Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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40 Pounds of Physics

Most people think of physics as an abstract, advanced topic.  But there are aspects of physics which are very useful in everyday life.

We have a 40-pound block of frozen chicken parts in the kitchen sink.  Now, we don't need to cook it all at once, so simply thawing the whole thing is out.  That means reducing it, somehow, to smaller pieces.  Those can then be bagged and dropped in the freezer where the mostly-still-frozen meat will solidify just fine.

So far we have used our knowledge of leverage (an oyster knife, and balancing the thing over the sink spine for better access), thermodynamics (temperature shifts of how things thaw), weathering (water in a crack will accelerate breakdown), geometric physics (surface-to-mass ratio), and general problem-solving skills.  These are all aspects that can be observed through direct experience, whether or not one also knows the math behind them.  I don't need to calculate anything.  What I need to know is which part of the block will loosen first (the corners or edges) and how to break off parts of it (search for cracks, insert oyster knife, and pry).

This is just such a wonderful, concise and concrete application of multiple facts and processes.  It reminds me of doing kitchen science with my mother when I was little, because she'd talk about how and why things worked.  So when I was confronted with a solid block of cluck, I was able to talk through various options to solve the problem.  With physics!

I can just see a Terramagne-American home economics teaching bringing in blocks of chicken for her students to figure out ways of breaking down.  It's not a problem with "one right answer," it's about attacking the challenge from as many angles as you can think of and observing which ones work best. 
Tags: personal, science
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