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Visitors to Carnegie Science Center’s current exhibit Candy Unwrapped will feel like kids in a candy store—literally.




More Candy Experiences!

Expand your experience with candy-making demonstrations
in the Kitchen Theater; a sweet summer camp, birthday party, or Overnighter; a wine and chocolate tasting on July 28; and a larger-than-life showing
of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Rangos Omnimax Theater. For more information call 412.237.3400 or visit the Science Center online.





There is science in everything,” explains Jo Haas, the Henry Buhl, Jr., director of Carnegie Science Center. “We examine the science of everyday life here at the Science Center, and candy is certainly a favorite part of everyday life.”

The simple scientific facts are this: Candy is made from sugar. Sugar is sucrose, a molecule composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. And like all compounds made from these three elements, sugar is a carbohydrate.

Those who make candy are actually chemists who transform matter from one state to another. Sugar has special properties that make it ideal for candy recipes. Sugar crystals remain solid at room temperature. But when they are dissolved in water—the first step in candy making—they become a solution. The solution is then heated to certain temperatures, which is when chemical changes occur that break the sugar crystals apart into molecules and bring them back together again as the syrup cools.

In the United States alone, the chocolate industry sells 13 billion dollars’ worth of chocolate annually, and the average person eats 12.5 pounds of chocolate.

Different heating levels determine the types of candy: high heat makes hard candy; medium heat makes soft candy; and low heat makes chewy candy. Hard candy—peppermint sticks, fruit drops, clear mints—consists almost entirely of sugar, with the addition of small amounts of flavoring and color. Soft candies, such as marshmallows and jellies, consist of sugar to which no more than five percent of other ingredients have been added. The third group of candies—fudge, caramels, and chocolates—contains large proportions of ingredients other than sugar.

“One of the most interesting aspects of candy is its diversity around the world,” says Mysty Litman, staff educator for traveling exhibits. “In Candy Unwrapped, we highlight different regional areas and what’s unique to each culture.”

Historically, candy has served many purposes. It’s been used for medication, currency, and tokens of love. Honey was an important element in candy making in ancient times: Egyptians, Arabs, and the Chinese made confections of fruits and nuts candied in honey. And chocolate was once the preferred drink of the royal courts in Europe. The belief was that chocolate could cure any illness.

In the United States alone, the chocolate industry sells 13 billion dollars’ worth of chocolate annually, and the average person eats 12.5 pounds of chocolate. Although chocolate is considered a luxury item, it’s relatively inexpensive, so Americans buy a lot of it.

Apryl Sparbanie, a staff educator at the Science Center’s Kitchen Theater, will have the enviable task of treating visitors to demonstrations of candy making. “We’ll be featuring guest chefs from regional candy companies performing candy-making demonstrations,” she says. “We’re also planning a fun adult evening on July 28 to present the science of pairing wines and chocolate.”

So why, exactly, do we crave chocolate so much? As it turns out, it really is all in our heads. Chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, affect our mood and desire for different types of foods. One neurotransmitter is serotonin, which is thought to help us feel calm and relaxed. Theoretically, foods high in carbohydrates, like chocolate, may help boost the amount of serotonin in the brain. Endorphins are believed to be "feel good" neurotransmitters that lift a person’s mood. Like serotonin, endorphin levels appear to be increased by eating fat-containing foods like chocolate.

And if that’s not a good enough explanation, try this: It simply tastes great.

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