The Adventures of Joshua Judson Rosen
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Thursday, 24 Oct 2013

20:33: We Will Celebrate Grav-mass.

My son's school is culturally sensitive and diverse place; to wit, they've sent out a `holidy traditions' survey asking questions like:

  • What holiday will you be celebrating in December?
  • What traditions and customs does your family follow?
  • Where is the holiday celebrated?
  • What foods are cooked/eaten?

We've written in "Grav-mass" as our holiday, and are in the process of trying to come up with answers to the other questions tonight. It's perhaps too new a holiday to have real traditions (yet), but traditions have to start somewhere--and that's actually a pretty nice set of prompts to get us started.

The food questions is especially interesting: the obvious answer is "Apples and apple-based things" (perhaps a `2(apple)π'), but what else? `Engineered foods' seems like it might actually be a fitting alimentary theme, except that there's a pretty popular dislike of `science in food' (people are generally much more comfortable with food-preparation techniques that are more like `food alchemy' than `food science'...), and even more popular (and stronger) dislike for `food engineering'. And I have to admit that `celebrating the holidays with engineered foods' initially sounds somewhat off even to me. We could, perhaps, bring in my family's tradition of going out for Chinese food (since the Chinese restaurants are generally the only ones that are open on Grav-mass; this tradition actually pre-dates Grav-mass, since it's--fittingly--grounded in observed and verified realities of the world around us).

I wrote RMS and asked him if he'd had, or heard, any ideas for `traditional Grav-mass' foods--since the definitive web-page on the holiday is his at this point, but it doesn't mention foods. We're definitely going to work with his suggestion:

Are there any foods that would bounce if you dropped them on a table?
Want to experiment with them?

And there are, in fact foods that bounce.

From memory, I can say that gelatin blocks do have a certain amount of bounce in them if they're sufficiently low in water-content (too much water and they tend to splat rather than bonce). In fact, remember seeing some television advertisements for Jell-O that made use of this, years ago. Some experimentation reveals that the `jigglers' recipe on the side of a Jell-O package actually yields fairly bouncy stuff--and the closer to spherical the formations of the stuff get, the better they seem to bounce (so, cubes bounce better than thin sheets; and, interestingly, `metricated Jell-O bounces better than imperial Jell-O'--which is to say that ~1-cm cubes seem to bounce better than 1-inch cubes; perhaps this is for the same reason that a 100-lb ball of silly putty doesn't bounce like smaller balls do). I have a feeling that gelatin might also bounce better with less sugar in it, so we'll have to run that experiment.

I believe there are also recipes for bouncing eggs, as well--though I'm not sure how tasty the eggs end up being, and I'm not clear on whether the typical `rubber hard-boiled egg with its shell dissolved in vinegar' kitchen science-experiment actually bounces any better than a hard-boiled egg with its shell removed by more conventional means.

Cornstarch-thickened creamy puddings also seem like they might be appropriate: though it's not particularly interesting after it's cooked, these puddings start out as ooblick before they're cooked. Non-newtonian foods for the newtonian holiday? I wonder if there's a way to make ooblick that tastes good without it being cooked. Preliminary experiments seemingly point to `no'. After trying this experiment with prepackaged pudding mixes, I can say that they do actually have a passable taste even before cooking, but they do not pass through an ooblick stage: they appear to contain far too little actual, unmodified corn starch in relation to sugar and other ingredients. No, the `ooblick to pudding pudding' experiment must be properly home-made, starting from scratch rather than reusing someone else's prepackaged science, and followed through to completion. Not only is it better science, it's much more fun.

We're looking for more ideas for `traditional Grav-mass foods' (especially things other than desserts, which seems to be where most of my ideas lay). Maybe you can help? If you have a StatusNet account somewhere, join the Grav-mass discussion group and post some suggestions! If you don't have a StatusNet account yet, there are plenty of StatusNet services where accounts are available (some public where you can just create an account, and many `by invitation' where you can ask and receive an invitation by e-mail).

Let's make plants to get Grav-mass going as a worldwide phenomenon this year.