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NASA Space Science

The Physics of Zero-G Whipped Cream 80

SpaceAdmiral writes "An experiment on the Space Shuttle Columbia has been analyzing your ice cream sundae. Or, rather, it looked at the phenomenon of 'shear thinning,' which explains why whipped cream comes out of the can like a liquid, but sits atop your sundae like a solid. The experiment actually involved shear thinning of xenon, a substance used in ion rocket engines, but whipped cream tastes better." I'm not sure it was cost effective to fly Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass into low earth orbit either, but hey, it's NASA — who am I to judge?
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The Physics of Zero-G Whipped Cream

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  • by carlvlad ( 942493 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:14AM (#23206818)
    2 astronauts, 1 cup...
  • by wingome ( 794168 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:27AM (#23206870)
    Herb Alpert - Whipped Cream - someone is showing their age. Me too I guess.
    • by Adambomb ( 118938 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:46AM (#23206940) Journal
      And for the next experiment....Love Potion #9.

      For sale now on pay per view and direct to home dvd.
    • by wass ( 72082 )
      Good thing they had the wisdom not to go with their original album title "Sheer Thinning and Other Delights". I think it was Zorba the Geek that gave them that advice.
    • Hey, I'm only 18 and I know who they are. I collect all sorts of old records like Herb Alpert.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by shark72 ( 702619 )
      Yup. My guess is that for most readers, it's not just the space shuttle that's whooshing way overhead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Demolition ( 713476 )
      Well, that brings back a memory.

      Whipped Cream was one of the first albums I remember my Dad playing when I was a kid. He gave me his old bongo set (yes, bongos... this was the '60s, after all) and I'd play along with drums on the more upbeat tunes like "Peanuts".

      Back on topic... There could be lots of uses for this new info about shear-thinning. The article mentions improved motor oils and better liquid plastics. I've read that this research could apply to better wall adherence for paints, and othe
      • by ashitaka ( 27544 )
        C'mon, *everyone's* dad had that album. Mine included. He was actually a Herb Alpert fan so the album cover was just icing on the cake.

        So to speak.
        • Yeah, my Dad was a big Herb Alpert fan back then. Still is. He asked me to transfer all of his LPs to cassettes so that he could listen to them anywhere in the house or in the car. I suggested that he just buy them on CD, for the convenience factor plus the higher fidelity. He looked at me like I'd sprouted another head.

          You can't change some people, and no use trying to bring them into the modern day. So, I did as he asked. Now, every time I go to my parents' house, he's playing those Herb Alpert c
    • I was actually thinking of Never on a Sunday.
  • Troll (Score:4, Interesting)

    by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:30AM (#23206884)
    Just because the effect can be seen in food doesn't mean it shouldn't be studied.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I guess my question is why this cannot be studied on a vomit comet instead of waiting very precious resources on a space shuttle.
      • Re:Troll (Score:4, Informative)

        by Feanturi ( 99866 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @12:43PM (#23207646)
        By measuring how strongly the fluid resisted the movement of this paddle, the experiment could determine the xenon's thickness. CVX-2 searched for changes in this thickness as it slowly changed the speed of the stirring and the temperature of the fluid.

        My guess is that they needed to keep constant freefall for more than just a minute or so at a time.
      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        I suppose, if we were rational about it, we'd have developed a second generation reusable launch vehicle in the wake of the Challenger accident in 1986 and discontinued the Shuttle sometime in the early 90's.
  • You know... (Score:2, Insightful)

    ...with only a fraction of a percent of the national budget NASA is making groundbreaking (not being sarcastic) research; Imagine the leaps and bounds they would make with late 1960's percentages. I personally can't wait to see some of the applications of the research still being done at the fund-starved NASA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      NASA obviously needs a Czar, and a War on Space
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by davolfman ( 1245316 )
        We need an "I support the War on Space" t-shirt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        Well, that's exactly what happened in the 60s. They had this big space race with Russia, and had to prove they were better than the "commies". This means they got well funded, and the people working for NASA had a lot of motivation to do a good job. Currently there is no real incentive for NASA to show anyone else up. In 1961, just a few months after the first human was put in space (by the commies) Kennedy said they would have a man on the moon, and return him safely by the end of the decade. And they
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:36AM (#23206900)
    > The experiment actually involved shear thinning of xenon, a substance used in ion rocket engines, but whipped cream tastes better.

    let's stay objective and keep personal opinions out of this
  • ........Bring you Neil Armstrong's Whipped Creamed Wives.
    • by irtza ( 893217 )
      what maybe scarier is Space CowboyNeal... can't even bring myself to finish the thought.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Siridar ( 85255 )
      Oh, that's already been done. Almost 10 years ago now:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310288/ [imdb.com]

      For those of you too lazy to click on the link - its a porn film from a company called Private. Set during a space program, it was notable for the time for featuring a zero-G uh, "explosion" from one of the male characters. From memory, the production company booked the "vomit comet" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomit_Comet [wikipedia.org] the article I read about the subject described "...cast and crew scrambling out of the way of
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @09:40AM (#23206916) Homepage Journal

    An experiment on the Space Shuttle Columbia has been analyzing your ice cream sundae.
    I'm lactose-intolerant, you insensitive clod!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Real Ice Cream (not ice milk, or ice-milk-and-cream) has almost no lactose in it. Practically no one makes the stuff, of course. Buy an ice cream maker, and make your own. you won't save any money but the stuff will be dramatically better. It's also low-carb if you use a substitute for sugar (I like Splenda/Sucralose.)

