Friday, May 10, 2013

Scientific Paper of the Week: Glowing Pickle

Have you ever tried to pass electric current through a pickle? "No...that sounds incredible stupid!" you say. But someone thought otherwise and discovered this:

Homer Simpson: "Mmm...forbidden glowing pickle."

I first heard about this trick in Penn and Teller's How to Play with Your Food.  Penn and Teller heard of the trick through the Journal of Chemical Education.

Fun Fact: Teller is actually normal height. He only looks short when standing next to the 6'6" Penn.

To brine a pickle, you put it in salt water. Salt contains sodium. When you pass electric current through the pickle, you excite the electrons inside the sodium. The atomic energy levels of sodium contain a unique doublet known as the sodium D line.

"Atomic line spectra sure are purdy."

And thus we have our Scientific Paper of the Week:

Aaron Santos is a physicist and author of the books How Many Licks? Or How to Estimate Damn Near Anything and Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions. Follow him on Twitter at @aarontsantos.

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