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Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko were originally investigating extreme weather when they realised that their equipment could answer a more domestic puzzle: why does popcorn pop? The result is a series of beautiful, slow-motion films of corn heating until it explodes.

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As BBC News explains, the experiments found that 180C seems to be the critical temperature. The mechanics of this process was mysterious – but if you look carefully at the following video, you can see that at the point of explosion, a tiny “leg” emerges from the kernel that bounces off the plate, propelling the corn from the surface. It looks a bit like the birth scene in Alien (although another BBC Future team member swears he sees Godzilla wrestling a giant beach ball.)

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In fact, the build-up and release of energy as the leg hits the ground is surprisingly similar to a human gymnast’s somersault, Virot and Ponomarkeno claim.


The sound comes from escaping water vapour, which resonates in cavities within the kernel. It is the same reason that volcanoes grumble, and a champagne bottle pops as you uncork it.

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It’s just one of many examples showing how striking everyday explosions can be when viewed in slow motion. Consider this film of bubble gum collapsing on a girl’s face:

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It’s intriguingly different to a balloon bursting. Below, you can see a kind of ghostly skeleton forming as the force of the air creates ruptures in the rubber:

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Even something as mundane as spaghetti can become a spectacle as it shatters into hundreds of shards:

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The world around us is explosively alive, if you just take the time to slow down and appreciate it.

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