Monday, November 03, 2008

Of Popcorn Kernels and Statistics

I'm taking Modeling and Analysis of Uncertainty this semester. It's a statistics course with lots of data and finding averages and standard deviations of things.

We have six small projects throughout the semester. The fourth one, which I have just completed, was highly amusing.

We were told to find a measurable characteristic of popped kernels of popcorn and get two brands of popcorn. Then we had to pop the popcorn and measure whatever it was we decided to measure. Extra points go to those who chose interesting measurable characteristics and measured them in unique ways.

My teammate and I sat in our student union Saturday night with our two bags of popcorn and realized we had very little on hand to measure anything. So we hunted through our backpacks and racked our brains for strange and unusual measurements. At last, we hit upon it: we would measure the saturatability of popcorn. Our reasoning was thus: if a popcorn kernel is highly saturable, then it should potentially be able to absorb more butter. And clearly more absorbed butter makes for tastier popcorn, and tastier popcorn makes a better brand. Therefore, the popcorn brand with the best saturability would be the better brand of the two.

Then we had to measure it. Fortunately, my teammate had a bright pink highlighter. We sat in the union marking popcorn for two and a half hours. We are pretty sure people gave us strange looks.

But all our popcorn was marked pink, and we finished our project.


Carla said...

That would be a highly memorable project, if a little tedious. I would definitely expect you to get marks for creativity and originality!

Homemanager said...

I like your reasoning...of course, I really like buttery popcorn...we haven't had it in a bit...we will have to remedy that! :-)
BTW, was one more saturable than the other?