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Strawberry Pop-Tart Blow-Torches (1994)


> (At this point the researchers became somewhat concerned that the noise from the toaster would wake the neighbors and attract undue attention. However, we decided that we were already committed to the experiment and that the neighbors would be able to sacrifice some sleep in the name of science.)

Problematic to conduct human research without any noted IRB approval.


The 90s were a different time. The Pepsi-Coke challenge never received REB approval either and it was done en masse.


In the mid 1990's someone in my office put pop tarts in the microwave and mis-typed the time by an extra digit or something and walked back to his desk.

The entire 7 story building was evacuated and the fire department called because of the smoke. There was so much smoke everyone thought the building itself was on fire.


In the late 90s, someone in my house decided to put an orange in a microwave for 30+ minutes just for the hell of it.

Nothing happened for the first 20 minutes or so, but then the orange cracked open and belched out thick black smoke that smelled _disgusting_.

At some point I'm going to sacrifice an old microwave and recreate this experiment outside; I'm desperate to know what the heck is going on with that microwaved orange.


A niece did something like that as her high school science fair project. She got a cheap microwave from Walmart, then tested theories on how long various items would last before becoming a smoking pile, based on their sugar, fat, and protein content.


I'm sure that would have been interesting to see that data. I had an ancient microwave that had cook times for various classical american dishes. Apparently its 30 minutes to microwave an entire turkey.


Wild guess: sugar burnt black, which smells horrific.


Another fun experiment is to slice a grape in half and stick it under a glass cup, then start the microwave and step the hell back. Also, never ever put an egg in a microwave. I accidentally made that mistake and it blew the door open and shattered the glass dish. Might as well have microwaved dynamite.


> Might as well have microwaved dynamite.

On that note, do not ever microwave carbon fiber. It's more like an ammo crate going up than a single explosion, but still... don't do it.


When I was a kid we got one of these new-fangled microwave things; my mum put a potato in it, scoffed at the idea that it could possibly be done in the 8 mins or whatever stated in the instructions, so dialled in a more 'realistic' time and went out to see the neighbours. I was upstairs doing homework oblivious to this drama, but was soon drawn down to the kitchen by the burning smell.

Well, the thing was still gamely running, albeit with smoke pouring out of the back, and the potato itself was a glowing meteorite slowly rotating on its dish, honestly a fascinating sight. The scorch mark on the wall behind is still visible these many decades later.

In a happy corollary, my mum, who has more than a touch of the Beverley Goldbergs about her in this regard, was somehow able to return the ruined 'wave back to the shop and get her money back !


This probably happened a half dozen times a year when I was in college in the dorms. Total evac with everyone in their pjs on the sidewalk. Usually it would be people getting high and making ramen and forgetting the water. Othertimes, popcorn would be purposely burned to mask the smell of getting high.


Who has the time to add water to instant ramen when in college? Or heat for that matter. You dump the powder on the brick and eat it like the big block of crunchy msg it is.


the visual in my mind of someone doing this is just not good. hillarious, but not good. thanks for that. I will have to include this in an as yet unwritten comedy script about the Odd Couple like roommates


I assume you commit seppuku at that point to restore your honor.


No, just sudoku


Puzzling response.


There is a surprising amount of energy in food. It's also possible to make a thermic lance using materials such as spaghetti or bacon:


It seems like one of those things that shouldn't be surprising. We eat food for the calories, the same ones that feed the fire.


There's a snack food in Finland called Hot Rods that ignite pretty easily with an ordinary match. It grosses people out but hey, that's calories !


You can do the same thing with Cheetos. They're great as kindling for starting campfires.


One of many interesting articles from a time when "clickbait" had not been invented (although the title is itself somewhat attractive.) I can certainly imagine what it would look like if this article were written today.

Last Updated: 2G August 1994

For a second I thought that was a 6, but it's actually a G. I wonder if there's any significance to that?




There are oddly few good videos of poptarts making huge flames[1]... but I did find one! (edit: same video, but use KennyBlanken's youtube link below instead) Given the description, maybe it's even related to this site?

Honestly that's pretty impressive. I know it says "10-18 inches", but yea... that's 10-18 inches. For a full minute. That's a serious house hazard.

[1]: I expected them to be all over. "Common things making unexpectedly large fires" is, like, 10% of the internet, right? But no, it's just a rare handful of actual matches in a sea of unrelated search results.


Video minus blogspam:

Definitely does look like it was by the same people, and the bit about "waking the neighbors" is a bit of artistic license.


> At this point, the researchers also realized that the heat could inadvertently melt the adhesive cellophane and cause the flaming SPTs to suddenly eject from the toaster. Unfortunately, this did not occur.

Sounds like a good opportunity for some follow-up research!


This puts me in mind of the Twinkies experiments… in the 90s a couple of Rice students documented a series of experiments on the early web (I remember the “resistivity” test being especially entertaining).

Unfortunately it looks like it’s vanished sometime in the last 30 years.



Yep! Now I have something to (re)read over my long weekend. Thanks!


This is the web I really miss!



The crazy thing is I remembered the title from way back then as soon as I saw it in my RSS feed. The web was a small place.


I think I remember the last time this was posted here! Someone pointed out that "safety-related items" does not appear to include shoes as evidenced by Figure 5.

On another note, it's a really nicely crafted lab report. If I taught a science class I might use this as an example submission.


Thankfully this article uses GIF thumnails instead of the full sized images. Thanks to that, I was able to load the page very quickly with my 500 Mbps bandwidth.


I mean it's a webpage from 1994, it literally had to deal with internet speeds in the near baud range.


I know. It just amuses me to see such a great example of how much our expectations for websites have changed. In 2022, the connection latency and TLS logic actually impact the load time more than the size of the page.


pmichaud is the original author of the excellent