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So Hot, You Could Fry an Egg

By Bill Nye | Published: July 11, 2010 – 8:05 pm

Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming?

This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called “Climategate.” Along with these serious subjects, an egg got fried on a sidewalk.

As you may know, I strongly believe humans are making our world warm. The egg on the sidewalk provided me with a chance to talk about the fundamentals of heat transfer and about our changing climate.

I commented briefly that indeed Climategate was much ado about very little. The scientists were proven to not be hiding anything, and so on. Unfortunately it nearly derailed the real climate conference in Copenhagen. Several minutes later at the end of her show, journalist Campbell Brown showed some video of one of her CNN producers taking a shot at cooking an egg on a New York sidewalk.  He had a bit of trouble, but I think he got the idea across. It’s hot back east, very hot.

Using my radiant thermometer (pyrometer, such a word!), I satisfied myself that an egg on a griddle cooks well if the griddle is around 125 Celsius (260 Fahrenheit). Doing a bit more messing around, I found that an egg will cook on a surface that’s only 55 Celsius (130 Fahrenheit). It just takes time – almost 20 minutes. So indeed, it can be hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

The little hand-held radiant thermometer is upside down, but it shows around 53.8 Celsius. This took about 22 minutes to cook under ideal cast iron skillet sidewalk temperatures. Along with the temperature, we need the pavement to hold a lot of heat (high thermal capacity). Sometimes the sidewalk isn't hot enough through and through; it depends on the pavement. Sure; try it...

I can tell you from experience in the airplane electronics industry that you can, for just a moment, put your hand on a metal surface that’s around 65 Celsius, about 150 Fahrenheit. Much above that, and you can’t leave your hand there for more than an instant. You may have found yourself walking on a hot sidewalk or on hot sand, and you can just barely stand it (pun intended). That’s the temperature we’re talking about.

If you want to try this, please do. Post a picture on my Facebook page. Some more advice: use a little olive oil or butter on the sidewalk or street. This allows more heat to flow into the egg. This is “conduction” of heat. Then, use an egg “ring” to keep things under control while the egg gets hot. You get your egg rings (if you don’t already have ‘em) in the gadget section of a grocery store or cooking specialty shop.

The science to discover or keep in mind is that the sidewalk can get hotter, much hotter, than the air. The air this week was around 40 C (a little over 100 F). But the egg cooking area was a bit hotter than that because it’s not only heated by the air, it’s heated by sunlight, or sun-heat. It was heated by convection with the air, and by radiation of the sun. Black surfaces do indeed get hotter than not-so-dark surfaces. Asphalt gets hotter than cement. Hot enough to fry an egg. Oil helps conduct heat into the egg.

For me, this has everything to do with climate change. Everyone should keep in mind that if we made every black street a pale color, like white, or close to white, the world would indeed cool off. If we did indeed embrace solar hotwater systems for our houses and buildings, we would pump out much smaller amounts of greenhouse gasses.

If you’re a young or young-at-heart engineer or entrepreneur, consider coming up with an economical pale pavement material and getting rich! Same with a standardized solar hot water system. Rich! I tell you!

Two more good ideas. Think about it over fried egg, your poached egg, your egg salad sandwich, and your soufflé.

Let’s change the world,

Bill

25 Responses to “So Hot, You Could Fry an Egg”

  1. Kelly Bowron says:

    Brilliant! We live in Doha Qatar and have definitely had some egg frying temps lately! I tried it today just out of curiosity but it didn’t work. I did not use oil, nor did we use the hotest spot. I’ll take my boys out tomorrow afternoon and give it another try! Thanks Bill! We love you and as homeschoolers own so,so, so many of your Dvd’s!

  2. Steven says:

    Great post Bill. Love the idea for the young-at-heart entrepreneur. Keep up the great work.

  3. Jessica says:

    Hi, I think there is going to be a time when men are going to have to build tunnels for us humans to just walk outside from one building to another! you all may think I am nuts but if the world keeps getting hotter, humans will not be able to stand the heat so, instead of us being able to go out into a bright beautiful sunny day we are going to have to hide from that bright and hot sunny day. It may not be in the next twenty years but if the world is around long enough this will come to pass, I probably will not be alive but remember these words that you may think are coming from a crazy lady at the moment. and may God have mercy on us all!

  4. SPC Rivero says:

    I’ve so done this in Iraq took 5 minutes! and it didnt taste so bad either..

  5. SPC Rivero says:

    I\’ve so done this in Iraq took 5 minutes! and it didnt taste so bad either..

  6. lizzie lynn says:

    Bill, I love this article. i am going to try this when I get home!

  7. Bobby Joe says:

    Hello! Bill, this is a wonderful article. I bet that egg tasted good! I’m going to go home and cook myself some sidewalk egg!

  8. kelly brown says:

    hello, Bill! I enjoyed reading this article.

