacle to finger-melt, in turn bringing the peripheral sauce to boiling, but leaving the beans in the centre cold?

I bet Judith would know. ‘Deer Mrs Han I am yore bigest fan and I love Tommorows World…’

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