Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top 5 Science Experiments with Pop-Tarts

Kellogg’s tasty pastry, the Pop-Tart, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Since Pop-Tarts first came onto the breakfast scene in 1964, they have spurred some crazy ideas. From Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwiches to flying, rainbow Pop-Tart cats, some of the ideas are tastier than others.

In celebration of Pop-Tarts’ 50 years of sweet service, here are five science experiments that Pop-Tarts have inspired over the years that you can test yourself.

Strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts. Credit: Evan-Amos.

5. Last year, a student at Kaneohe elementary tested the fastest way to cook a Pop-Tart without electricity. The student followed the six steps of the scientific method to determine whether apple wood, charcoal or a solar oven was most efficient. To the student’s surprise, the apple wood cooked the Pop-Tarts the quickest.

4. In April 2011 Nyan Cat danced its way onto YouTube. The Pop-Tart bodied cat that excretes rainbows across the sky while hopping along through space to a Japanese pop song became the fifth most-viewed YouTube video of 2011.

The video inspired scientists Cassandra Obee and Jake Cox of University of Leicester to calculate whether Nyan Cat could escape the Moon’s gravity and travel freely through space. Ultimately, they conclude that unless the cat’s rainbow excretions have magical, energy-inducing powers, Nyan Cat would be a permanent Pop-Tart on the Moon.



3. This next experiment uses Pop-Tart wrapping. Pop-Tarts come in a shiny, silver package. The reflective properties of the wrapping plastic actually make for an effective filter for imaging the Sun. This guy attached a Pop-Tart wrapper to his DSLR camera so that he could video a solar eclipse.



2. Computer programming languages are an essential component in many fields of scientific research, particularly theoretical physics. To learn a little about how to use computer languages, like JavaScript,  you can start practicing by customizing your very own Nyan Cat. Here's a picture of a monstrous, deformed spin off I produced with some simple tweaks. (I'm more of a dog person, anyways.)

Created from algorithm provided by KhanAcademy


1. And last but not least is the toaster experiment. If you look on a box of Pop-Tarts, you'll find a warning that states, "Due to possible risk of fire, never leave your toasting appliance or microwave unattended." This warning was added in 1994, when a professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi showed that strawberry-flavored Pop-Tarts would create foot-high flames if left in the toaster for too long. One year earlier, humor columnist Dave Berry, conducted the same experiment. It took Berry's $8.96 toaster less than six minutes to start shooting flames.



Judging from the multiple YouTube remakes of flaming Pop-Tart-filled toasters, this seems to be the most popular  Pop-Tart "science" experiment. However, a detailed, scientific explanation for why Pop-Tarts create such high flames is difficult to find, if it exists at all. Do other toaster-appropriate foods produce as high a flame as Pop-Tarts? What happens if you leave an empty toaster on for too long? What's the difference between frosted and unfrosted Pop-Tarts, flame wise? Does the fact that Pop-Tarts are semi-hollow in the middle have anything to do with it, or is Pop-Tart's incendiary nature only dependent on the ingredients? This calls for some more experiments.

*The Pop-Tart toaster experiment is highly dangerous and should not be performed except by adults with the upmost respect for safety who are equipped with fire-extinguishing equipment and know how to use it.

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