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Hard candy is a type of glass
November 1, 2011 10:35 PM   Subscribe


 
*The broad scientific definition of glass is: It is a non-crystalline or amorphous solid. Common glass is but one sub-class of this wide range of solids that may include metals, polymers as well as ceramics.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:38 PM on November 1, 2011


I was just thinking recently that I wanted to try and make some homemade candy so I really enjoyed that video. The downside to it is now I will be stuck in the Related Videos K-hole for the next hour or so.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ow, my gums.
posted by hermitosis at 10:51 PM on November 1, 2011


I can eat glass, it doesn't hurt me.

Except for diabetes, obesity...
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


The green lollipop is the best one. And It's not Christmas without the candy dish full of all the colorful and tempting little pieces of glass.
posted by longsleeves at 10:57 PM on November 1, 2011


The blue meth really is glass!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Looks terrifyingly delicious..
posted by obscurator at 11:40 PM on November 1, 2011


Glass does not flow down over time.

Neither will (pure?) sugar-candy (right?).

Nevertheless, home-made butterscotch (with real butter and real Scotch) isn't hard to make and is super yummy. It kinda feels like a waste of Scotch but using moderately good stuff makes *really* good candy. Especially to people who likes Scotch Whisky.
posted by porpoise at 11:54 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember eating broken window glass when I worked in television.
posted by arse_hat at 11:58 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


arse_hat: "I remember eating broken window glass when I worked in television."

It's not all celebrity weddings and sitting behind desks with no trousers on.
posted by arcticseal at 12:29 AM on November 2, 2011


Well someone took my Danish.
posted by arse_hat at 12:32 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alright, this sounds like a challenge. Time to make single crystal rock candy and epitaxial fudge. I'll report back with the diffraction patterns to prove it.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:58 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


We made rock candy a couple of times as kids with our dad the chemist. It's fun to watch the crystals grow on the string over a couple of days, but the candy itself is just pure sugar, (excuse me, glass,) not so great ackshully.
posted by longsleeves at 1:13 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Glass does not flow down over time."

Ah, fighting the good fight, I see. Good on ya'. I confess the main reason I read this thread was to see if anyone had promulgated that bit of false science folklore. I should have known that the MeFi crowd was more clued-in than average.

It's worth mentioning that while whether glass flows or not is a settled question (it doesn't), whether it's a "liquid" or a "solid" or "an amorphous solid" is a matter of technical nomenclature and different disciplines will want to place it one or another category as they see fit. Many physics texts and such still refer to it as a liquid, for example, and it doesn't profit anyone to get into an argument with a physicist about this. If they assert that it flows any more than anything else that is a non-regular crystalline solid, then you can argue with them. Otherwise, there's no point in arguing about nomenclature. Personally, I think that materials science is definitive on this matter, as this is the discipline that is most focused on this sort of question. Materials science categorizes common glass as an amorphous solid.

Most of we laypeople can just consider it a solid, because it's absolutely as solid and non-flowing as pretty much every other solid thing we deal with on a daily basis. It's at least as solid as granite, and I think it actually deforms much more slowly, for that matter. There are well-known, well-sourced and well-understood reasons for some of the examples that are commonly thought to demonstrate that glass deforms over human time scales (such as old cathedral glass, which was irregularly thick at manufacture because at that time it was "spun" to flatten it, causing it to be thicker toward the edge and almost always then installed with the thicker portion at the bottom of the window—modern glass manufacture floats glass on liquid lead, making it very and evenly flat). There are numerous glass pieces that date to the Roman era...if glass deforms within only a few hundred years, those Roman glassworks would be puddles. They're not. From the layperson perspective, glass is a solid and doesn't flow, period.

Whether hard candy flows over human time scales, I don't know. :)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:15 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Isn't that just caramel?
posted by Laotic at 4:26 AM on November 2, 2011


modern glass manufacture floats glass on liquid lead

Molten tin, actually. Nobody would work in a factory with huge amounts of liquid lead in it. Or if they did, they'd end up stupid pretty quickly.

(I actually only know this because I work (at the very tail end in delivery, not in production) for Pilkington.
posted by hippybear at 4:33 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now I can never look upon Werthers quite the same again. Thanks.
posted by orange swan at 4:35 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Candymaking is almost the most fun one can have in the kitchen. It's really not that hard as long as you remember the three most important things are 1) use a precise, accurate thermometer, 2) take the candy off the heat when the recipe says, not 15 seconds later when you find the potholder, and 3) don't dally after you take the candy off the heat because science is about to happen and won't wait.

tasty, tasty science.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:45 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is actually pretty fascinating.

