Your dentist may not like it, but if you’re like most Americans, you love popcorn. The average American will eat 17 gallons of popcorn every year! Whether it’s at a baseball game, a movie theater or home with friends, popcorn is simply the best. But, have you ever thought about why popcorn, well, pops? To help us answer this deliciously intriguing question, we turn to our friends at Wonderopolis.
First of all, not all corn can be popcorn. It takes a very special kind of corn to turn it from a kernel into a light and airy treat. What turns a hard kernel of pre-popped popcorn has to do with science. When water gets too hot, it will turn to steam and expand. With no place to escape, the steam begins to build pressure. So there is water inside of a popcorn kernel? You’re right!
According to Wonderopolis:
“Inside each kernel of popcorn is a tiny droplet of water surrounded by a hard shell called a hull. As the popcorn is heated, the water turns into steam, which builds pressure inside the kernel. When the hull can no longer contain the pressure —POP! — the kernel explodes, and a fluffy new piece of popcorn is born.”
It happens very fast which is what creates the popping sound. Do you want to see what popping corn looks like in slow motion? Of course, you do.
This unique kind of corn originated in the Americas. When European explorers came to what is now North America, they saw Aztecs making headdresses out of popcorn and using it in festivities. Some historians believe there may have even been popcorn served at the first Thanksgiving!
The next time you’re about a grab a handful of this treat, remember how a tiny droplet of water can turn into steam which turns into popcorn. Science can be so tasty sometimes.