Saturday, October 30, 2010

"No longer pumpkin pie to you"

Linus was right after all because not only does the Great Pumpkin exist, but scientists have figured out how he manages to get so big. Just think about a 1,811-pound mega-pumpkin recently recognized this month by Guinness World Records.

All giant pumpkins are grown from a single strain, the Atlantic Giant seed, which has a longer growing season than normal pumpkins. The fruits start out round, but once they get to about 220 pounds, they begin to flatten under their own weight, eventually resembling a giant deflated sack. The researchers created a mathematical model of how the fruits could accommodate the stress. The model predictions matched observations of giant pumpkin dimensions sent in by 50 farmers from around the country. Hu says that plastic, or rreversible, deformation allows the fruit to distribute stresses so it can grow — sometimes adding 50 pounds a day — without breaking. “Their weight generates tension, which pulls cells apart and accelerates growth,” says David Hu, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, whose team has submitted a paper to a journal.

The New York Botanical Garden, where the world’s biggest pumpkin will be carved this weekend, says that a 2,000-pound pumpkin could be grown within the next few years.

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