Neat Experiment Lets You Measure the Speed of Light With a Chocolate Bar

The popular experiment has been revived by an MIT PhD student. Here's how to give it a try.
Chris Young

It turns out that chocolate is more useful than just a comfort food with a few health benefits added into the mix; the world's most popular snack can also be used as part of a science experiment that lets you measure the speed of light. 

An MIT student, David Berardo, revived the popular science experiment on Twitter — the idea is thought to have first come from a National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) meeting in Atlanta in 2004. 

A very tasty experiment

"You can measure the speed of light at home using just a microwave and a bar of chocolate," Berardo explains.

The experiment in question is based on the fact that the speed of light is equal to the wavelength (λ) multiplied by the frequency (f) of an electromagnetic wave (such as a microwave or visible light).

All you have to do to get started is remove the turntable inside the microwave, insert the chocolate, then heat it up for about 20 seconds. Removing the turntable means that the microwave's standing wave will heat up and melt certain spots of the chocolate at half of the wavelength. 

Once you have removed the chocolate from the microwave, which should look something like in the images above, measure the distance between heated spots.

Then, double the recorded distance to get the wavelength. Finally, check the frequency on the microwave and you're all set!

Snacking at the speed of light

Berardo set out his own calculations, and the equation needed for the experiment, on a notepad, which can be seen below:

Neat Experiment Lets You Measure the Speed of Light With a Chocolate Bar
SourceDavid Berardo/Twitter

On his viral Twitter thread, the MIT Ph.D. student claimed that this experiment allows anyone to calculate the speed of light with 98 percent accuracy.

And yes, you can eat the chocolate straight after. Though, as Berardo points out, "you may start traveling at the speed of light."

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