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Grow a Physicist in the Kitchen+ #49

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Quote of the Week

“I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés.” [Remark made while demonstrating the progress of cooking a Soufflé à la Chartreuse, demonstrating its progress with thermocouples and chart recorders.]–Nicholas Kurti, Hungarian-British physicist and chef who coined the term ‘molecular gastronomy’

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and working together. We are also a founder-member of the Gifted India Network– if you are interested in issues related to gifted education and talent development, an easy way to keep updated about talks, programs and resources is to join the Gifted India Network telegram channel (https://t.me/GiftedIndia).

In this week’s main post ‘Grow a Physicist in the Kitchen’, we talk about how students (or we) can start developing an interest for Physics and Chemistry by trying to understand the science involved in food. For those who find this interesting, Dr. Prabhakar Sastri, a chemist and trainer of chefs, is running a 1-week course ‘Molecular Gastronomy: Intro to Culinary Science’ in the upcoming Genesis Summer Program in May 2022 at Manipal University in Manipal, for students currently in grade 7, 8 or 9.

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Contents


Grow a Physicist in the Kitchen


Upcoming Events

Grow a Physicist in the Kitchen

There is a trend these days to associate science and technology with robotics, sensors, electronics, AI and so on. While there is nothing wrong with students being exposed to these things, have we paused to think about phenomena we see in our daily lives and in our kitchen? Phenomena like- What makes the experience of tasting chocolate so unique? Why does browned toast taste so good…and what is that brown colour due to anyway? In this post, we share vignettes from Dr. Prabhakar Sastri’s past sessions with students, and some resources with the hope of inspiring students to get into the kitchen and engage with the science of food and cooking.

Dr. Sastri, a chemist and trainer of chefs, is also running a 1-week course ‘Molecular Gastronomy: Intro to Culinary Science’ in the upcoming Genesis Summer Program in May 2022 at Manipal University in Manipal, for students currently in grade 7, 8 or 9. Course sessions at the state-of-the-art kitchen of the Welcomgroup School of Hotel Administration will involve working with materials like liquid nitrogen, dry ice and agar gels to create some exceptional dishes through the application of science.

Why does chocolate taste so good?

There are many reasons for why we like to eat chocolate, but we will examine only one here. What happens when you put chocolate in your mouth? Have you noticed how it melts on your tongue, leaving a lingering sensation of smoothness. Is this a ‘natural property’ of chocolate or do chocolatiers do something to ensure it melts this way?

Why does a boiled egg look so different from a poached egg?

Have you ever thought about this? Or been put off by a rubbery egg-white or hardened cheese on a pizza? This has to do with the coagulation of proteins (a fancy word for ‘firming up’). Foods have different proteins in them which coagulate at different temperatures, so getting the temperatures right in cooking is important to create the perfect dish.

It is the understanding of such science that has led to the invention of gadgets such as the rapid egg cooker.

Science-based tips for making the perfect Shrikhand

There are many finer aspects of making a great shrikhand- from making excellent hung curd (involves knowing how to ‘seed’ the grain formation), how to powder cardamom (it’s not trivial!), how to extract both flavour and colour from saffron, and how to thicken the Shrikhand to get the desired consistency….when you start understanding the principles involved, you can apply these to all kinds of cuisines and dishes!

This film looks at the best way to powder cardamom and extract both flavour and colour from saffron.


This film looks at how shrikhand can be thickened while enhancing taste.


Resources


The Education in Chemistry section of the Royal Society of Chemistry website has many great resources and lesson plans for teachers like this one on melting chocolate. But hey.. parents and students too can use these resources.


Masala Lab: The Science of Indian Cooking is a great book by Krish Ashok. The blurb says “Exhaustively tested and researched, and with a curious and engaging approach to food, Krish Ashok puts together the one book the Indian kitchen definitely needs, proving along the way that your grandmother was right all along.”


Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (Chemistry) is an EdX course. The blurb says “Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in chemistry, physics, and engineering. Learn about food molecules and how chemical reactions can affect food texture and flavor.”

Upcoming Events


Tilings is part of the Kaapi with Kuriosity series from the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) and is scheduled on Sun, Mar 27, from 4 to 530 PM IST (Free online session). Mahuya Datta from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata will be giving the talk. The session blurb says-

Tiling is a way of arranging plane shapes so that they completely cover an area without overlapping. They are very common in our everyday life – we see them on floors, on walkways and also in brick works. Tilings can also be seen in nature. They have also appeared in various artworks since ancient times. The most common tilings use regular polygonal shapes; occasionally we also see tiles with curved edges.

In the first part of the talk we will discuss regular and semi-regular Euclidean tilings which use regular polygonal tiles. While regular tilings use congruent copies of one single tile, the semi-regular tilings (also known as Archimedian tilings) use more than one type of tiles. All these tilings are known for thousands of years. They can be found in ancient Roman structures dating back to the First century. The notion of tiling can be generalised on round spheres in Euclidean spaces. They are intimately related to regular convex polyhedrons, known as Platonic solids. In the second half of the talk, we shall describe their classification using Euler number which is a topological invariant. We will also relate Platonic solids with certain finite subgroups of the Orthogonal group O(3). Links to attend the online session are available here.


Summer Programs from GenWise (Residential)- May 8- May 29 (Paid)

If your child is currently in grade 7, 8 or 9, check out the Genesis Summer Program from May 8-29, 2022, at Manipal University, Manipal. While most students will attend the entire 3-week program, there also exist 1 or 2 week options. View the program brochure here. The Genesis Summer Program offers an early bird discount for registrations completed before the 15th of March.

The academic enrichment component of the program features 3 courses- one in each week.


May 8-15: Reason like Sherlock Holmes– Become familiar with the reasoning process employed not just by detectives, but also by doctors, lawyers, historians, archaeologists, and virtually every domain where one is trying to piece together the full picture, from available clues. Unpack short stories from Sherlock Holmes (and potentially others, based on student interest) to appreciate the process of reasoning better.


May 15-22: Molecular Gastronomy- Intro to Culinary Science– This course at the intersection of Chemistry and Cooking is a great way to experience the power of science in our daily life experiences. The course emphasizes the role of sciences in cooking and how the world over, it has started to make a difference if the chefs understand the science that goes into it. Sessions at the world-class kitchen of the Welcomgroup School of Hotel Administration will involve working with materials like liquid nitrogen, dry ice and agar gels to create some exceptional dishes through the application of science.


May 22-29: Experiment Design for Critical Thinkers– Appreciate the importance of Experiment Design in exploring answers to relevant questions, whatever the domain (Economics, Engineering, Psychology, Marketing, Materials Science, Medicine, etc.). Often not taught formally at school (or even at College level), learn the vital skills necessary for understanding the role of variables, apples-to-apples comparisons, the role of bias, and how to attempt to overcome bias.

The program is much more than the academic enrichment component represented by the courses listed above and the goal of the program is to help with the development of the whole child- read more about the program experience in this post.

Please note that the Genesis Summer Program runs concurrently with the GenWise Summer Program (open to Ei ASSET Talent Search (ATS) Gold/ Silver/ Bronze scholars).

Students of both programs will be participating in common activities together, outside of the academic hours. 

Feel free to reach out to our leadership team at the numbers below.

Rajesh  @98409 70514; Vishnu @93422 47734; Shrikant @98600 33502; Sowmya @75985 66949

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