In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report claim to have finally found a way to breaking spaghetti in two, by both bending and twisting the dry noodles. Bend it more and more, until it breaks.
Here's a puzzle to get you using your noodle: is it possible to cleanly break dry spaghetti into two pieces?
For a 10-inch-long spaghetti stick, the researchers claim it is necessary to twist the strand by around 270 degrees and then bring the ends together at a speed of 3 millimetres per second to snap it perfectly.
Experiments (above) and simulations (below) show how dry spaghetti can be broken into two or more fragments, by twisting and bending. This spaghetti conundrum has flummoxed scientists for decades.
Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in 1965 along with two other scientists for their work in quantum electrodynamics, attempted to offer a theoretical reason why dry spaghetti noodles didn't snap in two clean pieces. Sebastien Neukirch and Basile Audoly found out that a wave of vibration, called a "snap-back" effect, travels to the stick.
But is it really impossible to crack spaghetti in two?The answer is "yes", with a twist - as in if you twist them, you can break them in only two.
Normally, when trying to break dried pasta, the strands will shatter into more than two pieces - a baffling phenomenon that has stumped some of history's most illustrious scientific researchers, including award-winning physicist Richard Feynman.
The team found that when a stick is twisted past a certain critical degree, then slowly bent in half - it will against all odds break in two.
However, researchers say, this could have far-reaching implications, going way beyond culinary curiosities. The findings could be used to control fractures and increase toughness in rod-like materials such as multifiber structures, engineered nanotubes, or even microtubules in cells.
'Once it breaks, you still have a snap-back because the rod wants to be straight, ' said co-author Jörn Dunkel, associate professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT. "In any case, this has been a fun interdisciplinary project started and carried out by two brilliant and persistent students - who probably don't want to see, break, or eat spaghetti for a while".
They recorded the entire fragmentation process with a camera at up to a million frames per second and showed the spaghetti will snap exactly in two if it is twisted at nearly 360 degrees before slowly bringing the two clamps together to bend it. To lend their carbo-rific trials complete precision, lead study author Ronald Heisser (now an engineering graduate student at Cornell University) built a special spaghetti-bending machine, complete with aluminum pincers that gripped each noodle on either end.
The trick to breaking spaghetti in half is to bend and twist, new MIT study says.
His experiment had gotten an explanation back in 2005 when a group of French physicists made a theory that described the forces that act on a single spaghetti stick when it's bent, or any kind of a thin rod for that matter.
"But you have to twist really strongly. And [Heisser] wanted to investigate more deeply".
Their study works on the assumption of cylindrical shapes - in other words, it only works for "classic" pasta. Other types of pasta, like fussili or linguini will have a different behavior because they also have a different geometry.