Why Popcorn is Both “Less” and “More”?

Niko Tian
MDes EE 2023
Yimei Hu
MDes EE 2024
Joyce Zhu
MLA II 2023

The concepts of minimalism and maximalism are not exclusive to the art world – they can also be found simultaneously in an object as ordinary as a piece of POPCORN. From a smooth, visually minimal kernel to a popped corn with intricate surfaces, the states of "less" and "more" occur in a single bursting process. Pop-corn-pop attempts to recreate such surface morphology. We later decide a "Minecraft style" to embody minimalism (uniform pixels) and maximalism (mirroring the complexity of the real world) for our concept and visualization.

In reality, the moisture in a kernel turns to steam as it gets heated. Pressure from the steam continues to build until the hull ruptures, forcing the seed to expand to 20 to 50 times its original size. In the Grasshopper world, we started with a 2.5-dimensional surface shaped like a kernel. We then divided the surface according to its UV planes and populated it with cubes as "pixels" that our digital kernel is composed of. The external pressure – heat – is simulated by the changing distance to the attractor points. In the primordial state, the "pixels" are so close to invisible that the surface is still perceived as smooth and, therefore, minimal. As the "pixels" approach their proximate attractor point, they expand in size, forming clusters with neighboring "pixels" to create the visually-chaotic, maximalist, post-explosion surfaces.

Project video
2 Popcorn Explosion Process
3 Conceptual Sketches
4 Iterations + Variations of the Process
5 Grasshopper Script