# Boiling an egg at high altitude

1. Jan 19, 2010

### Jan Hill

1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
an egg boiled for 4 minutes at the top of a mountain does not harden
2. Relevant equations

3. The attempt at a solution

pressure is lower at the top of a mountain than at sea level. Is the issue here the fact that pressure inside the egg does not build up sufficiently to harden it at the top of the mountain where in fact, it's necessary to use temperatures greater than 100 degrees Celsius to cook it

2. Jan 19, 2010

### mgb_phys

Not quite.
Whats the highest temperature you can heat water to (in an open container)
What happens to this temperature at altitude?

3. Jan 19, 2010

### Jan Hill

the highest temp for water in an open container is 100 degrees Celsius and I don't know what happens to this temp at altitude

4. Jan 19, 2010

### DaveC426913

As an extreme: how hard is it to boil water in outer space? Why?

5. Jan 19, 2010

### Jan Hill

no density and no pressure in space
apparently, time X temp cooks the egg
lower temp at high altitude requires more time

6. Jan 19, 2010

### Jan Hill

Thank you for your help!!

7. Jan 19, 2010

### DaveC426913

It sounds like you Googled it. Do you understand it?

8. Jan 19, 2010

### Jan Hill

Well, I do get the concept of never something for nothing and balancing a loss of temperature with an increase in amount of time needed to cook the egg.

Hey man, it's good of you to ask though.

9. Jan 19, 2010

### mgb_phys

The highest temperature you can get is boiling point (which is 100C at sea level)
Boiling point decreases with altitude, an easy way to remember this is to imagine the weight of air holding the water in the liquid - at lower pressure it's easier for the water to escape as steam and so the boiling point is lower.

Last edited: Jan 20, 2010
10. Jan 20, 2010

### LatexZone

In simple terms - Yes it's possible to boil at egg at altitude, however, it will take longer for the water to boil the egg hence acknowledgement of low pressure and less oxygen.

11. Jan 20, 2010

### DaveC426913

So, in summary, the critical bit to understand in this whole thing is that, at lower pressure water boils at a lower temperature. So, your water might only reach 90C and won't get any hotter. It's still boiling, but the egg isn't cooking as much.

12. Jan 21, 2010

### Tom Creswell

You guys are close. Cooking is a heat transfer problem. To make heat go from the hot object (boiling water) to the cold object (egg) you need a temperature difference (Th-Tc). Since water's boiling point temp is reduced at altitude, the rate of heat transfer (proportional to Th-Tc) is less. This is complicated by the fact that cold temperature TC is increasing the longer the egg is in the water.. but it will never surpass hot temperature Th.

13. Jan 21, 2010

### DaveC426913

Not sure why you need to make it more complicated. If the water never reaches 100C, it's pretty straightforward that the egg will take longer to cook.

14. Jan 23, 2010

### Staff: Mentor

Or - if you are high enough - egg will never cook. If memory serves me well somewhere below 20 km water boils at about body temperature. At 36.6 deg C egg can start to stink quite fast, but it won't solidify.

Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2013
15. Jan 23, 2010

### mgb_phys

It also means you can't make a decent cup of tea at high altitude - something which would cause a problem for the British attempt on Everest!

I was teaching this to somebody once and their reaction was to ask if mountaineers could use pressure cookers to make tea! Which means they at least understood the physics, if not much about mountaineering

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