Food: Popcorn
Popcornado   (+12, -3)  [vote for, against]
Popcorn for stormchasers.

Popcorn is commonly made by heating the oil and moisture inside the kernel so as to create a superheated steam, causing the internal pressure to expand and burst the outer hull. The basic principle is that the ratio of internal pressure to external pressure is significantly increased. An alternative way of making popcorn, then, is to increase this ratio by significantly reducing the external pressure. Where can we find extreme low pressure? Inside a tornado, of course. By tossing a bag of Popcornado brand popcorn into that F-4 you're chasing, you'll have a tasty snack in no time (each waterproof bag contains a locator beacon so you can find where it lands).
-- swimswim, Jun 24 2009

[swimswim, Jun 24 2009]

[swimswim, Jun 24 2009]

The Popcorn Board
[swimswim, Jun 24 2009]

Halfbakery: Instantaneous Popcorn Popper Instantaneous_20Popcorn_20Popper
The idea isn't about vacuum popping, but some of the annotations are. [jutta, Jun 24 2009]

Popcorn in Space http://www.popsci.c...-pop-during-reentry
More specifically, will popcorn pop if dropped from space? [swimswim, Jun 24 2009]

Arkhipov et al (working paper) POPPING UNDER PRESSURE: THE PHYSICS OF POPCORN http://www.depts.dr...pers/T3_Popcorn.pdf
Oh yes, the scholarly literature on popcorn is vast... [swimswim, Jun 24 2009]

Fire Tornado
Youtube of fire tornado at Magna. Gets going about 25 seconds in! [kindachewy, Jun 25 2009]

Popcorn Security Alarm PSA_3a_20Popcorn_20Security_20Alarm
[normzone, Feb 03 2011]

Corn, heat, humidity... http://maximumble.c...11/01/12/28-snacky/
[normzone, Feb 13 2011, last modified Feb 14 2011]

Puffed grain/starch
[EdwinBakery, Feb 14 2011]

If a crime takes place, and nobody admits to hearing the gunfire... Maizechinegun
[normzone, Jan 27 2013]

Could make a tasty snack for astronauts too. [+]
-- Wrongfellow, Jun 24 2009

Could this technology be used in spacecraft propulsion?
-- theleopard, Jun 24 2009

Yes, [Wrongfellow's] Astrocorn will be the in-flight snack on all commercial space flights of the future.
-- swimswim, Jun 24 2009


First, the relevant factor is *not* the pressure ratio, but the pressure difference. By increasing the pressure inside the kernel (as in a conventional popper), you can create any pressure differential you like. By reducing the pressure outside the kernel, the maximum pressure differential is about 15psi. This will not be sufficiently adequate.

Second, the pressure inside a tornado is not zero, nor even close to zero, nor even close to being near to close to zero. It is about 1-2psi below normal atmospheric pressure, at most.

However, if we re-topologize this idea to concentrate on the potential of the Tornado twin-engined combat aircraft, it is clear that the opportunities are far greater. A large bag of popcorn, trickled into the engine (or, better yet, added just before the afterburner) would deliver a steady stream of slightly-avgas-flavoured popcorn to civilians on the ground.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 24 2009

Hmmm - has anyone considered the fact that temperature might play a part here?
From the informative Website provided by [swimswim]:
"As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand, and pressure builds against the hard starch. Eventually, this hard surface gives way, causing the popcorn to explode."
Is a differential in pressure going to affect the water and the starch in the same way as the action of heating a contained water source?.
Methinks not!
-- gnomethang, Jun 24 2009

// slightly-avgas-flavoured //

The Tornado's turbines actually burn kerosene (Jet A1), not AvGas - that's the petroleum spirit (usually 110 octane) used for piston driven aviation engines.

We suggest that "strongly-kerosene-flavoured" would be more accurate. But still just as unpleasant.

If the quest was for AvGas flavour, then the popcorn could be injected into the exhaust stream of any number of piston engined aircraft, but for an extra frisson, why not choose a veteran design with a rotary engine - a Sopwith Pup, or a Bleriot. These have a two-stroke engine lubricated with castor oil; since the system is total-loss, the popcorn would be liberally coated with oil before popping, thus altering (but not necessarily improving) the flavour.
-- 8th of 7, Jun 24 2009

There are two approaches to solving this question. One involves mathematical calculations and peer-reviewed literature. The other involves getting in my pick-up, chasing down a tornado, and tossing a bag of popcorn into it. At the moment, I am waffling on the path to take.
-- swimswim, Jun 24 2009

A practical test would be to place a bag of corn kernels in a vacuum chamber and pump it down to 10^-2 milliBar.

But our suggestion is, "go get your truck keys."

Don't forget to take some video cameras, and sign a wavier transferring the copyright to the HB.
-- 8th of 7, Jun 24 2009

I side with [MaxwellBuchanan]. The pressure differential will be too low.

Also, Popping a bunch of corn out of a jet engine would look absolutely fantastic. This should be done.

Now, I am eating popcorn. It makes sense to me, in a world where something as wonderful as popcorn often gets lost in the mix and unappreciated, so much other misfortune can also remain.
-- daseva, Jun 24 2009

It's not just a question of temperature ......

The corn is going to need preheating before being fed into the hot gas stream - otherwise it will char on the outside before it pops. Because of the insulating properties of the husk, the exterior would char before the kernel underwent explosive expansion.

