Slo-Mo Popcorn Kernels Are a Magical Science Show

Heating up kernels of corn isn’t just a way to make a perfect movie snack. If you have the right cameras, you can also make a cinematic experience unto itself. One that is equal parts science and art. Because as a new short video shows, in super slow-motion, the simple chemical reaction—something too slow for the human eye to fully appreciate on its own—becomes a mesmerizing celebration of nature.

Especially at 100,000 frames-per-second.

This video (which we came across at Laughing Squid) comes from Darren Dyk of the YouTube channel BeyondSlowMotion. He filmed a series of videos of single corn kernels popping, either from atop a tin can lid or the backside of a sauté pan. With a regular camera, the transformation is so fast it almost looks like magic. There’s a quick “jump” from the kernel when it reaches the right temperature. Then the caramel-covered husk of the seed instantly vanishes, replaced by a white piece of popcorn.

That’s still mostly what it looks like even at 1,500 fps. You can see the husk quickly fold over as it peels back. But the entire event is still very quick, highlighting just how fast the changeover really happens.

Things slow down starting at 3,000 fps, enough that you can start to see more of the fine details of the transformation. And as Dyk increases the camera’s frames-per-second the physics of the reaction are easier to appreciate.

Popcorn Popping is a Magical Science Show in Super Slow-Mo_1BeyondSlowMotion

But things get special at 100,000 fps. In super, super slow-motion, the whole process starts to look like magic again. The kernel pops up off the pan and appears to float before it starts to unravel.

Then it starts to resembles something from a sci-fi movie as it basically inverts itself. That effect stops when it briefly looks like a roast chicken standing on its legs. All the while, you can see the tiny droplets of water glistening on the soon-to-be snack.

Popcorn Popping is a Magical Science Show in Super Slow-Mo_2BeyondSlowMotion

The whole process is riveting. But that’s not a surprise when you remember it’s always better watching great films with popcorn. As long as you have the right camera.

Featured Image: BeyondSlowMotion