      I know you were just trying to be funny. Try harder next time :)

      • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )
        Yes I was trying to be funny, however I really am lactose-intolerant.

        Thanks for the information.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          he was just being intolerant of lactose intolerance insensitivity jokes
      • Why would there be almost no lactose in cream? There is still plenty of water in cream, which is what the lactose is dissolved in, up to 50% less than milk perhaps ... but 50% less doesn't equate to almost none IMO.

        Unless you want to use sour cream in your ice cream I don't see how it could have almost no lactose.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AikonMGB ( 1013995 )

      An experiment on the Space Shuttle Columbia has been analyzing your ice cream sundae.
      I'm lactose-intolerant, you insensitive clod!

      You expect us to care about someone who is themselves admittedly intolerant of others?


      • by jsiren ( 886858 )

        You expect us to care about someone who is themselves admittedly intolerant of others?

        So you're intolerant of intolerant lactose intolerants?
    • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @11:00AM (#23207238)
      so just because you suffer a reaction if you eat something, no-one else in the world is allowed to mention it? Who made you king of the internet
      • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )
        Geeze, you must be new here... is this the first "you insensitive clod" joke you've seen?

      • Who made you king of the internet
        Now that's a job I'd love to have! Where do I apply and how much does it pay?

    • In today's world isn't being intolerant considered worse than being insensitive?
  • Am I the only one (Score:2, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 )
    Who noticed the summary is discussing Space shuttle columbia [wikipedia.org] in the present tense? This seems pretty tactless
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How on earth (or space!) does that make it tactless??
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by multisync ( 218450 )
      It is a little odd, but it's actually the experiment that is being referred to (unless they've changed it since you wrote that).

      Speaking of the Columbia, I found this quite interesting:

      Most of the data from the experiment, called Critical Viscosity of Xenon-2 (CVX-2), was beamed down to scientists on the ground before the shuttle's destruction during reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Remarkably, the hard drive from the experiment survived the disaster and was found amid the wreckage, and technicians were abl

  • For those of you young 'uns missing it, the Herb Alpert reference is to the cover of the album Whipped Cream and Other Delights [wikipedia.org].

    I personally prefer Clam Dip [wikipedia.org].
    • I was quite surprised and pleased to see that reference in the summary. My parents had that album (probably still do, in a box or cupboard somewhere). Some of the first records I ever played were their Herb Alpert records, along with The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" album.
      • For me, Herb Alpert's "Whipped Cream", Beatles' white album, and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". Those were the good old days :)
  • Not Whipped Cream (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @11:10AM (#23207288) Homepage
    > ...whipped cream comes out of the can...

    That's "dessert topping" (it may also be a floor wax). Whipped cream does not come in a can.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ix42 ( 222898 )
      "Ingredient: Cream. Propellant: Nitrogen"

      You just have to be careful which can you buy.
      • Yes, there are cans of pressurized dessert topping that are more similar to floor wax than they are to whipped cream. There are other cans of whipped cream that are just fine, typically containing cream, sugar, nitrous oxide, vanilla (usually fake), and often some starches or seaweed polymers. Some are made with heavy cream, some are made with light cream and more polymers (and maybe some powdered dry milk as well.)

        The real-cream ones are just fine - they're a bit lighter than the stuff I make at home wi

    • by hicksw ( 716194 )
      Consider the spherical cow (whipped)...
    • Reddi-wip is real cream. It comes in a can.
  • If your "whipped cream" comes out of a can, that's your first mistake right there.
  • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @12:21PM (#23207566)
    To properly study the physics of whipped cream in zero G, I need the Swedish woman's volleyball team as... assistants.
  • by the brown guy ( 1235418 ) on Saturday April 26, 2008 @02:00PM (#23208024) Journal

    but hey it's NASA, who am I to judge?

    A taxpayer...
  • 1. it wasn't whipped cream, it was shaving cream, which washes off a lot more easily.

    2. There were so many delays in getting that cover done, that the model got pregnant. No big deal had they simply gone and done the shoot. But by the time they took the picture she was well into her 5th or 6th month. The more you look at it, the more you'll notice it.

    3. It's a fucking awesome record. For those born after 1970 or so, this is how you act like a middle class WASP of the 1960s:

    Make some martinis, on a sun

  • If this experiment was on Columbia, why is the image called "Challenger_drive.jpg"?

    Challenger was many years earlier...
    • Dangit, wrong story...

      Note to self: Pay attention to which tab you are in when you click "reply"...

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong