As Performed By Dr. Roger A. Hunt, Ph.D., Director, American Institute of Pyrotartology
REPORT: Toaster pastry combustibility test EXPERIMENT DATE: Sunday, September 18, 1994 EXPERIMENT LOCATION: NW Corner, Kearney & 7th Streets, Laramie, Wyoming NATURE OF EXPERIMENT: Physical properties of overheated breakfast pastries within micro-radiant-convective environment; observed social effects of same. DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this experiment was to place the common breakfast pastry in a radiant-convective micro-environment of high temperature, in order to observe ensuing physical manifestations. Secondary purpose: to determine whether social effects of overheated pastries. Previous test results (see Barry, 1991, p. @) indicate that overheating of said pastries should result in combustion of same, producing organic atmospheric compounds in the form of smoke, glowing combustion of organic material in the form of flames, and possibly partial or total destruction of the laboratory apparatus. The experiment was commenced at 12:45 pm Mountain Daylight Time. The principal investigator, R. Hunt, having previously obtained the laboratory apparatus (one General Electric chrome-plated four-slot toaster, approximately 10 years old), cleared a workspace of about 8 x 8 feet in the lab environment behind his house, between the back door and the hedge. Nearby were placed the other needed materials: two (2) Kellogg's-brand Pop-Tarts(tm), with strawberry-flavored filling manufactured by Smuckers, Inc; one (1) extension cord; one (1) fire extinguisher; one (1) garden hose; and one (1) camera, for recording the experiment by photo-optical means. Hunt's lab assistant, S. Jones (R. Hunt's spouse), the designated experiment recorder of record, maintained the camera in ready position. Hunt's other lab assistant, Z. Hunt (R. Hunt's offspring, age 4.5 years), was on hand to provide philosophical meaning to the experiment ("WHY are you burning up our toaster, Dad?") (A third member of the research team, assistant assistant lab assistant E. Hunt, age 1.667 years, was not present in the laboratory setting, due to a pre-scheduled nap.) Hunt connected the toaster via the lengthy (approx. 10 feet) extension cord to a 110-volt AC wall socket, to supply energy. Hunt then removed the silver-colored Mylar foil from the two Pop-Tarts and placed them in slots 1 and 2 of the toaster. Next, using a rigid oblong wooden safety device consisting of an ordinary broom handle (broom attached), Hunt moved the toaster trigger to the "Engaged" position, and held it there. Following is a chronology of events: 12:45:00: Toaster triggering mechanism engaged. Coils within all four toaster slots observed energizing with radiant heat. 12:46:00 Convective heat waves observed rising from all four toaster slots. Fragrant, faint strawberry odor detected wafting from toaster slots 1 and 2 (containing pastries). 12:47:00 Continuation of heat-waving and fragrance-emitting phenomena; no observable change in experimental vicinity; observable change in assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt's behavior ("Are they burning yet??") 12:47:30 Toaster begins audible sound-wave emissions, best described as a cross between a buzz and a rattle. 12:48:00 Faint odor of over-cooked pastries begins wafting over test site. Buzz/rattle continues. 12:48:30 Visible organic-compound gases (smoke tendrils) emerge from slots 1 and 2. Death-rattle continues, seeming to grow louder and more desperate. 12:49:00 Smoke has thickened to steady stream pouring from open toaster slots. Fragrant Pop-Tart odor has now changed in character to rancid pseudo-strawberry stench. 12:49:30 First sighting of flames emerging from toaster slots 1 and 2. Smoke belching forth in large quantities. Discoloration of toaster's formerly-shiny chrome exterior detected. 12:49:45 Flames reach height of approximately nine inches, accompanied by vaguely-disturbing "crackling" sound from within slots 1 and 2. Smoke thick enough to cut with knife (Swiss Army, model 37-Z). Assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt asks, "Why are you burning up our toaster, Dad?" 12:50:00 EXPERIMENT ABORTED at this point when lab assistant S. Jones, at the camera, discovers she has no film and thus no photographs of experiment. 