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Microwave Candy: Do Some Colors of M&Ms Melt Faster than Others? (page 2)

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Author: Tricia Edgar
See in slideshow:
10 Food Experiments for Kids

Results

Results will vary.

Why?

If you’ve ever put a plastic container of food in the microwave before, you’ve probably noticed that the food gets a lot hotter than the container does. So how come? Water molecules in the food are more polar than the molecules in the plastic container, which means they have a positive and negative pole like a magnet does. Polar molecules absorb microwave radiation very well!

If certain colors of M&Ms cracked first, it’s not because those colors are better or worse at absorbing microwaves. Different colors can certainly absorb different amounts of light, and while microwaves are a lot like visible light, they have a much shorter wavelength and are impossible to see. An object’s ability to absorb microwave radiation has pretty much nothing to do with its color! So what’s going on?

The chocolate in the center of an M&M candy more polar than its hard candy shell, so it absorbs microwaves and melts. The heat from the chocolate eventually weakens the candy shell, causing it to crack. If you noticed that certain colors of M&M’s cracked sooner than others did, it may be because the food coloring used in those colors created a weaker candy shell.

Now let’s think back to the procedure. Remember when we asked you to make sure to pick regularly shaped M&Ms? This way, we can make sure that the candy shell surrounding the chocolate isn’t weaker on some M&Ms than it is on others (for reasons other than color, that is!). We also picked a paper plate for a similar reason: we don’t want any source of heat besides that created by microwaves melting the M&Ms. Remember—the variable we’re trying to test is if microwave radiation works better on certain types of colors, so we need to make sure nothing else can mess up the results of our experiment!

Do you think you can redesign this experiment to test how differently-colored M&Ms melt when they’re exposed to light? Maybe you can design an experiment that determines if foods with more water content heat up better in the microwave. Whatever you do, make sure you get an adult’s help, and test only one thing at a time!

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