Growing and Shrinking Marshmallows

Make marshmallows shrink and grow in vacuum chamber! You should be able to do this with a kitchen vacuum pack gadget such as a Seal-a-Meal.

What you need:
  • Vacuum seal container, such as a Seal-a-Meal
  • Marshmallows or Peeps candy

What to do:
  1. Place the marshmallows or Peeps in the sealed container.
  2. Attach the vacuum.
  3. Start the vacuum and watch your marshmallows expand.
  4. Turn off the vacuum. Do the marshmallows collapse?

What's happening:
Marshmallows contain tiny air bubbles. The air inside the marshmallows pushes out, while the air around the marshmallows pushes in. When air is pumped out of the container, reducing the air pressure, the air bubbles inside the marshmallow push outwards and cause the marshmallow to grow.

As the marshmallow grows, the air bubbles inside start to rupture. When you turn off the vacuum and allow air back in, the marshmallow shrinks back to normal size. But since some of the air bubbles have been destroyed, it wrinkles and collapses even further.

Sugar and Marketing

Since I'm so interested in candy's science and history, I both enjoyed and was horrified by the book Sugar: The World Corrupted by James Walvin.

I learned that the European desire for sugar fueled the creation of plantations and slavery in the Americas. After slavery 'officially' ended in America after the Civil War, the sugar industry continued to use workers in conditions resembling slavery. These included indentured Indian laborers in British colonies; indentured Chinese and Japanese workers in the Carribean and South America, and poorly paid migrant workers in Florida.

Now our dependence on sugar has caused obesity rates to skyrocket. We're the targets and victims of marketing campaigns whose scope we can hardly imagine.

Amount of money spent on advertising to the young:
  • $792 million on breakfast cereals
  • $549 million on soft drinks
  • $330 million on snacks

"Only the automobile industry spent more money on advertising than the US food industry--understandably, perhaps, when we realise that 12.5 percent of all American consumer spending goes on food."

Sugar: The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity by James Walvin, 2018

Cotton Candy

After a week in a slightly humid kitchen, this:

flattens into this:

which, close up, looks like this: