Purpose: Over 25 years ago, in ScientificAmeriKen's 6th experiment, an experiment was performed to test whether water starting hot or cold would boil first.Since that time, technology has improved and a further realization developed - that there are many experiments still to do with water! Of particular interests is the addition of salt to boiling water, which supposedly makes cooking pasta easier. Here, ScientificAmeriKen explores whether sugar can substitute in altering the properites of boiling water. If successful, pasta cooking will clearly be revolutionized!
Figure 1. ScientificAmeriKen Boils water c.1996

Hypothesis: Both salt and sugar appear to dissolve readily into water, therefore it is the hypothesis of this experiment that both will increase the temperature that water boils at.

Methodology: Used in this experiment is a small pot, water from tap, gas range, meat thermometer (pictured below), whisk, measuring cup, cell phone stop watch, pen and paper. Water (2 cups) was added to the pot with the gas range set at "high". Measurements with the thermometer were taken every 30 seconds for a total of 10 minutes. Next, 2 cups of water was brought to a boil. 0.5 teaspoons of salt was added in succession and temperature taken after stirring with the whisk. This was repeated a total of 10 times for a total of 5 teaspoons of salt. The procedure was repeated for sugar.

Results: Initially, the two cups of water took approximately 5 minutes to come to a boil. Temperature at boil was 211.1 oF (Figure 2). Altitude of Buffalo, NY is approximately 500 ft which may explain why a boiling temperature of 212 oF was not reached. Over the ten minute boiling time a total of 0.25 cups of water evaporated (water poured back into measuring cup after 10 minutes). Next, salt or sugar was added to boiling water (Figure 3). The data show salt increased the temperature of the water approximately 0.3-0.4 oF per half-teaspoon, whereas sugar increased the temperature by about 0.2-0.3 oF after the entire 5 teaspoons. Interestingly, 0.5 cups of water evaporated with the salt wherease 0.25 cups evaporated with the sugar.

Figure 2. Time to reach boiling. Cold water was taken from tap
(2 cups) and heated on "high". Temperature was measured every 30 seconds.
    Figure 3. Boiling temperatures of when adding salt versus sugar. Water was brought to a boil and then salt or sugar was added 1 teaspoon at a time.

Conclusion: This experiment proves there are always things to do with the world's coolest substance - water! The original experiment 25 years ago proved that the hotter water starts boiling faster than the colder water. With the meat thermometer this issue is not even in question - under the conditions of this experiment the water heated up consistently about 12-13 degrees per 30 seconds. Thus, it one would summise colder water would take that much longer to reach boiling. The next phase of the experiment yielded the surprise that simply adding any substance that dissolves in water does not guarantee it will significantly affect the boiling temperature. Salt clearly was the winner. However, the effect of salt was not as dramatic as expected. 5 teaspoons of salt in 2 cups only increased the temperature about 4 degrees - supposedly thats all it takes to make the perfect pot of pasta! Finally, although sugar failed to impress, this experimental design opens up exploration into other potential mixtures that affect how water boils, and ultimately, generate food ideas.



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