Will water boiling at high altitude scald me the same as water boiled at sea-level?

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Offline thedoc

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Matthew Sinclair  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hey Chris,

love your show, thanks for all that you do.

At high altitude the temperature at which water boils decreases. At 30000'/9144m the boiling point is 160deg F/71.1 deg C. If I stick my hand in to boiling water at sea level (212deg F/100deg C) it will immediately burn me (scalding hot). If I stick my hand in 71 deg C water at sea level it will not burn me immediately (yes I know it will burn me over a prolonged time).

So my question is

If I stick my hand in to boiling water at 30000'/9144m at a temperature of 160deg F/71.1deg C will it be "scalding hot" and burn me immediately, or will it be just like 71deg water at sea level?

Matt Sinclair
Tucson, Arizona

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 13/07/2012 20:30:01 by _system »


Offline Geezer

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You may never know. At 30,000 feet there is a reasonable chance you'll be unconscious due to lack of oxygen :)

The effect of the hot water on your skin at any particular temperature would be the same, regardless of the altitude, but, if the water is actually boiling vigorously, the steam bubbles in the water might actually provide a certain amount of insulation and slow the rate at which heat is conducted into your hand.

There ain'ta no sanity clause, and there ain'ta no centrifugal force Šther.