Science has answered one of life's great mysteries – and discovered the perfect popcorn recipe along the way
For the average Joe, that popping sound coming from the microwave can only mean one thing: snack time, cue the movie.
However, for scientists it has long represented one of life’s biggest unsolved problems. Tonight, they can sleep easy as physicists Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko have burst the popcorn bubble and discovered what makes it pop. Thank goodness for that.
Through a series of high-speed camera observations, sound recordings and the theory of thermodynamics, they have finally (ahem) cracked it.
The researchers concluded that rather than the "pop" being caused by the brittle kernels cracking open, the sound is due to pressurised water vapour rapidly escaping from the inside.
As the vapour is released, the cavity inside the kernel acts as an “acoustic resonator” and, voila, that "pop" occurs. So, basically it’s like a mini pressure cooker until it reaches breaking point.
The authors wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society: “Such a scenario has been applied to the ‘pop’ of a champagne bottle cork."
They also discovered the perfect recipe for popping those kernals along the way, adding: “we found that the critical temperature is about 180°C, regardless of the size or shape of the grain.”
Sit back, relax and watch a piece of popcorn somersaulting like an acrobat before poping (it's quite hypnotic) then go and pop some in the microwave. And eat it. Highly satisfying.