OK, the title may be a bit dramatic but since moving to North Carolina there is one pressing issue that has caught my attention.

Like so many, I love my coffee in the morning. I watch the sun slowly waking up my world as the coffee slowly wakes me up; it really is one of my favorite things. Because of this, I decided a while back to take my coffee making to another level. I purchased a French press. 

For those who don’t know, to use a French press one needs ground coffee and boiling water. The coffee is placed in the carafe followed by boiling water.  A screen/filter/plunger is then used to push the grounds down, thus allowing this barista to enjoy his coffee!  

Upon arriving in North Carolina, however, I found a glitch in the system. Water seems to take FOREVER to boil here! I know a watched pot never boils but this is a little ridiculous. How did the move to North Carolina change a seemingly simple operation?

It turns out there is quite a large difference, a little more than 3,500 feet to be exact. As a child I heard people taking about high altitude cooking directions and I thought they were crazy—up until now. As I agonize over the extra minutes of not having my coffee, I can’t help but think more about this.  

We moved from an elevation of 4,100 feet above sea level to an elevation of 564 feet above sea level. What this boils down to is the temperature at which water boils. I was taught it boiled at 212 degrees F or 100 degrees C and this is true, under specific circumstances. One of these is to be at sea level. The higher the elevation, the lower the temperature at which water boils.  In fact, every 500 feet lowers the boiling temperature by about 1 degree F.

In doing the calculation, this means water boils at 204 degrees F in our previous home, Helena Montana.  Eight degrees may not seem like that much of a difference, but when you are waiting on your coffee, I assure you it feels like hours!

Pressure is responsible for disrupting my morning coffee procedure. At sea level there is about 14.696 pounds of pressure per square inch pushing on you, water, everything. The amount of pressure in Helena (depending on where you are standing) is around 12.228 pounds.

We are accustomed to feeling the air “pushing” on us so we do not notice it unless we change elevations quickly–like driving over a mountain pass or flying in an airplane.

This affects the boiling point of water because at the higher elevations, water molecules are not held together as tightly as they are under the more weight.

Having come to the realization that there is really nothing I can do to make my water boil faster, I have given up my French press. That and I broke it, but still, lesson learned! C’est la vie!

Kyle Hunter is afterschool coordinator for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

06 Dec 2011
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I recently donated blood for the first time. It was an interesting experience because, not only did I feel like I did something good, it also raised a lot of questions.

To donate blood, they stick you in the arm with a needle that is connected to a tube that takes the blood from your body to a collection bag.  I was watching my blood flow into the bag when I wondered, if I am donating a pint of blood, how, where, and when will I replenish what I am donating to get back to my body’s normal supply of about 10–12 pints?

When they took my blood, they took whole blood which includes red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. 

All of the components of whole blood are made in bone marrow, the flexible tissue found inside hollow bones like our skull, sternum and pelvis.   Interestingly, each type of blood cell has a different life span. Red blood cells, for instance, can last for four months whereas platelets only survive about nine days. 

Under normal conditions, one’s donated pint of blood is completely replenished in about 6 – 8 weeks, and when one is healthy and well prepared, there’s really nothing to it. 

When I had finished giving my blood, I felt pretty good and walked to the “recovery room” which consisted of tables with pizza, soda, cookies, and candy. I sat down and started talking with my friends. All of the sudden my head started spinning and I did not feel so good!  I tried to shake it off but  the next thing I knew I was in being laid down on the ground in someone’s arms with them yelling, “Kyle, Kyle!” 

As I said, this was my first time donating blood. 

I did not know I was supposed to do so on a full stomach and well hydrated with plenty of water and juice.  I showed up having consumed my normal morning breakfast of yogurt and two cups of coffee.  

This was less than ideal for a couple reasons.

First, we rely on glucose—sugar–to keep us functioning because it is the main source of energy for the cells in our body. We get glucose from foods we eat.  Second, without having consumed enough liquid, and then losing more liquids through the donation, my blood pressure dropped and me with it.  The reason?  Not enough blood was getting to my brain, so my rescuers lowered me to the ground and got my legs up, to increase the blood flow to my brain! 

To aid my recovery, I ate some pizza and drank some soda and was my chipper self again in no time!  

Will I donate blood again?  Yes!  I learned so much from doing it this time; I can only imagine what I will learn next time if I eat and drink enough beforehand so I don’t faint!

Kyle Hunter is afterschool coordinator for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.


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