Science can make cooking a little less mysterious.

Who is Papin?

I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC. For a decade, I worked as a physicist (editing journals, getting funding, finding postdocs, and publishing once in a while). I had fun doing that, but I stumbled on a really cool problem that had to be solved outside academia, so I left.

The moniker is in honor of Denis Papin (with one N, he was French), a scientist from the 17th century who invented the first science-inspired gadget for the kitchen, the steam digestor, what we today call the pressure cooker. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of London and, for a while, its curator of experiments (like Robert Hooke).

I worked on this blog from 2007 to 2010, after which I moved to answering questions at Seasoned Advice, the cooking stackexchange site. Time constraints have kept me from writing or participating more in the food-science community.

You can e-mail me at

[email protected]

Solve et coagula was a motto for alchemists: take the soil, dissolve it, rejoin it. Not too far from what cooks do: take from the soil, heat it, plate it.