Let it bounce exactly twice for perfect texture
January 3, 2020 7:42 AM   Subscribe

OMG this is so good. The internet is good today.
posted by latkes at 7:43 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

I need an infinite loop of the popcorn kernel hitting the flame and poofing with that satisfying *POP*.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:58 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

I'll take one cool ranch dorito chip please.
posted by Fizz at 8:03 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

If you prefer to oil pop your single kernel, try this.
posted by peeedro at 8:06 AM on January 3 [9 favorites]

Needs salt.
posted by Mchelly at 8:17 AM on January 3

Also this is awesome. Science!
posted by Mchelly at 8:20 AM on January 3

That's the Bernoulli Effect, right? On the popped kernel in the stream of air from the dryer? Not sure I've ever seen it at work with such an irregular shape.

Now I want the full Rube Goldberg version, with a mechanical device supplying infinite kernels, released by a fan-driven regulator, and a second hair dryer set perpendicular to the first, blowing the popped kernels into a stainless steel collector, where they land with a pretty little "plink," and maybe roll down a little slide where it gets buttered by a drip of melting butter powered by...a light bulb? Something somehow involving the blowtorch?
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:28 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]

That's the Bernoulli Effect, right?

Coanda Effect

The shocking part to me is how quickly that kernel pops.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:33 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]

His other films are similarly minimalist and delightful.
posted by ardgedee at 9:02 AM on January 3

I admit, I'm a bit hmm, because that'd be pretty easy to CGI. I mean, it'd kind of pointless given it's not on youtube so I assume it's not for the hits, but is there an accompanying video that shows the setup and failures?
posted by tavella at 9:08 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Etrigan you have won metafilter today.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:08 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

Based on the artist's other films I assume it's CGI, but it's no less charming for that
posted by thedaniel at 10:08 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

it'd kind of pointless given it's not on youtube
This is a kind of sad attitude - putting a lot of skilled work in to make a fun and novel video clip is.. kind of pointless unless it's for the hits?
posted by thedaniel at 10:09 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

This is a kind of sad attitude - putting a lot of skilled work in to make a fun and novel video clip is.. kind of pointless unless it's for the hits?

I read the comment as "I don't know why a person would go to the trouble of faking this, since it's not on YouTube & therefore not getting monetized hits from their platform, but I still wish there were evidence of its being grounded in reality because that would improve the single-popcorn experience for me."
posted by taquito sunrise at 10:26 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

No, I meant it would be kind of pointless to fake it with CGI, since they are presumably not making money. There's a lot of faked stuff on Youtube, Mythbusters used to occasionally dissect them.
posted by tavella at 10:27 AM on January 3

Or what taquito sunrise said, yes :)
posted by tavella at 10:27 AM on January 3

sometimes people do creative things for reasons other than money
posted by thedaniel at 10:28 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

Yes, I know that. What I would like is confirmation that what I'm oohing at is actually a clever build, not run of the mill CGI.
posted by tavella at 10:31 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

sometimes people do creative things for reasons other than money

Oh, man. Please etch this on my tombstone.
posted by loquacious at 10:42 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

I am not sufficiently entertained! Two pieces, please.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:42 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]

The hair dryer and brick appear in another video, which also has an apparent human being. And this one, which also looks suspiciously not-real, has illustrations beneath detailing the practical effects.
posted by Etrigan at 10:44 AM on January 3

Also, they tend to make their effects a little more obvious, or even a part of the video.
posted by Etrigan at 10:46 AM on January 3

Thank you Etrigan!
posted by tavella at 10:49 AM on January 3

It’s not on YouTube so it probably won’t get the views it deserves.