As to float glass:

hippybear is correct, the metal they float the glass on is mostly tin. I spent my first couple of years out of college in the commercial glass industry selling curtainwalls. I got to go to the Cardinal Glass factory and watch the process. The pools of molten metal are huge - 12 feet across.

Glass manufacturing is incredibly high-tech compared to the rest of the construction industry.For instance, coatings like the silver backing for mirrors and ceramic frits are applied to the glass in microscopic layers with positive and negative electrical charges.

Also, hard candy is like untempered glass. That's why it breaks into large shards.


posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:11 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


We make glass every year at Christmas time. With peanuts!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:27 AM on November 2, 2011


"Also, hard candy is like untempered glass. That's why it breaks into large shards."

Natural next question: would it be possible to temper candy?
posted by jaduncan at 5:52 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Natural next question: would it be possible to temper candy?

I don't know why not. It wouldn't serve any real purpose though. Glass is tempered, not for strength, but, to make it make it "explode" into tiny pieces when it breaks. This is done by introducing stress into the outside skin of the glass. The outside becomes "stretched" and reacts violently when the stress is broken. The result is little pieces instead of big shards.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:05 AM on November 2, 2011


MMMPPH!!!

*rereads post....rushes to emergency room*
posted by orme at 6:11 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw an exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare library a few years ago, and I'm pretty sure they had sugar "glass" cups and bowls from the Elizabethan era. So they last at least that long (though I may be misremembering and my Google-Fu is failing me).
posted by JoanArkham at 6:20 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This doesn't surprise me, quite a while ago I noticed that it's possible to pressure flake hard candy (Werthers works exceptionally well) with my teeth.

I wonder if you could make blanks of hard candy to practice making arrowheads with. It would make clean-up very easy, just hose the area down.

Alternatively you could learn to make a Werthers into an arrowhead in your mouth. Would be a way better party trick then tying a cherry stem in a knot.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:24 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


This makes sense. How many times have i accidentally cut into my tongue or cheek while sucking on hard candy? Dozens. Cuts like glass. So, the idea that it is essentially glass is one I can dig.
posted by grubi at 6:24 AM on November 2, 2011


I don't know why not. It wouldn't serve any real purpose though. Glass is tempered, not for strength, but, to make it make it "explode" into tiny pieces when it breaks. This is done by introducing stress into the outside skin of the glass. The outside becomes "stretched" and reacts violently when the stress is broken. The result is little pieces instead of big shards.

So, what you're saying is it would make awesome explosive candy.
posted by odinsdream at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Materials engineer here, with a masters in glass. I have a "glass is not a liquid" rant that I pull out at every opportunity. A couple of mefites here have seen me do this on stage in the middle of an a capella concert. It is not pretty.

Thank you, Ivan Fyodorovich, for saving this thread from my ranting with your very clear and cogent explanation.
posted by blurker at 7:48 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: as a practicing materials scientist, I applaud your admirably nuanced and well-supported comment!
posted by Mapes at 7:53 AM on November 2, 2011


Thanks! I have long, long familiarity with this topic. It dates back at least seventeen years—I was pretty active on alt.folklore.urban in the nineties collecting sources on this topic and posting about it when it came up. I had found my way to a.f.u. not just for many of the same reasons people find their way to MeFi, but also because I had read Jan Harold Brunvand's books. Once there, among the more familiar sorts of urban folklore that was discussed was a distinct subcategory, which some might call "science folklore". That became a special interest of mine.

The "glass is actually a liquid that flows over time" bit of false folklore (note: urban folklore isn't necessarily false, though it often is) is almost certainly chief among this category of folklore. My impression is that it's not quite as common as it once was, but I'm certain that there are still numerous high school and college teachers that promulgate it, as well as numerous others.

Right from the beginning, it was apparent that the nomenclature argument was a waste of time—solid and liquid are not universally defined terms and they have different specific meanings within different disciplines. And even if they didn't, like so many things in science, the more you know, the less these sorts of distinctions can actually be understood as absolute and categorical. In contrast, the actual behavior of glass—which is what people are truly interested in (though, admittedly, especially for young minds, definitions of terms loom large)—is well understood and completely unambiguous. (Well, okay, "well-understood" and "completely unambiguous" for these purposes.) It doesn't flow over human time scales. Hell, by some calculations, it wouldn't even flow over geologic time scales, though I've seen that particular work challenged. No matter—over human time scales, it doesn't flow. That's the point that people need to know who've been taught otherwise by well-meaning but misguided authorities.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:09 AM on November 2, 2011


once I had a treat and it was a gas, sound found out, it was candy glass.
posted by The Whelk at 8:39 AM on November 2, 2011


Natural next question: would it be possible to temper candy?

