In today's XKCD What If?, Randall Monroe answers the question, "From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?" posed by Alex Lahey:
At supersonic and hypersonic speeds, a shockwave forms around the steak which helps protect it from the faster and faster winds. The exact characteristics of this shock front—and thus the mechanical stress on the steak—depend on how an uncooked 8 oz. filet tumbles at hypersonic speeds. I searched the literature, but was unable to find anything to help me estimate this.
For the sake of this simulation, I assume that at lower speeds some type of vortex shedding creates a flipping tumble, while at hypersonic speeds it’s squished into a semi-stable spheroid shape. However, this is little more than a wild guess. If anyone puts a steak in a hypersonic wind tunnel to get better data on this, please, send me the video.
If you drop the steak from 250 kilometers, things start to heat up. 250 kilometers puts us in the range of low earth orbit. However, the steak, since it’s dropped from a standstill, isn’t moving nearly as fast as an object re-entering from orbit.
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