Do you think this would have been as popular if it wasn’t on the YT?
posted by drivingmenuts at 10:59 AM on January 3

Etrigan's fourth link-- the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:07 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

I still like this, but maybe the real tells are:
1. dropping the kernel exactly into the flame AND
2. the precision grab of the fluttering popcorn piece with thumb and index finger
3. in a SAME TAKE.
posted by Caxton1476 at 11:12 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

This seems like the perfect thing for the Mythbusters to actually test, though I put my money on "No you obviously can't instantly pop a kernel of popcorn by dropping it directly into a fire" due to the nature of heat transfer and the buildup of steam pressure required for a kernel to pop.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:14 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

Dyson should get on this.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:15 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Um. What do you mean same take? It's not like luck. They probably did a thousand takes. I probably would have done that about a thousand times even after I got it right. In fact, I'm currently pricing old timey blowtorches and hair dryers.
posted by Horkus at 11:17 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]

I'm on Team Practical Effect, Lots Of Takes. I'd enjoy it even if it weren't a practical effect because it looks like it could be. But yeah, some of the other works are clearly constructed and/or animated to blur the lines. The possibility this isn't what it seems doesn't really take away from the purity of the idea, though.

Yay art!
posted by fedward at 11:27 AM on January 3

I did mean after lots of failed takes. Just seemed like a lot had to go perfectly - drop the kernel just so, it pops at all, it pops in exactly the right line to catch the dryer's stream of air, it stays there long enough for someone to draw a bead on it, they grab it with two digits.

But yeah, there are definitely people - not me! - who have the persistence and skills to do this in the real world, and I'm glad they did it.
posted by Caxton1476 at 12:04 PM on January 3

Alas, after letting this percolate through the thermodynamics portion of my brain I have become skeptical. Flashing all the liquid water to steam in a room temperature kernel of popcorn probably requires a bunch of joules. And I don't think weird french campstove-blowtorches are that hot.
posted by Horkus at 12:08 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

What if you preheated the kernels?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:18 PM on January 3

I guess in theory you could heat it to just sub-critical and then drop it, but that seems... tricky to judge at best.

Note that I am not trying to be a bummer, it's just that these days, with deepfakes and CGI and the rest being marshalled for not-good purposes, I find myself carefully analyzing even casual cute videos like this for probability.
posted by tavella at 12:21 PM on January 3

Preheating is a good plan, but then you wouldn't want to hold them with your fingers. Definitely the fresh popcorn gun I'm now designing has a preheat chamber set to 99.5°C
posted by Horkus at 12:31 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

Did any of you watch his other videos? They're all obviously short, clever effects. Unless you think that, for example, he really somehow grew a potted plant that changes colors in real time..
posted by ardgedee at 12:57 PM on January 3

This must have taken a lot of takes to get right.
posted by RobotHero at 1:32 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]

So, popcorn pops optimally at 180° C (PDF, free, summarized by the Washington Post, but that's behind a paywall). The mean mass of an individual popcorn kernel in the linked study, in milligrams, is 172 ± 30. The study gives us an estimate of the amount of water present, too:
Pieces of popcorn contain around 20 mg of water [1]. In the conditions of pressure and temperature just before explosion, only a small part (less than 1 mg) is in the vapour phase, which means that there is also a liquid phase in the popcorn before explosion.
A propane torch apparently burns at about 1,995° C. So far, based on the small mass involved and the even smaller amount of water that has to be vaporized, this still feels possible.

Where things really start to get tricky is estimating the time the kernel would be subject to significant heat from the torch. Broadly, it's "a fraction of a second" but what fraction is important here. Assuming a drop height of about 0.2 meters (estimated based on the size of the brick) the maximum instantaneous velocity of a kernel of popcorn as it reached the flame would be about 1.98 m/s (and probably slightly less than that since the actual drop height is probably less than 0.2 meters and the velocity equation doesn't account for air resistance, which might have a significant effect). The gas pressure of the flame provides some upwards force on the kernel along with lateral force, so maybe the heat transfer has to happen in … a tenth of a second?

