The Reason Why Lobsters Turn Bright Red When You Boil Them

Fudio/iStock via Getty Images
Fudio/iStock via Getty Images

If the fire-engine red of the lobster on your plate makes you painfully aware that it was boiled alive, think of it this way: The bright color is simply the result of a chemical reaction.

Lobsters’ usual greenish-blue hue serves them well in life, camouflaging them from the predatory eyes of cod, haddock, and other large fish that prowl the ocean floor. Anita Kim, a scientist at the New England Aquarium, explained to Live Science that this color results from the combination of two molecules.

One is astaxanthin, a bright red carotenoid that lobsters absorb by eating things that contain it. The other is crustacyanin, a protein that already exists in lobsters. When crustacyanin binds with astaxanthin, it twists the molecule into a different shape, which changes how it reflects light. So instead of red, live lobsters are blue.

Then, when you boil one of the tasty crustaceans, the heat causes the crustacyanin molecules to contort into new shapes. In doing so, they release the astaxanthin molecules, which rebound to their original shape and red color. Michele Cianci, a biochemist at Italy’s Marche Polytechnic University where the phenomenon was investigated, likened it to manipulating a rubber band with your hands. “You can impose any kind of configuration you want,” he told Live Science. “When you release the rubber band, it goes back to its own shape.”

The same thing happens with shrimp, which go from ghostly gray to pink when you cook them. How, then, do flamingos turn pink from eating raw, almost colorless shrimp? Crustacyanin releases its hold on astaxanthin during the flamingos’ digestion process just like it does when heated.

By the way, don’t feel guilty about having torn your lobster away from its one true love—they don’t really mate for life.

[h/t Live Science]

The Reason White Castle Slider Burgers Have Five Holes

White Castle
White Castle

While it’s not often mentioned in conversations about the best fast food burger on the menu alongside staples like Shake Shack or In-N-Out, the White Castle slider burger still holds a special place in the stomachs of those who enjoy their bite-sized convenience. In 2014, TIME even named the slider the most influential burger of all time, with its debut in 1921 helping begin our nation’s obsession with fast-service burgers.

Peel the bun off a White Castle burger and you’ll find the square meat patty has exactly five holes. Why? Thrillist writer Wil Fulton went looking for an answer to this gastronomic mystery. It turns out that the holes serve a very functional purpose.

In 1954, a Cincinnati-based White Castle employee named Earl Howell stuffed his location’s suggestion box with a note that said the patties might cook more quickly if they were pierced. The reason? The franchise steams its burgers on the grill, and the holes allow the steam to better penetrate the stacks of patties (usually 30 burgers tall) that are piled on the grill at one time. No one has to flip the burgers, and they wind up coming out of the kitchen faster. The steam also picks up the flavor of the onion acting as a bottom layer, allowing it to spread through the stack.

Howell’s idea soon spread from Ohio to White Castle restaurants nationwide. The company facilitates the creation of the holes by puncturing a “meat log” and then slicing it and sending the patties to locations.

If you enjoy their distinctive flavor, the holes have a lot to do with it. Enjoy.

[h/t Thrillist]

We've All Been Riding Escalators Wrong, According to the Manufacturers

Rattankun Thongbun/iStock via Getty Images
Rattankun Thongbun/iStock via Getty Images

If you live in a city, you probably know that the "rules of the road" when it comes to riding escalators are similar to those on an actual road—and should be taken just as seriously. Stand in the right lane, walk in the left lane, and never, ever block traffic by stationing yourself between the two.

But what if we told you that the one clueless tourist with a hand on each rail and a foot in each lane was actually riding the escalator correctly? According to the CBC, escalator manufacturer Otis Elevator Company recommends that “users stand in the middle of the escalator with hands on both railings for maximum safety.”

Lifehacker pointed out that Otis’s official list [PDF] of safety advice online doesn’t expressly mention using both handrails, but does encourage people to “keep a steady grip on the handrail” and “stand in the center of the step and face forward.” However, even if the passenger in front of you is standing in the middle with just one hand on a rail, you still wouldn’t have an easy time continuing your uphill climb without asking them to move.

Speaking of your uphill climb (or downhill march), it’s less efficient than you think it is. While choosing to walk might shave a few seconds off your personal commute, studies have shown that if all people stood, using both escalator lanes instead of leaving one for walking, the machine could ferry about 31 extra passengers per minute.

It’s not the only argument against walking on escalators. The CBC cites studies in Japan and China that suggest walkers not only increase the likelihood of escalator accidents, but they also contribute to the degeneration of the machines themselves.

While speed-walking city slickers might balk at the idea of standing still, hopefully this information will at least help them view stationary rail-huggers as safety-conscious citizens rather than oblivious nuisances.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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