The Science Behind the Sound and Jumping Trajectory of a Popping Popcorn Kernel

In the latest episode of ScienceTake, New York Times reporter James Gorman examines the physics behind the sound and jumping trajectory of a popping popcorn kernel. The snack food dates back at least as far as 16th century Aztec culture, but until a recent paper published by researchers Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko, we haven’t had the exact science detailing why it behaves the way it does.

They had been looking at large-scale events like trees breaking in the wind, Dr. Virot said. But other researchers in the laboratory were using high-speed video, so they decided to try it out on popcorn.