Snap crackle pop  SARAH PAVIS  ·  AUG 15 2013

In a great article and video for The New Yorker's Elements blog, Sky Dylan-Robbins and Matt Buchanan take a look at the technology and history behind puffed breakfast cereal.

In 1901, while attempting to determine the moisture content in a granule of starch, a botanist at the New York Botanical Garden, Alexander P. Anderson, filled hermetically sealed test tubes with cornstarch and wheat flour, and toasted the contents in a five-hundred-degree oven. Hit with a hammer, the still-hot tubes, which became pressurized as the temperature rose, exploded. The cornstarch, he found, had ballooned into a "porous puffed mass, white as snow" and nearly ten times its original volume, according to one account. Essentially, the water in the starch, unable to boil because of the hermetic seal, immediately vaporizes when the seal is released and the pressure drops; the steam expands outward and puffs the starch.

Front page
About + contact
Site archives


Follow on Twitter

Follow on Tumblr

Like on Facebook

Subscribe to the RSS feed


Ads by The Deck

Support shop at Amazon

And more at

Looking for work?

More at We Work Remotely

Kottke @ Quarterly

Subscribe to Quarterly and get a real-life mailing from Jason every three months.



Hosting provided EngineHosting