I’m not sure he intended this, but I’m finding Randall Munroe’s weekly “What If” articles more interesting than his regular comics. This week’s article, on if you can cook a steak by dropping it from a great height is not just interesting (in a “hey, you can win a bar bet from this” sort of way) but wickedly funny (in a “wait, that was like three jokes smashed into one sentence” sort of way). It helps if you’re a geek already, but even if you aren’t, how can you read this and not chuckle at least once?
At supersonic and hypersonic speeds, a shockwave forms around the steak which helps protect it from the faster and faster winds. The exact characteristics of this shock front—and thus the mechanical stress on the steak—depend on how an uncooked 8 oz. filet tumbles at hypersonic speeds. I searched the literature, but was unable to find anything to help me estimate this.
For the sake of this simulation, I assume that at lower speeds some type of vortex shedding creates a flipping tumble, while at hypersonic speeds it’s squished into a semi-stable spheroid shape. However, this is little more than a wild guess. If anyone puts a steak in a hypersonic wind tunnel to get better data on this, please, send me the video.
“I searched the literature…”? Come on, people, that’s funny!
Oh, and there is every chance in the world that a group of scientists somewhere will read that article and put an uncooked 8 oz. steak filet in a wind-tunnel, then publish the results, just to Randall can have better data. It won’t happen tomorrow, but I’ll bet you there are people who are trying to book time in a hypersonic wind tunnel right now.