  9. fred Riggs says:

    Yes, this whole area of using colored materials to save energy would be fairly easy to implement. In summer there could be pull-down, white (maybe even glossy) window shades mounted on the *outside* of house windows,…. facing in all directions (except north). Mounting these shades outside first floor windows might give way to theft issues [of the shades], (but upper floors would work well) or spend extra money for a small motor to raise and lower the shades (especially on windows that can not be opened). They would need to be made of fairly heavy material —> to ‘hold up to’ weathering and wind (or have something attached to the shades,….holding them in place from the bottom)… open the window and pull down the shade and attach it to the house to hold it in place. A ‘stick on’ white, glossy, fairly thin material, would also work OK (even if it was stuck-on the panes of glass on the *inside* of the window pane).
    In winter (for use on sunny days) people could install pull-down blinds (or ‘shades’) that could be purchased in a black, absorbent color, with felt like texture. These should be set back from the windows maybe 3-5 inches allowing the heated air to be saved / and to allow for upward flow, of the heated air, near the window (inside the room). Another more difficult option is to put a black surface on the floor covering the whole area to be exposed to the sunlight during the course of the day. This black material (to be used inside the house) should be made from naturally dyed, non toxic materials, such as felt or some other naturally derived material so as not to give way to off-gassing of bad molecules, excited into the room’s air…….caused by the sunlight that it would be subjected to all day long.
    =================================================================
    Note for Bill:

    Bill; I truly admire your dedication to science and I respect your depth of knowledge. I graduated with a degree in science education (from Oswego State College in New York State). Like you, I admire and thank some of my science teachers (especially from high school –> ie. Harold Whitebread).

    I taped almost all of your Science Guy programs years ago (when I was teaching in New York State). Now I teach in China. I learned that you have been to Beijing. Welcome back to China and you are welcome in my classroom anytime.

    Sincerely;
    Wayne Fred Riggs
    Qujing Normal University
    Yunnan, China

    Can you imagine a material that could be used on the outside of houses that would be black during the seasons with cold temperatures, and turn white during the hot days ?

  10. Julie Thomas says:

    Bill,
    I love you Bill. Today I was doing a recap of the last ten years of my life and what I learned in school. It was very hard for me to remember. To be honest I learned more from TV like the Discovery and History chanell oh and PBS. I put a post on my face book that said what every happend to Bill Nye? Oh man the comments kept on a comming. It was great! And then my friend Louis Broome informed me that my dear friend Jenny his wife worked with you and theirfore he sent me to this site. I and many from Arlington Texas miss you so very much. I would love to see you agian. You made a huge inpact on me and my desire to want to learn about what is around us. Have a creative journey through life Bill. We love you down here in Texas!
    Love Always,
    Julie Lynn Thomas

  11. [...] Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming? This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called ?Climategate.? Along with these Read More > [...]

  12. [...] Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming? This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called ?Climategate.? Along with these Read More > [...]

  13. [...] Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming? This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called ?Climategate.? Along with these Read More > [...]

  14. [...] Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming? This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called ?Climategate.? Along with these Read More > [...]

  15. [...] Can it be so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Is a hot sidewalk evidence of global warming? This week, I was asked to comment on the big heat wave along the east coast of North America and the resolution of the scandal that came to be called ?Climategate.? Along with these Read More > [...]

  16. Leonard Gilbert says:

    I agree with you….It is an absolute fact that the Earth is experiencing…”WARMING”. We are having Global Warming. We know we are by the fact that the Earth experienced…”COOLING”. We have referred to that experience as the “ICE AGE”.
    Where I disagree is….Mankind didn’t cause Global Cooling…ergo…Mankind can’t stop Global Warming.
    Face the fact….the Earth is simply going back to normal and the warming process is speeding up because the melting process is speeding up… the less ice we have the warmer it gets.

  17. Rashida Saima says:

    Hey Bill, your article was amazing.I wish I could fry an egg on the sidewalk but I live in New York where it doesn\’t get that hot. Plus , my parents won\’t let me do that.

  18. dooyeon says:

    wow ^^ itcool bill……………………………………………………………………..

  19. [...] Last week on Independence Day, July 4th, it was 100° F (38° C) where I  live, as it was for most of the week, and it seemed you could fry an egg.  Is that really possible? Here, Bill Nye suggested that you might try it: So Hot, You Could Fry an Egg [...]

  20. knowah says:

    We used to do this as a kid, 25 years ago.

  21. elizabeth says:

    Wow I think it is such a cool expirement. Bill Nye, your the best science teacher I ever had.

  22. Ashton says:

    I am doing a science experiment on whether or not this is possible and I have been doing some research and this has been really helpful! I have found a lot of people saying that it doesn’t get hot enough but a lot of people don’t live in Phoenix where 100 degrees is average during the summer!

  23. [...] If you have some time on your hands, it might even be hot enough to fry an egg on a blacktop driveway. [...]

  24. [...] If you have some time on your hands, it might even be hot enough to fry an egg on a blacktop driveway. [...]

  25. Edward Donovan says:

    I’m not entirely sure what you are trying to prove here, but in your pseudoscience video, you use the phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. How is frying an egg on the sidewalk extraordinary proof of anything beyond “concrete can get hot when the sun shines on it”?

    I could just as easily pour a bucket of water on it and claim that since the earth is 75% water, it won’t matter how hot the concrete gets because there’s a way to cool it.

    And next time fry some bacon with it.

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