WIRED 2015: Next Generation is our annual event dedicated to inspiring young minds, where innovators aged 12 to 18 years old gather at London’s Tobacco Dock for talks, hands-on workshops and Q&As. For more from the event head to our WIRED NexGen Hub.
Gravy fountains, fizzypop rain, elephant toothpaste and edible secret messages. Add a bit of science to food and some unusual things can happen.
And getting a gravy fountain working, it turns out, requires a fair bit of thinking. You’ve got to consider viscosity, the heat and, most importantly, you have to keep it delicious.
“We’re getting some good reactions, some good faces,” jokes Robin Fegen, founder and director of experimental food company The Robin Collective as the children sample citric acid. “We wanted to give you something to take away for Halloween.”
In making their own sherbet, the kids experimented with mixing egg white powder, xanthan gum and fruit juice to create a creepy, bubbly concoction. Add some green food dye and you’ve got a ghoulish tank of goo.
Science and food can also be combined to create a physical, and edible version of Snapchat. Edible dyes made of red cabbage and pond weed can be used to write messages and draw pictures on rice paper. Compose your message, hand it to a friend and they can eat it before the teacher catches them, Fegen explains.
Having painted an elaborate picture using the pondweed dye, one of the participants tucks in. “How does it taste?” WIRED asks. “Very strange. Sour but nasty.”
Elsewhere two friends have decided to paint each other in edible ink. “That’s me right?” asks Louis. “That’s why you’ve put ‘Louis is dumb’”. The message, he explains, tastes of red cabbage.
As a finale, the team mix together potassium iodine, hydrogen peroxide, soap and food colouring to create “elephant toothpaste”, an exothermic reaction that creates a sudden, giant swirl of foam.
“Find a fun science teacher and ask if they can mix all of the chemicals in their lab together,” Fegen jokes when asked by one of the children how to start finding more joy in science.