Saturday, July 12, 2008

Taste the Explosion

According to The Wiki, the manufacture of Pop Rocks is similar to what happens inside a volcano. The ingredients are heated until molten and then exposed to pressurized carbon dioxide at 600 ppsi. The gas is trapped in the viscous mixture of sugars, to be released at a pressure of 40 atm when these sugars encounter saliva. (Did someone really measure the pressure inside a Pop Rock? How do you do that without puncturing it?)

Are Pop Rocks dangerous? There's the story of Mikey (the kid who liked it, may he rest in peace), who ate them with cola. Reports vary but either his stomach or mouth exploded, and he died. In 1989 I watched "Ghost Busters II" in the theater and when the painting of Vigo started talking, I started, spilling my pop rocks into my shorts (possibly culottes)--painful, but not deadly.

As practitioners of the scientific method, the Wind-Up Bloggers knew we had to move beyond this kind of anecdotal evidence. Hypothesis: mixing Pop Rocks with a carbonated beverage should cause no harm. Method: subject placed ~.5 gram pellet of green (watermelon flavor) pop rock into mouth containing a small sip of vinho verde, a cheap, lightly carbonated summer wine. Results: subject reported a tingling sensation. Popping sounds of increasing volume. Conclusion: Pop Rocks are not dangerous and mixing them with alcohol is a good idea. They are even better with some cheap sweetish red wine (more intense pops). Mixing pop rocks and a sip of beer is not too thrilling, probably because the beer's own, more aggressive carbonation masks the popping rocks.

Thanks to flickr user Jason Michael for image of Pop Rocks on a tanning bed (?!).


kspace said...
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kspace said...

More blogxperiments! Let's debunk stuff! Yeah! Stuff! Did you and Ewen come up with this?

Katie said...

We were sitting out on Ada's deck drinking some wine after dinner and she fessed up to having spent a lot of money at a candy shop. She brought out the loot and it proceeded from there. I can't remember how pop rocks came up, I know we were listening to "Purple Rain" so maybe we were just caught up in the 1980s!

What would you like to debunk, kspace?

Ewen said...

Sir, In their recent report, Bourzac, et al. report that mixing Pop-Rocks with ethanol did not result in serious injury and was a "good idea." Though intriguing, this conclusion is not supported by their data. Did they test pure ethanol? No. Did they test various concentrations of ethanol? No. Did they include controls without ethanol, but with effervescence, such as a non-alcoholic beer (e.g. Coors Cutter)? Again, no.

Without these essential experiments and controls, we are left to conclude that consuming Pop Rocks with some kinds of ethanol may indeed be awesome, but question of safety remains unanswered and open to debate.