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    17 August 2007

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    My first guess would have been some 6 to 7 fold (just considering the "white mass" of popped corns and the empty volume left within one popped corn). But then again, as heather pointed out, popped corn pack together much less compact than unpopped.

    So here we go again: we assume every popped and unpopped corn being spherical (now you can tell I'm a theorist, can't you), but that "white mass" is not distributed evenly. Instead, we have as much "empty space" as white mass (we don't want to crush the popped corns, do we? since that's another story). We also assume that all corns pop. Now we get from one corn (since that's all we need, right) some 5 fold of "white mass" and another 5 fold of "empty space". That makes it 10 fold. And the factor for uncompactness? Should actually be included already since I'm assuming they're spherical.. So I say 10 fold..

    Oh, I wish I had studied my chemistry better, then I could do some real calculations with the two different molecular consistence.

    Well, I'm not a scientist, But I'd hazard a guess that the volume of unpopped kernels poured into the pot is roughly "yum - popcorn, maybe I need more"! While the volume of popped kernels is generally "OMG -what was I thinking"? Thus, my formula is always:

    WAY too much popcorn
    ____________________

    Never enough kernels

    I had not been able to solve this problem in all my years of popping popcorn until fairly recently. Now Anthony makes it, and it always comes out:

    Perfect amount of popcorn
    _________________________

    Perfect amount of kernels.

    I rent him by the hour.


    Okay, so I retested. I used less oil and a higher heat. This time 162 kernels equaled just under 2 cups with seven left unpopped. All of the popcorn from both batches is fairly rounded and closed with the kernel grid marks (there is one in your photo just below and to the right of centre) as opposed to the more open octopi look of the majority of your kernels. I suspect my popcorn has been there a while and the humidity levels are higher at my house.

    Well, my popcorn didn't open as much as yours since I used a bit too much butter and oil. My results are as follows though:

    I popped a total of 162 kernels (2 tbsp) of no-name popcorn from the Bulk Zone. I wound up with approximately 2 cups of popped kernels and six unpopped kernels. My stove is an electric one and I used a regular heavy bottom stainless steel pot.

    I think I'm going to do this again with far less oil in a smaller pot (same base thickness) and see if my results change.

    I did an empirical study! See my blog:
    http://knitswithasilentk.blogspot.com/2007/08/popcorn-experiment.html

    OK, thinking in terms of a thought-only experiment/fermi calc. The kernel of corn is aprox. 4x smaller in edible volume than the popped kernel. But, since the popped kernel is much less compact than its unpopped sisters I'd say it's about 8x bigger in total edible/none-edible space that it takes up.

    So, final answer is 8x the volume of the original unpopped kernels.

    I may have to try this out. My results will more than likely be different though since electric coils are not as efficient as gas burners. I have not had enough coffee this morning and the basic math is confusing me.

    hm. thinking to my whirlypop, because any other device is lowly and devoid of value.

    if i cover the bottom... visualising... okay that sometimes flips the lid ... visualising again. 25.

    nom nom nom nom nom.

    So, first, I wasn't actually sure what the difference between a theorist and an empiricist was, but I think I've figured it out.

    My estimate, based solely on past experience is that it is about 16 to 1. (I guesstimate that I get about 4 cups of popped corn from 1/4 cup of unpopped.)

    So, how would you define the person who says "Someone must have figured this out already, I'll go look it up?" (And notes that your blog already ranks on the first google page for a search on volume ratio of popped to unpopped popcorn.)

    And what is the person who wants to define the parameters of the experiment (how are you popping, what variety of corn are you using, what is the acceptable number of unpopped kernels in your sample size) before entering the discussion (other than annoying)?

    Wow, that was a lot of parenthesis.

    my guess is 33.3%. Nothing scientific here, but I know that those few kernels pop up to a big bowl of popcorn.

    BTW, I love your version of Science Friday.

    i always think it's funny that us cooking directions measure everything by volume, whether or not it makes sense, and the european directions i've come across measure everything by weight, whether or not it makes sense.

    Estimate: factor of 16

    Based on the guess that a cup of kernels begins to burst the top of a 4-quart pot (=16 cup).

    Butter poured over the top reduces the factor depending on how much the popped kernels are saturated in saturated fat.

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