Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Many years ago I would often prepare SpaghettiOs for lunch over the electric stove. I liked the zesty cheesey taste of the non-meatball variety's sauce, but I really liked the meatballs too. However, that was as far as I thought about it. Yeah, I knew the heating procedure. I knew that with the meatball variety I had to turn the heat down to low for a little bit before I took it off the stove, and I was told this had something to do with keeping the meatballs warm, but I didn't really understand this. I just followed orders.

Now, I don't find myself making SpaghettiO's that often. However, every once in a while I visit my parents' place, and mom will often keep SpaghettiO's on hand for the grandkids (as in, my nephews and nieces), so sometimes I indulge myself and make a can of it. However, now I actually appreciate that the meatballs heat up differently than the rest of the sauce, and you need to keep the stove on low for some time after the sauce is done in order to make sure the meatballs are nice and warm.

It actually goes a lot farther than that. You see, mom has one of those fancy shiny surface stoves that doesn't have any metal exposed. It actually has a closed-loop control system controlling the electric. As a result, rarely do things boil over. As I cook something on it, the on-off controller pulses the burners (like HVAC turning off and on to keep a house warm or cool) and I think about "DC" component of this waveform and the RMS power being delivered to the SpaghettiO's. I think this is pretty exciting.

And then, after I dump the SpaghettiO's into a bowl, I take the saucepan over to the sink and fill it with cold water. Magically, when I dump the cold water out, the water is still cold, but so is the saucepan. When I was a kid, this was just some magic of water. However, now I understand things like heat capacity, and I do know it is some "magic" with water, but I understand that magic (and how it relates to the steel in particular), and that's pretty exciting too.

Richard Feynman used to discuss how his understanding of the physical world enhanced all of the observations he made during the day. When he looked at a flower, he would be taken by its beauty just like anyone else, but he had an added respect for the cellular processes going on within the flower. He had an added respect for the material characteristics that gave the flower its texture and color and made it behave in the way it does as the season evolves. When he looked at the flower, he saw an inner-beauty as well.

Brian Greene had similar things to say. To him, the existentialist who says that an examination of the physical world is just masturbation is missing the point that a real examination of the physical world is an examination of reality itself. It's not proper to to evaluate why someone should refrain from suicide without first really understanding the physical world that gives that person a contextual reality.

And I think all of that comes back to my SpaghettiO's and the magic ability of water to cool red-hot steel in a short amount of time without itself heating to a boil. Life is "better" knowing these things. I mean, sometimes it's scarier. If you think about it, your body is fighting cancer every day as it, like some giant parliametentary government, tries to convince ALL of your cells simultaneously to resist the temptation to reproduce out of control. I mean, in that case, isn't it better to be ignorant? I dunno. It's kinda neat that it works. That's beautiful in itself, and if we appreciate that it can be done, maybe we can forsee a human population that is able to regulate its own reproduction in a similar way. That's a neat thought.

Yeah, so that's not quite an "Ode," but I couldn't resist the temptation to use the title...

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