Why Do Bad Eggs Float?

By Anupum Pant

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Instead of cracking up an egg which has been stored for a long time, to end up disgusted by the ‘rotten egg smell’, or the smell of a gas called Hydrogen Sulfide, a simple and a fairly well known way to check if an egg has gone bad, is to drop it in a glass of water and see if it floats. I found out about this first, from an article written at Frugal Living, and spent some time to confirm its claims – Bad eggs float.
If you take my word for it (you should!), it really does work. The article describes this three-point test to find out if an egg is good to eat.

  1. If the egg sinks and lies on its side, it is a fresh one. It is good enough to be eaten.
  2. If it sinks and stands up on a point, or is at an angle, it is good enough. You can still use it up for making hard-cooked eggs or bake it.
  3. But, if an egg floats, it needs to be discarded.

Why does this happen?

To understand, you’ll have to think of a chick – a young chicken.

Poor Chicks: Before chickens come out of the egg, they develop lungs and need oxygen to breath. Sitting inside a sealed egg, with no cords attached, for the chick to survive, oxygen has to come in from somewhere. For that, let us look inside.

Egg Science: The outer shell of an egg has two membranes under it. When an egg is laid, it is warm and starts cooling which contracts the inner part of the egg more than the shell and pulls the two membranes apart. As a result, air gets trapped in between the membranes (not enough air initially for it to float).

How does the air come in? The shell of an egg isn’t as simple as it looks. It has about 7000 tiny pores in that shell which let the air pass in and let the carbon dioxide pass out of it. This is how the chick breathes. And the reason, eggs boiled in colored water during Easter, get colored from the inside.

So, as there are pores present in the shell, bacteria enter the egg and start decaying the biological matter inside. This produces a smelly gas (and other gases too), Hydrogen Sulfide (also present in smelly farts). The gases from this decomposition, and the air from outside, keep increasing in volume as time passes.

Corollary: This is exactly what explains these floating bad eggs – Greater the amount of gas inside, older is the egg and the better it floats in water.

Side note: Egg shells and the two membranes inside have the ability to stop the invasion of micro-organisms and bacteria, but over time bacteria manage to enter.

Pope John XXI – A Man of God and Science

by Anupum Pant

Pope John XXI was the only pope ever, who had an illustrious medical career alongside his work as a theologian. He was also a fruitful writer, who wrote on subjects like logic, physics, philosophy and medicine. Before being elected as a Pope, he served as personal physician to Pope Gregory.

In medicine, he contributed towards great advances in female reproductive system and wrote about a few remarkably effective methods of birth control, during times when the Catholic Church condemned contraception. He also taught medicine at the University of Siena.

As men with thoughts ahead of their time are always labeled as heretics, John was also called a magician after his death. His death was announced to have been caused by “an act of god”.

The unfortunate accident

His brief papacy [of 8 months, 1276-77] ended with a tragic accident:

As a man of the science, he dabbled in astronomy and had a special room built in the papal palace. He loved spending hours in this special room, where he could observe the stars at night. It was in this room, where he sustained severe injuries, when the roof of his palace collapsed. He died six days later (on May 20, 1277).

Stephen Hawking’s interpretation

In 1277, Pope John XXI’s declared ‘laws of nature’ to be heresy because they conflicted with God’s omnipotence. Several years later, Hawking and Mlodinow, with their book, The Grand Design, caused quite a stir when they wrote – “Pope John was killed by the effects of the law of gravity a few months later when the roof of his palace fell in on him“.

Bonus Death Fact: Jack Daniel, the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery, died in very peculiar manner:

Unable to open the safe in his office, Mr. Jack kicked it in frustration. This blow broke his toe and infection set in, leading to his untimely death in 1911. – [Source]

10 Fancy Units of Measurement

by Anupum Pant

There exist a few unusual units of measurement which you must have never heard of, or would have never thought of them as units until now. Here is a list of 10 of the many fancy units of measurement.

Note: These units are not official. They’re often used for their humor value or for simplicity’s sake):

1. Car length – It is not a very unusual unit of measurement and is used normally to mention the braking distance of a vehicle. Deriving its length from a typical car’s length, 4 meters is referred as one “car length”. You must have heard one spy advising another spy to keep a 2 car length distance from a vehicle to avoid detection.

2. Nanoacres – A measure of area which is equal to about 4 sq.mm (4.0468564224 sq.mm exactly). It is the area of a single VLSI chip which is square in shape and measures 2 mm on each side. This unit is widely popular as a joke among electronic engineers – who often are known to make quips about VLSI nanoacres having costs in the same range as real acres.

3. Grave – It is a unit that measures mass and equals 1 kilogram or 1000 grams. Grave was set to be the standard unit of mass for the metric system, but it was replaced by kilogram in 1799. [read more about it]

4. Moment – Moment is actually something that was used to measure 90 seconds during the Medieval times. But for modern times, the Hebrew calendar’s definition of moment makes more sense. According to it, a moment is equal to 5/114 of a second or around 0.0438  seconds. [read more]

5. Jiffy – Jiffy is used popularly as an informal time in English. Think of someone saying “I’ll be back in a jiffy”. But, we’ve never thought of it as a unit. Also, every field has a different definition of Jiffy.

  • Early usage – 33.35 picoseconds or the time take by light to travel 1 cm.
  • Electronics – 1/50th or 1/60th of a second, depending on the AC power supply frequency.
  • Computing – Typically anything between 1 millisecond to 10 millisecond. Commonly: 10 ms.
  • Animation – The time interval between each frame of a dot GIF file or 1/100th of a second or 10 ms.
  • Physics/Chemistry – Time taken by light to travel 1 Fermi or 3X10^-24 seconds.

6. Dog Year – Based on a popular myth that dog’s age can be calculated in human years by multiplying it with 7. So, a single Dog year comes to around 52 days (365/7 – Days in a human year divided by 7)

7. A Bible – Used as measure of digital data volumes. It is like measuring the size of a disk in number of movies it can fit which I used in this article. A single Bible in uncompressed 8-bits, has around 4.5 million characters and 150 of them can be stored in a single CD. Hence, a bible can be measured to be approximately equal to 4.67 Megabytes. Similarly,  Encyclopedia Britannica and Library of Congress are used to represent much larger data volumes.

8.  Kardashian – Yes, it is named after the 72 day marriage of  Kim Kardashian to Kris Humphries. Of course, it measures 72 days of marriage. So, a 25 year marriage would amount to around 126.7 Kardashians.

9. Wheaton – Used to measure the number of twitter followers relative to the popular celebrity Will Wheaton. This became a standard when he had 0.5 million Twitter followers. Today, Will Wheaton himself has 4.88 Wheatons. I, for instance, with 210 followers, have about 0.00042 Wheatons.

10. Warhol – Derived from the widely used expression coined by Andy Warhol – “15 minutes of fame” – 1 Warhol measures exactly what you’d expect it to – 15 minutes of fame. Yes, it measures the amount of fame.
Consequently, 1 kilowarhol is equal to 15,000 minutes of fame or 10.42 days and 1 megawarhol measures 15 million minutes of fame or about 28.5 years.