When corn is heated, moisture inside kernels turns to steam, which cannot escape through the tough outer hull of the kernel. Under pressure and heat, the starch inside kernels becomes gelatinous. As the pressure continues to mount, the hull finally ruptures with a “pop” sound, as the water vapor is released. Suddenly released from pressure, the starch becomes an airy puff that rapidly solidifies as it cools. The wild grass teosinte, the ancestor of corn, also produces edible popcorn. Was the transformation of teosinte to corn the result of a 9000-year-old experiment to produce better popcorn?
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Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn
A piece of popcorn was laid on a hot plate at 350 degrees centigrade and filmed with a high-speed camera at 2,900 frames per second. The time interval between pictures in the image is 1/100 second.
Alexandre Ponomarenko PhD Grenoble University, France and Emmanuel Virot PhD., École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France