How can I boil water without killing the fish that lives in it?

14 June 2009

Question

A glass jar is half filled with water. There is a live fish swimming in it. How can we boil the water that is inside the jar, without killing the fish?

Answer

Chris - I love that question. What is he doing? It's basically fish bowl.Dave - He's apparently got a live fish swimming in the fish bowl and he wants to boil the water without harming the fish.Chris - He wants to boil the water without harming the fish. Well, thinking about it. I mean, what we know about the boiling point of water. You can make water boil by raising the temperature that gives the water molecules more energy so they can escape from the body of water against the force being applied to the water surface by atmospheric pressure. You can also make water boil at the same temperature by reducing the pressure above the water. So, I suppose if you put the fish bowl into a very large space that he could evacuate very abruptly - so in other words, take all of the air out so the fish bowl is sitting in a vacuum, the water would boil without getting hot and therefore, wouldn't harm the fish through heat. The problem is all the dissolved gases would presumably boil out instantly so the fish would asphyxiate very quickly unless you did it transiently, just quickly make it boil and then stop again. Just as a party trick to prove that this is possible.Dave - I guess the other problem is if the water is boiling around the fish even if its not damaging the proteins because it's not hot. the fish is probably going to get the bends because any water or gases...Chris - Indeed because fishes have swim bladder, don't they? This is how they regulate their buoyancies like a diver's BCD, which makes them buoyant, neutral buoyancy in the water. So, if you had a fish that has a swim bladder, it could explode. I presume under those circumstances.Dave - Even if you have a little shark or something which didn't and then it's gonna get the bends, so it's probably not going to be a happy fish.Kat - Horrible people.Chris - But, it may not die straight away. So, there you go, there is the solution to your problem.

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