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YouTube / NPR

Finding the Speed of Light With Peeps

YouTube / NPR
YouTube / NPR

For centuries, scientists have tried different methods to determine the speed of light. (Prior to the 17th century, a common assumption was that light was infinitely fast, or at least impossible to measure.) Galileo tried an early method using lanterns, but was frustrated when he couldn't work it out. Many others tried various optical and astronomical methods, and eventually succeeded.

Weirdly, if those scientists had access to a microwave oven and some Peeps (okay, and a power source, and a working knowledge of physics), they could've gotten a pretty decent measurement in a few minutes. In this video, NPR's Adam Cole explains how to make it happen:

If you're hoarding stale marshmallows (they don't have to be Peeps), you can try this at home!

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20 Delicious Facts About Peeps
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Getty Images

You know whether you prefer chicks to bunnies, fresh to stale, or plain to chocolate-covered. But there’s a lot you may not know about Peeps, everyone’s favorite (non-chocolate) Easter candy.

1. IT USED TO TAKE 27 HOURS TO MAKE A PEEP.

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That was in 1953, when Sam Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company and its line of marshmallow chicks. Back then, each chick was handmade with a pastry tube. Just Born quickly set about automating the process, so that it now takes just six minutes to make a Peep.

2. AN AVERAGE OF 5.5 MILLION PEEPS ARE MADE EVERY DAY.

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All of them at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In one year, the company makes enough peeps to circle the earth—twice!

3. YELLOW CHICKS ARE THE ORIGINAL PEEP, AND STILL THE FAVORITE.

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Yellow bunnies are the second most popular color/shape combination. Pink is the second best-selling color.

4. THE RECIPE HAS STAYED PRETTY MUCH THE SAME.

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The recipe begins with a boiling batch of granulated sugar, liquid sugar, and corn syrup, to which gelatin and vanilla extract are later added. (You can take a virtual factory tour here).

5. THE EQUIPMENT HAS ALSO STAYED THE SAME. UNTIL RECENTLY.

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Since Just Born turned Peeps-making into an automated process, the chicks have been carefully formed by a top-secret machine known as The Depositor. Created by Sam Born’s son, Bob, The Depositor could manufacture six rows of five Peeps apiece in a fraction of the time it took workers to form them by hand. And that same machine that Bob built has been keeping the Peeps flowing ever since. Until recently …

In 2014, the company announced that it was planning to renovate its manufacturing plant, including The Depositor. “It’s a little sad,” vice president of corporate affairs Matthew Pye told Candy Industry magazine. “Bob Born made it from scratch in 1954 and it allowed us to distribute and grow the brand nationally." 

6. THE NEW EQUIPMENT COULD MEAN NEW PEEPS INNOVATIONS.

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“The investment in our marshmallow making process will allow for more efficiency, more consistency, improved quality, and additional innovation capabilities,” co-CEO Ross Born told Candy Industry magazine about the new depositor, which will be able to produce a wider variety of Peeps in all sizes. “The [old] Peeps line did one thing and one thing very well—cranking out chicks day in and day out. Five clusters, just in different colors,” Born said.

7. PEEPS USED TO HAVE WINGS.

They were clipped in 1955, two years after the first marshmallow chicks hatched, to give the candy a sleeker, more “modern” look.

8. THE EYES ARE THE FINAL TOUCH.

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The final flourish for all of these squishy balls of sweetness is adding the eyes, which are made of carnauba—a non-toxic edible wax (that is also found in some shoe polishes and car waxes, plus many other candies).

9. PEEPS MAY BE DESTRUCTIBLE, BUT THEIR EYES ARE NOT.

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In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University—dubbed “Peeps Investigators”—decided to test the theory that Peeps are an indestructible food. In addition to a microwave, the pair tested the candy’s vulnerability to tap water, boiling water, acetone, and sulfuric acid (they survived them all). When they upped the ante with some Phenol, the only things that didn’t disappear were the eyes. 

10. THEY REALLY ARE EVERYONE’S FAVORITE NON-CHOCOLATE EASTER CANDY.

For the past 20 years, no other non-chocolate Easter candy has been able to compete with the power of Peeps. With more than 1.5 billion of them consumed each spring, Peeps have topped the list of most popular Easter treats for two decades.

11. THERE ARE SUGAR-FREE PEEPS.

Counterintuitive, we know. But in 2007, the first line of sugar-free Peeps hit store shelves.

12. THERE ARE ALSO CHOCOLATE-COVERED PEEPS.

Chocolate-covered Peeps hit the market in 2010. Today there’s a full line of them for every occasion.

13. PEEPS COME IN A VARIETY OF FLAVORS.

Color and shape (i.e. yellow chick) are no longer the only ways to categorize a Peep. They now come in an array of flavors, including raspberry, blueberry, fruit punch, sour watermelon, candy cane, and orange creme.

14. PEEPS LIP GLOSS IS A THING.

Yep.

15. ON NEW YEAR'S EVE, BETHLEHEM DROPS A GIANT PEEP.

PEEPS®

The drop is done with a traditional chick that flashes different colors at midnight.

16. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, PEEPS ARE NOT JUST BORN’S BEST-SELLING BRAND.

That honor belongs to Mike and Ike. (Sorry, Peepsters.)

17. YOU CAN GET YOUR PEEPS FIX IN LIQUID FORM.

PEEPS® and Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.

For the 2015 Easter season, Peeps teamed up with Illinois’ Prairie Farms to produce a limited lineup of Peeps-flavored milk. For the past two years, it's come back by popular demand.

18. THEY’RE A BOON TO CREATIVITY.

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All over the country, Peeps have become the preferred media for a number of highly anticipated annual art contests.

19. 37,000 PEEPS WEIGH ABOUT AS MUCH AS ONE BOY BAND.

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At least if that boy band is One Direction—prior to Zayn Malik's departure. The scientists at Just Born have estimated that it would take more than 37,000 pieces of marshmallow deliciousness to equal the combined weight of the band. Following Zayn Malik's departure, the Peeps team adjusted that number to 29,882.

20. THERE WERE APPROXIMATELY 2 BILLION PEEPS PRODUCED IN 2016.

That's a lot of Peeps!

Updated for 2017.

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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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iStock

You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: you don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

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