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Bacon by numbers

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As someone who has since childhood insisted on the importance of texture in my food over and above most other qualities -- leading to strange rainy-day combinations like ice cream and Ruffles potato chips -- I can really get behind the British scientists who spent 1,000 hours testing 700 varieties of bacon (or rashers, as they say across the pond), and found that crispiness and crunchiness were their most crucial aspects. Using a computer that measures texture and a panel of 50 bacon-loving volunteers, they have announced that the ideal bacon-crunching sound should measure 0.5 decibels, and should break when 0.4 newtons of chewing pressure is applied. Dr Graham Clayton, who led the research team, said "We often think that it's the taste and smell of bacon that consumers find most attractive. But our research proves that texture and sound is just, if not more, important." A scientist after my own heart. (Er, tongue.)

But how can you determine the ideal crunchiness/crispiness of your bacon? Simple! Just use the following equation. You don't even need a graphing calculator!

N = C + {fb(cm) . fb(tc)} + fb(Ts) + fc . ta

N = force in Newtons required to break the cooked bacon.
fb = function of the bacon type.
fc = function of the condiment/filling effect.
Ts = serving temperature.
tc = cooking time.
ta = time or duration of application of condiment/filling.
cm = cooking method.
C = Newtons required to break uncooked bacon.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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