Solids and Particles

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                                            Solids and Particles
“Your science and my science are so different.”
“Science is science.”
“If I’m right, you say that all things are made up of molecules which are made of atoms, which have different parts, with lots of space between them.”
“Good.  You’ve been listening.”
“So, why can’t you push a bar of iron into a marble counter top?”
“You know, solids just are that.”
“Until you cook it.”
“You can melt something, then melt something else and then stir them.”
“I was hoping for some other answer.”
“Like?”
The woman was stirring sugar into her coffee while he toasted bread and took out the jam.  A white lab jacket hung on the back of her chair. 
He was wearing cut off blue jeans and a blue t-shirt. “What would happen if we could squish molecules, or atoms, together into all that space between the particles.”
“You brain is telling you that the particles are like a room of balloons, with space between them, and you want to add a different color of balloons.”
“Yes.  Seems about right.”
“There’s resistance in some of those particles, sort of like a territorial pit bull, not allowing ‘stuff’ into those spaces.”
“So, the balloon colors don’t blend.”
“You can apply an electric current to meld two solid metals together.  But that’s surface to surface bond, like the layers of a coin.   You can swirl two gases or liquids together, but no, you can’t squish two molecules or atoms of different or even similar substances into each other.  Otherwise the world would collapse, or all substances would blend.  There’d be no differentiation, which our world so depends on.”
“I agree that we need metal, and stone, and cloth, and plants, and skin and bone, insects as well as cows.  It’s just that the science of it boggles my brain.  All that space inside what is solid.”
She sighed and sipped her coffee.
He handed her toast on a paper towel and started two more for himself, then sat across from her.”
She chewed a bite of toast and swallowed.  “Somedays, me too.  We are barely understanding how things go together, and the rules of it are sometimes way beyond us.  We’re just beginning to grasp particle physics.  It hasn’t been all that long ago that the periodical table of elements was established, and then only by inference. We’ve now filled in most of the blanks, though some of the elements don’t hang around for long.”
He sipped on his cup and then stood for his toast, buttered it, jammed it and took a bite.  “Some men are really smart, to be able to do that.  I mean, I know about the periodical table, every school child does.  I don’t think I understand the changes to it.”
“It has to do with properties, densities…”
“I know, I just haven’t studied it a lot, and I haven’t been in a classroom for ten years.”
“The table was modified to accommodate newer elements, just discovered, either natural or made in the lab, and a better understanding of all their properties.”
“So, you cook stuff up in the lab, do you?”
“Not like the alchemist of old, but yeah, sort of.”
“So, our jobs are similar in a certain respect.”
“I guess.”
He attempted to counter the skepticism. “I try various combinations.  Some work, some don’t, and sometimes one of us has a breakthrough that changes things forever.”
“I suppose.  Birdseye with his freezing schemes.  Graham with his health flour.   I suppose even cakes, cookies, and custards are developed by experimentation.”
“Yeah.  You talk about applying heat to melt things, and then stir them together.  As chefs, we try to meld flavors without changing texture too much.  It takes a deft hand, but a really bold and imaginative mind to come up with something beyond sautéing peppers and onions with mushrooms.  Maybe we could team up like Pierre Gagnaire, the French cook and his buddy Herve This, the scientist and their culinary experiments.”
“You’re talking about the new age stuff, the foams, nitrogen ice cream, stuff like that.”
“Yes, that and finding new flavors or enhancing old ones with umami or combinations. I wonder who first cooked with tomatoes, chilies, chocolate, bacon and chocolate.”
“You are melding molecules, treating them, combining, and using humans as guinea pigs.”
“Yes.  Like I do you every day when I serve you supper.  We’re not looking for the spaces inside the atoms, I suppose, but that small space for molecules, combining them just so.”
“I love when you do specials for breakfast.  But I usually only eat toast and jam.”
“Ah, but what kind of jam?”
“Uh..  this was strawberry?”
“Strawberry with a touch of lemon, cooked with strawberry honey in place of sugar.”
“It is delicious.”
“Sugar is sugar is sugar.  My science tells me so, and the body should treat it the same, but it doesn’t.  It tastes different to us, it reacts differently with foods than cane sugar, and after it is eaten, the body is slower to metabolize it.  Science can’t tell us why.”
“What I just said.  We study particle physics, but don’t fully understand it.”
“A little heat, a little liquid like vinegar, oil, water or melted sugar and we can create thousands upon thousands of flavors and textures and thus eating experiences, often using the same ingredients.”
“Maybe I’m in the wrong branch of particles.  I should study culinary sciences.”
“We do do particles, love.  I’ll see you tonight, eh?”
“Yes.  And you can market that jam.  It’s really, really good.  Why I fell in love with you.  I don’t cook, but love to eat.”
He stood and kissed her as she went by him on the way to the door.  “And I love you for loving me, my dearest.”
 
I
 

About the Author: 
BS in Community Nutrition with minor in Organic Chemistry and BFA in Creative Writing. It will be interesting to see what the next decade holds for us in science and computers.

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