Monday, February 21, 2011

The power of rock n roll.

Can rock music boil an egg?

This is what is proposed by this quote, found on various internet locations of less than scientific repute:

"Bob Larson, a Christian minister and former rock musician, remembers that in the 70's teens would bring raw eggs to a rock concert and put them on the front of the stage. The eggs would be hard boiled by the music before the end of the concert and could be eaten. Dr. Earl W. Flosdorf and Dr. Leslie A. Chambers showed that proteins in a liquid medium were coagulated when subjected to piercing high-pitched sounds."

There is also this clip taken from the 1989 documentary Hells Bells: The Dangers of Rock N' Roll by Reel to Real Ministries:

Pour some egg whites on me. there any truth to this?

 Let's do what any good investigator would do: go straight to the source. I looked up the research paper mentioned in the quote above by Dr. Earl W. Flosdorf and Dr. Leslie A. Chambers. It's titled "The Denaturation of Proteins by Sound Waves of Audible Frequencies." And it's from...1936. Hardly the pinnacle of cutting edge research, even back in the 70s.

In the paper, sound at the frequency of 1200 Hz and wattage of 175 (click here to hear what that frequency sounds like) was found to be effective in denaturing egg whites, via the power of cavitation. Cavitation refers to the use of sound waves to vibrate the gas bubbles in a liquid. It's the same thing that happens during sonication, and you can even use it to clean things.

Bearings being cleaned in a sonicator.

So this process of cavitation was able to denature the egg proteins in a similar way that heat does and "cook" the egg whites in the paper. But this was in a highly controlled laboratory setting that used pure egg whites and special equipment to produce high frequency and energy waves of sound. Could sound waves from rock music cook an egg in real life?

I wasn't able to find any scientific research articles on this claim, but The Straight Dope did their own experiment that resulted in a no. My friend Katie Herzog's brother also performed an earlier experiment in 1990 for a science fair.  Katie was gracious enough to allow me to present a few pieces of exclusive family pictorial evidence.

Given these two independent experiments, I think it is safe to say that while egg whites can be cooked by high wattage, high frequency sound in a lab setting, it is highly unlikely that rock and roll music will produce a completely cooked hard boiled egg in the middle of a concert.

L. A Chambers, & E. W Flosdorf (1936). The Denaturation of Proteins by Sound Waves of Audible Frequencies Journal of Biological Chemistry, 114 (1)