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Monday, October 24, 2005
Most food softens when moistened, but chewing gums stiffens. What's the deal?

Calling chewing gum a "food" is a stretch. Until about sixty years ago, most gum base wasmade from the sap of a Central American sapollia tree -- that sap was chicle (of Chiclets fame). In essence, folks were chomping on rubber.

By the 1950's most major gum manufacturer replaced chicle with an artificial gum base made from a synthetic plastic-rubbery substance that chemically resembles the chicle it replaced. Although there are other ingredients in gum (sugar or artificial sweeteners, natural flavourings, glycerin to preserve moistness, etc) it is the gum base that gives gum its charateristics elasticity and softeness.

Chicle and the artificla gum base that was designed to mimic chicle share one important characteristic -- they soften and harden over a small range of temperature. When moist gum cools, it hardens. When moist gum is wamred, it softern. When you stick a thermometer in your mouth, it registers 98.6 degrees Farenheit on your thermometer (give or take a degree or two or a hospital visit or two ). When you chec gum, your near 100-degree saliva moistens the gum, and that rigid stick quickly softens.

When we drink water, it's usually cold. But even room-temperature water is cold enough to give our gum rigor mortis. Drink some hot water and the gum will magically soften up again.

This is not a chemical reaction. The gum does'nt care wheatehr the cold liquid is Coca-Cola, water ice, or malt liquor. And this is true of all rubber -- pour some cold water on a rubber eraser and it will harden, too. In fact, as fans of Heloise know well, applying ice is the classic home remedy for removing dried gum from clothing -- once you've harden the gum, it is much easier to remove.

For the sake of research, we tested various water temperatures on a stick of Wrigley's Doublemint gum, and we found we could achieve stasis. When we opened the hot water faucet and the water was warm but nothot, we could drink wihtout the gum softening or hardening --the Golden Mean.

(Reserched by: Jill Clay of Pleasant Prairies, Wisconsin, and Matt Weatherford of Arvada, Colorado/ from the Book: "Do Elephants Jump?" by David Feldman)
posted by infraternam meam @ 10:42 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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