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Why Does Popcorn Pop?

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First off, popcorn isn’t just any old corn. It’s a cultivated strain of flint corn known as zea mays everta. Its kernel is also a whole grain—it consists of the bran (the hull or outer covering), the germ (the “embryo” that germinates into a plant), and the endosperm (the starch that provides nutrition for the germ).

Inside the protective hull, each popcorn kernel is mostly some soft, starchy endosperm and a small amount of water. All three of those things help make popcorn pop the way it does. As you cook the kernels in a pan on the stovetop or in a microwaveable bag, the water inside each kernel starts to heat up, create steam and expand. The hulls keep all that energy contained, like little pressure cookers, for a short while. Popcorn hulls are great at this because their cellulose molecules are arranged in a highly-ordered pattern that makes them both strong and impermeable.

The water and steam eventually create enough internal pressure to break the hull and make the kernel pop, but there has to be a certain amount of water for it to pop right. Too little, and there won’t be enough energy to open the hull. The kernel will either be a dud, or steam will just escape from whatever cracks it could create. Too much water, and the final product will be dense and gummy instead of light and fluffy. Farmers harvest popcorn when its moisture content is between 16 and 19 percent by mass, and then dry it until the moisture drops into the 13 to 14 percent range.

As the pressure and heat are building up inside the kernel, they gelatinize and soften the starchy endosperm. When the kernel finally pops, the drop in pressure and the escaping steam cause the starch and proteins in the endosperm to expand, and the air outside the kernel rapidly cools them and causes them to solidify and set into white, puffy flakes that go great with butter and salt (or a little Old Bay seasoning).

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Tips For Baking Perfect Cookies
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Perfect cookies are within your grasp. Just grab your measuring cups and get started. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education.

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Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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