In the name of scientific inquiry: one intrepid man’s journey to the bottom of a vat of Diet Coke

August 7, 2015 • 2:47 pm

by Grania

Mark Twain apparently* once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”. The man was and always will be correct on that point, but this could not be what he had in mind.

Then again, another wise man once said “Life is far too important to be taken seriously”. Mr Wilde was and always will be correct as well.

And the science behind it (god bless Wikipedia and all its minions):

The structure of Mentos is a significant cause of the eruption because of its nucleation sites. The surface of the mint Mentos is covered with many small holes that increase the surface area available for reaction (and thus the quantity of reagents exposed to each other at any given time), thereby allowing carbon dioxide bubbles to form with the rapidity and quantity necessary for the “jet”—or “geyser”—or eruption like nature of the effusion. This hypothesis gained further support when rock salt was used as a “jump start” to the reaction. Tonya Coffey, a physicist at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, confirmed that the rough surface of the Mentos candy helps speed the reaction. Coffey also found that the aspartame in diet drinks lowers the surface tension and causes a bigger reaction, but that caffeine does not accelerate the reaction. The geyser reaction will still work even using sugared drinks, but diet is commonly used both for the sake of a larger geyser as well as to avoid having to clean up a sugary soda mess.

Once the mint candies are added to the beverage, bubbles form around the surface of the mints and rise to the surface of the liquid. In addition, the density of Mentos is greater than the density of the drink, which results in the candy sinking. These two factors combined create the blast.

The potassium benzoate, aspartame, and carbon dioxide gas contained in Diet Coke, in combination with the gelatin and gum arabic ingredients of the Mentos contribute to the formation of the foam.

So there we have it: lots of holes, plus carbon dioxide, sweet non-nourishing aspartame and some gelatine equals KAABLOOIE! I would imagine ingesting the concoction is unwise and potentially embarrassing, which brings us to a third correct statement, this time from a psychotic computer named GLaDOS, “I’m doing science and I’m still alive.”


*The quotes may or may not be accurate**.

** Except the one by GLaDOS which is absolutely accurate.

22 thoughts on “In the name of scientific inquiry: one intrepid man’s journey to the bottom of a vat of Diet Coke

          1. I think it’s a natural talent. On the other hand, never understood how pitchers can do that either.

            1. Yeah, it’s either you can throw a ball or you can’t. Something in the elbow perhaps. I bet someone who “can’t” throw well can overcome it. I’m a lefty, perhaps there is a natural throwing ability there as lefties always seem to equate good throwers. Or maybe it’s just we throw off the righties game. hmmmm, interesting, I must say.

        1. Perhaps bring a jock in qualified to demonstrate the “proper” way to throw it, and then also demonstrate how to derive the quadratic formula from ax^2 + bx + c = 0.

          1. You lost me on the equation, but yeah, perhaps it’s easy to overcome if analyzed and trained…or more importantly the ‘thrower’might need to give a shit about throwing well. Most don’t, and understandably so.

  1. is by far and away the best site for investigating the veracity of quotes, essentially the Snopes of quotes.

    They claim that the Twain quote is bogus.

    The correct version of the Wilde quote is “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.” It is from “Lady Windermere’s Fan”.
    I suppose the usual caveat applies that the fact that one of Wilde’s !*characters *! says it doesn’t necessarily mean that it reflects Wilde’s sensibilities.

  2. > Then again, another wise man once said “Life is far too important to be taken seriously”. Mr Wilde was and always will be correct as well.

    That’s the Wilde who regretted having “eternally disgraced” his family’s name? Of having “made it a low by-word among low people”?

    But of course, another wise man once said “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself”. Mr Whitman was and always will be correct here.

  3. Last night I inadvertently discovered something else that reacts in a similar way. I use a SodaStream machine to add carbon dioxide to filtered water and then, for the first time last night, I added Orange Crush water enhancer to the fizzed water. I got a major eruption of fizzy orange drink, something which Mio, Kool-Aid, or any other brand had not elicited in my fizzy water in the past. It was a big orange puddle to clean off the counter. But it taste very good.

    1. Food is under-used in halloween costumes. I like to use a nice cheesy pizza dripping with tomato sauce as a face mask. Just cut eye holes, cook the pizza (soft crust), and gently lay a wide-mesh screen or cheesecloth (with corresponding eye holes) into the topping. You can then wrap it around your head. Wear a hat to hide the folds on top of your head….The cheesecloth is invisible as the cheese and tomato sauce squish through the netting. This is guaranteed to be the most horrible-looking costume at any halloween party! It looks like blood and guts.

      1. WTF…that is awesome!!! And I love how you can get away with anything on Halloween. Are you sure you don’t want to trademark that technique? Pizza Zombie!

  4. But… although that suit is covered in Mentos, that’s really a _very_ thin layer compared with the bulk of the guy in it and the volume of diet Coke. To get a fully developed reaction, I think he should have been inside something like a metal mesh container otherwise filled with loose Mentos’s. Say 50kg of them. That would have allowed the full reaction to develop and blasted the sucker halfway to Mars…


  5. Now I’m wondering to what extent aspartame’s surface-tension-altering properties contribute to its foul cloying flavor that overwhelms and destroys the flavor of any substance to which it’s added.

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