A PIEntific Experiment

Last month, we launched a meat and potato pie to the very edge of space to promote the World Pie Eating Championships which took place in Wigan in December. You may have seen the video already – it hit the front page of BBC News at one point and has accrued over 12 million views so far on various platforms. We thought this would be a good opportunity to give you a little insight into what happens after a video goes viral.

Our friends at the World Pie Eating Championships wanted to know if the space flight would change the molecular structure of the pie to make it easier to eat quickly. From a scientific perspective, it’s possible that the heating, cooling and reheating that the pie experienced during the flight would make the meat in the pie more tender and thus easier to eat – no, really! Dr. Kantha Shelke, a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, wrote an article for Forbes where she states:

“When you heat a meat dish then cool it then re-heat it again, it will become more viscous because the fibers in the protein break down releasing the interstitial gelatinous material that’s in-between the cells – this gelatinous material is actually what’s holding the protein cells together in a piece of meat. Every time you heat and cool the protein, a little more of this material seeps out and thickens the surrounding liquid.”

Unfortunately we weren’t able to test this theory as by the time the pie was recovered it had spent about an hour in a field being nibbled by sheep. However, we got an astounding number of messages from people volunteering to eat the pie, many of whom were not deterred by the health risks. One such request came from a professional chef, who said he would be willing to sign a disclaimer saying that if he died from eating the pie, we wouldn’t be held responsible!

On the flipside, we received a number of messages from people who were desperate to make sure the pie remained uneaten. Some were very concerned that the pie would be contaminated by solar radiation, others worried about space bacteria and one even mentioned alien poisons. I couldn’t say whether aliens interfered with the pie, but we would like to reassure those people that there is no chance that solar radiation would pose a significant risk to someone eating food which has been sent to space.

We also received a few messages that might charitably be called unusual. We get this kind of message occasionally and we see comments on the various videos of our flights, but when a flight gets a lot of attention, we always see a spike. I’m talking, of course, about Flat Earthers.

The fact that the Earth is round has been widely known for over two thousand years. You might be surprised to hear that the conspiracy theory that the Earth is actually flat only originated in the early 19th century with a man named Samuel Rowbotham, who claimed that the Earth is a disc with a giant wall of ice along the outside rim, which is falsely called Antarctica by so-called scientists.

Flat Earth supporters believe that SentIntoSpace is a part of this grand conspiracy and that the pie is a subtle reference to the truth that the Earth is actually flat. Now, I’m not saying there’s any truth to that, but if I were part of a conspiracy, I know I wouldn’t be able to help myself from making cryptic jokes, so… maybe they’re on to something?

One criticism we consistently get from Flat Earth supporters is that we should stop using GoPros with fisheye lenses, because the lens distorts the true shape of the Earth. They claim that we use this distortion to obscure the fact that the horizon is actually flat, not curved. In actual fact, the reason we use GoPros is because years of experience have taught us that no commercial camera is better equipped to survive a flight through the extreme low temperatures of near-space.

While we don’t have time to debunk all of the outlandish claims in the video above, such as that the reason we’re wearing lab coats is to mark ourselves as members of the Church of Heliocentricity(!), we would like to say to any Flat Earth believers out there: if you want to see footage of a flight using a camera without a fisheye lens, we’ll be happy to help! Kits to conduct your very own stratospheric launch are available on our store from under £150+shipping. If you’re willing to associate with heliocentric nutters and would like to attend one of our launches, you can always drop us an email at info@sentintospace.com and we’ll see what we can do.

Until then, I’ll leave you with yet another odd response we received, which we’re choosing to interpret as an homage. It takes all sorts!

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