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Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays: Because You Demanded It

July 21, 2009

Unlike most radio stations in this country, which feature a boring glut of mediocre pre-programmed tripe, I'm willing to take requests. So, today's episode is brought to you by the letter C, as in, Mr. Condescending. He asked for it, and since I'm a whore for my readers, I'm obliging.

So, today we're going to explore the wonders of the Diet Coke and Mentos Eruption.

I'm sure you've all seen the episode of Mythbusters where Adam and Jamie were certain that some form of internet legerdemain was at work during the infamous Diet Coke/Mentos fountain symphony that started the whole craze in the first place. Of course, the idiots boys were proved wrong, and then they tried their best to get to the bottom of why this thing goes off like it does.


My first guess was that it was an acid/base reaction, the base coming from the Mentos (I was guessing some kind of preservative) and the acid being the carbonic acid dissolved in most sodas to give it fizz. Carbonic acid is basically the bastard child of water and carbon dioxide, and it's decomposition reaction looks like this:

H2CO3 -----> H2O + CO2


The problem is that it's not a chemical reaction at play here. Instead, as Adam and Jamie proposed, it's simply a matter of physics. They postulated that the tiny pits, grooves and swirls on the surface of the Mentos helped form tiny bubbles so quickly that they erupted in a fountain of Diet Coke. In a paper published in New Scientist of June from last year, a physicist from Applachian State University here in lovely North By God Carolina unraveled the mystery of the Diet Coke fountain.

Seems as though it's simply a matter of gravity, surface tension and the aforementioned nucleation sites on the surface of candies. The aspartame (the artificial sweetener) dissolved in the Diet Coke is perfect for breaking up the interactions between the water molecules making them more willing to give up the goods. The same trick works with college chicks and alcohol. The surface of the Mentos, which is covered with gum arabic, helps to make tiny bubbles quickly, and the specific gravity of the Mentos helps them to sink to the bottom of bottle, exposing themselves to more Diet Coke. Crushed up Mentos, despite their higher surface area, don't sink as quickly and therefore don't work as well.

That's a fancy way of saying that Diet Coke + Mentos = Fountains of Wayne Awesome.


Now, if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach him to fish, you've just lost yourself a fish junky that will pay you for what you catch. In the same vein, if you give a man some candies and a bottle of diet cola, he'll make a fountain. If you give a man a cap along with those candies and diet soda, he'll make a rocket. Robert Goddard would be so proud.


Well...he probably wouldn't have been proud of that guy.

As Scope pointed out last week, it's all fun and games until one of these rockets goes flying through the window of your house or your windshield...or your abdomen... Then things might not be nearly as funny. Well, at least not for you, but the rest of us will sure point and laugh at your misfortune. So, should you decide to try making your own amateur rockets, do it in a wide open area, alright?

Sadly, I have been proven wrong. Studies of the pH of the Diet Coke before and after the fountain have shown that the pH (measurement of the acidity of a solution) does not change, so the reaction has nothing to do with acid/base chemistry. Dammit! I hate being wrong, but I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong...just not to my wife.

Good thing I didn't tell her that it was an acid/base reaction. Ever. *whistles innocently* I'll be out back with some Diet Coke and fresh-makers if you need me.

22 comments:

Eric said...

What if you were to add acid to the diet Coke?

Mala said...

Actually, my request was for nudie pictures. But this was good too. I feel like I've filled my daily quota for learning shit so I can just be dumb and lazy for the rest of the day.
Thanks.

Whiskey Girl said...

Mala - I think he only works like that old saying.... You show me yours and I'll show you mine.... Good try though... (I hopefully am wrong in my thinking here... )

Mala said...

Who said I didn't??????

snowelf said...

My co-workers are so lucky I have self restraint...my chilis...well...they may not be as lucky later.

*eyes can of diet coke w/ lime*

heh heh heh heh....

--snow

Sass said...

You know it's a good family Thanksgiving when you go rushing to the local gas station to buy multiple 2-liters of Diet Coke and Mentos.

"Hey y'all, watch this!"

Or so I hear...;)

Mr. Condescending said...

Awesome!

Now will it work with any diet soda that uses aspartame?

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Mala: Oh, I got nudie pics. Who do you want? Vanessa Gleason? Victoria Silvstedt?

My friend Joe says that the day is done once he's learned something. So, usually, I try to tell him two or three things a day and then I say "there's your quota for the week". As far as I can tell, he still finds it amusing.

