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The Physics of Popcorn: Why Popcorn Also Jumps

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What happens when a popcorn kernel pops? Heat! Pressure! The hull splits. Water vapor escapes. POP. And then there’s a somersault that sends it flying in the air! But how? Watch as ScienceTake explains in detail:

Emmanuel Virot of the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaisaeu, France, and Alexandre Ponomarenko, now at Grenoble University, used high-speed video cameras and a hot plate to illuminate the physics of the kernel’s leap. In their report last week in the journal Interface, they described that puffy leglike bit of the kernel as acting like a muscle.

popcorn popping
The research may relate to the mechanics and physical reactions in other animals, plants, and fungi — we immediately wondered about this one — and is a great reminder that popcorn makes an excellent subject of study in science class.

Related reading: The chemistry of popcorn.

Related experiments: How to use popcorn to teach rates, recreate a popcorn seed’s explosive reaction, make a popcorn chart, and more popcorn project ideas.

Watch this next for a microscopic look: Skunk Bear’s Click to Enlarge: Popcorn. Plus, there are more videos featuring steam.

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