At last, the edible science fair
December 09, 2010
Harvard students use imagination to stretch the limits of cuisine (Harvard Gazette)
Hot ice cream. Solid soup. Glow-in-the-dark gummy bears.
Such foods may sound like science fiction, but they were just a few of the final projects on display Tuesday (Dec. 7) for the SPU27: “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter” science fair. Illustrating the tenacious bond between science and cooking, students used physics, chemistry, and biology to manipulate recipes and create foods that stretch the imagination.
“This is the kind of science class I knew I wouldn’t have if I went anywhere else,” said freshman Matt Menendez, as he stood in front of his display on how to create perfect whipped cream.
“Now when I go to the grocery store, I can pick up a pint of cream, see that it has carrageenan and mono- and diglycerides in it, and a). know why they’re in there, and b.) decide if I want them in there, or if I’ll buy cream without them.”
The class has drawn widespread interest. About 700 students applied for the 300 or so spots in it. Lectures held each Monday have been packed. News articles about the class have appeared in publications across the globe. Led by David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, students were introduced to scientific principles that were then linked to cooking. For example, a lesson on measuring and changing viscosity led to the creation of fruit gels, while a lesson on chemical reactions resulted in the cooking of caramels.