If you've looked at the weather forecasts this week, you'll note that what was once the southwestern United States is now just a charred flatland, with a pile of ash where Arizona used to be. The official temperature is somewhere between "Man, it's a hot one," and "Like seven inches from the midday sun," which has translated to record-setting highs (somehow 119 degrees is not a record in Phoenix), cancelled flights, cracking asphalt, and other midday terrors.
When it's that hot, it's difficult to do anything except put packages of frozen vegetables in your armpits and perhaps tweet about how miserable you are. It's also a great time to test out all of those Mr. Wizard-ish food experiments that you've always wondered about. (Or it's a great time to watch other people test them, while you stand in front of an open freezer, pouring a year-old package of okra into your pants).
The newsroom at the Phoenix New Times took a frozen pizza into the parking lot beside their building and spent part of the afternoon running outside to see if it had cooked itself, before immediately going back indoors where the floor wasn't actual honest-to-god lava. Just after 1 PM on Tuesday, staff reporter Antonia Farzan slid a frozen Safeway cheese pizza onto a sheet of aluminum foil and then left it in an empty parking space. At the time, it was 113 degrees outside.
Twenty-five minutes later, it was 116 degrees and the pizza had already thawed. By 3 PM, the cheese had melted but the crust was still as soggy as a Rob Thomas chorus. But that didn't stop a number of staffers from eating it; one enthusiastically remarked that he or she couldn't "taste the pollution."
Meanwhile, in Fresno, California, the reporters at the Fresno Bee tried to bake cookies on a car dashboard. Despite temperatures that topped out at 106, they were less cookies and more half-baked "salmonella lumps." (Though it sounds like someone from the Phoenix New Times would've eaten them anyway).
But the most devastating heat-related food incident in the Southwest as of late might be the KFC Zinger that was supposed to be launched into space yesterday. The Zinger 1 Mission was postponed, partially due to the heat in Tucson, Arizona. Although it's definitely a branded stunt for the finger-lickin' franchise (the Zinger is being transported in a 'bucket satellite') Space points out that it's also a chance for World View Enterprises to test its high-altitude balloon.
"The flight wasn't necessarily delayed in the traditional sense," World View Enterprises spokesperson Andrew Antonio told MUNCHIES. "We had communicated that our flight window would open today, and that we would then look for the most ideal weather conditions for this first maiden flight of the Stratollite. If it wasn't the maiden voyage, we could fly in conditions similar to those today, even with the heat. But a mixture of surface level winds and high-altitude wind trajectories pointed to tomorrow being a more favorable launch opportunity, so we're going with that."
Thankfully, the chicken sandwich was gently sent into the stratosphere this morning. We've never been remotely jealous of a lump of fried chicken, but at least the temperatures will be reasonable at 60,000 feet.