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Oscar-nominated physics, putting the jump into popping corn and more


By Tushna Commissariat

There is nothing quite like a bowl of hot, buttery popcorn – and it seems as if even physicists are enthralled by it as they dig into the pops and jumps of this tasty snack. A recent article in the New York Times caught our attention this week, as it talked about how a French research duo used high-speed video cameras and a hot plate to see just why a kernel of corn not only pops, but also leaps up as it puffs. The team found that as the kernel’s hull is breached, we hear the popping sound and this is swiftly followed by the jump that happens when a puffy bit of the inside pushes out and makes the corn jump, a bit like a muscle twitch. Take a look at the lovely slow-motion video above of individual kernels leaping about like perfect puffy ballet dancers.

And talking of popcorn, we hope you have a big bowl at the ready when you settle down to watch the Oscars ceremony on Sunday. This year’s awards may be of special interest to Physics World readers thanks to three nominated films – The Theory of Everything, Interstellar and The Imitation Game – that all have a scientific bent. Yesterday, the Kavli Institute ran a Google Hangout where three scientists – nanoscientist Katie McGill, theoretical neuroscientist Sean Escola and cosmologist Mandeep Gill – discussed the real-world science portrayed in each of the films. Also, take a look at this blog by Alice Bell where she lists the “Ten stories of science and tech Hollywood should tell next” on the How We Get To Next website – her list includes Hedy Lamarr, Paul Erdős and Beatrice Schilling, among others. And do read this Digital Spy article to see which famous scientist is rumoured to be the hero of Hollywood director J J Abrams’ next project.

Also take a look at the newly named Bell’s Theorem Crescent, christened today after physicist John Stewart Bell. For those of you who can visit – the street is in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter – it seeks to alert locals to the genius that was Bell.

For some fun weekend reading, take a look at this Symmetry magazine article that lists “10 unusual detector materials”, take a look at the Shared Sky exhibition that brings together indigenous art and astronomy, and save these fun and romantic cards with beautiful images of the Earth and the universe via the European Space Agency.

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One comment to Oscar-nominated physics, putting the jump into popping corn and more

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