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NPR's Science Desk Experiments With Twinkies


You can buy Twinkies on the cheap right now. Safeway, just around the corner from our office here in Washington, has them on sale - two boxes for five bucks. So the NPR Science Desk was inspired to take part in the fine, long-standing tradition of experimenting with Twinkies.

NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on their findings.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: My colleagues, Julie Rovner, our health policy correspondent, and Adam Cole, a new addition to our team, had one idea.

So, what is your experiment, guys?

JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: All right, I think this is the classic example of the immovable object meeting the irresistible force.

AUBREY: All right, let's hear it.

ROVNER: I want to know if you put a Twinkie into Mountain Dew, will it dissolve.

AUBREY: Aha, playing off Pepsi's claim in a recent lawsuit that a mouse would disintegrate in Mountain Dew.

ADAM COLE, BYLINE: So we got our big two-liter Mountain Dew.


AUBREY: And they poured it into a bowl. Now, there's long been speculation about the Twinkie's amazing structural properties. It's rumored that the perfectly spongy and delicate cake will stay intact if unopened for years and years. It apparently survived flights on the NASA space shuttle. So how sturdy is it?

COLE: Yeah.

ROVNER: All right. And we are drubbing the Twinkie into the Mountain Dew. Oh, but it's floating.

COLE: It's floating.


COLE: This just in: Twinkies float in Mountain Dew.

AUBREY: We'll see in a moment if it actually disintegrates. Meanwhile, ideas for other experiments poured in. At what temperatures do Twinkies ignite? Do they explode in the microwave? Is the Twinkie magnetic? And my favorite from brain correspondent Jon Hamilton: Is the Twinkie addictive? Now, how would you test that?

Well, start with lab rats, of course.

JON HAMIILTON, BYLINE: Well, say you had a rat in a cage, right, and every time they hit the bar another Twinkie would come out. My question is would they keep hitting that bar until they literally died from eating Twinkies?

AUBREY: Wow, loving the Twinkie to death. That would be taking Twinkie-love a little too far.

Now, back at the Mountain Dew lab, I asked Julie and Adam if they've ever eaten a Twinkie.

ROVNER: Oh yeah, of course I've had a Twinkie.

COLE: I have never had a Twinkie.

AUBREY: And Adam says he doesn't plan to try one, even if it is an endangered icon.

COLE: There's one thing for sure I do not want to drink or eat any of that.

AUBREY: So, could there be a generational divide here? The 20-somethings like Adam who grew up with an irreverent take on the Twinkie, seeing it as an abstract object, a toy, even, to play or experiment with - not real food. And then there are those who grew up loving the Twinkie, looking forward to seeing it in our lunch boxes.

Can you guess which group my colleague Dick Knox, our medical correspondent, belongs to?

RICHARD KNOX, BYLINE: Oh, I love the cream center and, you know, surrounded by all this kind of fluffy light. It's just kind of luscious.

AUBREY: Dick says that when he was a kid, unbeknownst to his parents, he opened up a charge account at Parson's, his corner grocery store, and started buying Twinkies for all of his friends.


AUBREY: That's how you became the ambassador to Twinkie?

KNOX: Right. I was very popular for about a month. And then my father got this bill from Parson's.

AUBREY: Needless to say, the Twinkie-fest ended. But Dick says his love for them did not.

So, back to that 20-something experiment. How is that Twinkie doing after two hours in the Mountain Dew?

COLE: It's not disintegrated. It is still intact.

ROVNER: No, I think a little bit of the outer coating came off. But boy, that Twinkie still looks like a Twinkie.

COLE: Mm-hmm.

AUBREY: An immovable force that's worth saving or is the Twinkie an icon than we can let go?

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News, where her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She's also a contributor to the PBS NewsHour and is one of the hosts of NPR's Life Kit.