Glass is tempered, not for strength, but, to make it make it "explode" into tiny pieces when it breaks. This is done by introducing stress into the outside skin of the glass. The outside becomes "stretched" and reacts violently when the stress is broken. The result is little pieces instead of big shards.

But could you make Prince Rupert's Drops with it?!?

"Bite this, it's an EXPLOSION of flavour!" :D
posted by Vamier at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, cotton candy is sugar fiberglass. Just as I thought.
posted by Goofyy at 9:27 AM on November 2, 2011


I bet you could make candy Prince Rupert's drops. That would be a cool experiment. I'd try it, but molten lava-like substances give me the heeby jeebies. (I used to do alot of outdoor stuff and have been burned too many times by melted nylon from ropes and such.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2011


So, cotton candy is sugar fiberglass. Just as I thought.

What's the R value of cotton candy, could you use it as insulation?

incredibly flammable insulation, but insulation nonetheless...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's the R value of cotton candy, could you use it as insulation?
Worked for the witch in the forest. Might attract small children though.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:22 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else think of Breaking Bad when she started hammering that tray?
posted by alby at 11:18 AM on November 2, 2011


Really? In my chem classes I've always been taught then glass is silicon dioxide, perhaps with some additives.
posted by Canageek at 2:47 PM on November 2, 2011


Really? In my chem classes I've always been taught then glass is silicon dioxide, perhaps with some additives.

That's a pretty narrow definition, which describes a specific kind of amorphous solid but doesn't encompass all possibilities of what falls under the description of "glass".
posted by hippybear at 3:46 PM on November 2, 2011


Engineers, ugh...

If you want to talk about crystalline vs amphorous you have to introduce a generalized autocorrelation function as a mathematical description of the structure...quasicrystals proved that you can't rely on the old school complete filling with a repeating unit lattice argument to define crystallinity.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:31 PM on November 2, 2011


so could you blow hard candy like you can blow glass?
posted by titanium_geek at 7:15 PM on November 2, 2011


so could you blow hard candy like you can blow glass?

Why yes, yes you can.

I've also seen Amezaiku performed live before. Artists take a blob of molten sugar glass onto a stick and use scissors and needlenose pliars and such and form amazing sculptures out of it in the few minutes when it's workable before it cools.
posted by hippybear at 7:57 PM on November 2, 2011


Oh, here we go.

This might even be the same guy I saw at Disneyland at a private party back in the mid-90s. He sure looks like it!
posted by hippybear at 8:02 PM on November 2, 2011


and with Christmas approaching, don't forget you can use sugar glass to make edible stained glass window cookies.
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on November 2, 2011


So glass is not a liquid, hard candy may be, but is caramel a liquid or a solid? And how do you pronounce it? And how do you pronounce Caribbean? And why is it called Caribbean anyways? There's no Caribbea. There's no Mediterranea either. That looks like it means Middle Earth, but that makes no sense because it's made out of water, and Tolkien didn't make it up. And why does my spell check recognizes Tolkien? It's not a real word. And how do you pronounce Tolkien anyways?
posted by BurnChao at 9:57 PM on November 2, 2011


I had heard that the Hollywood 'breakaway' fake windows that stunt men jump through referred to as 'candy glass'. Now it all makes sense!

Here's a website of a company that makes this stuff. You could buy a room full and stage a fake fight at a party.

I wonder if the actors eat it when they are done with the shot?
posted by eye of newt at 11:04 PM on November 2, 2011


on second thought I guess they don't eat it--looks like Hollywood 'candy glass' is now made out of plastic.
posted by eye of newt at 11:07 PM on November 2, 2011


Speaking of sciencey candy, I had an idea that I'm not sure would work.

Say I had the ingredients for fudge in a vessel heated to exactly the right temperature (~235-240F) using a sous-vide style controller (traditional sous vide wouldn't work, as this is above the boiling point of water) with a reasonable amount of stirring, and held it there for a while. Would the fudge come out smoother?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:40 PM on November 3, 2011


Would the fudge come out smoother?

If you want to make single crystal fudge you would probably want to start off with the setup you described, dangle a seed bit of fudge into the bath, and slowly lower the temperature, hopefully forcing the solidifying fudge to follow the pattern of the seed crystal.

Joking aside, I can tell you that you get much smooth ice cream if you flash freeze it in LN2, rather than slowly cooling it. Slow cooling allows for many small crystals to grow (what would happen to your hypothetical crystal fudge if you didn't have the seed and very clean everything else). Flash freezes makes sure that no microcrystals can grow and roughen up the taste.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:16 PM on November 3, 2011


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