Is It Hot Enough to Cook an Egg on the Watergate Roof? Yes.

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You may have heard that it has been hot here on the east coast for the past week. It's been so persistently hot that media organizations across the land have been forced to try their hand at one of The Atlantic Wire's eight ways to cover a heat wave. Friday afternoon at The Atlantic's HQ inside the Watergate complex, we were debating what the best way to cook an egg on the roof would be. The Internet could not tell us what we wanted to know. We had to engage in a little hands-on learning.

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The Atlantic has a rich tradition of science-loving writers. If I recall correctly, It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "The lessons of science should be experimental also. The sight of a planet through a telescope is worth all the course on astronomy; the shock of the electric spark in the elbow outvalues all theories; the taste of the nitrous oxide, the firing of an artificial volcano, are better than volumes of chemistry."

Who wouldn't agree that "the taste of nitrous oxide" was better than a couple semesters of orgo?

So, infused with the spirit of our ancestral colleagues, fellow editors Garance Franke-Ruta and Derek Thompson decided to join me in an impromptu science experiment. We tested several methods of cooking eggs on the roof as new video editor Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg watched. We bought pie tins and glass jars and tin foil. Garance dug up this lovely Library of Congress webpage about frying eggs on the sidewalk. Derek relied on his native elvin charm and good luck. I thought I had the edge because I'd read about solar cookers and hot water heaters.

As you'll see in the video, by and large, we only succeeded in cooking ourselves. The more elaborate the cooking vessel, the less efficacious it became. After several hours of failure, I was ready to give up and declare that no matter what you do, you can't cook eggs on our roof.

Finally, in a fit of desperation, I cracked an egg straight onto the cement and went back downstairs to finish a post. About that time, a wind kicked up and, when we back up to check on our eggs for the final time, it had splattered an egg on a wrought iron table, where it cooked quite nicely. As for the egg on the cement, it cooked so thoroughly that I spent more than a few minutes scrubbing yolk off the ground.

There are three lessons here. One, don't try science at home. Two, mother nature always wins, one way or another. And three, it is hot enough to cook an egg on the roof of The Watergate, should you find yourself there for some reason in need of protein.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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