When Does A Person Start To Boil?

It's hot. I know, I know.

But, have you ever wondered how much heat you can take?

232 years ago, three British gentlemen decided to find out.

Drawing of a sweating man.
Robert Krulwich/NPR

They designed a room, sealed it off, and heated it to 211 degrees, that's one degree shy of water-boiling hot.

What would happen, they wondered, if they stepped in and stayed? Could they take 211 degrees? How about 212? How about higher?

At what point does a person start to boil? These were very daring gentlemen. And just to make it more interesting, they brought three other "subjects" into the room:

  • A raw egg.
  • A raw steak.
  • A live dog.

Who or what boils first?

Steak and egg
Robert Krulwich/NPR

Bernd Heinrich, biologist and science writer, told me this totally true story, which doesn't turn out like you'd think.

Here's the tale, as told (a couple of summers ago) on Morning Edition.

So, to everyone's surprise, this "When Will I Boil?" experiment became a lesson in the Extraordinary Importance of Sweat.

Here's the same tale, commissioned for the radio-impaired among you, folks who prefer to see as well as listen. It comes from cartoonist/animator Lev Yilmaz.

He made it just for us.

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