M&Ms -- they melt in your mouth, but what about in your cat?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/03/18 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/03/18/8301435.aspx

Please read disclaimer; content of Michael Kaplan's blog not approved by Microsoft -- plus it is s off-topic as you can get without a prescription!

From nearer to the end than the beginning of So Long, and Thanks For All of the Fish by Douglas Adams:

"I just thought you'd like to see," he said, "what angels wear on their feet. Just out of curiousity. I'm not trying to prove anything, by the way. I'm a scientist and I know what constitutes proof. But the reason I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself that a scientist must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that. I'll show you something to demonstrate that later. So, the other reason I call myself Wonko the Sane is so that people will think I am a fool. That allows me to say what I see when I see it. You can't possibly be a scientist if you mind people thinking that you're a fool."

It is in that spirit of scientific inquiry that, remembering vaguely an old Gallagher comedy routine, I scooted over to the other side of the building to talk to some of the good people in Microsoft Typography.

I had an actual work reason to do this as well, but I had my scientific inquiry to act as comic relief....

The Typography folks, having that slightly artistic tendency that (on the continuum spanning people who are engineers and people who are normal humans) tends to make them more like normal human beings.

The question?

Well, it was:

You know how M&Ms melt in your mouth but not in your hands? What would they do, say, under your arms?

A simple question, but an interesting one.

And one that the scientific method of observation (in the words of Wonko "See first, think later, then test") won't work since I simply am afraid of being looked at as the kind of fool who puts M&Ms under his arms.

Obviously the M&Ms melting is not just about heat, because if one holds M&Ms tightly in one's hands and heat would do the trick then they'd melt there.

I actually tested this when I was growing up. My mother even had the pleasure of finding them in my pockets sometimes after they went through the wash after I'd forget I put a few of them there.

Word to the wise, which I learned after a scolding or three -- M&Ms do melt in the wash.

So if it's not heat but both in your mouth and in the wash then suggests that it is about the moisture.

I did put deodorant on, I do every day. And if I don't go to the gym and pit out then it doesn't fail and then moisture shouldn't be a huge problem.

I talked with Dave and Nick and Carolyn, and they all added some of their insights into the question, but in the end I guess we decided that they wouldn't really melt under your arms unless your anti-perspirant failed, and no one would want to investigate that too deeply.

This suggests some interesting pitfalls in the research methodology if someone ever wanted to verify this all experimentally. Which is way too much for me, my upper limit was the 72-hour Sex & Salad Diet and that was nearly 20 years ago. And M&Ms under the arms just seems like a whole order of magnitude more serious since even though it would not take as long, it really doesn't have nearly as much of an upside!

And then there was Carolyn's fun twist on the question, widening it out to other M&M receptacles that also made my day -- by the same calculations, the moisture factor there would likely lead to melting. :-)

Please keep in mind that you should never give your cat chocolate, and thus the feline M&M experiment should also remain a theoretical one!


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# John Cowan on 18 Mar 2008 9:38 AM:

This can be summarized by rewriting the slogan in Wonko-ish style as "They dissolve in your mouth (or other wet places), but don't melt in your hand (or other warm but reasonably dry places)."

# Rosyna on 18 Mar 2008 11:29 PM:

Well, M&M's do melt (living in Phoenix, I am a little familiar with things melting). It's just that the candy coating has a higher melting point than the chocolate inside. If you allow your M&M's to sit in direct sunlight (but still in the bag, so they don't bleach) in 120 degree heat, the internals melt. Which makes for an interesting experience when you bite into the hard candy shell.

Internally melted M&Ms are also very susceptible to breaking from too much external pressure. Which makes for some nasty messes if you accidentally crush a handful.

The pressure from being in your armpit may be enough to crack the hard shell. Which will cause a mess to form under your armpit.

Now, try sticking M&M's in the microwave.

# josh on 19 Mar 2008 3:30 AM:

I don't really trust the advertised slogan even.  Maybe I just have sweaty palms, but after holding a few M&Ms in my hand I often find myself with colored dye on them.  If what they do in your mouth can be considered melting, I don't see why this can't.

# John Cowan on 29 Mar 2008 11:47 PM:

Newsprint can leave ink stains on your hands too, but not because the ink has melted.  It just doesn't completely dry.

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