Now we're cooking: Ovens for a hot, crowded world

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | July 10, 2012

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The recent record hot day in Atlanta, 106 degrees, inspired an Emory staffer to bake chocolate chip cookies on his dashboard. Photo by Stephen Beehler.

As a heat wave bakes the eastern United States, nearly 2.4 million people who are accustomed to pressing a button to alter the air around them have been left without power. It’s a good time to think about all the people who live their whole lives without modern-day appliances, and how the burgeoning human population, climate change and declining resources are converging into a recipe for disaster.

Every branch of science will be needed to solve this simmering stew of problems, says Emory physicist Sidney Perkowitz. For a recent issue of Physics World, he writes about the history of stoves and ovens, and how physics is tackling some of the environmental and resource usage issues associated with cooking.

"Despite the rapid development of cooking technology and its gastronomic application since 1800," Perkowitz writes, "two to three billion people worldwide, mostly in developing countries, still eat food prepared by the ancient method of cooking over open fires or in rudimentary stoves fed by solid fuel – wood, agricultural residue, animal dung and sometimes coal.

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