Marshal Meets Science

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate June 2001

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Marshmallow Meets Science Marshmallows have been with us for a long time. They are great because they have the qualities of a solid such as definite shape and volume. But their density isn't even remotely close to a real solid, being closer to a typical liquid or a gas than to a solid. In this experiment a marshmallow with mass of 4.05 grams, a height of 2.75 cm and a radius of 1.5 cm was used in as close to standard conditions as possible (26 degrees Celsius and slightly less than one ATM). Through various mathematical manipulations, it was found that the marshmallow has a density of around .208 grams per cubic centimeter. The density of sugar, the main ingredient of the marshmallow, is twelve times that of this marshmallow. The difference between the two helped in the creation of a hypotheses that hypothesized that the marshmallow has air pockets within its walls.

This was further proven true when two random subjects were chosen to put a marshmallow in their mouth and forced to masticate. The subjects then reported that air became present in their mouth when none had been present before.

After the first hypotheses was proven correct it then became obvious that further experiments were necessary to provide insights into the properties of the marshmallow. The day of the experiment was carefully chosen by monitoring the temperature and the pressure. The temperature was easily found by using a thermometer, but the determining the pressure required watching Channel 4 and paying attention to the weather report. Once the ideal conditions occurred, the next step became ever so more obvious and predictable. Since the most of the volume that the marshmallow is gas and because at 26 degree Celsius the marshmallow is very elastic, the marshmallow expands to allow the air pockets to provide gas to fill the container or in this case the vacuum. The vacuum works by removing the gases normally found in the atmosphere. In the complete absence of gas the container will collapse, unfortunately the vacuum doesn't have that kind of power. Nonetheless, as gas goes from abundant to nonexistent the gas present in the system must find a way to fill the container. That being one of the properties of gases that they will expand to fit their container. The marshmallow grows an undeniable amount when the gas found with in its walls follows this fundamental law. No evidence is found contrary to this second hypothesis.

In the previous paragraph it was mentioned that the marshmallow allows gases to escape, so the next logical step in testing this was to return the marshmallow to the initial conditions. In theory, the elasticity of the marshmallow will not allow the gases to return to their previous location and the fifteen pounds per square inch that the atmosphere exerts will make sure. There are strong forces forcing the gas to want to escape their confinement but there are few, if any, forces trying to get it to return to the air pockets. Immediately after returning to the initial conditions the marshmallow suffered shrinkage around those areas nearest to the outer walls. A consequent experiment was created to further test the results of this experiment.

In the ensuing experiment instead of returning the marshmallow to the standard conditions, the marshmallow was banged against the inner walls of the vacuum. This was done to check if the growth of that the marshmallow experienced was the result of gas expanding to fit the container or because the marshmallow was expanding in the absence of pressure. After a couple of hits against the vacuum the marshmallow began to shrink. The evidence for the gas expansion theory kept on mounting to the point where it became undeniable.