Who left the question: What the hell was going on inside a hard-boiled egg heated in the microwave to make it explode?
The pressure theory was not maintained, because the whites of a hard-boiled egg lack the tensile strength of an egg shell or even the skin of the potato. The pressure required to produce such a violent explosion would burst through the soft targets long before reaching the point of inflection.
Nash had another theory, and fortunately, he had his own viral YouTube next. The theory was based on the principle of superheated water. As several intrepid YouTubers have shown, if you microwave a cup of water for too long, such as 10 minutes at maximum temperature, the water can reach a temperature above 100 ℃ without actually boiling.
Boiling is the process of liquid water molecules that expand into gas molecules. As they expand, they gather in vapor bubbles that rise to the surface. But for bubbles to form, there must be small specks of dust or other impurities in the water. If bubbles do not form, the excess heat has no way to escape. The surface tension of the water acts as a lid that retains the potential energy.
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All that is needed is the least alteration of the water surface: a few grains of sugar or the corner of a tea bag – and the water explodes in a violent and explosive boil, releasing all the repressed energy at the same time.
At the Acoustic Society of America Conference in New Orleans this week, Nash said the same process of overheating was working inside the yolk of an egg. When the eggs are boiled, small bubbles of water are trapped inside protein strands that tense in the yolk. When the egg is reheated, those water pockets overheat, reaching temperatures above 100 ℃, but without any boiling point.
All it takes is a hit with a fork to trigger a chain reaction that causes all the small pockets of water to boil at once.
"Once you go, take the others with him," Nash said at the ASA conference. The explosion "is a rapid expansion of the steam that comes out of the yolk."
Did we mention that we should not try this at home?