The Best Fire Protection

Baked Alaska dessert set alight. Image by Vxla on Flickr. CC BY-2.0

Baked Alaska is one of those desserts that seems like it will end in disaster.

This dessert involves covering a core of ice cream and cake with meringue and baking it at 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Really.

Who puts ice cream in a hot oven anyway?

Surely it will result in a melted mess, and you’ll be spending the next hour resentfully scrubbing out your oven.

But Baked Alaska will surprise and amaze you.

When you take this dessert out of the oven after a few minutes, you find that the meringue has cooked and slightly browned, but the ice cream underneath it is still cold and has retained its firm shape. The ice cream inside the “igloo” has remained untouched by the intense heat.

It seems miraculous, because you’d think that ice cream would melt when it came anywhere near temperatures that high. It’s not actually a miracle, however, but rather a clever application of physics. The dessert was invented in the 1800s by American physicist Benjamin Thompson, who was investigating the insulating properties of whipped egg whites.

If you want a genuine example of miraculous protection from a hot oven, you need to go the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.

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More Than Meets The Eye

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re looking at, do we?

This winter solstice is a good example of that, because tonight we’ll be able to see a particularly bright “star” in the night sky.

That is, you might assume it’s a star, but you’ll actually be seeing something quite different.

This rare “Christmas star” will actually be a planetary conjunction. The planets Jupiter and Saturn will be so closely aligned tonight that they will appear to be one ultra-bright object.

At other times, a bright “star” you see might actually be a binary star system; that is, two stars orbiting each other. Or it could be the planet Venus. You’d need to study it through a telescope, adjust your focus and consult an astronomical guide to know for sure.

The truth is, sometimes we don’t really understand what we’re seeing.

That was certainly true for many of the people who saw the baby Jesus and the star which heralded His birth.

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Feeding The Squirrels

I read a delightful fact about Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Apparently, he keeps nuts in his pockets to feed the red squirrels that live on his Balmoral estate. He so loves these little rodents that he even lets them into his house!

Prince Charles writes about the squirrels in the November 14, 2018 edition of “Country Life” magazine, which he guest-edited:

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