Heat and Popcorn


Other Science Fair Projects


What is the distribution of popcorn kernel pops?


When popcorn is heated in oil it warms to a point and then a kernel pops. Then another. And another. Pretty soon they're popping like wild. Then the popping starts to slow down. Eventually all the kernels are popped.

Experimental Set up: 

Use a sound recorder (tape recorder or a digital device). Turn it on to record and turn on the heat. Be careful to not burn the popcorn.

Once the popcorn is done, then hook the output of the recorder to the input  to the sound card on your PC. Play the recording and record it on the PC as an audio file.

Use a software product like CoolEdit to examine the audio file. Identify each kernel pop and note the time it occurred.

Now count how many kernel pops occur each 1/10th of a second. Plot the result. 

Is it a normal distribution?

Repeat the experiment five times to make sure your results can be verified.

Additional questions:

Do all popcorn brands have the same distribution?

If you use medium heat instead of high heat, does the distribution change?

Does the amount of popcorn or oil in the pan make a difference?

Does the distribution change if the kernels are left to dry out for a week or so?


If you do this project, let me know what you find out!