12:50 to 12:55 Laboratory site cleaned up. 1:00 to 1:20 Lab assistant S. Jones, accompanied by assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt, drive to flea market to obtain replacement toaster, muttering. Principal investigator R. Hunt prepares site for next round of testing. 1:24:00 New toaster (Signature brand, chrome-plated with hideous lime-green trim in dead-giveaway of late-1960s color scheme, two slots) placed in experimental setting. Extension cord connected. Two Pop-Tarts inserted. Toaster trigger deployed with broom handle. Assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt provides philosophical commentary ("We're burning up ANOTHER toaster!") to next-door-neighbor kids (ages 5, 6, and 7) who have gathered as experimental observers. 1:26:00 Smoke begins rising SILENTLY from both slots. Observers noted a distinct lack of any buzzing, rattling, or other signs of toaster distress. It was also pointed out that smoke commencement in this toaster environment occurred a full thirty seconds earlier than in the previous round. 1:27:00 Dense, heavy cloud of genuinely-smelly smoke wafts over observers. Nasal examination indicates that smoke flavor consists of rapidly-charring Pop-Tarts along with approximately 25-year's worth of ancient toast fragments, now undergoing incineration. 1:28:00 First flames emerge from toaster slots. Unlike previous round, flames almost immediately attain a respectable height of approx. one foot. Neighborhood kids disappear. 1:28:30 Genuinely scary-looking flames shoot from mouths of toaster slots (not unlike those reported by Barry, 1994, p. 65), attaining maximum height of approx. 1.66667 feet. Toaster exterior has begun changing color to an alarming shade of "dark". Observers report seeing curled-up Pop-Tart husks rapidly shriveling inside toaster slots, accompanied by loud crackling noise with occasional sizzles. Lab assistant S. Jones observed coughing as smoke drifts in her direction and complaining about "for better for worse, but nobody mentioned THIS". Assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt observed yelling to strangers walking dog across the street, "HEY!! My Dad's burning up our toaster! On purpose!" (Strangers observed accelerating to a trot as they continue across intersection.) 1:29:00 Having deemed experiment a rousing success, R. Hunt releases broom handle and unplugs extension cord. No appreciable reduction in flames or smoke detected. 1:29:30 R. Hunt aims garden hose at still-flaming toaster while S. Jones turns on water. Massive cloud of steam erupts as water hits toaster, accompanied by extremely satisfying hissing sound. 1:30:00 Experiment concluded as soggy toaster, with pathetic-looking burnt shriveled waterlogged Pop-Tarts still inside, is ceremoniously carried to isolated metal containment facility (conveniently located out by curb for next-day pickup) and dropped inside with a gratifying THUD. Assistant lab assistant Z. Hunt's friend from down the street, Neil, shows up and wants to know when we will be burning up the NEXT toaster, so he can watch, too. OVERALL CONCLUSIONS: In general, the experiment succeeded the experimenter's expectations. The production of scary-looking flames was the definite highlight of the whole thing, observers agreed. The accidental aborting of the first experimental round provided an additional bonus, by affording a comparison of 1980s-vintage and 1960s-vintage toasters. It was agreed by all present that the 1960s model produced by far the better results, including the following: * More, thicker, and darker smoke; * Bigger flames; * No annoying death-rattle, to distract observers; * More fragrant odors, due to presence of ancient breadcrumbs and bagel-parts below cooking-planes in slots; * Better audience participation. In general, the results reported by previous experiment D. Barry (1994, pp. 63-65) were confirmed. Additional work might include: (a) utilization of different-flavored Pop-Tarts; (b) variations in the toaster environment, including age, brand, and content and/or quantity of previous crumb-deposits; and (c) performance of the experiment indoors, so as to avoid potential uncontrolled interruptions of the experimental environment by passers-by such as police, who, it is speculated, may not be sensitive to the delicate demands of pure scientific research. REFERENCES: Barry, D. (1994) "Tarts Afire", in _Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up_. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., pp. 63-65.