24 December 2009

How to Boil and Accessorize Eggs

I have continued to obsess over soft boiled eggs (I'm making one RIGHT NOW). Yesterday I went to Koontz Hardware in West Hollywood while I was waiting for my friends and they had a pathetic selection of egg cups. So I went to Etsy which sadly didn't have the selection I dreamed it would. But there were a few awesome handmade egg cups, and also several people making custom knitted "egg hats," or "egg cozies." The hats keep your soft boiled egg warm in its egg cup until you are ready to eat it. Naturally I need one. I plan on hitting the yarn this afternoon (an egg hat seems easy enough, right?). My egg is ready.

Mmmmm, yum. So on another note, I was looking up soft boiled egg suggestions this morning and I got to a blog called "Ask Mr. Breakfast Mr. Breakfast blogged the following:

"I'm not a scientist, in the pompous go-to-science-college sense of the word, but I have a theory. Egg shells are what those fancy scientists call "porous". Basically, that means it has tiny microscopic holes that allow the egg to absorb air. I believe that the air that enters the egg over time creates - what I call - "a little wall of air" between the egg and its shell. Super fresh eggs have hardly any little wall of air at all. Therefore, the egg is all smooshed up against the shell. In the end, it's like a shoe. A tight shoe is hard to remove. A shoe with some room slips right off. Wow, maybe I am a scientist. Is there a test I can take?"

This really got my hackles up. Is that what some people see as science? A "pompous," "go-to-college" thing? I mean nothing against college, I think a higher education is something to be valued, but that's not what science is. Nor is there some "test" that makes one a scientist. As long as science is used in everyday conversation to mean something separated from what we do every day, something associated with old white men in lab coats who are "pompous" something is definitely wrong.

Jay Lemke, a prominent science education researcher with a PhD theoretical physics, puts it this way:

"Why does this mystique of science exist in our society? Whose interests does it serve to maintain that science provides absolute, objective truths whose proofs are accessible only to experts who are much smarter than the average person? I have already suggested that it is not just scientists themselves who benefit from this image. Those I have called "technocrats," professional managers and decision makers who justify their own preferences with selective interpretations of "the facts" and "expert knowledge," benefit far more and are far more dangerous to society. They are dangerous because they disguise their own privileged interests as objective public and institutional policy. They tell us that something must be done because the facts require it. The facts, they say, are provided by the experts, the scientists, and no one who is not a qualified expert has the right to dispute them. In this way, narrow interests are made to seem objective necessities, and policy debate excludes most of the people whose lives will be affected by a decision. That is dangerous. A complex society is headed for disaster when its basic decisions are made solely within the frame of reference of a small elite (From Talking Science, 1990, Ablex Publishing, pg 148)."

P.S. A fresh egg is difficult to peel due to the higher acidity of the egg. Because the egg shell is porous (well done Mr. Breakfast, that is indeed what the "fancy scientists" call it) it loses some of the carbon dioxide in the white over time as air passes through the pores. Less carbon dioxide means lower acidity (corresponding to a higher pH) meaning that the white is less likely to stick to the shell and the egg is easier to peel.

Also check out this formula for soft boiling eggs from the University of Exeter School of Physics
For those who are as nerdy as I am, the derivation is here.

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