Corn pops because (as stated above) the water in the kernel vapourises, causing the husk to rupture. Microwave popcorn works because the RF energy passes through the husk and is preferentially absorbed by the water in the kernel. So the corn would need to be heated throughout to 99 C before hiting the airstream, causing it to pop immediately.
-- 8th of 7, Jun 24 2009

In Arkhipov et al (working paper), an experiment was conducted in which popcorn was popped at 210-degrees C, at a pressure of 0.033 atm (about 34 mbar).

Wikipedia's entry on tornadoes gives 0.839 atm (850 mbar) as the lowest pressure inside a relatively extreme tornado.

This leads me to a single conclusion: we need bigger, hotter tornadoes! (or a mechanism for appropriately warming popcorn before feeding it into a jet engine)
-- swimswim, Jun 24 2009

Heat problems notwithstanding, is the relevant pressure differential going to be any different inside the tornado? A differential will exist between the pressure of the air in the bag and tornado, causing the bag to swell and maybe burst, but there'll be very little change in the difference between the pressure inside the kernel and that of the air inside the bag. Not so?

I think what you need is a mini locator beacon for each kernel, and less bag.
-- shudderprose, Jun 25 2009

Create a small, enclosed corn field. Cover it with lots of water, thus creating moisture from which a tornado may be tempted to arise. Place lots of (lit) barbecue charcoal all over the ground - suitably insulated from the water - which will have evaporate the water to form the necessary clouds and pre-heat the corn kernels. Arrange a strongly rotating windsource (lots of people standing on the edges with leaf blowers??)

Then fly your nearest available figher aircraft into the eye of the storm, point the nose at the sky, hit the afterburners and get everyone to catch the resulting cornpuffs in paper bags ready for sale.
-- kindachewy, Jun 25 2009

Alternatively - create a fire tornado. Like at the Magna centre in Sheffield. I'm sure that would do the trick. (Looks pretty hot, too!)
-- kindachewy, Jun 25 2009

//it requires catching the Tornado to work, then hunting down the bag later?//

Bags of kernels could be tied very tightly to strong trees in regions frequented by tornadoes. The disaster management teams would then have something to munch on as they go about assessing the damage.
-- shudderprose, Jun 26 2009

The problem with this idea is that it's completely unworkable, but has a brilliant title. Now you just need a better idea which still fits the title.
-- hippo, Jun 26 2009

//The problem with this idea is that it's completely unworkable//

-- Wrongfellow, Jun 26 2009

//Bags of kernels could be tied very tightly to strong trees in regions frequented by tornadoes.//

If a tree falls in a tornado, and no one hears it, did it really make a sound? Well now we *can* know! Implant a small sound recording device in each popcorn bag... Of course the mangey alley cat of what constitutes an observer still holds...
-- 4whom, Jun 26 2009

I'm not sure about putting cats in bags, even if they are mangey. How is it going to hear the tree falling with all that popping going on anyway?
-- shudderprose, Jun 26 2009

// mangey alley cat //

Cats tied to trees, waiting for tornadoes .... sweet.
-- 8th of 7, Jun 26 2009

Presumably the popping of the corn, and the *noise* of a tornado are randomly distributed. So you would seek an anomaly in the recorded noise. A sequence of sound, over a specific time frame, that deviates, statistically, from the noise. It is what SETI are looking for!

However, being a proponent of the obfuscation of coherency within noise, I couldn't honestly back that proposition, although it would feasibly work. Having said that, there would be no way to distinguish it from random noise without knowing the time frame of collapse of tree, and hence we are back to the no sound, if no-one heard it argument. This is one of the main problems I have with SETI. It is quite possible that we have received a signal that manifests some coherence, hidden in a background of random noise. Likewise, the WOW incident could have been the unlikely probabilistic event of interference of some kind not related to us, but in no way implying coherence.
-- 4whom, Jun 26 2009

//Now you just need a better idea which still fits the title.//

Halfbakers, arm your spatulas. Duty calls.
-- swimswim, Jun 26 2009

//It's not just a question of temperature ......//

-- spidermother, Feb 03 2011

//we need bigger, hotter tornadoes!//

Blowing on the base of the tornado with a giant hairdryer should do the trick!
-- DrBob, Feb 03 2011

Back to the av-gas flavored popcorn. Is it possible to fly a biodiesel fighter plane? Preheat the corn and run it through the corn oil powered engine?

I've misplaced the notes for my popcorn powered machine gun idea crafted as a crime scene analysis, but this may satisfy that need.
-- normzone, Feb 03 2011

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but the heat is an integral part of the process. You have to cook and gelatinize the starch before the kernel pops, as this is what gives the fluffy white goodness that we associate with popcorn. Explosive decompression alone won't do it.
-- 5th Earth, Feb 03 2011

So all we need is a corn oil fueled biodiesel fighter jet with both a preheater and an afterburner. That should be easy to do with existing technofantasy.

Ah, popcorn tech (link).
-- normzone, Feb 03 2011

//we need bigger, hotter tornadoes! (or a mechanism for appropriately warming popcorn before feeding it into a jet engine// When granny asks me for a motto to embroider on her next sampler, I'm giving her that.
-- mouseposture, Feb 04 2011

but you will have simply made puffed corn (which is not the same as popcorn)

any grain or starch can be puffed
-- EdwinBakery, Feb 14 2011

I keep reading this as "Pornado", which is probably something else, and indeed is probably something else.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 14 2011

Puffed, popped, or porned, it's tasty either way.
-- normzone, Feb 14 2011

This could come in quite handy in Kansas where I live... The downside to this invention is that it's seasonal, meteorologically speaking.
-- threelefts, Feb 16 2011

The chalk outlines of the original annos...(link)
-- normzone, Jan 27 2013

random, halfbakery