@ Eric: Well, Diet Coke is pretty acidic to start with. I'm assuming it won't matter much. If anything, it might push the equilibrium of the acid decomposition toward the products, which might give you a slight boost in bubbles.

God bless you, Henry Louis Le Chatelier!

@ Courtney: So wait, if I show you mine, then you'll show me yours?

And who says that you need to sell ad space on your blog for it to pay off?

@ Mala: Did I miss something?

@ Snowelf: That's a good idea! The citric acid from the lime juice will kill the bacteria when the can goes firing through your abdomen! Two birds, one stone. Genius!!!

@ Sass: Just Thanksgiving? Hell, I consider any holiday a failure unless there's a 'splosion of some kind.

@ Mr. C: You know, it should. According to the paper, the aspartame is what helped to cause the fountain to shoot so high in the air. I can't guarantee that it will work as well as Diet Coke, but, yeah, it should at the very least work.

j-face said...

your blog makes me feel like i'm reading some scientific journal. pretty soon will have to find some glasses so i can put one of the ends in my mouth as i read and shake my head in agreement to all the facts i receive. well done sir.

Scope said...

Yeah, "rocket man" there don't work for no NASA, does he?

mo.stoneskin said...

You didn't cover the following scenarios.

Give a fish a diet coke and it will pop, assuming it can open the damn can and figure out how to drink the stuff.

Give a college girl a fish and she will slap you with it.

JennyMac said...

Wow...Mentos finally bears some interest for me. And I promise we won't tell your wife about..you know...being wrong.

Bev said...

This is perfect! I'd really like to see those cheesy Mentos commercials utilizing some of this know-how. I don't know why the grinning Swedish dudes in those ads inspire violence in me, but for some reason I want to see them blown up by a 2 liter of Coke. Hmmm.

BeckEye said...

Oh, so everyone gets their nudie pics. But where are the beefcake shots of Tory from Mythbusters?

The guy laughing in that 2nd video just sounds like the kind of guy I'd love to punch. Like, even in a funny situation he sounds like he's fake-laughing.

Whiskey Girl said...

Deal!!! ;)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Jerrod: Oh, trust me. Scientific journals are far more boring and filled with a lot more lexigraphical masturbation and verbal orgasms *cough*K.C. Nicolau*cough* But, I thank you nonetheless.

@ Mo: I have to parse these things out, save them for subsequent episodes and whatnot. I can't just go puking the entire gamut of fish, college chicks and bombs all in one place at one time.

@ Scope: No, I think we can safely assume that he'll not be participating in any sort of moonshot.

I did find it disturbing that he looks a bit like Jimmy Clausen.

@ JennyMac: Awesome! Now I feel 100% secure with my decision to admit my mistake.

@ Bev: That's horrible! How could you say that? I mean, they're just Swedes. They'd be all "herdy skerdy verdy BLAM!!!"

That's on your conscious, lady, not mine.

@ Beckeye: All in good time. All in good time. Plus, Tory is awesome and thusly I shall not point out that he's wrong, unlike Jamie and Adam, who kind of annoy me. Not Grant Imahara levels of annoy, but annoy nonetheless.

@ Courtney: Fabulous. Now, if you can just be patient and let me sign the papers that I'm sure my wife will have waiting for me at home this evening, we can get down to business.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Beckeye: Yeah, that laugh makes me want to punch the camera guy in the throat. Oh, and is the kid who just did the flip running over toward the camera guy crying? Because that's kind of the same thing my 5-year-old does when he gets hurt.

Except, I think my son would handle a 2-L flying at his head with more grace and dignity.

Fancy Schmancy said...

I was drinking my diet coke once and was like, what the hell is that weird taste, must be a bad bottle. When I went to dump it out, I found a Mentos gum at the bottom. Dumbass teenage boy decided to experiment with MY diet coke and when he found out the gum didn't work, he put the shit back in the fridge for me to drink!

Lisa-tastrophies said...

I don't care if it isn't a chemical reaction, it's still funny as sh*t and a great attention getter for 7th graders who think science sucks.
Does it work with real coke? Or is it only the Diet stuff?

Candy's daily Dandy said...

I didn't get any of that technical shit, but that youtube video was

AWESOME!!!!! I liked the music too.

Missy said...

You are so correct about the fish junky idea!

Nej said...

Unless they've changed formulas since I was in high school.....Mt. Dew and pixie stix have a similar reaction.

It wasn't as "explosive"....but it fizzed up something fierce. Trick was to have the shot of Dew ready...throw in the Stix, then knock it back....quick!!!