Can a propane torch heat 20mg of water enough to vaporize 1mg of it in a tenth of a second? I would think it could. Can it do that if it's surrounded by the rest of a kernel of popcorn and under pressure? I don't know that it can, but I also don't know that it can't (because I took physics a really long time ago and may have slept through too much of it). I'm still on team plausible until somebody with better thermodynamics knowledge talks me out of it.
posted by fedward at 1:55 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]

There are numerous popcorn vs torch videos on youtube, of course none are an exact comparison to this setup, but here are a bunch showing consistently poor results. I think if the pericarp is burned, the vapor pressure from the expanding water is no longer trapped inside and the compressed starch never pops.
posted by peeedro at 2:05 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]

DISCLAIMER - I'm not a curmudgeon and would be exactly as happy to discover this is real or CGI or whatever. It's super-cool regardless and I love the result and the work that went into it regardless.

Is there also evidence either way, re: shadows? The light is strong enough to get a nice shadow of the popped kernel bobbing up and down, but there's no shadow of the person who drops the unpopped kernel. But I know zilch about what video/photography experts can achieve in this area, so...who knows?
posted by Caxton1476 at 2:11 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Just tried to blowtorch a kernel of popcorn, it burned and didn't pop.

posted by peter.j.torelli at 5:48 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]

But I love that you tried
posted by latkes at 6:11 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]

worst thread ever
posted by glonous keming at 6:20 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

I've upset a jiffy pop worth of popcorn into a pretty hot coal and open flame wood fire. The contents didn't immediately go off. Some of them popped eventually but most just burned. I'm really skeptical this is a practical effect.
posted by Mitheral at 6:23 PM on January 3

even if it works I'm gonna stick with my trusty whirlypop
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:33 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Mmm, Whirley Pop…
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:53 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]

This whole discussion reminds me of this video where the Mythbusters build team filmed Matt Cain destroy things with his fastball pitch. People argued incessantly whether or not it was real. Years later I asked Tori Bellaci in an AMA for their netflix show "White Rabbit" and he confirmed it was an effects shot.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:09 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

I was dubious but then I remembered that I had the MAP gas torch on the back patio...

I tried dropping the kernels through the flame but nothing seemed to happen. So I tried holding them directly in the flame with needle nose pliers but then just burst into flames and then turned into charcoal. Next I greased one with butter and dropped it through. No luck. I put a dollop of butter in a spoon and heated it in the flame. The spoon discoloured and the butter caught fire but the kernel didn't pop. After a few seconds all of the oil had burnt off and the kernel caught fire but didn't pop. I threw it down the garbarator just to be safe.

The dogs are not huge fans of open flames and are a little worried. My wife, out in the living room, asked what the burning smell was all about.

"Science! I saw something on the internet."

[Now on to my next experiment of the night]
posted by flyingfox at 11:20 PM on January 3 [15 favorites]

I love this popcorn video and will watch it over and over but the thing that made me suspicious of it is the sound. Try standing next to a running hair dryer, and picking up a piece of popcorn with your fingers. Can you hear your fingers loud and clear over the sound of the dryer?
posted by moonmilk at 7:45 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]

FWIW I'm also dubious that the Coanda Effect would work on a irregularly shaped object like a popcorn kernel. Breaking out the hair dryer and flinging popcorn all over the living room sounds like a great way to spend the evening.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:06 PM on January 4

I already patented a rotating barrel minigun popper. Get to the poppah, I’ll cover you.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]

Could you get an unpopped kernel suspended via the Coanda effect that then pops from the heat of the airstream? Given the small area, I guess that would need a pretty fast moving airstream to suspend it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:01 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]

What's the proper explosive / exothermically-reactive substance, that's rapidly set off by the heat of the propane torch, to coat the popcorn kernel with? Bonus points for producing an intact and non-poisonous popped kernel.
posted by Tacit at 4:41 PM on January 6

I just want to say I have greatly enjoyed both of the popcorn-popping experiments comments upthread and that I hope more MeFites with access to similar blowtorches can help confirm or deny the possible popcorn physics involved

(though, personally, I'm leaning towards the side of composite digital effects (or perhaps a mixture of practical and digital effects shots) rather than a lucky thousandth take comprised of practical popcorn effects alone)
posted by rather be jorting at 9:09 PM on January 6

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