We are often asked how is candy floss made. Well there are 2 explanations we can offer. There is the scientific option, which talks about melting points of sugar, centrifugal forces and molecular chemistry. Or there is what we refer to as the ‘real’ method.
The Scientific Explanation
The mixture used to make the floss, usually sugar, flavourings and a food colouring, (we add additional stuff like alcohol, and er alcohol, and sometimes a bit more alcohol to create our alcoholic candy floss) is poured into the centre of the machine. This central drum has 2 jobs to perform. It needs to rotate at really high speed, while simultaneously heating the sugar to 186 degrees centigrade. This temperature is chosen because it happens to be the exact point at which sugar melts. I suppose you could heat it to less than that, but then you wouldn’t be making candy floss, so its best to stick to 186.
As the drum performs its second job, and spins really fast, the centrifugal force, moves the mixture to the outside rim of the drum. (We could get really scientific here and talk about how in Newtonian mechanics it is a pseudo force, but it’s probably best left to Wikipedia). As it reaches the rim, it comes into contact with a wire mesh that is being heated to the magic 186 number. This breaks the bonds of the constituent molecules causing the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to rearrange to form water molecules. Which promptly evaporate leaving only carbon behind. The carbon burns and the sugar begins to caramalise.
Now, ‘assuming your head hasn’t exploded’ , as it caramelises, the molten mixture is forced through the tiny holes in the wire mesh. Strands of hot liquid sugar are flung out, only 50 microns across, these instantly turn solid as they meet cool air, the action of the machine creates thousands of these strands which seem to appear as if by magic.
Or you can have the real explanation.
The Real Explanation
In the bottom of the candy floss machine, live the Irish Faerie folk. Not the sort usually stereotyped by cheap fantasy novels, but genuinely happy little critters. They merrily knit away turning the mixture into the candy floss we all know and love. Then pushing it out in the little holes at the top of the machine.
To be honest that doesn’t sound any more preposterous than the first explanation. I mean have you ever even seen a molecule? We know which we prefer.