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The Popcorn Experiment

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In this project I will be testing whether or not popcorn yields a higher percentage of popped kernels when frozen. This is relevant because most people would like to get the best value out of items they purchased and this may demonstrate one way to do that. I will be freezing multiple bags of popcorn and then popping both frozen and unfrozen bags in the microwave. Finally I will count the popped and unpopped kernels to determine the percentages for both variables and if there is a difference. Literature Review

Through my research I did not find any other experiments like my own. I did, however, find two other popcorn experiments that helped me decide on my experimental plan. In both articles, the experimenters were trying to decide which brand of popcorn produced the lowest yield of unpopped popcorn. The Popcorn and College Students describes any broken kernel as popped and any intact kernels as unpopped (Saum, DeLap, Skinner, & Galli, 2003). Tammie Mason’s experiment however gives much more concise direction and describes the mathematics she used to obtain the data (Mason, 2011). Both experiments use the method of counting the kernels to determine a percentage (Mason, 2011) (Saum, DeLap, Skinner, & Galli, 2003). This is the method I will use for my experiment.

Experimental Design Steps
1. Place 3 bags of popcorn in freezer.
2. Leave bags of popcorn in freezer 24 hours to insure they are thoroughly frozen.
3. Place bag 1 of room temperature popcorn in microwave.
4. Microwave for one minute and 45 seconds.
5. Remove bag from microwave.
6. Separate popped kernels from unpopped kernels into separate containers.
7. Count popped popcorn.
8. Count unpopped kernels.
9. Add results together to get a total number of kernels.
10. Divide unpopped kernels by total number of kernels to get percentage.
11. Repeat steps 3-10 for second and third bag of room temperature popcorn.
12. Remove first bag of frozen popcorn from freezer.
13. Repeat steps 3-10.
14. Remove second bag of popcorn from freezer.
15. Repeat steps 3-10
16. Remove third bag from freezer.
17. Repeat steps 3-10.
18. Add percentages for all three bags of room temperature popcorn.
19. Divide result by three to find average.
20. Add percentages for all three bags of frozen popcorn.
21. Divide result by three to find average.
22. Compare averages.

The reason I am using this experimental plan is that it makes the most sense to me and has been proven successful in previous experiments. It is also easy to replicate. Variables
The dependent variable is the amount of unpopped kernels.
The independent variable is the temperature of the popcorn, frozen or room temperature. Controlled:
Using the same brand popcorn on the same day, keeping the frozen popcorn frozen until time of use, microwaving for the same amount of time Threat Reduction to Internal Validity

The steps I am taking to prevent threat reduction to internal validity are as follows. I will use the same brand and flavor popcorn throughout the entire process. I will also pop all popcorn on the same day to prevent environment from factoring into the equation. Finally, I will leave frozen popcorn in the freezer until it is time to pop to prevent it from thawing. Hypothesis

It is my belief that by freezing the popcorn prior to popping it, the internal pressure moisture will change. This will result in less popped kernels. Sequence of Events

When conducting this experiment, first I placed 3 bags of popcorn in the freezer and left them for 24 hours. The next day, I popped each of the room temperature bags of popcorn. I sorted the each bag into two bowls, one for popped popcorn and one for unpopped kernels. Next, I popped each bag of frozen popcorn, leaving them in the freezer until the moment of need. I, then, sorted each frozen bag of popcorn into two bowls, popped and unpopped. Next I collected the data. Process of Data Collection

To collect the data, I counted each individual kernel as one unit. Next I added all kernels from the same bag together to get a total. Then I divided the unpopped popcorn by the total number of kernels in that bag to get a percentage. Then I added all the percentages for the room temperature popcorn together and divided the total by 3 to get an average. After this, I did the same for the frozen popcorn. Below is a table of the data that was collected.

Appropriate Methods
I had considered two methods of measuring data. The first method I considered was to measure by volume. I ruled this out because not every popcorn kernel is the same size and not every kernel pop as large so it’s hard to say if one type popped more kernels or just popped larger kernels. The second was counting each individual kernel and coming up with a percentage. I chose this method because it seemed to better depict how much popcorn was actually being popped. Tools

The unit of measurement used for this project is one kernel of popcorn equals any broken kernel. The tools required for this project are as follows:
1. Microwave
2. Freezer
3. Bowls for sorting (2)
4. Bags of popcorn (6)
5. Paper
6. Pencil
The results of this experiment confirmed the hypothesis. The average of the unpopped kernels was more than doubled when the popcorn was frozen first. Room Temperature Popcorn
Bag 1- 318 popped, 103 unpopped; 24.5% unpopped kernels
Bag 2- 304 popped, 97 unpopped; 24.2% unpopped kernels
Bag 3- 311 popped, 110 unpopped; 26.1% unpopped kernels
Average unpopped kernels = 24.9%
Frozen Popcorn
Bag 1- 162 popped, 245 unpopped; 60.2% unpopped kernels
Bag 2- 170 popped, 243 unpopped; 58.8% unpopped kernels
Bag 3- 165 popped, 239 unpopped; 59.2% unpopped kernels
Average unpopped kernels = 59.4%

My conclusion is that freezing popcorn does reduce the amount of popped kernels. Confirmation of Hypothesis
My hypothesis is confirmed. Freezing popcorn increases the amount of unpopped kernels. However, the reason is still unclear. It could be that freezing changes the amount of moisture in the kernels. It could also be that the oil took longer to heat when frozen and therefore the popcorn did not have enough time in the hot oil to pop. To test this theory I would try popping popcorn in a popper as opposed to the microwave. Experimental Design as Key Factor

The experimental design is a key factor because it both allows for replication and allows the scientist to organize their thoughts, create a plan of execution, and examine where an experiment could or did go wrong. This is important in this experiment because the outcome could have been completely different if there was no control or too many variables. Replication

This experiment is easily replicated. The plan is very well detailed and there is only 1 independent variable. Anyone could take this set of
instructions and come out with the same conclusion. Evaluation of Validity

The results of this experiment are valid. The experiment was conducted in a controlled environment. There is only one independent and one dependent variable. The experiment is able to be replicated. To further knowledge on the subject, however, it may be important to try several brands or flavors with the same experimental plan to see if they have the same outcome or if this particular brand of popcorn does not handle freezing well. By replicating this experiment, it would show that no outside variable was affecting the outcome of this experiment.


Mason, T. (2011, January 3). Which Microwave Popcorn Gives You the Most Pop for Your Buck? Retrieved December 7, 2011, from Yahoo Voices: http://voices.yahoo.com/which-microwave-popcorn-gives-most-pop-your-7479224.html Saum, J., DeLap, K., Skinner, K., & Galli, B. (2003, January 12). Popcorn and College Students. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from Jr Science: http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/nsfall01/FinalArticles/PopcornandCollegeStudents.html

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